Sri Ramakrishna would often extol to his devotees about earnestness in spiritual life. He would say that earnest seekers would always find someone to guide them in their spiritual journey. To illustrate the idea he used to narrate a story.
There was a devotee who was an ardent worshiper of Lord Jagannath. From his very boyhood he had accepted Lord Jagannath as his chosen deity. As he grew up he felt a desire to go on a pilgrimage to Puri and have the darshan of Lord Jagannath. He was very poor and he did not have the means to undertake such a pilgrimage, which would cost a substantial amount.
He waited for many years and slowly started saving money for the purpose. After he had accumulated a reasonable amount, he set out on a pilgrimage to fulfill the desire which he had cherished in his heart for a long time. First he went westwards instead of south and thus strayed from the right path. But, several times he eagerly asked people about the way and they started guiding him slowly in the right direction saying, “this is not the path, follow that way”, etc.
After struggling for a long time, the devotee was ultimately able to reach Puri and also have a darshan of Lord Jagannath, his chosen deity. Although he was ignorant of the way, because of his sincerity someone or the other always guided him and ultimately helped him to reach the destination. Thus Sri Ramakrishna would say that if a person does not know the right path, but if the person has devotion and a sincere desire to know God, then he attains Him through the sheer force of bhakti.
In fact, Sri Ramakrishna would go even one step further and advocate how to pray to God even if one did not know the method. Thus, in spiritual life, it is sincerity and one-pointedness that mattered.
By Swami Shantatmananda