Down the devotional lane
(Reproduced from Niladri, November 2007)

By Dr. Pradipta Samantray, M.B.B.S. (Cuttack)

Om Vishnupad 108 Tridandi Swami Sri Srimat Bhakti Sravan Tirtha Goswami Maharaj ki Jai !!

It was Phalguni purnima night; we were sitting on the hallowed sands of Puri beach. Baba was sitting amidst us. He reminisces ….that half a millennium ago, Sri Krishna in the incarnation as Chaitanya Mahaprabhu walked on this very beach chanting Hari Naam. He distributed the nectar of prema or ‘pure love of God’ to all. Even until this day, it seems as if the waves of the sea rush to pay obeisance at His Lotus Feet.

The path of devotion which Mahaprabhu preached and practiced is the easiest way to attain the Lotus Feet of the Lord. The only requirement is incessant chanting of Hari Naam.

The supreme and most intense attachment to God is called devotion; where the heart and mind become completely absorbed and ecstatic in the bliss of love.


1. How can we attain devotion?
Devotion can be attained only by the grace of God or Vaishnavas who are the pure devotees of the Lord.

2. How can the grace of God be attained?
Just as the fragrance of flowers automatically attracts the bee, similarly when one’s heart intensely pines for Krishna, He graces that person by sowing the seed of love (devotion) in the fertile garden of his heart. For the seed to grow it has to be watered by the regular chanting of Hari Naam.

3. How can the flower of devotion blossom in the heart?
Sage Angiras prescribes seven ways of imbibing love of God:

i) Recitation of the Name of the Lord: the Name and the Named are not different from each other. While chanting japa, imagine that the ‘named’ or the Lord Himself is dancing on the floor of the tongue. Since the tongue is an organ of action all that has to be done is to train and utilize it to sing the glories of the Lord.

ii) Meditation: is a continuous flow of thought in one direction. The eye is the organ of perception and can be used for meditation by visualizing or concentrating on a picture, deity of the Lord or object of devotion.

iii) Observation: expounded in the 10th chapter of Sri Bhagawat Gita as Vibhuti Yoga.

iv) Logical mind: think about God in everything you know

v) Quality analysis: the material world is a manifestation of the combination of the three gunas, Satwa, Rajas and Tamas. All the three gunas (attributes or stages) are controlled by God.

vi) Emotional analysis: all emotions and feelings such as kindness, harshness, etc., are manifestations of God’s exposition, hence should be directed towards Him.

vii) Realized soul.

4. Who is fit to accept devotion? What are the requirements?

When an individual’s heart-felt feelings flow towards the Lord (Sri Krishna), devotion appears by His Grace. There are no requirements except for a strong desire to know about the Lord. There is no specific time or place pertaining to devotion, the Lord can be prayed to or remembered any time, place or by anybody.

Psychology underlying devotion: devotion is self-illumined, causeless and does not appear due to fate or karma. Neither yoga, sankhya, charity, penance nor practice of religious rituals can make it appear. It can only be attained by the grace of God or Vaishnava. Devotion is both the process and the goal. It dispels obstacles, fruitless knowledge, ego, attachment and wasteful indulgence. Simultaneously it instils virtues such as truthfulness, simplicity, equality, forgiveness, kindness, patience, humility and detachment.

The stages of devotion

In the first stage:
(a) the individual begins to like and believe in the idea and existence of the Lord and all the things related to Him such as the Srimad Bhagavatam, Vrindavan and His pastimes.
(b) He surrenders himself to the preceptor or Guru
(c) He wishes to stay in the company of devotees

Duality of emotions: In the first stage, there are conflicting dualities in emotions which may appear in the form of:
- Swinging moods: efforts put in are sometimes intense and sometimes slack.
- Alternatives: sometimes the mind gets confused in which process or path of sadhna to follow.
- Worldly attachment: indecisiveness whether to remain attached or detached.
- Inability to keep promises or follow rules/restrictions adopted by self
- Desire of wanting recognition prompts the individual to make quick efforts in following instructions
and showing sincerity.
- Multi-branching: devotion when it sprouts draws honour and fame, which may divert the individual from the path and the ultimate aim of life.

Obstacles in the first stage of devotion: There are four basic impediments in the path of devotion:
Sins of the past and present life result in continued material attachment and ignorance and can delude the mind:

- Availability and attachment to worldly enjoyments and expectation of fruits of good deeds or karma
- Mistakes in recitation and in performing services relating to the Lord
- Desire for name and fame because of one’s devotion
- Lack of proper knowledge about Bhagavan Sri Krishna
- Manifestation of obstacles:
- Lack of interest manifests as sleepiness during kirtan and discourse
- Distraction from devotional activities due to worldly activities and thoughts
- Inability to do kirtan due to inefficiency
- Anger, greed and remembrance of past worldly enjoyments do not allow absorption in devotion

5. How can the obstacles be removed?
The obstacles, essentially the power of Maya, can only be overcome slowly through continuous effort:

- Constant and regular recitation of naam
- ‘Shravan’ or hearing the stories and discources of the divine leela of the Lord by Vaishnavas
- ‘Nishtha’ or sincerity and strong determination can remove the second obstacle
- ‘Rati’ implying deep loving attachment by developing ‘bhava’ or a feeling or personal relationship with the Lord
- ‘Prema’ the conversion of attachment to selfless love for the Lord.

The second stage of devotion

Once the obstacles have subsided by continuous effort in chanting naam, a steady state of devotion or ‘nishtha’ is reached. In this stage there is a lack of interest for self-honour. Virtues such as friendship, kindness, respect for all etc., manifest. The devotee indulges in singing, dancing in kirtan and hearing Krishna lila.

Third stage of devotion

The third stage is ‘ruchi’ or taste. Gradual practice of devotion results in attachment to recitation of naam and lilas of Sri Krishna. In this stage, there are two types of devotees:

a) Dull devotees: who give importance to sweetness and rhythm of singing of kirtan. Devotion manifests in the form of: offering of Prasad, dressing the deity with beautiful clothes and ornaments; observance of rituals, construction of temples and shrines.

b) Intense devotees: like a hungry person who grabs whatever he can get to eat, similarly an intense devotee becomes elated even at a tiny glimpse of the Lord or anything related to Him. H/She is completely engrossed in meditating on the divine ‘lilas’. They feel such pure joy that outside pleasures do not hold any attraction for them anymore.

Fourth stage of devotion

Asakti’ or deep attachment is the fourth stage of devotion. This is the beginning of the blossoming of the creeper of devotion. In this stage, the mind gets attached and can effortlessly concentrate on the Lord unlike in the first stage, where the mind would easily get distracted by worldly affairs. One understands that everything that takes place is in accordance to the Lord’s will.

Fifth stage of devotion

Rati’ – this is the state of flowering of innate Godliness. Here the devotee surpasses the state of God realization (mukti) of other disciplines. He begins to experience the divine bliss of association with the Lord. The devotee can hear the sound of the flute, tinkling of anklets and rustling of the clothes of the Lord. His whole being gets submerged in the ocean of love. He believes that all his efforts and existence is only for the Lord.

As this stage progresses, blossoms of devotion mature into fruits of love or prema. One becomes completely detached from worldly existence. Love transforms his entire being and the desire to meet Him intensifies. This love and desire draws the Lord to the devotee. Friends, family and daily work seem burdensome.

As the intensity in the desire to interact with the Lord increases, the Lord appears before the devotee’s eyes. His beauty cools the devotee’s thirsty eyes, tears flow incessantly, the body starts trembling and the hair on one’s body stands on end. The devotee can hear the Lord calling and is completely engulfed in ecstasy when the Lord embraces him.

This is the supreme state to be achieved in the long sojourn of the ‘jiva’ through millions of lives. All the above experiences do not appear serially, but simultaneously.

As the full moon rose to acme over our heads as if to shower divine blessings on us, we realised that in our relentless journey through many lives, it is our devotion to the Lord or to the Guru that can lead us to the ultimate goal of life – prema bhakti.

We paid obeisance to Baba and prayed to Him that by His Grace, we are able to begin our humble journey down the devotional lane.


Jai Guru !!