A poor widow was trying to educate her young son despite their meager existence, for he was her only future. By borrowing money she had managed to send him through grammar school. Now she hired a tutor to teach her boy higher studies.
The teacher began with a lesson in geometry.
From the next room the mother heard him say to her son, “Let ABC be a tri- angle..”
Very upset, the woman burst in and stopped the man. She then upbraided him, crying, “You are wasting my time and money! I demand that you leave my house and never return.”
The tutor, shocked, asked why. “You advertise yourself as a teacher of higher studies, but you are only giving lessons on ABC. My boy learned his ABCs long ago. Now go! You are fit only for teaching primary school.” Seeing that the woman was adamant, the man quietly left.
Similarly, materialists attempt to denigrate the teachings of bhakti by arguing that the root of human ills is servitude. They aspire to become masters of this world, and cannot under- stand why they must revert to servitude even after liberation. Servitude is the condition of ignorance and illusion, they believe. Bhakti is the cultivation of a slave mentality that is unworthy of human aspirations. Liberation means the end of service and the realization that I am Brahman.
But devotees know that devotion or service is the eternal function of all living beings. But realization of eternality through service must be cultivated in stages known as sadhana bhakti, bhava bhakti and prema bhakti. This advancement of devotional consciousness may be compared with advancement in the use of the alphabet. Just as it is that from grade school to post-graduate studies the alphabet remains the basic medium of all learning, so from sadhana to prema bhakti yoga, service remains the medium of progress in God consciousness.
The proposal of the impersonalist, that at the higher stage service is dispensed with, is comparable to a student’s rejecting the alphabet upon his graduation from the upper class. For a man to go through years of education only to renounce reading and writing the alpabet at the end would be ludicrous. In the same way, impersonalists who reject devotion at the last stage make a mockery of the whole path of spiritual advancement given in the Vedic scriptures.