The following is a story that was told by SRF monk Brother Kamalananda in the talk “How Devotion Reveals the Invisible God,” which was part of the weekly SRF online inspirational services series. The full talk can be viewed on the SRF Teachings Library, and excerpts from the talk were published in the 2023 issue of Self-Realization magazine.
One day Bhagavan Krishna was sitting with some of his disciples next to a river, enjoying the peace of nature. After some time one of the disciples ventured a question: “Lord Krishna, can you explain to us what true devotion is? How does a true devotee really practice devotion?”
Krishna was always interested in helping his disciples understand spiritual concepts, so he told the disciple: “Why don’t you go to the river and pick up a pebble from the riverbed and bring it to me.” The disciple obeyed, and brought a little pebble and gave it to Krishna.
“See how this pebble is wet on the outside,” Krishna said. “Now break this pebble in two.” The disciple got a big stone and broke the pebble in half.
Krishna said: “See how the pebble is bone dry on the inside even though it was wet on the outside. This is like those devotees who are coated with devotion and love for God only on the outside, and only so long as they are in a spiritual environment, in ideal conditions. Their inside has been unaffected, dry the whole time. And the moment they are removed from that spiritual environment, their devotion evaporates.”
The disciples were listening intently. Then Krishna got up and went to the river and dipped the hem of his silk shawl into the water.
He brought it back to the disciples and said: “See how these threads are completely soaked even to the point of dripping? This is how most devotees are. They are saturated with devotion, dripping with love for God. But the moment I take my shawl out of the water the wind will dry it and in some time there will be no sign of any water.
“So similarly, when these devotees are surrounded by godly activities and are in spiritual company, and meditating, praying, and worshipping, they are saturated with devotion. But the moment they are sent back into the world, their devotion evaporates.”
The disciples were trying to fathom what their guru was going to do next. A moment later, Krishna gave a lump of sugar to one of the disciples and said, “Go and throw this in the water,” which the disciple did.
Then after a minute, Krishna said, “Go and fetch it.” The disciple went and looked but the sugar had dissolved in the water and was nowhere to be found. Krishna said: “That is how a real devotee is. He or she dissolves their ego in the Lord. There is no more separation. They are one.”