Monday Morning Greetings 2024 #7 – I Have No Devotion!

February 12th, 2024

There is a principle in spiritual life that the more one is advanced in devotion, the less devotion one feels they have. Here’s how Śrī Caitanya feels at the height of His devotion:


“Srī Caitanya Mahāprabhu continued, ‘My dear friends, I have not the slightest tinge of love of Godhead within My heart. When you see Me crying in separation, I am just falsely exhibiting a demonstration of My great fortune. Indeed, not seeing the beautiful face of Krishna playing His flute, I continue to live My life like an insect, without purpose.’” (Cc. Madhya-līlā 2.46)


It sounds almost counterintuitive to have the most of something, in this case devotion, but to feel you have none of it. Here’s four reasons why this is the case in terms of prema-bhakti, the height of devotion:


Purity and humility


Just as in a clear, pure glass of water a speck of dust becomes apparent, in a pure heart even an apparent indiscretion seems significant. Srīla Kṛṣṇadāsa Kavirāja illustrates this humble position in relation to attaining prema with a similar analogy:


“Love for Lord Krishna is very pure, just like the waters of the Ganges. That love is an ocean of nectar. That pure attachment to Krishna does not conceal any spot, which would appear just like a spot of ink on a white cloth.” (Cc. Madhya-līlā 2.48)


The immanence of God and humility


The very definition of maya (illusion) is ma (not) ya (this)—that what you are seeing is not what it is. In other words, everything is God’s energy, but we fall into the illusion that it is not God’s because if we recognize God’s immanence then our false ego, the desire for a sense of control and superiority, cannot be maintained, and we are humbled. In contrast, one who has pure devotion embraces God’s immanence rather than avoid it, for seeing God’s immanence is simply an inspiration to serve Him. In this regard, I always liked how Śrī Gopīparāṇadhana dāsa, in his commentary to Bṛhad-bhāgavatāmṛta, described the reason why a pure brāhmaṇa so militantly demurred Nārada’s praise, when Nārada deemed him the topmost recipient of Śrī Krishna’s mercy:


“Any true devotee of Krishna considers himself insignificant, thinking himself one of countless jīvas who are mere sparks of God’s splendor.” (Bb. 1.1.44, commentary)


Hunger and humility


When one strongly desires something, one feels a lack of it, even if they have a substantial amount of it, just as a craving for food indicates a lack of it in one’s mind, even if one already has been sufficiently fed. Pure devotion is the strong desire to be with and serve God. Therefore, as one’s hunger for God increases, one naturally feels they have less and less devotion.


Reverence for the sādhus and humility


A devotee just related to me an exchange that he had with a senior Vaiṣṇava from ISKCON who had just given class, a devotee I know for his deep internal attainment. He asked him how to remain humble when one’s devotion increases, especially when one has a deep religious or spiritual experience. I loved his answer: “We don’t compare ourselves to our previous selves or compare our devotion to just anybody, but we compare ourselves to those more advanced in devotion. Whenever I feel Krishna’s mercy while chanting in a particular place of pilgrimage in Vrindavan, I just imagine what Srīla Rūpa Gosvāmī was feeling there in comparison, and it’s humbling”. When this was related to me, I immediately thought of Uddhava’s response when Śrī Nārada approached him as the topmost recipient of Krishna’s mercy:


“[…] Aware of what Nārada was thinking, Uddhava remembered many devotees who had received the Lord’s special favor. As Uddhava meditated on those devotees, their love for the Lord, and the wealth of their loving ecstasies, he felt distress, thinking himself fallen, and cried helplessly […]” (Bb. 1.6.19-21)


It should not, therefore, be hard to understand:


“Wherever there is a relationship of love of Godhead, its natural symptom is that the devotee does not think himself a devotee. Instead, he always thinks that he has not even a drop of love for Krishna.” (Cc. Antya-līlā 20.28)



Comments are closed.