Rise from sentimental bhakti to the sentiments from bhakti
Sentimental bhakti refers to the practice of bhakti that is dependent on sentiments: “When I feel like practicing bhakti – when it feels good – I will practice it. When it doesn’t feel good, why should I practice it?”
Such sentimental practice makes our spiritual progress sluggish and erratic, like the recovery of a patient who takes treatment only when it feels good. Just as an uncommitted patient can’t reap the fruit of good health, similarly an uncommitted bhakti practitioner can’t become spiritually healed and relish the sentiments from bhakti – the fulfilling devotional emotions that characterize the soul in its healthy spiritual condition of love for Krishna.
In the Bhagavad-gita’s twelfth chapter (12.13 – 12.20), Krishna describes the characteristics of those devotees who are dear to him. Significantly, in this description he doesn’t focus on how those devotees are absorbed in directly devotional activities – he has done that already in previous chapters (09.13-14; 10.08-11). Here, he focuses on how these devotees practice bhakti without being distracted by worldly ups and downs. He mentions how these devotees stay fixed in service to him without being agitated by people and without agitating people, without giving in to dejection, agitation or even jubilation.
This analysis doesn’t mean that serious devotees are unemotional; rather, it means that they are ready to subordinate their worldly emotions so that they can relish devotional emotions – and Krishna finds this endearing.
In any relationship, commitment is demonstrated by sacrificing something dear for the pleasure of one’s beloved – and such commitment is naturally endearing. Krishna demonstrates a similar dynamic in underscoring that he finds endearing his devotees’ indifference towards worldly sentiment so that they can stay absorbed in steady committed practice of bhakti – and he being pleased mercifully rewards them with unending devotional sentiments.
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