The Essence Of Spirituality:
The ultimate truth is `Everyone is of eternally blissful nature`. The essence of spirituality is to help every individual to find his true nature and become one with it. When there is oneness there is peace and joy. When we observe the whole movement of the world, everyone is striving to attain eternal peace and joy. They are trying to expand themselves to the highest form and the largest form by means of acquiring health, wealth, knowledge, name, fame, family, and so on. But the `Quest For Greatness` never ends. It is because they have forgotten or unaware of the fact that the thing for which they are searching outside is within themselves only. Further, they are also unaware of the fact that they are searching themselves only. The moment they realize that truth, the seeking comes to an end. Then the person will be like a flower blossomed afresh filling the world with fragrance, freshness, and joy. This moment of realization comes by the way of the blessings of Sadguru, the Master. He only seeks the Sadguru`s blessings, who stands eternally amidst all the circumstances of his life, accepting everything as a gift from God, exposing himself against all the burning situations and getting purified, offering all the name and fame at the feet of the Master, without ego.
Ocean Of Spiritual Practices
Since every individual is born with a specific `karma`, everyone is unique. There cannot be a single method or formula to pull out all the worldly people from` Maaya`. Everyone`s karma is his/her truth. That is a fact. He has to adopt many spiritual practices to get rid of it and experience salvation [Mukti]. Spirituality is a vast ocean. In this article, we shall try to experience a few drops of that ocean. It is said that `Shiva` has given 112 ways of self-realization or a way to salvation. A large number of Sadgurus, Masters, Sharanas, Saints, Sufis have preached many ways of spiritual practices. So it is difficult /unpractical to limit the ways of spiritual practices to the number 9. However, in this article I have tried to explore under the light of the holy book, `Daas Bodh` written by `Samarth Ramdas Maharaj`. These nine practices are called `Navavidha Bhakti`.
1 Shravana Bhakti [Attentive Listening]
Listening with attention is the gateway to knowledge. Listening is not only limited to ears. In the broader sense, seeing and reading also come under listening.
# listening to various holy scriptures, biographies, or autobiographies of spiritual masters,
# listening to the various schools of thought,
# listening about the various practices, various pilgrimage places, etc.,
# listening, reading, or seeing to the vast ocean of knowledge,.
These all come under listening.
Unless we listen to anything, an inquiry for salvation does not arise in our minds. If we look attentively at the point, from where that enquire has arisen, it will direct us on the right path. But we should not see or listen through our prejudices or pre-formulations. We should be able to read between the words. We must grasp where the words are leading us. To quote J.Krishnamurthi, `Truth cannot be given to you by somebody. You have to discover it and to discover, there must be a state of mind in which there is direct perception.
2 Keertan Bhakti [Praising God With A Sense Of Gratitude]
It means praising God or the Master. Telling the stories that describe the virtues of God, singing devotional songs, telling the life stories of saints or masters with little acting, dancing -- all these forms come under Keertan Bhakti. In earlier days this form of devotion was very popular. Purandar Daasaru, Kanaka Daasaru, Mahipati Daasaru, Meerabai, etc are the various saints who have experienced God through Keertan Bhakti.
The motive behind this is, our mind is always engaged in self-boosting, always chattering about its own self. Such a mind is to be trained to remember the gifts of God, His compassion, His love that has helped us to survive in and experience the world. So we must praise the Lord and sing the songs by remembering the love and compassion in the form of food, water, air, soil, and the sun, showered by God upon us. We can see such intense feelings in the words flown out of the hearts of many saints.
It is said that Vyas Maharshi who wrote 4 Vedas, 6Shastras, and 18 Puranas could not find peace until he wrote `Bhaagavata` grantha that praises God.
So, in Keertan Bhakti our ego gets melt and flows out with a sense of gratitude towards God or the Master.
3 Namasmaran Bhakti [Remembrance Of God or Chanting]
`Nama` is the name of God. It is considered as a means of attaining God. `Nama` is the connecting link between an individual soul and the cosmic soul. It is the means as well as the end. Nama, the name of God is extremely subtle. Chanting a Nama will purify our `Chitta vrutti` and thereby our mind will be clean, peaceful, and joyful. Any name of God, whether it is Shiva, Rama, Krishna, or anyone out of thousand names of the same God, if chanted will have the same effect. But the sense that I am repeating God`s name should always be there at the subconscious level.
The sole purpose of human life is to acquire a love for God, who is omnipresent. We must chant or remember his name so many times that His grace must find a way towards us to flower the love for God in our hearts. It is said that if we chant for 13 crores times, God will appear before us by taking the form. Instead of doubting the Master`s words, we should start to chant. Do it and experience it.
The best example of this kind of devotion is Santa Tukaram. He chanted God Vitthal`s name so many times that every cell of his body used to vibrate with the Nama. His whole life was dedicated to chant Nama and guide worldly people towards the path of devotion.
In recent times, Shri Brahma Chaitanya Maharaj of Gondavale also dedicated his whole life for the purpose of Namasmaran and guiding people towards the path of devotion.
4 Paada Sevana Bhakti [ Service At The Feet of the Master]
The formless, the nameless- `The One which cannot be expressed in words, which cannot be touched with hands, which cannot be seen with the eyes, can only b experienced by the grace of the `Sadguru`. The Sadguru is the person who has experienced the `Ultimate Truth` for himself and who is capable of guiding and helping his disciple to experience the same Truth. The disciple whose sole purpose of life is to experience that bliss must render his service in all respects at the holy feet of the Sadguru.
Selfless service to the society with a generous heart and a broad mind will bring us in connection with the Sadguru and the Satsang. That will erase all the worries and sorrows from our life and we will be blessed with a joyful and blissful state of life which is the true nature of the soul.
5 Archan Bhakti [Worship]
This is also one of the ways of spiritual practices. It means worshiping the Idol of God in whatever form we like. Though worshipping an idol is considered to be a lower level of Sadhana by some people, it has got its own importance in a spiritual journey. A common man who is always in body consciousness, whose mind is always engaged in worldly affairs, cannot meditate upon the Nirguna Brahma or cannot do other practices that require a lot of attentiveness. So initially, he has to rely upon an idol and do worship.
In Indian mythology, it is said that a devotee should do worship with `shodashopachar`[worship with 16 various items] . While worshipping an idol or a photo, if the devotee has an enquiring mind like `why am I worshiping?`,` who am I worshipping?`, ` how do I differ from God?`, ` can I be one with him?` etc, then this spiritual practice will help to melt and be one with the almighty.
6 Vandana Bhakti [Expression Of Gratitude]
The most essential things to be alive are all free gifts from God. Food, water, air, sunlight, and land are abundant in nature. There is enough for our necessity, but not for our greed. So we must thank God for all the things with which he has blessed us. He has given us a wonderful body, a powerful mind, wisdom, beautiful nature, and many more things. Our heart must be filled with a sense of gratitude when it remembers the gifts of God, the giver.
We remember to thank our husband/ father/ brother/ friend/ who has gifted us a nose ring. We thank the goldsmith who has made that beautiful nose ring. But, we forget to thank God, who has given us a nice nose to wear that ring. Is it not absurd?
So we must always be in the `sense of gratitude` towards God. We may express it by doing `saashtang namaskar` [ Bow down before the idol of God or before Sadguru or saints]. Being grateful and at the same time bowing down before theSadguru will help us to drop our ego and being one with God.
7 Daasya Bhakti [Being Servant Of God]
In this kind of practice, the devotee has completely surrendered himself to the Master or the God. There is no individual existence. There is no his own will and wish. Doing each and every work of the Master without any discrimination is called `Daasya Bhakti`. Not only his body, mind, and his belongings but also his sense of `I` is also offered at the feet of the Master or God. So the thing which experiences pain and pleasure itself is not existing there. Then naturally blissful joy exists there. The right understanding of the enormous nature of almighty and the tiny nature of our false ego may help us to practice Daasya Bhakti. It is not a state of helplessness. Rather it is a state where the `doership` is shifted from `I` to the `God`.
The all-time example of this kind of devotion is that of Hanuman. He practiced daasya bhakti towards Shri Ramachandra and attained an eternal place in the heart of Shri Rama as well as in the world.
8 Sakhya Bhakti [Friendship With God]
Just imagine, when we are in friendship with a rich person or a wise person or a political leader, how much proud we feel? And what if, God is our friend? It is beyond our imagination. Nothing else required if God is our friend. But to have friendship with God, we need to have a lot of love and compassion in our hearts. God will be our friend, only if we do the works liked by God. You do the same thing to others, what you want God to do for you. Have a generous heart towards the helpless people. Let your unconditional love and compassion fill the world. Let it manifest in all your thoughts, words, and actions. Every moment feels like God holding your hand in doing all the good deeds. The world will see the reflection of God in you. You may not know that you have let God operate through you. This is the moment when you are one with God.
The best example of sakhya bhakti we can see in the history is of the Lord Vitthal and the devotee Namadev Maharaj. The intimacy between both of them is beyond our imagination.
9 Aatma Nivedan Bhakti [Surrendering The Self]
The Master or the Sadguru is our true relative, is our real well-wisher who shows us the way of escape from this cycle of birth and death. Saints of the world have declared that `Go in implicit surrender to God, negating all interest in worldly pleasures and desires`. At present, we may be longing towards sense-pleasures and passions. But one who obtains the connection with God no longer fears anything. However, going to Him in implicit surrender is really far more difficult than performing intellectual and physical sadhanas. We may surrender or offer our every belonging at his feet but the sense of `I` remains there always chattering that ` I have surrendered`, `I have done this or that`, `I am the best disciple` etc.
So, only when this sense of `I` also disappears, there happens the instant surrender. There is no one to say or utter that, `I am one with God`. This is the ultimate spiritual practice of being one with God. Just explore the statement, `Do but don't be the doer`, `See but don't be the seer`. Got it? At the end to quote the experience of a famous saint------``Jab Main Tha, Tab Ram Nahi, Ab Ram Hai, Main Nahin`` [When `I` was there, there was no Ram, Now `Ram` is there, `I` am not there ].
After going through all the above 9 practices, a question may arise. Whether all the above methods are unique in nature? Do they compete with each other? Which is the best method? etc. But, the fact is, all the above practices are complementary to each other. The one God is called by thousand names according to the will and nature of the many devotees. In the same way, a disciple has to adopt the practice that suits his nature, family background, environment, health condition, etc.
Whatever method or practice he/she may adopt, the main ingredient in all methods must be `love for God and a sense of gratitude for God. That unconditional love will make its way, towards God whose true nature is ` Eternal Joy`.
`Sadguru Dev Ki Jai`