Devotion As An Impediment

Devotion as an impediment.                                                                                         Janki Santoke. Speaking Tree, Nov 10, 2010.


Devotion is considered to be of crucial importance on the spiritual path. Without its inspiring influence we cannot make any progress. Devotion is nothing but love; love directed to something higher, superior. You love your furniture, cat, friends. But you are devoted to your parents , country, and to God. Without love for the path itself, you will not take to spirituality. You need to have to be inclined to devotion. So too , you need to be devoted to your teacher ; you love your teacher. Devotion keeps the mind calm and makes it easier to absorb knowledge imparted by the teacher .

If there is no love for the teacher and you doubt her words, agitation prevents you from listening to her. Intense devotion is needed also towards the subject itself. The subject must be entertaining, interesting to attract the mind‘s focus.
Knowledge without devotion can be erudition or scholarship but never spirituality. Knowledge without devotion may only give rise to the ego saying ‘ I know’. Once you get this feeling, it is the end of all knowledge. Therefore devotion is vital to progress on the spiritual path.

However, the same devotion that takes you ahead can turn out to be an impediment ! There is just one spiritual purpose or goal; that is, to unravel the mystery of God. The Upanishads tell us that that the God we are seeking is our own Self.

The spiritual path is the path to Self-realisation. All spiritual sadhana or practice is meant to help us uncover this Transcendental Truth.  Devotion undoubtedly helps us do this as discussed. But it could also impede it. Firstly love for the spiritual path could.make a person stagnate.

He might be content to go through the motions. But the path is a means to an end, not the goal itself. The rituals, bhajans and stories could have an overpowering effect; and so a seeker could lose touch with the goal.  The path ceases to be a path; it becomes entertainment and an end in itself.  Secondly, the essence of spiritual sadhana is to turn inward and recognise the Self within by working out ways to reach the Eternal. Truth as per the respective individual’s state of preparedness.  Sometimes utter devotion to the teacher could even impede progress — if one is so enamoured with the personality of the teacher that one follows her blindly.

Simply accepting something that the teacher has said does not help the student. In a way, scriptures ought to be studied the same way as we study mathematics or science. In these subjects one does not accept a truth because a Newton has declared it. One examines the truth, experiments on it and accepts it if it proven true on both counts. So must we approach spiritual truths — not accept them blindly because they have been declared by a great master or have been handed down to us since ages. For received wisdom or self- discovered truth to transform our lives we need to reflect on it and make it our own.

5 Responses to Devotion As An Impediment

  1. Shilpa says:

    very clear explanation on devotion.

  2. Goldie says:

    If shrutis are the ultimate authority on truth why can’t a seeker accept its authority and correct its wrong views about it rather then doudt the shurti. please comment

    • janki says:

      The Upanishads do not declare that the shrutis (scriptures) are the ultimate authority on truth. They call them the lower knowledge. Ultimate authority can only be the Knowledge of the Self.
      However, since we are not realised we should use the shrutis as our basis for finding the truth. ‘Basis’ means we need to take the knowledge laid down, reflect and contemplate upon it and finally realise the Self/Truth for ourselves. One who has not done refelction cannot know the Truth. Even if he knows the scrutis.

  3. deepak agarwal says:

    dear janki madam,
    Jai Shri krishna,
    You have mentioned that one must not follow the teacher blindly and not be a mere follower. However, what about a person with a limited knowledge and intellect? Will he not gain by absorbing his/her teachers/guru’s teachings? He may not realise the self but he can go a long way in the spiritual path and in the next birth achieve the goal.
    please throw some light.
    Thanks ,
    jai shri krishna.
    Deepak Agarwal.

    • janki says:

      Yes that is what a disciple must do. Anyone approaching a guru has limited knowledge and intellect. If not, why would he approach a guru. He’d be one!
      He must absorb the teachings of the guru thru study and refection. Then he increases his knowledge and intellect. If he blindly follows i.e. does not study and reflect, he will not gain knowledge and intellect. He will cultivate a few habits and may lead himself to either suppression or incorrect judgement.
      Blind= no use of intellect
      Follower= no goal in the path

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