Sri Ramakrishna would often talk to his devotees about ishtha nishtha or unwavering devotion to one’s chosen deity or object of worship. He would say that one should have steadfast devotion and worship or serve his chosen ideal under all circumstances, without losing faith and without swerving from one’s chosen path. He would say that the mind becomes soiled if it suddenly shifts its focus or attention from one ideal to another. To illustrate this point he used to narrate a story.

There was a woman who belonged to a very orthodox family and was married to a very righteous man. Somehow she came in contact with another gentleman and became deeply attached to him. Although he was married and quite settled in life, this lady even went to the extent of trying to develop an illicit relationship with him. One day this gentleman came to her house. He wanted to meet her husband in connection with some work. Finding that her husband was not at home, the visitor wanted to go back immediately. But the lady would not let him go and invited him to her room. But he was a righteous person. In order to avoid any calamity he said that he wanted to use the toilet, but he has to go back to his home to get his water jar for that purpose. The woman offered him her own jar. But the gentleman said, “No, that won’t do. I shall use the same jar to which I have exposed myself once. I cannot do it again in front of another one.” With these words he went away. This brought the woman to her senses. She understood that the new water jar signified the paramour. She realised that by serving one master steadfastly one can get everything in life.

Thus Sri Ramakrishna would point out that ishtha nishtha or unwavering devotion to one’s chosen deity is very essential in spiritual life.

 

By: Swami Shantatmananda

Published in the Sunday Guardian

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