Learning how to serve a deity is one of the most vital lessons of the spiritual path. Below is a transcript of a satsang by Swami Vishwakesavananda detailing his own lessons and sharing reminders with us of the beauty and grace of deity service.
Satsang by Swami Vishwakeshavaananda
Transcript edited for length and clarity
Devotional service is the ultimate dharma of humanity, the purpose of our being. Devotional service is not only the goal but also the path to the goal. It is both at the same time. Of course, while we are walking the path, our service is not uninterrupted and unmotivated. Through service, through practice, through time, through being purified, eventually our devotional service to the Lord will be uninterrupted and unmotivated.
You can do service in many different ways. You can understand devotional service as seva, as kriya, as puja, as art. Whatever form is closest to you, whatever sadhana you have chosen as your main sadhana, shows how you connect with the Divine. For me, puja is the most important. I’m being biased right now because that’s my chosen sadhana, my way of serving Him.
If the service you render to Him is sincere, you can feel it immediately. Of course, there are many levels of sincerity, many levels of how much you give. From what I understand, when you serve Him, serve a deity, and ultimately Guruji, of course, you have to give everything. You can’t give 10 percent. You can’t give 50 percent or 99 percent. You have to give 100 percent. Of course, there’s always more you can give, more that you can do. What’s most important is that whatever service you give is the highest priority over everything else in your life.
We need a little bit of a reminder sometimes. Since the temple opened, it’s been really beautiful, because Guruji has been reminding us over and over again how important it is and what level of importance it should be in your life to serve. He said many times that when you serve the deity here, it’s the most important thing in your life. It’s the most important thing you do. It doesn’t matter what seva you do or what personal issues you have. It doesn’t matter what excuses you have. The most important thing is to serve the deity.
This is very much connected with discipline, the discipline you need to have to remind yourself every day that this is the most important thing in your life. Of course, your mind makes you forget about that. It says it’s okay today. It’s fine. You’re doing very good. You don’t have to do more. But whatever your mind is saying is not true because can do better than you did yesterday.
That’s not only with service to Guruji. Somehow, in the beginning, I didn’t have such a connection with Nrsingadev. I always had a connection with Krishna. For two or three months, I didn’t have any connection. I was starting to get sad or worried. Actually, I told Guruji in the beginning when He told me that I would look after Nrsingadev. I was happy but not super enthusiastic.
He said, ‘well, it’s your duty, you have to do it. You have to find the connection to Him.’
I said, ‘Honestly, even if I serve Him, I just see Him as Krishna.’
He said, ‘Yeah, well it’s the same thing.’
But somehow it’s also a different mood. The other day, Guruji came behind the altar and He said Nrsingadev looked so sweet, He didn’t look serious enough. I tend to put something in the Krishna mood like gopi dots. But Nrsingadev is a different style, you can’t always put flowers and stuff. Somehow it made me realise I needed to find a connection to Nrsingadev as well.
Very often in the evening while changing the deity, my mind is already on putting the jewellery away and cleaning the clothes. My mind is not so much on Him but on getting Him ready for bed and finishing everything so I can go to bed to get up in time in the morning. After some time, I realised it doesn’t really matter how late it is or how late it’s going to be or how much work there is afterwards because He’s the most important thing. After a while, I just decided to focus on Him only and then whatever comes afterwards comes afterwards. It made a huge difference. You can always feel immediately when They’re happy and Guruji always reflects it also. When your seva is sincere, when your service is sincere He will give that back to you. Whatever motivation we have, whatever things interrupt us, He will wash it out. He will wash them away one after one after one until your seva is uninterrupted and completely sincere.
You have to always do whatever you have to do to focus on Him. Take all the time you have to spend and direct it to Him. Whether you listen to Him, whether you glorify Him, whether you remember and worship Him you have to use all your senses to focus on Him. Otherwise, if you leave one of your senses or some of your senses the mind will use that to distract you and your service will be interrupted. Like it says in the Guru Gita you have to have this devotion, this single-pointed devotion to Him, and ultimately to Guruji because only through His incomparable grace and blessing you can reach that goal of sharanagati which is uninterrupted devotion.
If you want to listen to Him or glorify Him or whatever there are so many amazing saints that you can take inspiration from. It’s amazing how through their example they show you how deep this connection can go. It always goes deeper. You can always give more. You can always be more sincere. If you think you are sincere you can always be more sincere. And yet this very is also very nice because by simply following these instructions to listen, to glorify, to remember, you will be able to reach the point of being worthy to attain the state of uninterrupted and pure devotional service to Him.