Arjuna asked the Lord about the signs of a true devotee. The Lord is explaining this in the Bhakti Yoga of the Bhagavad Gita. The Lord did not talk about any external object. There are people who are devotees of Amma, of Ayyappa, of Guruvayurappa.
For example in Amma’s Ashram, we say Aum Namah Shivaya, in another ashram the greeting is Hari Aum, those who are going to Sabarimala will say Swamiye Sharanam Ayyappa, Guruvayur is infused with the chanting of Narayana.
Some wear white clothes, Ayyappa devotees wear black, some wear saffron. Some people shave their heads, some have a top knot and others have a back knot. Some grow beards, some are clean-shaven and yet others have matted hair.
Arjuna asks the Lord about the signs of a devotee. In Bhagavad Gita, the Lord did not give the sign of a devotee as one who wears yellow clothes or green clothes or black clothes.
The Lord is explaining to Arjuna the values of life that should be borne in mind, We can buy a Rudraksha, Tulsi chain, Crystal chain, etc in a shop. Hair is grown and cut in a barbershop.
What is important is not the name by which we call God, but the intention behind the prayer. In what Bhava (attitude of mind) are we worshipping God?
These are the signs of devotion. The Lord gives 36 virtues as the signs of a devotee. The fact that we love God is one aspect of it. It is also important to understand who is dearest to God. Loving God is like a one-way street. God must also love us.
The Lord enumerates the qualities of a devotee in Bhakti Yoga. He describes 36 virtues and explains that “such devotees are dear to me.”
अद्वेष्टा सर्वभूतानां मैत्र: करुण एव च |
निर्ममो निरहङ्कार: समदु:खसुख: क्षमी ||
सन्तुष्ट: सततं योगी यतात्मा दृढनिश्चय: |
मय्यर्पितमनोबुद्धिर्यो मद्भक्त: स मे प्रिय: ||
यस्मान्नोद्विजते लोको लोकान्नोद्विजते च य: |
हर्षामर्षभयोद्वेगैर्मुक्तो य: स च मे प्रिय: ||
अनपेक्ष: शुचिर्दक्ष उदासीनो गतव्यथ: |
सर्वारम्भपरित्यागी यो मद्भक्त: स मे प्रिय: || Bhagavad Gita 12.13-16
As much as I love the Lord, I should also understand whom the Lord considers dearest to him. The one who bears no anger to anyone. adveṣhṭā sarva-bhūtānāṁ. Ordinary men have three types of emotions or sentiments.
The first type is love. We love the ones who are dear to us. We bear anger towards the ones that we not like. And we are indifferent and cold towards people whom we consider to be beneath us.
The Lord does not require us to love everybody. If a drunkard comes in front of us, we will be unable to love him. If we see a cobra in front of us, we will try to distance ourselves for our own safety.
That is why he said, “The one who bears no anger”. Instead of being controlled by the three emotions of love, anger, and indifference, with no anger towards anyone, Instead of looking only at the outer surface and dissimilarities of all beings, he is one who sees in all of creation the true self and strength of God.
He bears an attitude of friendship to all. People feel that if they become devotees or spiritual seekers, they should stop smiling, talking, and interacting with others. But the Lord’s advice is contrary to this feeling fostered by spiritual seekers.
We must behave with goodwill, kindness, and friendship to each and every one. We must not harbor hatred towards anyone. We must speak amicably to them. We must interact with them and help them.
Mahatmas tell us that when we see people in distress, we must, out of our own volition, help them. This is why Devi has the names
dayā murti (who is the personification of compassion)
avyāja karuṇā murti (who is pure compassion)
sāndra karuṇā (who shows intense compassion.)
The next quality of the devotee dearest to the Lord is “karuna”, the one with compassion.
अद्वेष्टा सर्वभूतानां मैत्र: करुण एव च |
निर्ममो निरहङ्कार: समदु:खसुख: क्षमी || Bhagavad Gita 12.13
The thought that I am the body must become transformed to the realization that I am a part of the divine, I am the servant of God. We must become free of ego. We must become free of pride.
When happiness enters life and also when unexpected sorrow befalls us as a result of our prarabda karma consider it to be a blessing from God. We have been blessed in so many ways. The Lord has helped me through every stage if my life. But due to some reason, this sorrow has befallen me. This sorrow will also leave me with the passage of time.
sama-duḥkha-sukhaḥ kṣhamī. Devotion is. The development, the blooming forth, and nurturing of the right values. This is what Lord says in the Bhagavad Gita.