Devotion needs to be expressed to be experienced and enriched

Some people say, “Devotion is a matter of the heart. Why exhibit it to the world?”

Yes, devotion needn’t be exhibited, but it needs to be expressed appropriately. Expression of emotion through action is essential in all relationships.

Suppose a child is crying, and his mother keeps watching TV while repeating, “I love my child in my heart.” Such a statement would be ludicrous – if she really loves her child, she needs to express that love by comforting him.

This principle of appropriate expression applies also to our devotional relationship with Krishna. The Bhagavad-gita (18.65) states that we attain Krishna when we engage in not just internal activities such as remembering him and offering our heart to him, but also external activities such as worshiping him and bowing down to him that express our devotion.

Our externals shape our internals. Suppose someone leans back on a chair, rests their head on their palms, places their legs on a desk – and then claims, “I am humbly praying to God.” Their bossy posture will militate against a mood of humble prayerfulness.

In contrast, when we behold Krishna in a temple, if we reverentially fold our hands and bow before him, that expression will enhance our experience of devotion. Such appropriate expression stimulates our devotion – if we are not feeling devotional, it activates devotion within us; and if we are feeling devotional, it deepens our devotion.

Of course, if someone bows before Krishna only to make a show of devotion so that people may praise them for their piety, such exhibition won’t aid their devotion. However, not everyone engages in devotional actions just to exhibit their devotion; many do so to express it. And that’s the scriptural recommendation.

To conclude, devotion shouldn’t be exhibited, but it should be expressed to be experienced and enriched.

Think it over:

  • In our relationships, we need to express our emotions through actions. Explain with an example.
  • What is the difference between exhibition of devotion and expression of devotion?
  • Our external actions can enhance or impede our inner devotion. Explain with examples.

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