Devotion was deep-rooted in the Master, whether for his Guru or for his Ishta-Devata, whether for saints or for sacred places. He would never take his lunch without doing worship at a small altar he had in his own room. In this one act he claimed total privacy. Only once did his personal attendant by accident witness a spectacle the Master was lying on the ground in full prostration before the Deity! This prostration was not a mechanical one, nor was the worship. To the Master his Deity was intensely more real than all worldly phenomena.
On a Sivaratri night, when the Master came to the Ashram Mandir to offer worship, Swami Venkatesananda watched him closely. He thereby learnt the difference between real worship and ritualistic worship. Venkatesananda described in vivid detail what he saw:
"I was watching. Hardly on one face could I detect real, living faith. Some threw the bael leaves on the Linga; some half-sleepily allowed the leaves to drop on it; and a few pious devotees performed this ceremony as a mere religious duty. To them the Siva Linga was but a stone which somehow represented God they did not know how. Last of all came the Master himself, with bael leaves in hand. The radiant face shone with an extraordinary light. He let a few leaves drop at the foot of the Holy Bull, Nandikeshwara, seeking his permission to worship the Lord. When he gazed at the Linga before offering the bael leaves which he held in his hand, he did not pray or recite hymns or repeat Mantras. His eyes spoke to the Linga. It was a living Presence to him. What is the expression of your friend’s face when he meets you? That was the expression that adorned the Master’s face as he gently offered the bael leaves to the Lord—gently, in order that even the tender leaves might not hurt Him.
"A greater wonder was in store. In the twinkling of an eye and unnoticed by anyone, he turned round and threw a few leaves on all those who were there conducting the worship. The Master worshipped them; he worshipped the Lord in all, the Virat Swarupa. The keynote in this Virat worship is to perform it unobserved, or else it degenerates into a mere empty show."
People were amazed at the singular devotion displayed by the Master whenever he happened to touch a holy place or meet a living saint. This aspect of his personality also came to the fore when troupes of devotees from outside places visited the Ashram and staged a Rasa Lila, a Hari Katha or a Divya Nama Sankirtan.
Sri N. Ananthanarayanan
To be continued ...