Aspire not for feelings but for relationship
Is bhakti a feeling that arises spontaneously in the heart, a feeling that some people get and some people don’t? We may think thus when we see some devotees having intense feelings of devotion and others lacking those feelings.
Such thinking mistakes the effects of a thing for the thing itself. Bhakti is essentially a relationship with Krishna and the feelings are a result of that relationship.
That’s why serious devotees aspire not for the feelings but for the relationship. They know that once they cultivate a relationship with Krishna, feelings will naturally result – feelings that are real and stable.
Without a committed relationship with Krishna, whatever feelings we experience will be unstable and possibly unreal. They will be unstable because one moment we may feel attracted to Krishna and the next moment attracted to worldly things that are blatantly anti-devotional and even immoral. They may even be unreal not in the sense that we fake those feelings but in the sense that they don’t really originate in Krishna. They arise because certain activities in the devotional culture being new or unusual for us stimulate us materially.
This analysis doesn’t mean that we suspect all the feelings we experience in any activity connected with Krishna. What it means is that we don’t over-rely on feelings, mistaking their presence to be a sure sign of spiritual advancement and their absence to be a sure sign of spiritual stagnation.
The Bhagavad-gita (12.09) indicates that even if we presently lack spontaneous attraction for Krishna, we will develop desire for him if we practice sadhana-bhakti steadily. Sadhana-bhakti centers on fixing the mind on Krishna and rendering service to him – both as commitments. This commitment nourishes our relationship with him and gradually floods our heart with enriching devotional feelings.
“My dear Arjuna, O winner of wealth, if you cannot ﬁx your mind upon Me without deviation, then follow the regulative principles of bhakti-yoga. In this way develop a desire to attain Me.”