Complete surrender of the body and extreme recklessness about it and laying it down at the altar of love is considered as the highest form of sacrifice in the world. But the Lord’s devotee has yet a higher ideal.
He considers the sacrifice of the body as the lowest form of offering the devotee can make the the Lord. The standard with which the actions of the two are to be judged is, therefore, different. In the sphere of the world it is apparent that the beloved must be convinced that the lover has genuine affection for her, while she on her part must display rank carelessness in respect of her body and abhorrence for the rules of society. If such tests are applied in the base worldly love, what finer tests must not an aspirant in the region of divine love volunteer himself for; what fiery ordeal must he not pass through; what agonies must he not patiently bear before he can cross the threshold and get entrance into the portals of that more sublime region where love reigns supreme and the pleasures of which place know no surfeiting by excess.No mathematical calculation can give its idea; no formula can explain it.
The Story of Mira Bai, by Bankey Behari; pg 21
This passage refers to, among other things, the different ways that various forms of love manifest, especially in their extremity. With regards to the forms of love referred to here as worldly (finite, mortal, passing, and similarly limited), the highest expression or evidence of dedication is regarded as sacrificing the self even unto death. For the divine lover, for the devotee attached to an affectional object not finite, mortal, or passing, the highest expression is the persistence of living. That is, the degree of love that might inspire utmost self-sacrifice is but the initial level of sacred love. All the trials facing the devotee that come after this stage – well, that’s the challenge, isn’t it?
Earlier this month I prayed quite earnestly to the Powers most active in my life. I needed some financial return on a significant investment of time and energy and yeah, money. This investment turned out quite poorly, so much so that I had to have a long hard bath with myself about what, precisely, my expectations of the Powers actually are. This isn’t the first time I’ve felt let down. I imagine most of you have felt the same way at some point.
My polytheistic framework allows me to remain indifferent to the question of the nature of the Gods. I simply don’t care Who or what they are or why they are or how they tick. These questions don’t actually further my relationship with Them and I figure that if I can’t love them in my ignorance I’m probably not going to love them any better in my knowledge. These fundamental conclusions allow me space to accept that the Gods interact on Their own terms, in Their own ways. The dispensation of blessings or aid or even of company is at Their discretion. They help because They wish to or, in some cases, because They have obligated Themselves in some way.
So no, my praying does not (within my particular framework) equate to the reception of blessings. (And though one could argue that things would have been worse had I not prayed, I’m guessing that my artist’s tools wouldn’t have burst into flames under virtually any conditions.)
But still – don’t they want to help me? Haven’t I mentioned that a reasonable level of material success is required for, you know, rent and cat food? Isn’t helping me out part of the love and compassion and all that?
Well, no. Not necessarily. I’m simply assuming that their affection and my desires are in alignment. I can either trust that they still sorta like me despite not helping with a particular thing I asked for or I can conclude that a lack of assistance equals a lack of affection.
Which is the most reasonable? Which is the most conducive to a continuing relationship? Which is better for me and my well-being?
Parents don’t provide everything the child asks for, even when the child really desires it or feels a distinct need. Spouses don’t necessarily provide absolutely everything their partner asks for, regardless of how much affection is felt. I’m willing to be humble enough to accept that I have a limited perspective.
Additionally, it occurred to me that I might have been trying to achieve my goal in the wrong way. Maybe prayer, regardless of how frequent or earnest, wasn’t the right way to meet my particular goals. There might have been other ways, natural or supernatural, to achieve what I wanted.
Though I feel that Santisima, Sri Lalita, and the Lokester have responded to my cries for help in the past, I have to remember that all such assistance is at their discretion. Feeling let down spiritually is disheartening and I’ve spent a little time questioning the reality of my faith and my reactions to this particular situation. The above passage reminded me that persistence is the mark of the devotee. I long ago concluded that my affection for My Lord did not depend on His presence. I love Him regardless of proximity because that is my nature, because it is my choice. I persist because to do otherwise is to…