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The Commotion of Devotion

“A large steamer going up the Ganges is hardly noticed at the time of passing, but after a few minutes a terrific commotion ensues as waves hit the banks.”

The famous temple of Dakshineswar lies along the banks of the Hooghly River in Calcutta. As a young man, Sri Ramakrishna became the priest of the Kali Temple there. He must have had occasion to witness the passing of the bigger ferries tracing their course up and down the river at high tide and so noticed the phenomena described above. The experience put Him in mind of the effects of divine love on the human mind, life and body, an experience that He had further occasion to feel profoundly in His own life.

One point must be noticed with regard to this observation. Though the experience of divine love may sound delightful, it is actually very intense. The down-pouring or up-rushing of intensified devotion can play havoc on the human body and nervous system. To be a party to this powerful surge is often gained at the cost of health and longer life. Even the mind can hardly bear this pure love which is so unlike anything else it has ever experienced. In some cases, appetite decreases, the body becomes weak and irregular, sleep eludes one, interest in the things and concerns of the world disappears and the mind can think of nothing but Reality in Its various phases. This “commotion on the banks” of the body/mind mechanism changes the shoreline of thought and action as well. Unable to understand this transformation of the inner person, families disown, friends abandon, career and occupation vanish and the world in general is ready to commit one to a sanitarium. Of course, none of this matters to the divine lover who, like a shooting star coursing through the spiritual firmament, lights up the world with its loveliness before it expires in ecstasy, absorbed into a greater light within.

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