From Emotion to Devotion

By Srila Bhakti Sundara Govinda Deva Goswami.

We have energy, and sometimes it will be misused if we do something enthusiastically but are not serious about our spiritual life. We can do many things emotionally. I may have $100 or $1,000 in my pocket and emotionally donate it. If I do so, how will I get home from the temple? My pocket will be empty. Acting in this way is emotion. When I am steadily fixed in my principles, then I will think that I must keep at least enough in my pocket to pay the taxi fare to get home.

Our enthusiastic actions are sometimes emotional. When we chant the Hare Krishna mahamantra, we sometimes do so with emotion instead of devotion. But we are not to point that out too much. If we say to others, “This chanting is not devotion”, then they will feel hopeless. We are not saying that so much, but we know that often it is emotion and not devotion. Emotion is also good if its cause is good. If I give everything in my pocket to save someone’s life, that is not bad. To save my spiritual life, what shall I do? Trying emotionally is good, but if we consciously and seriously try to practice, then our emotion will automatically transform into affection. Affection means attachment, and when we develop attachment, then our devotion will become firm. We will feel, “This is my duty. I must do it. I have no other way.” If we become firm in this way within our consciousness, then we will get good results, full results. Such firm attachment is proper devotion.

When emotion is promoted to attachment, then our affection grows more and more. If you are happy when you come to the temple, that is good. But when you receive good nourishment and maintain good behavior, then you will feel attachment to the temple. You will feel, “I am a member of this temple”, and you will want to offer something to the temple. When attachment and affection come in this way, then they will give you a firm position in your spiritual life. That is devotion.

If it is five or five-thirty in the morning and you do not hear the bells ringing in the temple, you will feel some deficiency. You will take an interest, and go and say, “Prabhu, did you not wake up? It is five-thirty already.” If the pujari is not maintaining the proper schedule for the worship, then you will join and help the pujari. Why? Because you have attachment. You have affection. When you see some deficiency, then you will feel that it is deficient, and you will try to correct it. This is the nature of devotion: when you think about anything, then through attachment and affection you will try to relate to it devotionally.

Rupa Goswami Prabhu explained real devotion in this way.

“One in whom the seed of divine love has sprouted has these characteristics: forbearance, not wasting time, detachment (from the mundane), humility, hopefulness, hankering, constant taste for chanting the Lord’s name, attachment to discussion of the Lord’s glory, and love for residing in the Lord’s abode.” (Bhakti-rasamrita-sindhu: Purva-vibhaga, 3.25–26)

First, ksantir: tolerance and humility. These two qualities will come to you, and with them, you will try to serve the Lord. Avyartha-kalatvam: you cannot spend one moment without your Lord being satisfied. That is real attachment and affection.

When mundane attachment leaves you, you will automatically feel transcendental attachment with the transcendental environment and its transcendental affairs. Mundane attachment goes away gradually.

Asa-bandha: you always keep hope in your heart, “When I am under a proper guardian, a proper sadhu, then I must get the proper result. Maybe it will come to me later, tomorrow, or in the future, but I will not be cheated in any way. All the scriptural instructions say that you must keep faith in your guru. I may be imperfect, but they are perfect, and they have the capacity to make me into a perfect servitor.”

In no way will we become hopeless. Gradually our nature will merge into the plane of devotion. Then the illusory power of emotion will go away and will not take any position within the heart. Emotion may not be bad, but only through devotion can we reach a steady position.

A mother’s baby may cry, but a mother understands what her baby wants. Others may not understand. A mother may sometimes ignore her baby’s cries because she knows why the baby is crying. Even when she does this, her affection for her baby is full. A qualified mother may play with her baby, or ignore it, but in both cases her attachment and affection for her baby is steady.

Srila Rupa Goswami Prabhu gave another example:

“As a young girl’s mind becomes attached to a young boy, and a young boy’s mind becomes attached to a young girl, let my mind be attached to you, O Lord.” (Padma-purana)

When a young boy and young girl become attracted to each other, they think only of each other. A boyfriend thinks of his girlfriend, and a girlfriend thinks of her boyfriend. When their attachment becomes very deep, they cannot think of anything except one another. They do not even see anything in front of them. “O Krishna, give me this type of attachment to your lotus feet.” This is the meaning of the verse.

“I do not want to think of anything else, only your lotus feet.” This is devotion. A promotion from emotion to devotion comes in this way when we are in the proper line and have proper guidance. Actually, emotion and devotion are completely different. Someone may chant the Hare Krishna mahamantra very ecstatically, but if they do not have any real attachment and substance, then they are only showing some emotion. If they have attachment and substance, then their chanting must go in the line of devotion.

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One Response to From Emotion to Devotion

  1. Such a nice article! It is so easy to lost the balance by either going towards jnana side or total sentimentalism

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