What is true devotion? Is it mere allegiance to a particular deity or prophet? Does it necessitate a change in lifestyle? How does one know if one qualifies as a devotee? In Chapter 12 of the Bhagwad Gita, Krishna lists 35 qualities of a devotee that help assess our spiritual level as well as develop the qualities to evolve further.
The first quality is ‘advesta sarvabhutanam’, one who hates no being. Yet the worst battles have been fought in the name of religion. People who profess to have devotion to the Lord often have conflict-ridden relationships. Devotion is not about professing love to God, it is the ability to love all. How can we love an unknown, unseen God when we dislike those we interact with daily?
The world lacks inclusive love. Everyone is deeply entrenched in feelings of otherness, antagonism and bitterness. This springs from insecurity and we project imaginary enemies. Partners are viewed as opponents, benefactors are viewed with suspicion and we end up utterly lonely and isolated. The Gita says there are no adversaries out there. Our worst foes are within. It is our lack of self-sufficiency that projects enemies outside.
Even the love people claim is not true love. It is attachment, self-love. We expect returns from the person we love, make demands and impose restrictions. Ultimately the relationship breaks down. Attachment is the single most important cause of friction between spouses and the yawning gap between parents and children.
The solution is to become detached. People misunderstand detachment as giving up relationships. Many reject the idea and continue to suffer the devastating effects of attachment. A few give up their families and suffer. There are three states of being – indifference or lack of feeling, attachment or selfish love and detachment or pure love. The Gita asks us to give up selfishness which comes in the way of meaningful relationships. Continue the association but let go of expectations and demands.
Let’s assess the people around us; understand them for what they are. Then we will not have unreasonable expectations of them. Do we hate a lion for its ferocity? Do we dislike a deer for its timidity? Do we get upset if a dog barks at us? No. We understand that they all function according to their nature. As long as we feel negatively about anyone we will suffer, not the other person. If we want to be free of stress we must address our most intense dislikes.
In the past, the extended family lived together, harmoniously. Now, even nuclear families are breaking up because of selfishness. Single parents are becoming the norm! Let us enlarge our circle of love. Identify with the larger community. As our love expands, the friction in the existing relationships reduces and we become truly happy.
When we think of our body, we see maximum separateness. Move to our mind and we see oneness within the family. Identify with the intellect and we see oneness among all. It does not matter whether they are educated or not, wealthy or poor, refined or crude. They are all ours. Take the leap into the realm of the Spirit and all differences vanish. We see ourselves in all beings and all beings in our own self. We will be free of hatred. 🙂