Don’t go through the motions – go through to the emotions

Going through the motions refers to doing things superficially, perfunctorily, mechanically – akin to the way a machine moves, without any emotional involvement.

Bhakti is essentially a process of purifying our emotions. Though bhakti features many rituals, what makes those rituals spiritual is awareness of Krishna. Rituals don’t help much if we do them inattentively, without investing our consciousness in Krishna.

We tend to become ritualistic during our bhakti practices because, as the Bhagavad-gita (18.37) underscores, sublime joys are often not immediately accessible – they are like poison in the beginning and nectar in the end. Devotional activities are essentially nectarean, but they may appear like poison in the beginning because our consciousness is misdirected by our worldly desires. Such desires cause our feelings to be captivated by worldly objects, thereby blocking our capacity to relish divine feelings in relationship with Krishna.

Though we can’t immediately change the worldly orientation of our desires, we do have the capacity to regulate and redirect those desires. We can aid such regulation and redirection through scriptural study and spiritual association.

Scriptural study helps us understand that desires caught in worldly objects pave the way to disappointment and frustration because the pleasure therein is temporary and gives way to misery, as the Gita (05.22) states. When we study scripture diligently and internalize this understanding, we get the intellectual impetus to regulate our desires.

And spiritual association places us in the proximity of those whose desires are invested in Krishna and who are thereby relishing higher devotional fulfillment. Their association provides us the vicarious experiential confirmation necessary for redirecting our desires towards him.

When we thus cultivate remembrance of Krishna during our bhakti practices, we go through to the deeper, richer, sweeter emotions of the soul that alone can offer complete fulfillment for all of eternity.

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