Lord Rama meeting with Shabri (an elderly women ascetic in the Hindu epic Ramayana) was a reward of all her penance and devotion. Shabri is an example of selfless true devotion. She was a devotee of Lord Rama and was a seeker of Knowledge. She wanted to discover the real meaning of dharma and bhakti (devotion).
Lord Rama elucidates the nine types of devotion to Shabri, to which one needs to pay attention and imbibe into heart:
Pratham bhakti santan kar sanga
The first step towards devotion is to keep company of the saintly because saints are the models of human excellence.
Saints teach us the values of truth, love, compassion, sacrifice, and forgiveness. Putting others above yourself and being virtuous are two important pillars of dharma, which only saints can teach us.
Saints can help us inculcate discipline in our lives and help us live a well-ordered life. They can teach us how to make extraordinary choices in the times of uncertainties by putting faith into action. Choosing to be close to God in sufferings rather than blaming others is the most valuable lesson we can learn from them.
Doosari rati mum katha prasanga
The second step is to enjoy listening to discourses pertaining to the Lord.
Katha is an Indian style of storytelling by saints relating to the Lord. By listening to katha the ears are open for the Lord to enter our heart and soul. Katha is of paramount importance in the spiritual world as we gain insight into devine stories of the Lord and if a person is listening to katha attentively, he can experience the Lord. Listening to Lord’s katha is considered as the highest form of devotion in Hindu Dharma.
Guru pad pankaj seva teesri bhakti amaan
The third step towards devotion is to selflessly serve the Guru’s lotus feet without any pride or arrogance.
Seva means a selfless service. The blessings which an individual gets in return of this selfless service fills up the areas which are lacking in the life of a disciple. If a disciple is not in proximity to his Guru, he can serve him by following his teachings. One who performs this selfless service, without thought of reward, shall attain his Lord.
Chauthi bhakti mum gun gan karai karat taji gaan
The fourth step towards devotion is to earnestly praise Lord’s virtues with a heart which is clear from all shrewdness, fraud, and cunningness.
Being cunning interrupts our spiritual progress. An innocent heart is the key to divine blessings. A pure heart can spread love and peace in the world.
Mantra jaap mum dridh vishvaasa, pancham bhajan so ved prakasha
Vedas reveal that chanting Lord’s name with steadfast faith is the fifth step towards devotion.
Faith is what helps to get us through by illuminating our path in darkness and is a source of strength when we fall weak. Faith helps us to discover our purpose in life and helps us move ahead in the times of adversities. Faith in God gives us strength, courage, and stability.
Chhatt dum seel birati bahu karma, nirat nirantar sajjan dharma
Always performing duties like a devoted religious person and practicing self-control, good character, and detachment from manifold activities is the sixth step towards devotion.
Emotional awareness is the key to self-control and good character. People who lack self-control often give in to aggressive behavior, which is harmful to themselves and others too. One can develop the skill of self-control through prayers and meditation.
Saatav sum mohee maye jug dekha, motein sant adhik kari lekha
Perceiving the world as God Himself and regarding the saints higher than the Lord is the seventh step towards devotion.
Lord Rama here emphasizes that if human beings perceive the world as God, then they will not harm others and harmony will prevail. Moreover, if human beings will listen and follow what Saint preach wholeheartedly there would be peace, love, and compassion all around the world.
Aanthav jathallabh santosha, sapnehu nahin dekhe par dosha
The eight steps towards devotion is a stage when a person has no desires left and is contented with what he has.
If achievements and defeat do not excite a person and he is above all worldly desires, then he is one step closer to God. And this stage comes only when a person does not see faults in others, even in dreams. We should not see ourselves superior to other human beings. If we point out faults in others, we are at a serious risk of limiting our own happiness and because of this we cannot make this world a happy place.
Navam saral sub sun chalheena, mum bharos hiye harsh na deena
In this state, a devotee has full faith in Lord and become childlike innocent with no deception. He leaves all to the Almighty. The immovable faith in Lord leads to a stage which has no room for depression during failures or ecstasy in success. He remains calm in all the situations, and this helps him think logically and take decisions accordingly.