Devotees used to come to Sri Ramakrishna to unburden their minds. Quite often they would tell him that in spite of repeating God’s name so much, they are not progressing much in spiritual life.
Sri Ramakrishna, who was endowed with a deep spiritual insight, would easily identify their shortcomings and advise them suitably. He would say that their love for God is not strong or deep-rooted and that it is more based on hearsay. To drive home the point, he used to narrate a beautiful incident.
A few children were playing in a courtyard of the house of one of them. They were enjoying their play when all of a sudden a fight broke out amongst them. They first started abusing each other. Then they started swearing in the name of God. The onlookers were amazed as to where from these children learnt all these. How could such small children swear in the name of God? They felt that the children behaved that way because they wanted their playmates to understand and believe whatever they were saying. Perhaps they had heard that swearing in God’s name would make people believe their words. They might have heard their elderly aunts doing something similar during their friendly conversations. The children neither knew about God nor were they really convinced about their swearing, but because they had heard from somewhere, they tried to adopt this method to win over the confidence of others.
Similarly, devotees who call on God, unless their effort is backed by intensity, sincerity and deep conviction; they cannot make much of a progress. People often resort to prayers and other spiritual practices largely based on hearsay and their faith is very fragile and can be destroyed in no time. Obviously, such efforts cannot bring about any spiritual elevation. To progress in spiritual life one needs extraordinary conviction. Based on such deep faith one has to struggle doggedly and dedicatedly for a long time.
-by Swami Shantatmananda, Sunday Guardian, 21st Feb 2015