Does practicing bhakti at only the cultural level deprive us of intellectual and spiritual growth?
Transcribed by: Bhaktin Raji Nachiappan
Question: Does practicing bhakti at only the cultural level deprive us of intellectual and spiritual growth?
Answer: Cultural bhakti in not wrong or bad in any way. Yena kena prakarena – by any means, if we can fix the mind on Krishna, it is good. However, we all need some level of philosophical understanding. Some of us may be very intellectual and philosophical and may want to go deep into philosophy. Some of us may not be so philosophically inclined. However, if we have some level of philosophical understanding that Krishna is the ultimate reality, then we will not be too shaken by the ups and downs of life.
To what extent our bhakti needs to be intellectual, that will depend our own our intellectual capacity and interest. However, we need to have a basic understanding of philosophy. Without that basic understanding of philosophy, if we stay too much at bodily level, then bhakti will not make sense. Once a devotee in a class said, “You are not your body”. Then, a person in the audience raised a hand and asked, “If I am not my body then whose body am I?”. Here, the conception is that we are our bodies and that if we are not our bodies, then we are someone else’s body. The point is that ignorance of the bodily conception can be very deep-rooted.
When I spoke about rising from cultural bhakti to spiritual, it is about understanding that Krishna is the ultimate reality. If we do not have this understanding, then we see our relationship with Krishna through the filter of our attachment with others. We start thinking that when the Lord fulfils our prayers, he loves us and when he does not, he does not care about us. Just like a child, when he/she wants a toy and the parents do not buy it, the child assumes that the parents do not love the child. The parents may have done so much for the child, but the child reduces the love of the parents to whether or not they purchase the toy.
Hence what happens is when we do not have an adequate philosophical understanding, then our mind becomes child-like. When one thing is not given, we think that Krishna does not love us.
We may think that the things we need in our life are very important and they are not akin to toys. Yes, they may be very important, however from the perspective of eternity, what we may have considered vitally important five years ago, it may not be that important now.
When we discuss about practicing intellectual or philosophical bhakti, it simply means understanding Lord Krishna as the ultimate reality and that we should not let our practice of bhakti be conditional to the fulfilment or non-fulfillment of desires. We should stay fixed on Lord Krishna whether or not our desires get fulfilled.
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