Primacy of devotion

CHENNAI OCT. 11 . Scriptural texts prescribe various methods to realise God and it is necessary for a spiritual aspirant to know how to benefit from them. While different practices are essential to cater to the level and inclination of different types of aspirants, for purpose of practical application all these have been grouped under two— worship of God with form and contemplation on the transcendental Absolute. Naturally this will lead to the question as to which of the two is better. Arjuna raised this doubt to Lord Krishna to which He replied, "I consider them to be the best Yogis, who endowed with supreme faith and ever united through meditation with Me, worship Me with the mind centred on Me. Those, however, who fully controlling all their senses and even-minded towards all and devoted to the welfare of all beings, constantly adore as their very self the omnipresent, indestructible, indefinable, eternal, immovable and changeless Absolute, they also come to Me."

On the face of it this seems to accord worship of God with form more importance than contemplation on the Absolute. This is not the intention of this scriptural statement. It is a tactic adopted in literary and scriptural texts to exalt something to highlight it but it does not mean that the other compared to it is less important. In the Vedas, for example, while elaborating the four Ashramas (stages of life) the ascetic life is exalted. But in many other places in the same scripture the pride of place is given to the householder, the reason being that this is the one meant for the majority.

The same principle must be applied to understand this context in the Gita. Lord Krishna's commendation of worship of God with form was because he had Arjuna in mind, as this was the practice most suitable for him in the state of mind he was then, said Br. Sarveswara Chaitanya in his discourse.

The qualities of one who worships the Absolute have also been indicated. In a strict sense one, who worships the Absolute Reality, cannot be called a devotee because he is a man of wisdom (Jnani) and hence both of them cannot be compared in the first place. It is also apparent that these two are different stages in spiritual evolution and one has to progress from one to the other. Naturally one has to develop devotion to God first and become steadfast in it. Then by undertaking scriptural study under a preceptor an aspirant can progress to the ultimate stage of meditation on the Absolute, which will lead to realisation.