Sri Ramakrishna would often explain to his devotees that a devotee’s idea of God evolves as he grows in his spiritual life. Initially it is an idea of a far-away God who is to be pleased by various means of puja and other rituals. But, as the devotee advances in his spiritual journey, he gets closer to God progressively and ultimately becomes very intimate. Hence, he would say that during the initial stages of sadhana one should describe God with all His attributes.
One day Hazra, who also used to live in the Dakshineshwar Temple precincts along with Sri Ramakrishna, said to Narendra (later Swami Vivekananda), “God is Infinity. Infinite is His splendour. Do you think He will accept your offerings of sweets and bananas or listen to your music? This is a mistaken notion of yours.” Narendra was crestfallen. Immediately Sri Ramakrishna chided Hazra by saying, “You villain! Where will these youngsters be if you talk to them in this way? How can a man live if he gives up devotion? No doubt God has infinite splendor; yet, He is under the control of His devotees.” To illustrate this idea further, Sri Ramakrishna used to refer to an incident from Mahabharata.
When Sri Krishna visited king Duryodhana, he was very well received and attended to by Duryodhana. He had arranged a sumptuous feast for Sri Krishna. But, Lord Krishna went to Vidura’s house. That is because of Vidura’s deep devotion to Sri Krishna by virtue of which he had become very intimate and close to the Lord. In fact, Sri Krishna ate the simple rice and grams offered by Vidura as if he was being treated to a great feast.
Thus Sri Ramakrishna would say that the Lord does not look at the pomp and glory of devotion. He is pleased even if he is offered a leaf or flower or fruit or even water with great devotion as stated in the Bhagavad Gita.
– by Swami Shantatmananda, published in the ‘Sacred Books of the East’ column, Sunday Guardian, 23rd Nov 2013