Is there logic in devotion?


25 August 2006 — Amritapuri

Amma was singing “You Have Come to Sacrifice,” a relatively new bhajan written by her attendant, Brahmacharini Lakshmi. Written in English and tuned in a Western style, the song is quite different than a traditional raga-based bhajan. When it was finished, Swami Amritaswarupananda—who sits to Amma’s left during bhajans, singing along with her—expressed his doubts about the song to Amma, saying that it seemed to have “neither a head nor a tail.” There was a bit of a smirk on his face.

Suddenly, Amma spoke into the microphone, addressing the hundreds of brahmacharins and devotees seated before her: “In devotion, there is no logic, is there?” Amma then asked everyone who agreed with the statement to raise their hand.

Amma then mentioned two famous example of how devotion being without logic: Poonthanam and Kannapan.

Bhajans continued on.

The next day, Amma came for meditation and a question-and-answer session with the ashramites. The first question came from one of the brahmacharis: “Yesterday, during bhajans Amma said there was no logic in devotion. But in the past Amma has said that true devotion is real logic. Which is correct?”

Amma said that in order to understand how both statements are true, one needed to understand the context in which each statement was made. She then told everyone how Swamiji had poked a little fun at Bri. Lakshmi’s song the night before.

“When there is reason, one cannot relish Love to the full extent,” Amma said. “A scientist cannot separate sugar from white sand, but an ant can easily do so. Similarly, the heart is needed just as much as the intellect.”

Amma then gave the example of the traditional bhajan “Madhuraasthakam,” wherein every aspect—the lips, the face, the smile, the way of walking, etc—of Lord Krishna are described as “sweet.”

“When you have love for something in your heart, you will always see every aspect of it as beautiful,” Amma said. “But if you have hatred for something, even if it is beautiful you will feel aversion towards it.”

Amma then fully told the examples she had merely mentioned the night before during bhajans. The first was the famous Kerala poet Poonthanam.

Poonthanam had written a Sanskrit poem describing Sri Krishna, but before offering it to the Lord he wanted to make sure it didn’t have any grammar mistakes in it, so he took it to Bhattatirippadu, a famous scholar. When Bhattatirippadu read Poonthanam’s poem, he burst out laughing, for due to a mistake in grammar, Poonthanam had referred to Sri Krishna as Mara Prabhu [“the Lord of Wood”] instead of Amara Prabhu [“The Lord of Nectar”], which he had intended. Bhattatirippadu scolded Poonthanam, telling him that if he didn’t know basic grammar he had no business writing poetry, much less poetry to the Lord. But while the pundit was making fun of the poem, a voice suddenly came out of nowhere, “Poonthanam, don’t worry. I am both the Mara Prabhu and Amara Prabhu.”

Amma then told everyone the story of Kannapan, a tribal hunter who worshipped a Shiva lingam in a forest temple. Kannapan had no knowledge about the do’s and don’ts associated with temple worship. Each night, he would come to the temple and bath the Shiva lingam with water that he’d carried in his mouth, offer it flowers he’d already used to decorate his own air and then offer it some roasted meat. Each morning, the Brahmin priest who tended to the temple would awake to find the evidence of Kannapan’s puja scattered around the lingam and would become upset. He prayed to Lord Shiva and asked him to reveal to him the person that was polluting the temple. Lord Shiva told the priest that it was his closest devotee, Kannapan. The priest was upset. “I thought I was your closest devotee,” he said to the Lord. “Why do you do you consider him so highly?” The Lord told the priest to come in the night and that he would reveal the reason to him.

That night, the priest did as Lord Shiva had instructed. Soon enough, he saw Kannapan approach the temple grounds. When Kannapan saw the traditional offering of bilva1 leaves at the foot of the Shiva Lingam, he was obviously upset. “Who left these dirty leaves her?” he asked out loud. Kannapan then quickly brushed them away and pulled flowers from his matted locks and offered them to the Lord. Next he bathed the lingam with water from his mouth and offered it a roasted animal.

Then something astonishing happened. One of the eyes drawn on the Shiva Lingam began to bleed. Seeing this, Kannapan immediately took some herbs from his sack and pressed them against the eye in an attempt to stop the bleeding. But it did not work. What Kannapan did next, the priest could not believe. He removed an arrow from his quiver, poked out his own eye and pressed it to the eye drawn on the Shiva lingam. Instantly, Lord Shiva’s eye stopped bleeding. Kannapan dance with delight. But then the second eye of the Lord began bleeding. Kannapan was about to poke out his second eye, when he realized that if he did so he would be blind and therefore be unable to see where to put the eye. So he placed his big toe on the lingam’s eye so that he would know where to place his eye after he plucked it out. Just before Kannapan was about to pluck out his second eye, Lord Shiva appeared before him, stopped him and blessed him. Shiva said to the priest, “All the people come here begging for sight, but only Kannapan came to give me sight.”


Amma said that a true devotee will have sacrifice like Kannapan. Amma said that this does not mean that we need to pluck out our eye for the blessing of the Lord, but that we should have the attitude of offering up our ego to the divine.

Amma, then gave yet another example—that of a baby who is trying to say “Daddy.” Regardless of how many nonsensical words the baby may say, the father doesn’t mind because he knows the child’s heart. Amma said that it is the same with God and the devotee.

Taking the example closer to home, Amma gave the example of how when one of the American ashramite tries to speak to her in Malayalam, he frequently utters many bad words and rude expression by mistake. “Amma sees his heart in the words,” Amma said. “Amma doesn’t take it any other way.”

“In love one goes beyond all logic,” Amma reiterated. “Nothing can hinder true love.”

Next Amma addressed why she has said that true devotion is real logic. Amma said that, currently, most people believe the world to be permanent and all their so-called logical actions are based upon that erroneous assumption. “The world is transient,” Amma said. “God is the only permanent thing.” Pursuing the transient as if it were permanent, this is illogical. Devotion is an expression of our love for the permanent; therefore it is the real logic.