To maintain an attitude of “dedication to the Lord” at all times is not easy and hence it should be cultivated through bhakti. Alternately, when we act in the spirit of true karma yoga, we become intimately aware of a Higher Presence, guiding and controlling our every step. This kindles a desire for love of the Higher — this is the beginning of bhakti.
Supreme bhakti is achieved through puja (worship), japa (repetition of the Lord’s name) and chintanam (contemplation), which are performed by the body, speech and mind respectively. The three aspects of the Lord are, His form, His name and His true essential nature as pure consciousness. We are advised to worship His form with our body, chant His name with our speech and contemplate on His true nature with our mind.
True worship is an expression of one’s devotion, reverence and gratitude to someone from whom one has gained immensely. To serve the whole universe itself as the manifestation of the Lord is real puja. Initially, it is through idol worship that we attain this attitude.
Japa is repetition of the Lord’s name. The highest form of japa is at the mental level. When performed well, this by itself is meditation (japadhayaanam). Mental japa being difficult for a beginner, it is better to start by singing hymns. This followed by loud japa, then soft japa, and this culminates in mental japa.
A mind thus purified by puja of the Lord’s form, made single-pointed by japa of His name, merges with its source, through contemplation on the Lord’s nature. Continuous loving reflection performed with an attitude of oneness with the Lord is the best. On the strength of this attitude, we glide into supreme bhakti, which is bliss devoid of any attitude.
An expression of devotion cannot be measured in terms of material or financial values. When something is offered as an expression of love or gratitude, we call it a token of love and appreciation. Such tokens cannot be bought in the market for rupees or dollars. Love is not limited to a numerical value and cannot be measured by it. The receiver of the gift sees only the love behind the offering.
An example will make clarify this. A mother is busy cooking for guests. Her little five-year-old child, seeing how busy the mother is, says, “Mummy, do not worry. I will help you.” The mother knows how little the child can do, but is overjoyed by the child’s offer. The Shastras say that the Lord is pleased more by the devotee’s desire to worship Him, than by the actual act of worship. When the Lord is pleased, we get everything. Even though finite in nature, worship is powerful enough to take you to the infinite.