Practice bhakti for experience, not expedience

Those brought up or living in a devotional culture may go through the motions of bhakti for expedience’s sake, for example, to avoid reproach in their cultural circle.

At one level, their practice of bhakti, whatever the motivation, is good. It brings them in external contact with Krishna, say, by visiting his temple or chanting his names or going on pilgrimage. Such divine contact is auspicious, for it sows the seeds of bhakti in their heart. Thus, when compared to the millions living non-devotionally, expedient bhakti practitioners are definitely fortunate.

Still, their nominal external practice of bhakti doesn’t let them experience the fulfillment that comes through its wholehearted practice. The Bhagavad-gita (09.02) indicates that bhakti enables us to experientially verify higher spiritual truths. The highest truth is Krishna himself, the all-attractive Supreme Person, the reservoir of all pleasure. He makes his supreme sweetness accessible through bhakti. However, the hearts of nominal bhakti practitioners are usually caught in worldly attachments, so they can’t experience his sweetness.

If they devalue bhakti, their practice becomes reluctant and resentful, thus their hearts even more experientially bankrupt.

If their worldly attachments become obsessive, they may start seeing bhakti as a burden, a waste of time, an unwanted pandering to others’ emotional pressure. If they devalue bhakti thus, their practice becomes reluctant and resentful, thus their hearts even more experientially bankrupt. Their negative perceptions of bhakti comprise thick layers of impressions that further bury the bhakti seeds deeper.

Thankfully, those seeds are never lost – they can be unearthed and germinated by the spiritual stimuli coming from the association of devotees relishing bhakti. Such devotees may be advanced seers relishing bhakti’s elevated flavors or even new seekers quenching their thirst for transcendence through bhakti’s uplifting potency. Being intrigued by that taste, ritualistic practitioners feel prompted to retry bhakti with a heart ripe for experience. Reciprocating with their eagerness, bhakti makes its expedient practitioners experienced, enlivened and enriched.

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