An ignorant neophyte in the path of devotion says I practise Para Bhakti. There is no need for me to go to the temples and worship idols. What is there in worshipping idols, offering flowers and waving light? He is labouring under a serious delusion. This is the state of those who proceed in the spiritual path without the advice or aid of the spiritual preceptor. They do whatever they like. They follow the promptings of the lower mind. They do not make any spiritual progress. They are also like the pseudo Vedantic students.
It is very difficult to develop Bhakti. Bhakti Yoga is as much difficult as Vedanta or Jnana Yoga. The internal enemies, viz., lust, greed, anger, hatred, egoism and jealousy are very very powerful. They stand in the way of cultivating devotion.
The aspirant should pass through the various initial stages or Bhumikas of Bhakti Yoga, just as a student should go through Matriculation, F.A. and B.A. before he sits in the M.A. class.
He should practise Chariyai and Kriyai to begin with. He should visit temples and do Puja. He should make garlands of flowers for the Lord. He should sweep the floor of the temple. He should bring water for Abhisheka. He should clean the light. He should put lights. He should ring the bells. All these should be done with faith, devotion and intense Bhava. He should prostrate again and again before the Deity. He should do Parikrama (perambulation) round the temple.
Some aspirants think that it is beneath their dignity to ring bells, clean lights, bring water and make garlands of flowers. They think that it is the work of a menial servant.
Such aspirants cannot even dream of developing Bhakti even in crores of births. They have not understood the alpha and beta of Bhakti Yoga.
Study the lives of sixty-three Nayanars, the Tamil Saints of Southern India. They were illiterate but they had intense and unswerving devotion to the Lord. They practised day-in and day-out Chariyai and Kriyai or the preliminary purificatory services in the temple. They attained Siva-Sayujya through these practices alone.
It is very difficult to reach the stage of Para Bhakti. Para Bhakti and Jnana are one. Para Bhakti is the highest Bhakti. It comes through total, unreserved, ungrudging self-surrender. Mira, Namadeva, Gouranga, Ekanatha had this Bhakti.
If the aspirant falsely and foolishly imagines that he has attained the highest state of Para Bhakti and neglects the practice of Chariyai and Kriyai, his little devotion also will evaporate quickly. He will soon fall into the deep abyss of worldliness or Maya.
Be humble and simple. Think that you are only a very small student in the Bhakti Yoga class. Strengthen your aspiration. Be vigilant. Be in the company of devotees and protect yourself from temptations or worldly influences. Be ever vigilant. Only then can you grow in Bhakti. Only then will the divine Grace descend.
False Tushti and contentment is a serious obstacle in the spiritual path. Maya works in a variety of ways. It assumes various forms and deludes the aspirant in a variety of ways. When the aspirant has not reached even the second Bhumika of Bhakti, he falsely thinks that he is in the highest state of Para Bhakti. This is Maya. He gives up Sadhana. Further progress is stopped by such false imagination. If he lives under a Guru his defects will be pointed out, but he does not want to do so. He has a false idea of independence. His arrogance, imperative, self-assertive nature, self-sufficiency, vanity, act as intoxicating veils and stumbling blocks. He himself does not know what he is really doing, what his real position is.
He who has reached the stage of Para Bhakti will be absolutely fearless, desireless, angerless, I-less, mine-less. He will be extremely humble. He will have no attachment for anything. He will be enjoying all Divine Aisvarya. He will be in possession of all virtues enumerated in the 12th chapter of the Gita. He will be above body-consciousness. If he does not possess all these marks or signs of a Bhakta, but he simply says I am a Para Bhakta, do not believe him. He is a Mithyachari or hypocrite. Have no value of his words. People shed false tears through habitual lachrymal irritation. These are not the sincere, tear-drops of Prema of a devotee. Do not mistake emotion for devotion. Be on the alert.
May Lord give them proper understanding. May this earth be free from such pseudo Para Bhakti aspirants. May the world abound with real, thirsty, sincere, humble devotees, who can charge everything with faith, devotion, joy and bliss.