In bhakti, understanding and practice are not just sequential, but also symbiotic
When we understand how some process works, say, how a particular fitness regimen works, our motivation to practice it increases. Thus, understanding inspires and intensifies practice.
From understanding to practice is frequently the sequence of our spiritual growth too. We may be introduced to bhakti philosophy through some books or classes. On understanding the philosophy’s cogency, we may start practicing bhakti-yoga practice diligently.
But in some cases, practice may precede understanding, as happens especially for those born or brought up in a devotional culture. Deference to that culture may make them practice bhakti. Later, if they comprehend bhakti’s intellectual depth, such comprehension can strengthen their practice.
Thus, deepening our understanding of bhakti is always helpful, both for starters and practitioners.
Still, we needn’t make our bhakti practice conditional to understanding. Why not? Because bhakti centers on the supreme reality, Krishna, who is greater than the intelligence. So, some bhakti principles can lie beyond the ken of the intelligence. Such principles may seem contradictory, but they are actually paradoxical. Instead of struggling intellectually to decipher such paradoxes, we can focus on practicing bhakti. Bhakti practice will purify and elevate our consciousness, thereby granting us a higher perspective to better appreciate how the paradoxes are true.
Pertinently, the Bhagavad-gita (18.55) states that only through bhakti is Krishna understood. Here the sequence is reversed: rather than practice being boosted by understanding, practice bestows understanding. This reverse sequence is reiterated in the Gita (10.10): for devoted practitioners, Krishna grants the intelligence to come to him.
That understanding and practice can both boost each other underscores their symbiotic relationship. If we strive to do both, each according to our capacity, Krishna will reciprocate mercifully. And his infinite capacity will empower us to grow spiritually far beyond what we had presumed was our capacity.
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