People worship God through practising rituals passed on from generation to generation. During prayer, people usually ask God for rewards in consideration of a promise if the reward is received. Mundane thoughts often cause distraction. Whole-hearted devotion is generally lacking.
Following rituals of worship does draw attention towards God and helps to focus the mind to an extent. Sticking lifelong only to the worship rituals does not enable realisation of the true Divine. What is needed is unwavering devotion.
Devotion means faith and surrender. When prayers are chanted with total concentration on God, doors open up. Ramakrishna Paramahamsa narrated a story to his disciples to explain what devotion means. A milkmaid living on the other side of a river used to supply milk to a priest. Owing to irregular boat service, the milkmaid could not supply milk on time. She was once rebuked by the priest for being late. The milkmaid replied, “I start early from the house, but have to wait for long for the boatman for which reason I arrive late to your place.”
The priest sermonised, “There are people who cross the ocean of life by uttering the name of God, and you can cross the river in a similar way.
“The simple milkmaid was glad on learning this easy means of crossing the river. From the next day, she started to reach the priest’s place on time. One day the priest asked her, “How is it that you are no longer late?” The milkmaid responded, “As you advised, I cross the river by chanting the name of the Lord and do not wait for a boat.”
The priest could not believe her. He said, “Can you show me how you cross the river?” The milkmaid took him with her and began to walk over the river reciting the name of God. Looking behind she saw the priest uttering the name of God but trying to hold his cloth to avoid getting wet by water. She asked the priest, “Don’t you have complete faith?”
Concluding the story, Ramakrishna Paramahamsa told his disciples absolute faith and total surrender to God makes Him your companion. There will be no need to seek anything from Him. He will take full care and give what is needed and protect from all harm and danger. It is vital to rise from a ritual follower to the level of having resolute trust and complete surrender, like the milkmaid.
In the Bhagwad Gita, Krishna told Arjuna, “Relinquishing all ideas of righteousness, surrender exclusively unto Me. I shall deliver you from all sinful reactions. Do not fear.”
To achieve this level of devoutness, the potential way is to love and serve all beings without discrimination. God resides in every being. Serving people selflessly erodes ego, quenches worldly desires, fosters devotion, and develops total trust in the Divine. Swami Vivekananda said, “One who serves humankind serves God.”
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