11/01/2012 03:39 pm ET Updated Jan 23, 2014

Devotion: The Highest Level of Perception

Devotion is like nature. In nature, everything is trying to dispense itself to the maximum extent -- everything in nature is always trying to throw itself out to its fullest capability. But human beings are trying to save, and because they save so much of their joy, love, and everything that is valuable to them, they have to do all kinds of other splurging activities. If human beings could just sit and be absolutely joyful, they wouldn't spend time in preoccupation of an evening drink or dinner. But because they are going about life like this -- saving themselves -- they are waiting. "When is dinner? When is my wine coming? When is my whisky coming?" If they were bursting with joy every moment, bursting with love, bursting with ecstasy, would they be preoccupied with dinner, drink, sex or anything? Such thoughts wouldn't keep them engaged for a large part of their life.

Devotion is just that you have demolished all of these boundaries of self-preservation; you are just flowing to the maximum extent that you can flow. Whatever you are devoted to, once you dismantle the concrete structure of who you are, suddenly the quality of what you are devoted to will just reflect upon you, and that quality will become you. I have seen this being demonstrated in such dramatic ways. Whether it is a writer, scientist, sportsperson, housewife, or just about anyone who is absolutely devoted to what he is doing, there is a different kind of quality about that person.

A wonderful example that I have seen of this: There was a lady saint in India named Mayamma. Nobody knows where she came from because she did not speak, but looking at her facial features, I think she came from Nepal. She was in the town of Kanyakumari, which is the very tip of southern India. She would just wander the streets and feed the dogs, so she built a whole family of dogs around her. Even if she did not eat, she would feed the dogs because she loved them so much, and there would always be eight to 10 dogs following her wherever she went. Sometimes she went to such extremes that she would go into a restaurant and grab some food and throw it into the street for the dogs to eat. Usually, in South Indian restaurants, dishes are displayed in a glass cases in front of the restaurant. When nobody was looking, she would grab this food and throw it to the dogs, and the dogs would help themselves.

She began getting the harsh social treatment because she was seen as irresponsible, not saintly; she did not fit into the standard definition of a saint. Because of this, she had to face many social situations that were not always pleasant. But then, people would sometimes find her floating on the waves. She would simply sit on the water and float all over the ocean. When she wanted to come back to shore, she would swim; otherwise she would just float upon the water and go away into the ocean. Once they saw this, people started worshiping her. Some gathered around her but she never spoke, not a word. She walked and some people walked behind her. If she sat, they sat around her.

Later on, in her old age, someone brought her to the city of Salem in South India. She lived there and left her body there, and her disciples built a samadhi* for her. It so happened that some time ago, I was staying at a hill station close to this place and somebody showed me her picture. The moment I saw the picture I said, "I want to go to her samadhi." I went with a few people, and the place was reverberating like crazy. I said, "Wow. For someone who never spoke a word, this is too good. This is a fantastic place."

It happened to be a full moon day, and some of her followers asked us to stay back for prasad** that evening, so I said, "Definitely, I will stay." And the best thing was that one of her disciples -- this man who was devoted to Mayamma -- came in front of me to offer prasad, and his face had become exactly like hers. Her features were Nepali, definitely not South Indian. I just looked at him and burst into tears -- this is a devotee of the highest order. She is another race, this man is South Indian, but his face had shifted itself exactly like hers. It was so amazing seeing him.

Devotion is that kind of thing. If you dismantle the structures of who you are and you are completely absorbed into something, if that something is powerful enough, it will just imprint upon you. That is the idea of devotion, that you become that. It is not about being devoted to somebody or something; it is just that it is the highest level of perception. You can imprint yourself with what you are seeking because you opened yourself up completely.

*Samadhi: a place of worship associated with a sacred person.
**Prasad: an offering of food.

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