Kanchi maha-swamigal, (1884 - 1994). His Holiness Sri Chandrasekhara Saraswati Swamigal has been acclaimed by the whole world as a fully realized soul. In his days of the headship of the Kanchi Mutt, he lectured to thousands of audiences in his inimitable simple style, coupled with a great depth of ideas. Here is one extract on the topic ‘Why bhakti?’: (The extract is from aRuL vAkku - in Tamil, by Sri Chandrasekharendra saraswati swamigal of Kanchi, published by Balaravi & Co. Madras, 1974, pp.10, 11 - Translation into English, by this author)
Every cause has an effect. The entire discipline of science is about the laws of cause and effect. The universe swings in its routine governed by these unchangeable laws. Because of the presence of a Super Intelligence everything follows in its natural law and life goes on in the external world. If there is such an irrevocable chain of cause and effect in the science of the external world there must be one such in the internal world of human life also. Whatever we may do, there must be a consequence, a result,. If we do good, good must ensue. If we do the opposite, bad results must accrue. The Universal Agent which dispenses the effect for the cause is called the Supreme Power (mahA Sakti, ISvara, bhagavAn, svAmi, God).
As long as there is a mind, so long will it keep wavering. Along with good it will also think of evil. Along with puNya karma it will also keep doing sinful karma. As a consequence of this sin, we will be dispensed sorrow and misery by the Dispenser of Results (phala-dAta). People generally pray to Him for the removal of their sorrows. They think this is bhakti. If ISvara wills it, he may even waive the sorrows earned by us by our sins. But we have no right to ask Him to do so. Even if sorrows come, let Him grant us the attitude of mind which will keep us indifferent and unperturbed by these sorrows – that is the prayer which is desirable. But even this prayer is not the full-fledged bhakti.
Even telling God of our sorrows is tantamount to thinking that He is not aware of them. In other words we are truncating His omniscience. ‘Oh God, remove this difficulty for me, remove that sorrow for me,. Or at least change my attitude towards them so that they do not upset my equanimity’ –when we pray like this to God, we presume that God has to be told what we want so that He may come to our rescue. This again truncates the quality of God known as avyAja-karuNA – He showers Grace without reason, without being prompted. bhakti is not true bhakti as long as it underrates the omniscience of God, or His Grace. However, even this kind of prayer does, though temporarily, lighten the heaviness of our hearts and there is some taste of mental peace. It is good to the extent that we adopt an attitude of humility towards God and entreat His succour, renouncing the arrogance of the thought that we can ourselves accomplish everything.
‘O God, whichever way you show me, that is acceptable to me.’ This kind of surrender to God is complete bhakti. If there is nothing left for ourselves then all the blemishes and dirt of the mind will disappear and the mind will become pure and clear like crystal.
There is another major reason why we should follow the path of bhakti. There is no pleasure in life if we cannot exhibit Love or premA. It is a common experience that there is no greater delight than Love. But the fact is, in whatsoever object or person we place our love, one day or other we get separated from the object of our love because either something happens to us or something happens to the object of our love. And from that moment what was once a source of happiness becomes a source of sorrow. The only object which will never get separated from us is God. If only we make Him the object of our Love!. Then there will be no end to the happiness we can gain. That happiness will be everlasting. When this love matures into Supreme Love of God, we can see the entire world of Himself. It is bhakti that helps us avoid the pitfall of a wasteful, loveless human life.
By bhakti one can eradicate one’s miseries step by step; ennoble one’s mental attitude; rid oneself of mental slush; focus one’s turbulent mind; obtain the pleasant attributes of God; and gain the unceasing happiness of Infinite Love. Throwing away all attachment to transient things, if we surrender to that Ultimate Dispenser of kArmic effects He will lift us above the level of the kArmic Universe and eventually carry us on the stage of moksha. These are the many reasons why one should be a devotee of God.