Devotion is a dexterous dance between dependence and determination

Some people feel, “As devotion requires becoming dependent on God, it makes the devoted passive, abandoning their initiative and energy.”

However, devotional dependence is empowering, not disempowering. Consider the incident that epitomizes dependence: Draupadi’s attempted disrobing. When the vicious Kauravas were trying to disrobe her and when all her efforts to protect her honor were in vain, she raised her hands, begging Krishna to save her. Her surrendered dependence attracted divine intervention; her Lord protected her honor by means that were for her impossible, even inconceivable. By her dependence that invoked Krishna’s omnipotence, she became empowered, not disempowered.

Devotion can attract divine power to act not just for us, but also through us – that is, devotion can empower us with divine determination. Such empowered determination is seen in the Bhagavad-gita in Arjuna’s concluding declaration: “I will do your will” (18.73). Gita wisdom has raised Arjuna from confused inactivity to resolute activity.

To understand how devotion encompasses a dynamic interplay of dependence and determination, let’s compare devotion to a dance. Just as expert dancers may sometimes bend towards one side and sometimes towards the other, so do expert devotees sometimes bend towards dependence and sometimes towards determination. In the graceful dance of devotion, Draupadi’s example demonstrates bending towards dependence and Arjuna’s, towards determination.

How do dancers know which way to bend? By focusing on the purpose of the dance, on what the dance is meant to convey. Similarly, if we focus on the purpose of devotion – connecting with Krishna through service and remembrance – we will be guided from within when to bend towards dependence and when, towards determination.

Thus, amidst all circumstances – those that call for dependence, those that call for determination and those that call for a blend of both – devotion connects us with Krishna, empowering us to transcend our circumstances.

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