There was once a young girl who was brought up in a house of prostitution. This was her destiny, at the time. She couldn't get away from it. But she used to pray to Ramana Maharshi, "Oh Lord, if I must go this route, be with me. I'm not praying to change my life, if this is my destiny. But I'm praying that your strength and your love will always be with me."
Now across the street, there was a so called jnani, and he used to stand in front of the market place, telling everybody they're consciousness and absolute reality, preaching and screaming. This went on for years.
Finally the time came when they both died and they went before God. And God told the girl, "You have to go back to the earth, and you have to be a jnani." And he told the so called aspiring jnani," You have to go back to the earth as a snake." And the man said, "How come Lord? I extolled your virtues to everyone. I told all the people they were consciousness and they were absolute reality, and you send me back as a snake. What did I do?" And God said, "You have no heart. You come from the talking school. All you did with your life was to talk, talk, talk, talk, talk. But this girl gave me her heart. She surrendered to me. She didn't bemoan her fate. She just wanted me to be with her during her trials and tribulations. And I gave her the strength to carry on, so now she is free. But you still have a lot to learn. So you have to go back as a snake."
This makes us think. What are we really doing with our lives? We read lots of books, see lots of teachers, have a lot of head knowledge, but how many of us have given our hearts to God? And God is not far away. God is really the self. But in order to contact that self you have to have a lot of humility. To feel God’s grace means you have to surrender completely, have a lot of humility. You have to have the attitude, "I know nothing, you are everything." This kind of an attitude will set you free.
And yet, how many of us have an attitude like this? Many of us think to become a jnani, to become self-realized, we become proud, and you actually become more egotistical than you ever were before. We have a holier than thou attitude. This will never do it.
There is really no difference between a bhakta and a jnani. One surrenders to God, and they have no other life. They realize that whatever they do, it is God doing it. Therefore it’s good. They never complain. They never think of their problems. They think of others and their problems, rather than their own.