What Pleases the Lord?

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Blessed Immortal Atman! Beloved seekers and sadhaks assembled together here upon the very auspicious concluding Monday of this holy month of Sravana! The entire month of Sravana has been traditionally regarded as a very auspicious and specially favorable month for the worship of Lord Siva. The day of the week set apart for Siva aradhana (worship) is Monday. For hundreds and thousands of devotees, all four Mondays in this month of Sravana are days of pilgrimage to the shrines of Lord Siva, wherever they be.

And what do they take to worship Lord Siva? Water. They do not take any elaborate paraphernalia; they carry water. So it is that you saw yesterday hundreds and thousands of pilgrims crossing the Ganga to make the long steep climb to the shrine of Nilakanth, carrying only water. They are not learned in Sanskrit; they are not conversant with rudri, mantra, Vedas, Vedic chants, traditional Vedic rituals, or the ceremonial way of worshipping, but they are deeply devoted. They just take the Name of the Lord and offer water, do abhisheka. And as you know, Lord Siva is asutosh (quickly propitiated), easily pleased, and always ready to immediately extend His grace.

What is this phenomenon we see year after year, on Mondays during Sravana, millions on the march carrying water for miles and miles? There will be people who find this mere superstition, a blind following of some tradition: “Father did it, grandfather did it, great-grandfather did it; others are doing it, and we also are doing it.” That may be one aspect. But merely because of that it does not become meaningless, it does not become worthless. It is easy to stand in judgment through our little egoistic intellect, but it is more difficult to go deeper into the matter, to analyse and find out the truth.

Their only asset, their only recommendation is that they have a certain feeling with which they do all these things. The Lord prizes this feeling far, far more than anything else—this noble, sublime, lofty feeling. “Patram pushpam phalam toyam yo me bhaktya prayachchati.” You see, “bhaktya (with devotion)—“He who offers to Me even a leaf, a flower, a little fruit, a little water with devotion...,” if it is given with the right feeling inside, then it becomes far more acceptable than any pompous ceremony done with a great many things, a great show. Even if worship is not done for show, if this feeling is absent, perhaps because the worship has become routine or mechanical, then it is a great loss. One must be cautioned against it. One should keep this feeling ever-green, ever-fresh, ever-present in its authentic, reverent state.

For that you should pray to the Lord: “dehi me kripaya sambho tvayi bhaktirachanchala—Give me a feeling of devotion to Thee that never varies, that is constant, not present at one time and absent, at another. Grant me, O Lord, constant, unswerving, unwavering devotion to Thy feet.” This you must cultivate. This is the key to success in sadhana, in anything you do, in all spiritual sadhana, all Yoga, all devotional practices. Do it with a genuine bhav. If you lack it, pray to the Lord: “Grant me proper bhav; this is what I ask.” For, it is the feeling with which you do a thing that makes it meaningful, significant and valuable. It gives results.

Someone may be sitting in a government or business office typing or doing bookkeeping; the same work is done here in the Ashram. A businessman sells books; here also we have books for sale. Someone may come here and do the same work as he did in the world. What is the difference? There is a world of difference. A sweeper sweeps the street; a devotee also takes a broom and sweeps in front of Visvanath Temple. He may be a high official in government, but here he feels himself to be a humble servant of the Lord. The outer act is the same—sweeping—but then, what the Lord beholds is the feeling. The sweeper may be doing it reluctantly, cursing his fate and with his mind elsewhere; but the devotee may be sweeping with a totally different bhav: “The Lord is present in this Shrine. This is my sacred duty; this is my seva.” Therefore, it is the feeling that brings in a spiritual quality to an action, which is absent if the same action is done without feeling.

There is a narration about a little, neglected shrine of Lord Siva in a remote, deep forest where once in a while some priest used to come and worship. A forest-dwelling tribal, a hunter by profession, by chance came across this shrine and saw that someone had offered some flowers and leaves and had poured some water over the linga. He thought, “Oh, perhaps this is the way the Lord is worshipped; I must also do it here.” So, whenever he got a chance, he also tried to do a little worship. He was illiterate. He did not know anything beyond the outer action. But he felt, “Here is a chance. God is here; I must worship. Evidently He is pleased with this worship; therefore, someone has done it. I must also offer worship.”

So he used to hunt, kill some animal, cut it and take some raw meat. He took an arrow in one hand, some flesh and his bow in the other, and then plucked some flowers which he carried on his head as he had no plate. There was also no vessel to take water, so he used to put it into his mouth. He would go to Lord Siva and say, “O Lord, I have brought You all articles of worship, please accept them.” He spat the water from his mouth upon the image saying, “O Lord, I am hereby doing abhisheka for You; be pleased to accept it.”

In the context of the Hindu religion, anything that comes in contact with the mouth becomes polluted and is unfit for offering to any Deity, but he did not know it. He had feeling in his heart, and so he just spat the water. Then he offered the flowers. Thereafter he put the meat down and offered it, which is another sacrilege. Who will offer raw meat to God? But the tribal did not know it was forbidden; he did it and he did it with feeling, bhav. He offered what he had, but with that he gave something which is very rare to find, a feeling-full heart, a heart full of devotion, a feeling of devotion. And ultimately the Lord gave darsan to the illiterate, uncivilised, uncultured tribal, one who is considered very low in society. What was his merit that made the Lord give him darsan? It was the genuineness and the great depth of his feeling.

We have many such narratives in the lives of the saints in which the crux of the whole matter, the essence of it, is that what is most pleasing and acceptable to the Lord, more than anything else, is the feeling of the heart of the devotee. It is the feeling that converts karma (work) into karma yoga (work as worship). It is feeling that converts an ordinary action into a spiritual process, spiritualises your action. And that is the way of the devotee. It is specially the way of disciples and followers of Gurudev Swami Sivananda Maharaj; for he has given this secret, that the most important thing in spiritual life is the feeling, bhav, with which you engage in doing all things in the spiritual field. He revealed to us, he taught us the importance, the greatness, the indispensable necessity of bhav for successful spiritual life and successful spiritual sadhana.

Let us not forget this essential point. Let us purify our heart, and that purified heart will know the sublime bhav of devotion and love. And it is through such bhav that whatever we do, no matter how imperfect it may be, will become acceptable to the Lord as though it were perfect. Bhav, feeling of the heart, that is the one way of drawing down His grace. Think about it and cultivate it with diligence. Pray for it. Devotion, compassion, meditation, combined with bhav—everything in conjunction with bhav—becomes the highest qualification, pleases the Lord, draws His grace and makes your sadhana successful. God bless you!

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