Reflections On Devotion

Reflections On Devotion


The futility of trying to instill faith and devotion in people having no belief in scriptural injunctions, ethics and values forms the theme of Saint Thyagaraja's composition 'Bhakti Bhikshamiyyave'. "It is as useless as adorning a corpse with silken headgear and ornaments of diamonds and precious stones" says Thyagarajaswami.

The saint further elaborates: There are those who are highly learned, who can expound on any subject with great felicity. Then there are others who are adept in worldly dealings and affairs. True, this is also an important necessity for leading life on this earth. But, when all these are not based upon the bedrock of faith and devotion, then it is all a mere outward show, devoid of any true meaning or purpose. The words of Adi Shankaracharya in his work 'Vivekachudamani' reflect this - "oratory, skill in expounding the scriptures, vast knowledge of various subjects- all help only in worldly gains, not in any spiritual advancement".

This aspect of human life - faith and value-based living - is enunciated by all faiths, all of which explain it in their own profound ways, the core being the same - the primacy of pure, unsullied, unstinted devotion. Indian Vedantic thought highlights the concept of 'Moksha' or liberation from this continuous cycle of birth and death as the ultimate goal of human life.

In order to attain to this state of liberation, a virtuous way of life is prescribed with its concomitant demands of truth, compassion, faith, devotion and so on. Among these numerous prerequisites, Adi Shankaracharya says Bhakti or devotion is the most important .

And what exactly is this Bhakti? Shankara says: "Understanding one's true nature as a reflection of the supreme spirit which resides within every being and living with this awareness is true Bhakti." This is so because when such an awareness dawns, the truth of universal oneness is realized. Bhagawan Ramana Maharishi said exactly the same thing when he asked men to search for their inner self. Setting the composition in the majestic ragam Shankarabharanam, portraying himself as a mendicant, Thyagarajaswami, despite being an epitome of true devotion, still beseeches Lord Rama for this blessing, thus setting a glorious example for mankind to ponder over and emulate.