Do you offer food to the Lord before eating?
There are three aspects of Bhakti which are most important. Unless one does not hear about spiritual topics concerning the Lord, one can never understand the philosophy behind the Bhakti process. One has to realize the importance of the Bhakti process and the basis of spiritual practice. Unless these aspects are taken care of, no one shall be able to begin their journey in Bhakti. The first and the most important aspect here is hearing. Hearing the instructions about the Bhakti process from an enlightened sage is vital. Even the Jnana path recommends hearing about that path by an enlightened master of the path of Jnana. In Jnana the first step is to understand the process from the master, through the hearing process. Next is to contemplate on the various aspects of Jnana, and mull over it deeply. The penultimate step is to get established with firm conviction to follow the path. The last step is to start following the practices after being certain about the path. Unless one has heard and contemplated over the process of Jnana or Bhakti, as the case may be, one shall never be able to walk on the path. In a country like India, most people follow some form of practice in line with Bhakti or Jnana. But most of them to the tune of 99.99 % of the population, do it in an incorrect manner. They do the process merely by applying the senses to the process.
People read scriptures like Ramayana or Gita, with dedicated regularity. Many people recite the Ramayana continuously for 24 hours non-stop. Someone may offer flowers to the idols of the Lord. There may be other rituals, thousands in number. But the sad part is that the mind is let free to do whatever it wants to do. The body is at work, in the name of Bhakti, but the mind is doing its nonsense and grazing on the same filth that the person may be doing outside of his spiritual practices. The most important feature in any spiritual discipline verily is the mind. All the activities in the form of devotional service, is carried out in the world has become limited to the senses and the body. Priests serving the deities in the temples, do the decoration of the deities as a physical drill, rather than as an act of the mind in conjunction with the body. While chanting, people just use the “mala” (माला rosary) to complete the rounds of chanting with focus on completing 16 rounds or 64 rounds of chanting the holy names of God, with inattention; with the mind scattered all over the world. Mind is a neglected entity at the time of carrying out so-called spiritual discipline or “acts of God”. Nobody is eager to see the Lord. Nobody misses the Lord. Nobody is ready to call the Lord with earnestness in the heart. Nobody is ready to shed a tear for the Lord and still many claim to be “devotees” of the Lord. All practices are carried out devoid of the mind’s involvement. The sages and the scriptures exhort that “What mind is to spiritual practice is what life is to the body”. Just as there is no value for body without the life-force, spiritual practice has no value without the complete involvement of the mind. The mind’s attachment to anything, takes consciousness towards that particular thing. If I am excessively attached to the body, I would naturally spend more time in caring for the body. If my mind likes my father and has emotions for him, I shall automatically serve him and try to make him happy. If I do not like my neighbor and am forced to do something for my neighbor, there is no question of the neighbor getting satisfied by such forced service. Then how can the infinite Lord be satisfied by mere ritual, which does not interest or involve the mind? If a mortal like one’s neighbor feels displeasure by our forced service, how can the Lord be moved by our practice, which is only looking at profits that can be extracted from the Lord without our mind not being involved in the service? It should be remembered with utmost clarity that it is the mind alone that is the reason, for either relation or bondage. Mind’s attention and attachment towards the world is bondage and when the mind is attached to the Lord, it results in liberation.
Even in this material world, when somebody commits a murder, the intention and motive of killing is looked at. A person “A” kills another person “B” for money which he is going to receive from “C” after having committed the murder on behalf of “C”, the primary accused shall be the person “C”. This is because “A’s” intention was to get quick money and murder is simply a means. However for “C”, the intention is to commit the actual murder of “B” for which “A” was simply a tool. Hence according to the law of the land, “C” is the real culprit behind “B’s” murder. This is because it is the mind of “C” that caused the murder. Here mind is the main culprit, not only in this case, but in the total affairs of this world as well for being capable in giving to us the other-world, if applied in the right way. Without direct application of the mind, all endeavors are fruitless, aimless and a waste of energy and time.