Traits of a True Devotee


"There are certain signs by which you can know a true devotee of God.  His mind becomes quiet as he listens to his teacher's instruction, just as the poisonous snake is quieted by the music of the charmer.  I don't mean the cobra.  There is another sign.  A real devotee develops the power of assimilating instruction.  An image cannot be impressed on bare glass, but only on glass stained with a black solution, as in photography.  The black solution is devotion to God.  There is a third sign of a true devotee.  The true devotee has controlled his senses.  He has subdued his lust.  The gopis were free from lust.


"You are talking about your leading a householder's life.  Suppose you are a householder.  It rather helps in the practice of spiritual discipline.  It is like fighting from inside a fort.  The Tantriks sometimes use a corpse in their religious rites.  Now and then the dead body frightens them by opening its mouth.  That is why they keep fried rice and grams near them, and from time to time they throw some of the grains into the corpse's mouth.  Thus pacifying the corpse, they repeat the name of the Deity without any worry.  Likewise, the householder should pacify his wife and the other members of his family.  He should provide them with food and other necessities.  Thus he removes the obstacles to his practice of spiritual discipline.


"Those who still have a few worldly experiences to enjoy should lead a householder's life and pray to God.  That is why Nityananda allowed the worldly to enjoy catfish soup and the warm embrace of a young woman while repeating God's name.


"But it is quite different with genuine sannyasis.  A bee lights on flowers and on nothing else.  To the chatak all water except rain is tasteless.  It will drink no other water, but looks up agape for the rain that falls when the star Svati is in the ascendant.  It drinks only that water.  A real sannyasi will not enjoy any kind of bliss except the Bliss of God.  The bee lights only on flowers.  The real monk is like a bee, whereas the householder devotee is like a common fly, which lights on a festering sore as well as on a sweetmeat.


"You have taken so much trouble to come here.  You must be seeking God.  But almost everyone is satisfied simply by seeing the garden.  Only one or two look for its owner.  People enjoy the beauty of the world; they do not seek its Owner.


(The Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna)