Devotion is more a function of intention than of action

The world sees us outside in. It rates us by our clothes, phones and cars. Such a rating pattern often sentences us to insecurity and inferiority, especially when we are stuck, by factors beyond our control, with unimpressive externals.

Thankfully, God, Krishna, sees us inside out, not outside in. He declares in the Bhagavad-gita (09.26) that he is satisfied simply with a flower, a fruit, a leaf or a little water, provided it is offered with devotion. Krishna’s proclamation of the primacy of intention over action implies that to please him, we don’t need to make elaborate, expensive, ritualistic offerings.

Of course, those with intention naturally express that intention through action. The devoted strive to express their love for Krishna by making the best offerings according to their capacity. And conversely, those who emphasize inner intention alone and do nothing tangible for serving Krishna even when they can – such people usually lack genuine devotion. Nominal religionists sometimes claim to be chanting Krishna’s names twenty-four hours internally, yet do no practical service and don’t chant even a few names audibly. Those serious about nourishing their devotion express their intention through appropriate action.

But when externals prevent us from serving Krishna practically, we can still do that service in our heart, and he, watching from within, will be satisfied. The knowledge that Krishna appreciates even our inner offerings (known as manasa-puja) can solace us amidst unfavorable externals.

Undoubtedly, it’s best to seek a symbiosis of intention and action. But when action is not possible, we can still express our devotion through our intention. Seeing our sincerity, Krishna may well change our circumstances, enabling us to do the action too. But even if that doesn’t happen, he will reciprocate with our intention by granting us purification, satisfaction and enhanced devotion.

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