Sunday, February 1, 2009

Power of Devotion

In South India, in the Tamil country, there was a certain Adigal or Dasa (devotee), in a village, Thangalur by name. He had heard of the spiritual grandeur of Saint Appar and developed great admiration for him. So he built rest-houses in his name; named his children after him so that they might grow up in the halo of his glory; he donated lands and houses, all in the name of the Saint he had not seen. See how faith preceded experience here. There are others who require experience before they fix their faith. The first path is more thrilling and lasting.

Well, one day by chance Appar himself walked into Thangalur for he had missed his way and had to deviate. He noticed everywhere in the town Appar Rest-houses and Appar Charities, and wondered how his name had preceded him. Then Adigal ran forward to His Guru and took him home and prepared a grand feast for him. When his eldest son went to his garden to cut a few Banana leaves for a dinner, a snake bit him and he died on the spot. Adigal however, was not affected in the least; he covered up the corpse, heaping dry leaves upon it and proceeded with the formalities of hospitality for the long-sought Guru. The Guru, however, insisted on all the children of Adigal sitting around him during the meal, and he ordered the father, "Go, and call every one here." Adigal did as he was commanded. He called and the dead son rose. He too came and sat for dinner with the rest. When he knew what had happened, Appar said, "Your Bhakthi is greater than my Shakthi."

The above story is also similar to the event of Jesus bringing back to life Lazarus due to the faith and devotion of Mary, Lazarus sister.
The reason I share this story with you is that there are two important spiritual insights that are illustrated to the discerning mind.

The first is the true nature of devotion or Bhakthi. We live in this age of knowledge and rational scientific enquiry, spiritual value of devotion or Bhakthi is scoffed at as a tolerated practice of the poorly endowed. This understanding is a much distorted view due to poor understanding of what devotion really is.

In the Bible we read what Jesus said “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” (John 20:29)
Clearly, our humanity brings inherent limitations to our ability to engage with the transcendent. The Bible recognizes our human limitations. For example, both the prophet Isaiah and the apostle Paul state that “no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the human heart conceived what God has prepared for those who love him” (1 Corinthians 2:9). Somerville writes: “What God has prepared far exceeds anything the senses can feel, the mind conceive, or the heart desire.”
And yet, in spite of our limitations, the Bible never concludes that because we can’t know exhaustively we cannot know truly. On the contrary, we may possess true knowledge of God even though it is never complete. Paul taught that “we know but in part” and “we see through a glass darkly.” But it is this partial vision of Christ that brings about our spiritual transformation (2 Corinthians 3:18). This spiritual gaze – though incomplete and imperfect – is enough to transform us.

Devotion or Bhakthi is not a mere participation in ritual or repetition of mantras, it is the unfailing belief in an entity of higher reality whose power one perceives, not through a sensory instruments but by a process of constant focus and fixation starting from adopting life enabling values and a slow but steady progress to deep insight which lies beyond the mind. This is a constant evolution in one’s spiritual journey.

The second, not so apparent lesson is that when we acquire knowledge without proper spiritual maturity it can lead to spiritual mortality rather than be a source of renewed life.
The serpent in most mythology represents wisdom. As is the case of Adam and Eve in the Genesis story, unmitigated acquisition of knowledge with the self as the ultimate beneficiary leads to death. So also the young Son of the Adigal, representing the immature mind, is poisoned by the knowledge he receives and has to be brought back to life through the mature Bhakthi element of the father.

This is a hidden dimension that enriches the story.

Love to you all


  1. This reminds of a similar story wherein the Meera, A devotee of Lord Krishna, was given poison whereas she drank the poison with so much of love and devotion as prasada of the lord and nothing had happened to her.

    Many a times, we are afraid of rope as snake and lamp post as ghost when walk alone in the night. Eventhough, it was true to the person, which is not the fact.

    With devotion and love when we operate, the higher centres (Anahatha and Sahasra chakras) in us, opens up and divinity start flowing and start enjoying each and every moment of life.

    This also reminds me one of the Kabir's doha and the English translation goes like this:

    "The waves are searching for the ocean whereas the waves itself is the ocean.
    The fabric is searching for the cotton whereas the fabric itself is cotton.
    Athma is searching for happiness whereas athma is nothing but happiness and bliss."

  2. KVK
    Thanks for sharing the Meera story and the poem from Kabir.