A devotee is at his best when he develops from the level of gratitude to the level of love in relation to all existences.
A devotee is at his best when he develops from the level of gratitude to the level of love in relation to all existences. The moral and spiritual life of a devotee is at its lowest when he is inspired by gratitude.
Things loose value to others when they are exhausted. For example, a car has value if there is somebody to drive it i.e. people but without people a car is nothing. So the value is exhausted by what it does for others. All mechanical inventions and lifeless objects including gold mines and chemicals etc. are examples. These things have instrumental values, i.e. they are instruments for creating values but are not values in themselves.
There are things whose value is exhausted by what they can do for others or what they can mean for others. A car, for has value if there are people to drive it. Without human beings a car has no value. Cars are good for human beings, and they are good for nothing if there are no human beings. So, the value of Car is exhausted by what it does for others. All mechanical inventions, all inanimate things, including gold mines, chemicals, etc., are instances of this kind of utility. These things have instrumental values, i.e. they are instruments for creating values but are not values in themselves. There are other things, which we value for their own sake. It is common idiom to say that we should acquire knowledge for its own sake or that virtue is its own reward. When we are illumined by a truth, we value this experience and wish to multiply it.
However, what has value in itself may also be useful or valuable for other things. Knowledge has utility for us. It has made possible control over forces of Nature and helped us to build up unlimited facilities for life. All inventions of modern life show the astonishing instrumental value of knowledge. Scientific knowledge has helped to transform and revolutionize the whole scene of our planet so much so that it must be unrecognizable to those who were the first to inhabit it.
In spite of such magnificent and revolutionary contributions which knowledge has made to our life, we must not confuse its own value with its instrumental values. Suppose scientific knowledge had given us no handle over physical forces, i.e., if it had not been followed by inventions, even then it would have shone, like a gem, by its own light.
The value of knowledge is not a reflected value, resting and leaning on others for its glory. Most of the scientific knowledge is yet such that we do not know its application to life, but it is no less valuables in comparison with the scientific knowledge for which we have found use in life. Again, the inventor who finds some application for some scientific truth is rated a second rate scientist in comparison with the discoverer of the scientific truth. Thus the whole value of knowledge is not exhausted by its utility to us. It has value even when it has no utility outside itself.
However, when we lean too much on the instrumental value of knowledge, we develop a blindness in which we cease to see the intrinsic nature and worth of knowledge . We cannot see any good in knowledge if it does not yield utility in other fields of life. Such has been this blindness in modern philosophic thought that it declare that true is the useful and the useful is true. Pragmatists and Marxists define knowledge in terms of the power it yields to handle or manipulate situations. This basic utilitarian attitude to knowledge is expressed in the rapid dominance of the technical education over the liberal education, of scientific education over humanities.
The whole outlook of the modern man is reflected by the slogan : KNOWLEDGE IS POWER. When knowledge is not power to do things or create utilities, it is not knowledge. This fundamental scientific and philosophical blindness to knowledge has perverted the aims of education to utility.
The same distinction and the consequences of blurring over this distinction are true in the case of virtues. We all value honesty, fidelity, justice, truth speaking etc. These virtues like knowledge, have been recognized by the best conscience of mankind, to be valuable in themselves. These virtues also have instrumental values. Honesty or even show of honesty is the best policy. Honesty creates confidence of others in us and this certainly helps us in ‘building up our prosperity, if we have other capacities also, for example, intelligence, capacity for administration, perseverance, doggedness, ambition for progress etc. However, the value of honesty is not exhausted by what it can do for us in the way of building our credit and prosperity. All acts of honesty, just as all truths, do not yield us utility but those acts of honesty, like those truths, which do not yield us utility, are as much honest acts as those which bring us prosperity.
There is no doubt that virtues have social utility. To the extent a group has these virtues, it solidifies and strengthens its social efficiency and prosperity. We live as a group to the extent we are moral. In our impatience at the imperfections of daily life, we fail to see the abundance of virtues that hold social life together. Over-sensitiveness to evils of social life must not make us under sensitive to truth about life. Moralists have not served the cause of goodness by propagating that evil is in abundance and there is little or no goodness in the world. If evil overwhelms goodness, then the dominance of evil is consistent with abundance of life. This supports the thesis of the evil man that life is not possible with goodness.
To say that social life is possible only by evil living is as absurd as to say bodily health is possible because of intemperance, population, increases because of murders, traffic is possible because of accidents or railways are possible because of ticketless travelling. All irregularities like intemperance, breach of traffic rules, ticketless travelling, or disrespect for life are accidents, however, rampant in comparison with observance of health laws, traffic rules, purchase of tickets and respect for life. If evil is really the natural law of life were the uniform behaviour, murder will not be the ‘news’. if ticketless travel were the rule, the statistics of those who purchased tickets and not of the ticketless travellors would be flashed out. If stealing were the rule of life, thefts would not be reported in the newspapers, nor their statistics worked out. Evil is unusual as compared with goodness. When an act is below the average goodness, it is evil, when it is above average goodness, it is great. But a basic level of goodness exists which makes life possible. if respect for life, property and sex, were not biologically useful (i.e., if murder, theft and prostitution were biologically useful), it passes understanding, why at his first emergence from animal life man should have taken to these moral luxuries. If these values are moral luxuries and not biological necessities, there is no reason why the most primitive society which lives at biological level should have made them the basis of their social life. The truth is that humanity found at the start of its career that it could exist only if evils of murder, theft and prostitution were checked and respect for life, property and sex are found to ensure and secure existence. Goodness has been felt by humanity to be the law of its existence.
It is virtues that make social life possible. social life can be lived at the lowest ebb as it can be lived at the highest strength. The weakling lives as an athlete lives, but their strength and vitality of both is different. To the extent social life observes laws of goodness, it strengthen itself; to the extent it violates the laws of goodness, it loses it strength.
However, the whole value of virtues is not exhausted by what they do for survival and happiness. Modern thought obsessed by evolutionary naturalism has gazed so much on the utility aspect of virtues that it has grown blind to the intrinsic worth of them. Utilitarianism, the ethical philosophy of the twentienth, is an expression of his blindness. Utilitarianism holds that virtues of honesty, truth, justice etc are good for social happiness and are not good in themselves. There is no reason for cultivating these virtues except and so far as they help to further human happiness and survival.
This utility or pleasure ethics is, as Einstein puts it, ethics for cattle. It has cost us in many ways. It has lost us wider horizons for virtues and hence reduced the meaning of life.
There is a further aspect of truth, which we must grasp and gather for right attitude towards intrinsically worthwhile things. Knowledge, for example, has a different character as it is in itself and as it is in its application. The utility aspect of a truth is an aspect of it. A truth has many varied and rich aspects. Hence, to know utility aspect of a truth is not to know the other rich contents of truth. A good electric mechanic, for example, may understand very little of the truths of electricity. A compounder is no student of medicine, even when he is able to prescribe correctly for various common diseases. The fact that truth has a character of its own, apart from its utility, is further clear from the fact that a truth is known long before its applications are discovered. A truth as a true knowledge is different in kind from a truth as applied.
The same understanding is necessary in the case of virtues. The character of a virtuous man as a man is different in kind from his character in respect of his utility. To appreciate a good man or a great man from the point of view of what it means to us is not to appreciate him as he is in himself, for what he is for us may be very little of what he is in himself. A school girl learning mathematics from, say, Einstein can from a very picture of Einstein, in terms of what he means to her. Again, for a wife, for example, the utility aspect of the fidelity of her husband consists of security, of the ability to entrust herself to the faithful one, but the moral value of the trusted person consists of spiritual strength, steadfastness of disposition and trustworthiness. The honesty of a dealer means to the consumer that he will get for his money what it can buy but honesty in the dealer represents a spiritual excellence of right relationship with fellow human beings.
Gratitude can reveal to us that aspect of the virtues of our benefactors, which are good for us. It is the utility aspect of the character of the great man which gratitude can open to us. A devotee starts his career of devotion when he develops an appreciation for what his Master has done for us. A deep and abiding gratitude can keep one alive to the favours received and can urge one to make returns for it. Of course, at the stage of gratitude no return can be complete even at levels of economic favours. Suppose a person has given me a hundred pounds without expectation whatsoever of any return of any kind. I cannot pay him back, even with a thousand pounds. For the act of the donor was unconditional, flowing out of free and genuine fellow feelings. My act of return is conditional, arising out of the return to be made. It can never rise to the level of the act of the benefactor, even though i may do the greatest spiritual good to him, besides serving him for my whole lifetime. My act can never cross over its limitation of being conditioned by the benefit received. My act can never erase the fact that it is motivated by the benefit received. No debtor can ever pay back to his benefactor when the benefactor gave his service unconditionally out of fellow human love, for a debtor’s service are motivated by the services received. In this case the motives do not equate and hence accounts can never be balanced.
There is only one condition in which the accounts can be balanced. It is when the debtor develops love for his benefactor, his services are no more motivated by benefits received. He serves because he loves and he does not love his benefactor because of what he means to him, but what he is in himself.
Thus, when a devotee is at the level of gratitude in relation to his master, he is working for very humble devotion. To think of Bhagwan as “protector, preserver and evolver of spiritual life in us” is to see Him only in the aspect of what He means to us and not what He is. It is to see Him in His utility to mankind and other three kingdoms of Nature. But this is to remain in the ante-chamber of understanding and appreciating Him. There are some sewaks for whom Devatma has only meant as protector from gross sins and nothing more. What they can see of Devatma, as a result of gratitude, is infinitesimal decimal of what He is. Some sewaks feel devotion for Devatma by what his life as meant for the worldly position and prosperity of their family; others feel the devotion for the altruistic life evolved in them or freedom given to them or freedom given to them from one or another low-love. Thus gratitude makes a very narrow horizon for devotion. It completely shuts out the magnificence of Devatma’s personality as it is in itself. The vision is just a colour blind vision. It misses the varied charm, beauty and richness of Devatma’s sublime life. It shuts Devatma out as he is in himself.
There is another danger of over-dwelling on the benefits received from Devatma. Such devotion built on benefits received, gradually and unconsciously identifies Devatma with the benefits received, just s dwelling on the advantages of knowledge has resulted in thinking that true is what works.
Such limited vision makes the basis of devotion also inferior. If we feel relation with Devatma because of ‘What this relation means for us’, our relationship is conditional and ego-centric. The basis of such devotion is our ego interests, even though these interests happen to be spiritual.
A devotee rises from this ego-centric relationship when he loves Bhagwan as a result of appreciation of his Sublime life. It is not gratitude-born love. It is love born of appreciation of the sublime life. Such love cancels ego-centricism and makes the devotion to Devatma as He is in Himself. It is clear vision basking in the beauty of the master with the last traces of egoism cleared or cancelled. It is unconditional pouring out of one’s soul in sheer love. It is the attraction of moth for the star. It is the mad delight of a devotee to dance in ecstacy before the beauty of the master, till the last unit of heat in his body is exhausted.