There are many different notions, opinions and concepts of devotion. One concept relates to doing something — worship, puja, going to temples, singing bhajans or chanting prayers. Those who do not do any of these are typically believed to be without devotion. Conversely, someone who does all these things is seen as a great devotee. Is devotion just performing some action, activity or ritual? Does it mean that a person who does not do any of these is devoid of devotion? Is kriya or action a must for devotion? Is it the essence of devotion?
Another notion connects devotion to feelings and emotion. Even without doing any of these things (puja, prayers and chants), the heart should be full. The tears of devotion should flow easily. For this group, those not easily moved to tears are perceived to have no devotion or emotion in their hearts.
Another strange view is that only the dim-witted follow the path of devotion. This is perhaps because they are unable or unfit to follow the path of inquiry, which requires a subtle and discriminative intellect. That the practice of devotion is an easier path to walk is an erroneous way of thinking.
ESSENCE OF DEVOTION
What is the essence of devotion? It is only — love. People can engage in elaborate rituals, but in the worship of the Lord, love is the fundamental requirement. In addition to love, trust is also essential. Often, we hear of individuals loving but not trusting the other. Alternately, there may be a trustworthy individual for whom there is no love. The third ingredient of devotion is respect. This comes only when greatness is present and recognised. True devotion requires the presence of all the three — love, trust and respect.
Narada Bhakti Sutra defines devotion as “supreme love for God”. We must understand the full implication of the meaning of this highest form of love. In simple terms, supreme love means “unconditional love”. If love is conditional, it is not the highest — the moment some conditions are not fulfilled, it dissolves.
Imagine a person who has everything, but no one loves him, nor is he capable of loving anyone. His definition of love will be, “That which I want from everyone, but don’t want to give anyone!” Devoid of love, life is in a continual state of drought.
There are many types of love: a mother’s love, fatherly love, brotherly love and love between friends. Everyone is seeking love. “I love you” has become an expression that is commonly used.
Deep within, each one’s search is for permanent love — a love which delights at all times, does not diminish and remains ever fresh. Ultimately, we discover that only devotion to God fulfils all these conditions....