Yes and No.
Both answers are correct, because there are two types of devotion: (1) the developmental stage of a devotee, in which devotion is developed through three practices mentioned below and (2) perfect devotion to God or love God unconditionally.
While practicing devotion one may seek some favors from God in the beginning but one should not press God keeping some time limit for the fulfillment of the same. One should not mind, even if God doesn’t fulfill a specific desire in the interest of the aspirant. The objective of devotion is to become free from all kinds of worldly desires.
There are three essential practices to have God-realization in the devotion path or to get connected to God, unconditionally:
- Listening to discourses delivered by saintly persons or reading the books written by them, ponder on what they say or recommend, and then adopt what is easier to follow. Preferably adopt a spiritual teacher and be devoted to Him, considering Him not less than a God in human form.
- Singing the glory of God with all kinds of feelings, as only He is our real soulmate and we have all our relations with Him.
- Remembering God all the time to the extent that you forget your identity. Whatever you are doing through this body: eating, enjoying, going to wherever, et cetera, it is not for your sake but for the sake of God. A saint remains in the company of God even if he is going to the toilet. While talking with someone he talks as if he is talking with God. Thus he is communicating with God continuously round the clock.
This way one will finally come to the conclusion that one has to purify one’s inner self, filling it with universal love without attachment whatsoever, not only in relations to family and relatives but also to the house and body. One should take care of one’s consumptions, just sufficient to keep the body fit to discharge one’s duties well. In removing attachments one has to pray to God, because one cannot get rid of vices with one’s own efforts. It is impossible to become completely free from vices at our own. Only God is capable of turning vices into virtues. If one is sincere, one will get salvation in spite of bad habits, such as preferring certain food, clothing, occupation, et cetera, as other people view this under the influence of social norms.
Hence, in practicing devotion there are three essential requirements, too.
- Devotion has to be continuous, round the clock from waking in the morning till going to sleep. Then only it is considered continuous devotion.
- There should be no demand or expectation from the beloved God, seeking any favour or help, not even in the worst situation, to maintain unconditional love.
- If something is desirable then desire it from God only. However, don’t put some time limit on it, nor use compulsion.
A Vaishnav saint, Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, used to sing songs of separation from God while really feeling the separation, hence tears were rolling down his cheeks, and of several of his disciples, too. However, one fellow never got such feeling though he had been in his company for a long time. Ashamed of himself he thought of a plan and started keeping a little bit of chili powder, wrapped in a small piece of cloth. He would touch his eyes with chili powder, now and then, secretly, resulting in the red eyes, full of tears. One day another disciple noticed it and told Chaitanya Mahaprabhu about the doing of that fellow. The saint called out that fellow and asked him: Why do you keep chili powder and touch your eyes with it? The fellow replied: I am such a low down fellow who doesn’t cry with feelings for God while singing the songs of separation from God whereas others cry out of their love to the Lord. My heart seems to be made of stone which doesn’t melt. Saying so, he started sobbing and then crying bitterly. Lord Chaitanya embraced him and told him: Don’t worry, now your heart will be cleansed and will develop true feelings of love towards God. You are already blessed.
There is another story about remembering God continuously. A disciple while passing stool was chanting the name of God. A fellow disciple noticed it and complained to their Master, Chaitanya Mahaprabhu. The Master called him out and asked him not to do so. But the disciple was helpless to control his tongue so he would catch hold of his tongue while passing his stools. The fellow disciple saw this and complained again. The Master called him and asked: Why do you hold your tongue while passing stool? The disciple replied: Reverend Master! This tongue has become habitual of chanting the name and to check it I have to hold it. Good, said the master, remembrance of God has to be continuous, regardless of the place and situation.
As a lusty person always remembers and plans meeting women, and a miserly fellow always engages his mind in money matters and doesn’t want to spend even on the needs of himself and his family members, so is the case of a devotee who can’t help stopping his remembrance of God.
Now, there should be no pride in doing the Sadhana (Practice) in the above mentioned three forms of devotion, because devotion has to be done with the feelings of humility. In fact, when you develop love to God you don’t feel like doing any practice for it. It is natural to you.
Even through one’s profession one could get connected to God. While doing proof-reading I made a rule that after reading a sentence I would revise the sentence, and for its flow I would seek, mentally of course, God’s acceptance that it was alright. Then I would proceed to the next sentence. This practice of seeking God’s acceptance was further extended to each finished word for its spelling. Thus quality of work got improved and my remembrance of God too increased.
Now it depends upon us to increase our remembrance of God and internally remain grateful to Him for everything. One day we shall find that whatever we are doing: eating, sleeping, or doing a job, it’s all for His sake and we are just the observer and enjoying.
A saint’s expression goes: “God is doing everything to me while I am at rest.” It means: Only You are doing all this to me – chewing the food, digesting it and converting it into energy, giving inspiration to my mind and carrying out all kinds of work for me, while I am at rest and enjoying your remembrance.
SP Sharma, India
I was born on 8 December 1945 and had self-realisation on 20 August 1977 at the age of 32. Thereafter I automatically shifted to the devotion path and a sort of relationship developed with God. Starting as a servant to God, then friendliness with God and then started liking God in child form. There is nothing left except to enjoy divine love and feel its presence in the whole world.