Have you ever wondered what devotion means? Is it as the dictionary defines it – love, loyalty and enthusiasm for a cause or person or is it more than that? Why is it that different people experience it differently – a cause or person may inspire devotion in one person yet leave another unaffected. Can devotion be cultivated? More importantly, can it be awakened? 

I had often wondered how and why some people become devoted to a guru, cause or even to friends and family. That kind of devotion eluded me. Don’t get me wrong. I love my parents and siblings and the family I married into, having been blessed with wonderful families on either sides. But this kind of love seems different from the devotion I had read or heard about. Nor had any cause moved me enough to result in the dramatic change that many experience and which seems to be the harbinger of devotion. The closest I came to experiencing a transformation was in the reading of “The Prophet” but that did not impel me to become devoted to the author.

Further, how was this devotion different from being devoted to material things – to clothes and cars and shiny objects? In fact, is there any difference at all? Giving up the material riches and attaching yourself to a temple or idol or person – haven’t you just changed the chains that bind? Where then is the freedom that we yearn for?

All of us seem to be searching for something more, but what that “more“ is, we do not appear to know. In the absence of knowing, we look for someone or something to guide us. If we are lucky, we find someone worthy to follow. But even there, it is not a given that we will be devoted to the person we follow. You can go through life serving someone and not feel devotion. You may do service out of a sense of duty or liking or even hostility. But that does not equal devotion. 

In fact, I remember cleaning the small temple at home grudgingly and grumbling at this chore foisted off on me by my mother in law. I remember asking the divine Ma to either take away the chore from me or awaken in me the devotion necessary to perform this task as a blessing. The only way I could feel an iota of liking was by pretending to be cleaning the temple for the person I revere as a guru.  Was this devotion? The ability to have a painful task made pleasant simply by experiencing the presence of a person or cause? Did that mean that devotion is as the dictionary defines it –  love, loyalty and enthusiasm for a cause or person? Maybe also passion and commitment and faith? But all of this also defined my feeling for my family. So where was the difference?

That’s when I realised that devotion is an act of grace. You cannot awaken devotion for it is a gift to be accepted and then strengthened with mindfulness. Devotion to me, seems to rise unbeckoned from a source deeper and beyond our reach or understanding. It is something to be experienced, not explained. Much like the gift of love, it is a spring that gushes forth from the universe – uncaring, unfettered, flowing – simply because it must. It is a gift the universe bestows on us to elevate our very being. Perhaps when the universe finds us worthy or simply when the time is right or perhaps when the conditions are right, devotion comes to us unbidden, to lead us towards that exalted state called unconditional love. This then is the power of devotion. As to what it is, if you don’t already, I hope that one day you will know.

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Juhi Basoya

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