Devotion is not just an emotion we feel – it is an action we do

Some people equate devotion with emotion – the emotion they feel on, say, sensing sublime vibes at a sacred place, hearing sweet devotional songs or beholding the beautiful Deities.

Such emotion can be devotion, but reducing devotion to emotion alone makes our spiritual growth unsteady. During our present conditioned stage, our mind’s moods can make devotional emotion inaccessible to us. To become spiritually steady by transcending the mind’s moodiness, we need to expand our conception of devotion to include actions that we do, specifically the actions that comprise bhakti-yoga.

Devotion centers on developing a relationship with our source and Lord, the all-attractive Supreme, Krishna. Relationships, to be sustainable, have to be two-way, not just one-way: the person with whom we are relating does something for us, and we do something for them. When we equate devotion with emotion, we are concerned with what Krishna is doing for us: revealing glimpses of divine attractiveness. But we need to be concerned also about the other half of the devotional relationship: what are we doing for him? The practical activities that comprise bhakti-yoga offer us opportunities to do our part. These actions connect us with all-pure Krishna, thereby purifying us and increasing our access to the emotion of devotion.

As spiritual seekers, we need to see devotion less as emotion and more as dedication –as commitment to the activities that kindle devotion. The Bhagavad-gita (09.34) urges us to devote ourselves to Krishna through tangible actions such as fixing the mind on him, offering homage to him and bowing down to him.

When we reconceptualize devotion as action, not just as emotion, we become empowered to tolerate the dry phases when devotional emotions desert us. By persevering in our bhakti practices, we progress through purification to ultimate satisfaction.

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