The heart is a nursery, not a factory
Some critics of bhakti, on seeing how devotees look similar, accuse that the bhakti movement mass-produces cultural clones, as does a factory.
However, such a criticism can be sustained only by those who stick to first-impressions. If they just observed closely, they will realize that bhakti-yoga treats the heart not like a factory, but like a nursery, where special plants are carefully cultivated.
Our heart is like a nursery wherein we want to cultivate refined emotions. The most refined of such emotions is love and the topmost of all forms of love is love for Krishna because he is our loving Lord eternally. Further, as he is the source and sustainer of everything, when we learn to love him, our love expands through him to include our loved ones too in a spiritual circle of love.
To convey how such love can blossom in our heart by the consistent practice of bhakti-yoga, bhakti savants often use the metaphor of a creeper of devotion. Just as a creeper needs to be carefully protected and watered, so too do we need to protect our heart from anti-devotional forces and nourish it with devotionally potent stimuli that increase our attraction for Krishna.
For providing such protection and nutrition efficaciously, the bhakti tradition provides certain cultural proscriptions and prescriptions in terms of dress, food, appearance and so forth. However, what takes the devotee onwards spiritually is the individually cultivated desire to love and serve and please Krishna, as the Bhagavad-gita (10.10) indicates. So, as each devotee adopts the externally similar cultural practices, the adoption of such practices and the nourishment of inner devotion bring out the latent spiritual individuality of the practitioner. As the heart blossoms increasingly with divine love, the pure individuality manifests fully in an ecstatic eternal relationship with the Supreme Individual.
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