In the Jivamukti tradition Bhakti, Devotion, is a key element in every class, because if we aren’t consciously focusing our mind on something beyond ourselves or some sort of sacred energy, we might end up worshipping mundane issues like ambition, vanity, arrogance or insecurity in our practice and by that taking their form over time. Devotion means love, loyalty and enthusiasm for the sacred. Without devotion most likely you would not be reading this and I might not be writing it either. Without devotion we all would have stopped our spiritual practice after the „honeymoon phase“, when the knees and the lower back start to ache and the euphoria after practice becomes more subtle. What is it that keeps us going? What is it that keeps us getting up, unrolling our mats and folding our meditation blanket?
Worship will bring us closer to our object of devotion. Every time we set our intention at the beginning of practice it is like typing in the destination into a navigation system. In reverse- if we don’t put in a destination, we will likely end up in a place we didn’t want to be. Once we have put our destination in our navigation system, it is necessary to first: acknowledge that we don’t know the way on our own (humility) and second: have enough trust to allow ourselves to be guided. In spiritual practice the force that is guiding our way is God or some other form of sacred energy that will become our spiritual lodestone; drawing us toward it and consequently ourselves.
But allowing guidance or even asking for it requires humility- the acknowledgement of not knowing, faith or trust- in something we might not intellectually understand and devotion- the ability to stay on the path, even if it requires hard work.
A human body often takes the shape of what it is asked to do throughout its lifetime: a ballerinas feet will take the shape of pointe shoes, a violinists neck might always lean more to the side she was holding the instrument, a sculptor’s hands might be rough, and so on. Just like our body molds and forms in a way what we are mostly using it for, so does our mind and soul. Our activities shape our bodies and our emotions are imprinting our faces. We are like stones, eroded by water over a long time, whatever we devote ourselves to will mold and shape us, more and more over time. That means if we are devoting ourselves to worship the sacred, the Divine or Love, the more we will become the sacred, the Divine or Love itself.
Worship has a very repetitive nature, the same ritual is being performed countless times with the greatest love and devotion possible at the moment. Devotion knows no boredom or rigidity in the usual sense, it does not care how often the same thing is done. Devotion will always bring the same magic to an action like it was the first or the last time it is performed. As Padmaji says: “with great love all is possible.“ Devotion is the greatest love and it most certainly makes all possible. Or in reverse – with little love not so much is possible, with little love every spiritual aspirant would get blown off their path at the first difficulty. Practice without devotion is like a lamp with no oil. It won’t sustain and it will bring no light.
The Maha Mantra is a cosmic love song to the Divine and it is worship in its most joyous form. When we fully devote ourselves to chanting, we lose ourselves in chanting to love, remembering its qualities, and bringing forth its emotional state; we become love itself. By singing the name of the Divine, we remember our Divine nature. The longing and the yearning, that is vibrating through this mantra, will become our own once we are chanting it – and our soul will remember its yearning to be united with the Divine or its inherent Divine nature.
Devotion has many faces: It can be ecstatic, like chanting the Maha Mantra for days and nights, but it can also be more quiet and intimate. It can be small, like a little bow of the head toward the heart to remember God or Guru before we move into our first sunsalute. Devotion can be subtle, like carefully picking up an item from the altar and cleaning it. Maybe it means just practicing what one was taught by the teacher. Our devotion might even take different forms and shapes throughout our lives and at some point our worship will become so subtle that it will be almost invisible, because we already became what we worshipped.