To become devotionally responsive, become intellectually responsible
Responsive refers to those who respond and are capable of responding, whereas responsible refers to those who are ‘response + able’, able to choose an appropriate response among several possible responses.
To be devotionally responsive means to respond to devotional stimuli, essentially to respond to Krishna. When he manifests himself as, say, his charming Deity, his uplifting message or his enchanting holy name, do we respond? Frequently our heart remains frozen, feeling nothing, as if it were dead. Or it exhibits a feeble positive response, feeling fleeting attraction. Occasionally, it feels strong and sweet spiritual emotions.
Our apathy towards devotional stimuli contrasts graphically with our alacrity towards sensual stimuli. Alluring sense objects set our pulse racing, our heart thudding and emotions soaring.
What causes this difference?
Our intellectual irresponsibility.
We humans have been gifted a higher intelligence by which to recognize the final futility of everything material and the ultimate glory of spiritual devotion. Along with this gift comes the responsibility to use it appropriately. This implies, as the Bhagavad-gita (06.25) indicates, minimizing our exposure to materially seductive stimuli and maximizing our exposure to spiritually attractive stimuli.
When we neglect our intellectual responsibility, we expose ourselves indiscriminately to sense objects and sense gratification. The resulting false hopes of material pleasure pours cold water on our devotional aspirations to raise our consciousness to the spiritual level, to Krishna. Consequently, our heart becomes like wet wood, unable to ignite with spiritual emotions when exposed to devotional stimuli.
Nonetheless, we always have the power to become intellectually responsible. By using our intelligence to screen the stimuli we open ourselves to, we can make our heart like dry wood. Then it will become quickly ignited by devotional stimuli, making our inner world bright and warm, revealing therein the supreme all-attractiveness of the Lord of our heart.
"Gradually, step by step, one should become situated in trance by means of intelligence sustained by full conviction, and thus the mind should be ﬁxed on the Self alone and should think of nothing else."