While leaving Rama Sevaka Swami’s ashram, Richard (now Radhanath Swami) received a gift from Rama Sevaka Swami- his own personal walking stick. Narayana Prasad translated Rama Sevaka Swami’s words, “the stick of a devotee’s mercy can save one from the greatest dangers.” Richard reached Kathmandu with the stick being his constant companion. A pack of wild dogs chased towards Richard and growled ferociously. Richard wildly swung the walking stick towards the dogs while the dogs, smelling Richard’s flesh escalated their attacks. Richard finally survived by diving inside a house and slamming the door shut behind him. Richard realized that indeed the stick of Rama Sevaka Swami’s mercy had saved him.
Radhanath Swami says when the Lord is especially kind to someone He bestows upon that soul the association of devotees. Then by the devotee’s mercy, a sincere aspirant understands the science of God consciousness. I would sometimes wonder what it means by mercy of devotees. Radhanath Swami clarified in one talk that ‘mercy’ means ‘showing the mirror’. He elaborated that when in devotees association we learn to see our own heart and realize our shortcomings and make a sincere endeavor to improve, we should know we are getting mercy. Radhanath Swami therefore says mercy means when we realize how far we are from knowing and loving God. In association of sincere devotees of the Lord, a desire to love and know God arises in the heart. Therefore devotee’s mercy is absolutely needed.
Radhanath Swami explains that it is comfortable for the false ego to claim, “I love God and I don’t need anyone between me and God.” However the scripters assert that God can be realized in the association of devotees more than directly approaching God. Radhanath Swami once gave the example of a wholesale dealer. For the amount of bhakti we need we need to go to a retailer and that is a pure devotee of God. God Himself is a whole sale dealer and has unlimited reservoir of love. However we can’t barge in to God’s audience and demand that love. When God sees we are humble and like to serve all, God becomes happy with his humility and allows us to access the love of the spiritual realm.
In association of devotees one also experiences strain in relationships and that strain helps us take shelter of God. Radhanath Swami reveals, “When God sees that we are willing to let go off our false egos and keep good relationships with each other for the higher purpose of service to God’s mission, we get access to the unlimited mercy of both God and devotees.” Radhanath Swami often quotes his own guru who said we can show our love to him and God by how we cooperate with one another. Also another of favorite quotes of his guru that Radhanath Swami says, “one who thinks he can advance in spiritual life without the association and mercy of devotees is in hallucination.”
Radhanath Swami also practices this principle. I have seen him often keep aside all engagements to spend time with his equals and colleagues, and take their association seriously. When his friends like Bhakti Caru Swami and Niranjan Swami come to Chowpatty, Mumbai, Radhanath Swami cancels all his other engagements and spends hours talking to them. He even once told one of his students, “for me the association of my seniors and friends who can guide me and correct me is more important than spending time with all of you.” This shows how much value we should place on taking the mercy of devotees very seriously.