Understanding Pure Devotion

[Krishna's lotus feet]“Even the most learned man cannot understand the words, activities and symptoms of a person situated in love of Godhead.” (Chaitanya Charitamrita, Madhya 23.39)

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yāṅra citte kṛṣṇa-premā karaye udaya

tāṅra vākya, kriyā, mudrā vijñeha nā bujhaya

Life is difficult. The six senses, which include the mind, give the conditioned souls trouble in a world full of duality. The souls are conditioned because they are not meant to be in a place filled with temporary gains and losses. The soul is not meant to lament or hanker as if swinging on a pendulum. In the troubled environment, the mind finds no peace. Therefore to try meditation is only natural. In fact, to try anything for self-improvement is understandable, but pure love and devotion to God always baffles those who don’t have it.

The purchase of a new, expensive car is not out of the ordinary. A person wants to be happy. They don’t want to be bored. They need something to get excited over. It would make sense to trade in the old for the new. Why force yourself to remain in misery? Why restrict yourself when you know there is a way to get happiness, albeit for only the short term?

[new car]It is understandable if someone should worship a specific god to get a benefit. We are powerless in the end. Death is the only guaranteed conclusion in this life. You can possibly make it through life without disease. You may not even age that much. You have the chance to escape tremendous hardships and the pain of heartache. Despite everything else being ideal, death will come eventually. This means that the human being has little control. To worship a controlling god for a benefit makes sense.

It is understandable if someone should decide to leave home to become a renunciate. Who doesn’t like to get away? Especially if what you’re escaping is a boring life, repeated day after day, the alternative of peace and emptiness looks appealing. Indeed, this is the conventional path to understanding God. You can’t know Him fully until you meditate on Him all the time. You won’t be able to do that while remaining attached to worldly pleasures. To desperately seek after God only makes sense.

Why, then, is the mind of the devotee so difficult to understand? Why does pure love and devotion baffle others? The reason is the lack of motive. In Vedic teachings we find the eye-opening truth that we really don’t have friends. Each person we consider to be a friend is only there because they serve some interest for us. Or we serve some interest for them. If we think about it, this has to be the case. Friendships break for the very reason that the interest stops being served.

Pure devotion to God is easily mistaken for the pursuit to remove all things from life. The person who doesn’t know love for God thinks that the bhakta is trying to gain something.

“Bhakti is their way of advancing in consciousness. Instead of working with the fruits renounced, they are chanting the holy names. Instead of reading Vedanta philosophy, they are reading the Puranas and the Ramayana. Instead of running to the Himalaya mountains, they are abstaining from meat eating, gambling, intoxication and illicit sex.”

This is a mistaken sentiment because in pure devotion there is no desire for advancement. Krishna-prema is the only real kind of love because it is unmotivated and uninterrupted. It is so strong an emotion that not even the Supreme Lord can stop it. Every other pursuit is checked by the all-devouring enemy known as time. Even the intentional practice of yoga in order to advance in consciousness of God can be checked with an outside distraction. There are impediments along any path that seeks happiness only for the individual.

[Shrimati Radharani]Bhakti-yoga is done for God’s pleasure. This selflessness is never understood by those who don’t have it. Even the Supreme Lord is amazed by the work of the pure devotees. He has stated that the love and affection of the gopis in Vrindavana can never be repaid by Him. Mother Yashoda does not think that she is a yogi. She is not trying to advance in renunciation by always thinking of her darling child, the adorable butter thief of the community, the delight of everyone. She is not trying to focus on God; she loves Him purely.

For these reasons it is very difficult to understand the mind of the acharya, who is the teacher leading by example in the path of bhakti-yoga. That sentiment which baffles the selfish can arise from within through the instructions of the acharya. That which was previously thought impossible, pure selflessness, comes through dedicated practice and almost incidental advancement. The more one connects directly with God, the more they become purified. Desires may surely be there in the beginning, as Krishna Himself states in the Bhagavad-gita.

catur-vidhā bhajante māṁ

janāḥ sukṛtino ‘rjuna

ārto jijñāsur arthārthī

jñānī ca bharatarṣabha

“O best among the Bharatas [Arjuna], four kinds of pious men render devotional service unto Me – the distressed, the desirer of wealth, the inquisitive, and he who is searching for knowledge of the Absolute.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 7.16)

[Lord Krishna]Four kinds of people approach Him initially for devotional service, and none of them are rejected by Him. Krishna knows that they have motives, for they are struggling in the material nature that He has created. He also knows that the more they stay in touch with Him, the more they focus the mind on His transcendental features and His pure goodness, the more they will lose their selfishness. And in the pure selflessness that is bhakti-yoga, the individual finally experiences true happiness.

In Closing:

Since always a motive in me,

Difficult when bhakti of others to see.

How of personal desire can be free?

Shri Krishna, why so wonderful is He?

From acharya’s teachings hearing,

Obstructions in right path clearing.

Then the mind of the selfless devotee to know,

When pure love to Supreme Lord to flow.


Categories: devotional service

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1 reply

  1. Soulful devotion, it can arise out of pure love for Krishna. Very aptly conveyed here, thanks for writing this.

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