The Inner Life of a Devotee: Energizing the Best Thoughts, Feelings, and Intentions
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All there is in existence is Krishna, which includes His unlimited expansions and energies. I have experienced how seeing everything externally and internally as different types of energy can be helpful in life and service. I am speaking about developing sensitivity to what we are taking in, or being affected by, and what we are giving out, focusing on, or contributing…I will explain. The soul is one type of energy, matter another. Let me direct you to two Gita verses which show the broadest divisions of matter and the soul which animates them, [Bg 7.4-5]: “Earth, water, ﬁre, air, ether, [and the components of the subtle body of] mind, intelligence and false ego – all together these eight constitute My separated material energies. / Besides these…there is another, superior energy of Mine, which comprises the living entities[the souls]who are exploiting the resources of this material, inferior nature.”
All living physical bodies are a particular combination of material elements (energies) revolving around the mind, uniquely combining together to facilitate the desires and destiny (karma) of the soul. Of more importance for this blog is that not only is the body energy, but it is an energy generator and receiver. We have to be careful of what we allow to influence us as we endeavor to be absorbed in spiritual consciousness. Here I am going to emphasize the importance of what we focus our mind on even when we may be externally engaged in devotional activities or visiting a temple or holy place.
Our intentions, or reasons for acting, are all important, as is what we are thinking about, or are focused on while chanting the holy name or engaging in any of the nine main limbs of bhakti (hearing, chanting, remembering Krishna, etc.) This mental culture of bhakti is sometimes assumed to be in place, yet neglected, especially if we are very busy or rushed for time, don’t have a good spiritual foundation, don’t regularly study and hear the philosophy of bhakti, or have developed bad internal habits. I am speaking from personal experience.
For this reason, serious bhakti practitioners regularly hear the basics of spiritual practice, monitor their internal life, and endeavor to make spiritual progress. Ideally we should be thoughtful, introspective devotees aspiring for personal transformation as we endeavor to put devotion into everything we do. Ultimately we have to do our best to be Krishna conscious—we have to save our self—and yet as we do so, we can also help others by the spiritual person we are becoming.
Bhakti yoga or linking our consciousness with Krishna through love and service, means being Krishna conscious, and Krishna consciousness includes becoming conscious. In healing systems I have studied one connects with God (for me Shri Chaitanya, or Radha-Krishna, by the grace of my gurus), or one’s “higher power,” and projects that through the hands and heart. Although you may not be a healer, per say, I am encouraging you to consider what type of energy or feeling you are giving out or putting into what you are doing. Add to this the idea that thoughts and intentions have great power to direct one’s personal energy. The general principle is that what we focus on increases in power, whether it is our fear, hate, lust, anger, or love, devotion, support, kindness, compassion. Our internal state energies what we do. Think about an angry person cooking—what do you think is going into the food?! Emotions are energy, and we actually have the power to choose what type we want to focus on and send out. At least to me, life is an opportunity to embody the best qualities and emotions as we encounter different situations and persons.
Feel the difference between saying, or feeling, love, hate, or fear. Then consider many people joining together to express anger or hate toward someone, or some group, or conversely, sending prayers and loving support. My main point is to encourage you to be aware of your internal state and motivations in all your activities, and when you’re engaged in devotional service or chanting the holy name, don’t be mindless, or give your attention to negative emotions or criticism.
When I was a young single devotee I was often rushing around in service without the inner care to add devotion, or consider why I was doing a particular activity. If we aren’t careful our devotional activities can become mechanical and external and we may lose enthusiasm and feel overburdened. Our inner culture is more important than our external actions. I am not saying to refrain from active service, but to remember to pray for the best intentions and emotions as you hear and chant about Krishna, or engage in devotional activities. Said another way, we can frequently ask ourselves what we’re giving--the type of focused energy or thoughts--to a person or situation, and why?
[drawing from http://loving-community.com/, Kristen Reynolds]
Certainly we go to a temple or holy place, chant the holy name, and engage in devotional activities to be benefited, yet we can also pray and endeavor to have the best consciousness and intention. I see this as part of my responsibility as a devotee which is an ingredient of the give and take of life. We all want blessings, but we also give blessings or curses by our attitude and inner state. This is the energy or vibration we give out. We can affirm, “Let me be as receptive and giving, with as much devotion as possible, and focus on the best possible outcome for all!”
Not only do groups of people have energy together, but so do places, since they absorb people’s energy. Thus every person’s intent and conscious awareness is important. Many drops make the ocean. My suggestion is to not merely be a passive observer, but an active participant, a focused giver--with your heart, mind, body and soul. At least we can all remind one another to aspire and pray for pure devotion. Many spiritual people understand the power of intentions and mental focus and apply this secret in their life, and so should we. Knowledge is power only when applied, and power means the capability of doing or accomplishing something! This idea has been expressed in our tradition by the statement that "example is better than precept." This is the beginning of thinking about the inner life of a devotee.
[background music from "Water Down the Ganges," by Joshua Prem/Manish Vyasa, the song, "Trust."]