FAITH, DEVOTION, BHAKTI (Seekers’ Lesson 1)
Erle Frayne D. Argonza
Magandang araw sa inyo! (Good day to you all!)
For this moment’s reflection, I’d focus on the faith element in the Path. A Seeker is someone else who should have filled up shis (his/her) ‘glass of faith’ and need not over-focus on faith-centered works. Just like when one needs medication, the moment that the ailment had healed, one must take off from the medication right away or else face deleterious consequences of overdose and over-exposure to the medication.
So is it with faith. Faith is the central affective (emotions, feelings) element in the soul, it makes one a ‘believer’ at the minimum, and is definitely needed to ascend the heights. But faith alone isn’t enough. There are the cognitive, intuitive, nirvanic and higher elements in the Self that must also be given attention. Let us presume that the Seeker has the faith element well built up, and will need not demonstrate overtly that s/he believes in God and the transcendent reality.
There are two things to note here by the Seeker. It concerns devotion: the ‘externalization’ of faith. One, constantly check out on your devotion to your ‘significant Others’. And, two, practice some form of Bhakti. Devotion to the ‘significant Other’ (loved one, boss, fellow, etc) and devotion to God Almighty are very much intertwined. To say that one can show utmost devotion to God while showing bitterness, apathy and sociopathy to fellows is non-sense. They must co-condition each other. Failing to observe this synergy, one will flounder in the path.
Devotion to the ‘Significant Others’
Based on the observation of sociologists, the complex web of social relations we call ‘society’ cannot be possible without devotion manifested at the micro-level: the level of ‘in-groups’. In these groups we perform roles of great diversity, roles that shift as we move on from one situation to another. We encounter our ‘significant others’ in these groups, and they comprise the base of our ‘lifeworld’ (lebenswelt).
During the early heydays of the founding of sociology, the intellectual giants Weber, Durkheim, Simmel, Mannheim, Cooley, G.H. Mead, Sorokin and Schutz went down to brass tacks right away, designed the methods that will uncover the veils of reality at the micro-level, see what forces make society possible at that level, and assess the human condition within the templates of that reality. Their finding was a homogenous one: devotion is the most singular, powerful force that cements social bonds, and the social bonds in return produce norms that, in return, make institutions and society possible.
So, Noble Seeker, it all boils down to devotion. With high devotion, social order; with low to negative devotion, social chaos. Systems of representations form a rubric from out of devotion, notably: norms, prescriptions and proscriptions, values, laws, sanction systems, etc. When forces are operative that will tend to bring devotion down, crisis results (see Weber, Durkheim, Sorokin). Weber observed ‘dehumanization’ within the context of a rationalized, bureaucratized order; Durkheim, that of ‘anomie’ as community solidarity self-destructs, giving way to an ‘organic solidarity’ in urbanized settings; and Sorokin, the ‘crisis of our times’ due to excessive sensate values. Earlier than them, Marx elaborated on the problem of ‘alienation’ as the most central human predicament.
Since those studies of the sociological founders were released, the human predicament had deteriorated to greater extremes, madness seems to have become dominant, giving rise to the thesis about the failure of Reason or the Enlightenment as the root cause. There had since been the greater clamor to build more community, to create more social harmony, and so on. With the presence of an increasing number of Lightworkers, we are glad to note that the values aimed at affecting community are penetrating deep down the private sphere where the social bond is embedded.
So, Noble Seeker, the world context is quite better now for alternative paradigms. Please check out constantly on your devotion to your ‘significant others’. Check out whether you are a harmonizer or a destroyer of bonds most often. If there is a ‘critical mass’ of antipathy or sociopathy in you, chances are that you are suffering from personality disorder condition. Your emotional self is badly ailing and damaged, and cannot function to the fullest. So damaged is it that you cannot function socially as well, since your emotional self is the foundation of your ‘social self’.
And if your emotional-social selves are damaged, there is no way that energy from Above can flow to you fully. You aren’t capable of interconnecting with your fellows, of demonstrating an interface of your ‘heart chakras’, you experience alienation and anomie, and you could become a factor in damaging the ecology of any organization or group. If people with badly damaged emotional-social selves would come together, they could only seal social bonds through compulsion, fear and intimidation, and the result is mafia groups or totalitarian groups.
My thesis is that you can only best approach the Almighty God via devotion if you likewise can demonstrate devotion to your ‘significant others’. And that devotion must be a balanced, harmonic devotion, not the forced devotion of mafias and totalitarian groups. If you as Seeker has got some balancing to do on your emotional-social aspects, than please do so soon enough. Secure the help of a clinical psychologist at least, or a good psycho-social counselor who can help you do the self-assessment and modify your behavior towards greater balance accordingly.
Sustain high levels of goodwill with your ‘significant others’ at all times. You may have some fiery quarrels with people on personal and professional grounds, and the conflict can bruise your bonds. Take some time to heal the bond, but as soon as the negative energy of the conflict is extinguished, re-establish goodwill. At the minimum, pray for the persons involved, express in thought and heart that you have forgiven them. Even if you won’t see the same persons again, or decide to cut off links with them, decide just the same to maintain goodwill. That clearly done, you will contribute to firming up the loose soils of the fractured societal bonds, and become a true Lightworker in the process.
Devotion to God, the Bhakti Way
No matter how far you’ve advanced as a Seeker or even as a mystic or master, just the same you will feel the urge to do devotional works. The most individuated Seekers are allergic to mass production devotions (church, congregations). If you are this type of Seeker, then schedule a bhakti session alone, in your home, by chanting the name of God. The lines you learned from your churches would be alright for this purpose.
For instance, you can chant repeatedly for around fifteen (15) minutes at least the mantrams “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna Hare Hare (7X), Hare Rama Hare Rama Rama Rama Hare Hare (7X),” over and over. You can also diversify the mantrams. Advanced seekers are universalistic, and if you’re of this kind, than you can add, even if you were born a Hindu, the chanting of the “Hail Mary” of the Catholics, and vice versa (Catholics can chant the Hindu’s bhakti mantrams). A powerful chant is “Om Namo Narayanaya” which is expressing devotion to the Spirit-side of God.
That is why the “Hail Mary” or the novena was designed—by mystics within the Roman church—precisely to diffuse powerful mantrams as sustainers of devotion to Mary and God. So powerful is the novena, devotees just can’t comprehend its power but during the focal devotions the novena keeps the believers glued to where they are. If only the church can re-codify the Hail Mary into chant form, and let it be sung repeatedly, it could transport the devotee to the heights of the higher dimensions.
If you Dear Seeker are keen on attending church service, than that would be your regular Bhakti session. During a mass, the devotees chant, invoke many mantrams (prayers), and end the ritual with an invocation to let the Violet Flame descend unto the participants (Violet Flame = Holy Spirit of Christians). Go ahead, Seeker, maintain your church life, but to make your bhakti more meaningful you must also join your ministries or equivalent. Join the liturgy ministry, or youth ministry, or ecology ministry, where you can work with ‘significant others’ and strengthen your devotion at that level.
It is possible that if you, Seeker, can stabilize your emotional-social selves via bhakti if you are unstable in this regard. Bhakti can be a powerful tool that will make your heart warm up to your hostile “enemies” (per your perception) and reconcile with them even if the reconciliation will be non-physical (visualization with prayers, reconciliation of the heart). But if your emotional-social ailments have reached the dysfunctional level, then please see a psychiatrist who can help you take off the dark energies that cause the ailments from your unconscious mind.
Look at all those devotees who practice bhakti, but who after coming from church service are back to their hostile, antisocial attitudes towards their ‘significant others’. They suffer from deep psychiatric malaise, and they are using bhakti (church service) as a dope or opiate to temporarily relieve them of the ailment. The opiate then makes them delude into believing that they are already saved. Sociologists found out after extensive research, some with disbelief, that indeed the ‘opiate effect’ thesis of Marx, or ‘religion as dope’ of Simmel, or ‘religion as illusion’ by Freud, was empirically correct, accurate and precise. (See the works of Kenneth Thompson regarding the theme of ‘belief and ideology’ as summary of these inquiries.)
Don’t ever imitate those whose behavior you think isn’t worth emulating. Such as the mass of devotees, most of whom are laggards, who have reduced devotion to dope. Make bhakti a truly liberating one, let it penetrate through you and empower your conscience. With an empowered conscience, virtues can work within you, and you can develop healthy relationships with ‘significant others’ based on true, spirit-filled devotion.
In sum, put devotion in your program for self-realization, and practice them at both the social and trans-social (transcendent) levels. With your heart you can then intuit on the cosmic significance of the category of ‘Other’, and discover that the ‘significant Others’ are One and indivisibly parts of the ‘Divine Others’, all thus merged in the heart, mind and will of the highest ‘Other’: God. Then indeed are you prepared to journey to the Heights of the Divine.
[Writ 05 October 2007, Quezon City, MetroManila]