On the path of spirituality, two words are bound to cross our paths. Devotion and surrender. Although they sound like two very simple words, I never seemed to grasp what they meant. And perhaps you too. As humans, the most common coping mechanism we have in achieving things, is by putting our minds to work and trying to understand the matter at hand. Surrender is a whole other story, for now I can just about touch upon the beginning of my journey of some milestones I encountered in understanding devotion.
I would find myself constantly contemplating and researching the topic. In my failure to understand that none of it could be learnt, I started to feel sorry for myself for being unable to ‘feel devotion’ and for ‘not knowing how to surrender’. My desire to soak in divine love, gave rise to doubts and I started feeling sorry for myself. I was a stone. ‘What if I don’t have a heart?’ I thought to myself.
I knew that I wanted to feel the bliss of devotion. But ‘the how’ was nowhere in sight. And as Swami says, if you tread any path sincerely, Nature never fails to give you answers. Eventually I realised that devotion is a by-product. To feel devotion, the mind must be emptied of its preconceived beliefs, its doubts and its questions. It’s like falling in love. In fact, it is falling in love. For devotion to prevail, the mind cannot be active.
An educated mind makes devotion become a difficult task because it ‘knows’ so much and the dry knowledge constantly rises to the surface. It feels proud to ‘know’ and doubts then prevail effortlessly. But I figured that ignoring question thoughts or doubt works wonders. We must unlearn all we know if we even want to taste devotion, at least this was my experience. Holding on to beliefs only sets us back.
As Swami beautifully says here:
“No matter how much devotion you have, it’s still less. No matter how little knowledge you have, it’s too much”
Dry knowledge and distractions are great partners in crime, stopping us from even experiencing any devotion. Perhaps that’s why Swami often talks about trying solitude, away from distractions. In the strangest year of our times, 2020, the removal of distractions and unnecessary conversations pays.
As time went by, it occurred to me that if my mind is constantly scattered with distractions coming from left, right and centre, there is no room for any feelings to arise from within. As gracefully written by Swami, Weapons of mass distraction along with endless conversations, socialising, watching movies, etc, fill up our minds. And the worst of all being our phone. Whenever the mind feels uncomfortable in facing itself, or refuses to look within, we automatically reach out for our phones. At least I do. And consequently, we never truly find the time to seek within.
Devotion, even an ounce of it, is a beautiful result of a specifically focussed mind.
And the ability to ignore irrelevant thoughts, comes with practice. The mind constantly reminds you that you felt devotion yesterday, then why don’t you today? Or another common one is: You feel no devotion today, what if it never happens again? The mind is ever so keen on dramatizing things. But knowing that even feelings of devotion and surrender fluctuate is extremely helpful to flow with life.
And this leads to Divine grace.
When we flow with life and let go of trying to control our lives and circumstances, I found, Divine grace automatically finds it way into our lives.
Swami once said: “To become recipients of divine grace, we must only step out of the cave.” And that’s by eliminating our habit of overthinking, controlling and scheming. And divine grace is, again as Swami said, crucial in surrender, which is the outcome of true devotion.
Devotion is a delicate topic to touch upon but if like me you ever Googled ‘How to feel devotion?’, perhaps these scribbles can be of some help.
Now, now… I am far from being a good devotee, or even qualify as a devotee at all, but at least now I know that I might have a heart. I hear something beating sometimes, if I listen very, very carefully, in silence:) Or maybe devotion makes you so crazy that you start hearing things:)