There are many different paths: the intellectual path, by which one studies and attains to spiritual perfection; the meditative path, in which one develops spirituality; the path of good action, which is sure to lead to high attainment. But in spite of all these different paths, the path of devotion is great. It is most easy and most difficult. It is easy because it is natural; it is difficult because one looks for other paths rather than this. In the history of the great and holy beings of the world, the greatest and the most blessed have been the devotees. There have been great scientists and philosophers, but they have not been saints and masters – for the very reason that the power and inspiration that devotion gives is much greater than one can obtain by any other way. Besides, devotion teaches one virtue: sincerity, earnestness, the sense of duty, all different virtues come by devotion. A person who is devoted to anyone in the world, to one’s father or mother or brother or sister or children or friend, has taken his step in devotion. But the one who shows his devotion in the spiritual path to his teacher, he has taken his second step. He has only to take one more step and he will be there. And that will be the devotion to his ideal.
There is a story of a mureed who was known to be a great devotee of his Murshid. After the death of his teacher a great sage came to that village where he lived, and people began to talk all around the village that so great is the power of this sage that merely going in his presence would make a person liberated from all his sins. This man, who was most spiritually inclined, was the first expected to visit this sage. But everybody from the village came to greet the sage except this one. They were all wondering why it is so; that is the man who is really deep in the idea, and he has not come. So the sage went himself there and asked this young man, “What is the matter that you did not come to see me? Everyone talked about you and I was eager to make your acquaintance. Is there any antipathy you have for me; or what is it?” He said, “No, I would be the last person to have an antipathy towards a spiritual soul like you. But there was one thing that kept me back.” In his simple way, he said, “People told me that by seeing your Holiness I would be liberated from all sins. But I do not know yet where my Murshid is going to be, in Heaven or in the other place. If by being liberated I went to Heaven and I found that my Murshid was in the other place, then that Heaven would be hell for me. I would rather be where my Murshid is; even if it were hell it would become Heaven for me.”
It is that attitude really which makes a mureed a mureed. There he begins on the path.
Q: How can a Murshid be in hell?
A: The perfect soul is everywhere, is it not? There is no place which is not inhabited by him. So he could be found there also. It was the limitation on the part of the mureed who thought perhaps this place or that place. But it is just the idea from the devotee point of view, from the point of view of devotion. That devotion itself was his upliftment.
Q: By devotion is understood complete surrender?
A: By devotion it means a genuine link of sympathy. There is nothing that hinders it, nothing that breaks it.
Q: In what sense is the surrender?
A: Surrender is not necessary. Where there is devotion there is no sacrifice, because then there is pleasure. This is the path of freedom. When there is a willingness in service, a willingness in treading the path, then there is no sacrifice, no surrender. A genuine sympathy with Murshid takes away that barrier which exists between two persons. There are no two persons then. ‘Two persons’ exist only till the devotion is developed. When it is in fullness, then there are not two persons. It becomes the same will. That is the true devotion. As I have said, once I was visiting the King of Hyderabad. It was the greatest difficulty that this came about for a young man, having arrived without having established any name in the world. And that day I felt a call from my Murshid, from miles away from the place. There I was, tested between two persons: between the earthly king and the heavenly monarch. What have I chosen? I have chosen the path of the heavenly monarch. There was no sacrifice: only there was a call, I was there.
Q: Does one always feel the call plainly enough?
A: It is according to the development. The more you develop the more you feel. All else in the world is secondary. As I say, all spiritual bliss is easily attained by the devotee. Not so easily by the student or keen observer in life, or by a great, meditative person. He may be acquainted, but the blessing is not in meditation or studying, but in devotion, because devotion is natural. It is the path of love; by love we develop.