12.09 – Anticipate spontaneous devotion, but cultivate conscientious devotion

by July 10, 2013

When we read in the scriptures about exalted devotees who spontaneously love Krishna, we as aspiring devotees naturally long for such spontaneous devotion.

And we may sometimes relish moments of intense devotion when everything other than Krishna becomes pale and stale. However, to our dismay, such moments end all too soon. Worse still, sometimes in a matter of moments we find ourselves entertaining immoral and anti-devotional thoughts.

Such a roller-coaster of emotions shouldn’t discourage us; it should prepare us for the conscientious cultivation of devotion. The Bhagavad-gita (12.09) indicates that if we are unable to immerse ourselves in Krishna, we should execute abhyasa-yoga, the practice of deliberately and determinedly fixing the mind on Krishna as a discipline. By this, the verse assures, desire for him will grow, thereby making absorption in him easier and sweeter.

Such conscientious devotion may not seem particularly exciting: “Why not just anticipate the moments of spontaneous devotion whenever they come and be satisfied with them?” Certainly, we can and should anticipate and relish those moments. But if we are to move steadily towards Krishna, we need not just occasional moments, but perennial momentum. Without a steady devotional momentum, our default sensual momentum coming from our past conditionings will slow and stop us; it may even make us take a u-turn away from Krishna towards sense objects.

To sustain a consistent spiritual momentum, we need to practice conscientious devotion. Though struggling to drag the mind away from worldly things is not pleasant, fixing the mind on Krishna is pleasant – increasingly pleasant as we change our attitude from resenting the struggle to relishing the struggle, knowing that it is the only way to genuine spontaneous devotion. And when our willingness to struggle for devotion becomes spontaneous, our devotion will soon become spontaneous.


My dear Arjuna, O winner of wealth, if you cannot fix your mind upon Me without deviation, then follow the regulative principles of bhakti-yoga. In this way develop a desire to attain Me.

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