Sri Ramakrishna used to explain to his devotees the nature of true devotion. He would say there are various classes of devotees. Some who call upon God during fixed times, some who call upon God as often as possible and a few fortunate ones who call upon God always. In this connection, he used to narrate a story from Ramayana.

Sri Ramachandra and Lakshmana happened to visit the Pampa Lake. Lakshmana saw a crow, which was very eager to drink water from the lake. Again and again it went to the edge of the lake, but could not venture to drink the water. Lakshmana was puzzled and asked Sri Ramachandra as to what could be the reason for the crow’s strange behaviour. He had never seen even a human being, let alone a bird feeling very thirsty and yet not drinking water. Sri Ramachandra explained the reason for the bird’s behaviour. He said that the crow was a great devotee of the Lord (himself). Day and night it was repeating the name of Rama. Its throat was parched by thirst, but still it was not prepared to drink water for the fear of interruption in its repetition of Rama’s name. Hence, although it was suffering from extreme agony, still because of its supreme devotion to the Lord it was unmindful to its sufferings.

Thus Sri Ramakrishna would say that once someone tastes the sweetness of the nectar in the form of the Lord’s name, it is impossible for such a sadhaka to get distracted. He would repeat the name of the Lord under all circumstances even to the point of suffering extreme physical discomfort or agony. Nothing in the world attracts or distracts them. The Bhagavad Gita describes such devotees as follows: Their mind and life-force are totally oriented towards Me. Always they talk only about Me and inspire each other. They are completely satisfied and delighted in such pursuits.

By Swami Shantatmananda

Published in the ‘Sacred Books of the East’ column, Sunday Guardian, 20th Apr 2013

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