Sri Ramakrishna would often caution his devotees about the absence of purity of purpose in devotion. While devotion with a motive is not bad in itself, it will not take one far in the path of spiritual journey. In this connection he used to narrate an interesting story.
A man used to call himself a great devotee of Divine Mother Durga and organize celebrations every year during the Durga Puja festival. The functions organised by him used to be elaborate and full of pomp and glory. Goats used to be sacrificed from sunrise to sunset. All the assembled devotees would be given portions of the sacrificed goats as the Divine Mother Durga’s prasad.
But after some years it was observed that the functions were not so elaborate. The sacrifice was also not so imposing. Then someone asked him as to how the puja in his house had become such a tame affair and why the sacrifice of goats had been stopped.
Then the person came out with the real answer. He said, “Don’t you see that my teeth are gone now?” So, all these years he was offering goats for sacrifice because he was fond of eating meat. Now that he was old and his teeth were gone and he could no longer enjoy meat, he stopped offering animal sacrifice to the Divine Mother.
Most of the people who call themselves devotees of God and perform pujas and other rituals do so with some selfish end in view. But Sri Ramakrishna would say that one should pray to God only for pure devotion to the Lord’s lotus feet and for shraddha and purity. Then alone such devotional practices will help one advance in spiritual life. While formal worship is good in the beginning, as one advances in devotion, such rituals drop off slowly. In the end, the devotee enjoys the pure bliss of being in the presence of God.
-by Swami Shantatmananda, Sunday Guardian, 7th Jun 2014