Swamiji celebrate Sai Maa 2

I am writing this in Belgium, the day before Guru Purnima, the celebration of the Guru represented in physical form by a Master such as Sai Maa, and the formless within us as our inner Master or Sadguru. The day after tomorrow is the birthday of Sai Maa that we will celebrate as a global community. This combined blessing of Guru Purnima and birthday is very auspicious as we are gifted intense transformative Shakti (energy) by Sai Maa, and we have the opportunity to devote ourselves to our inner light embodied by the Guru. Thus, I have decided to write now about love and devotion, so that we can all feel our love and contemplate where we each are in the path of devotion.

This past weekend I had the pleasure of teaching with three Brahmacharis (Dayananda, Jayendra Das and Reiko) during Sai Maa’s Journey of Enlightened Awareness held in Barvaux, Belgium. This was a rare occasion to have us together in one location and to offer teachings to those gathered to be with Maa. During the program Maa spoke about the difference between love and devotion, and that although many there loved Maa, several had not moved on to being devoted. I continue here to share what I expressed with the participants in Barvaux about this distinction, while adding some additional points.

When I first met Maa 21 years ago I felt such love I had never felt before in my life. My heart was bursting, a big smile spread across my face. I felt great expansion and joy, although I was not yet aware of energy or the change in my vibration at that time. I experienced love; I felt love in my body, through my senses. As I traveled more with Maa and participated in different programs, I had different experiences, my love continued and my devotion deepened. What do I mean by the latter? I became more and more committed to Maa and Maa’s teachings, to my daily spiritual practice (sadhana), to my spiritual path. As Maa says, I shifted from being on the path to being in the path. This “in-ness” represents devotion, and within this is a progression from trust and faith to inner knowingness and certitude. No more doubt, no more questioning, of Maa, of the teachings, of the path.

I emphasize this progression of the spiritual journey from tasting and experiencing love, moving through questioning and perhaps doubt to trust and faith, and then landing on certitude and unwavering devotion. I would say that complete surrender is found in steadfast devotion, resulting in a union and merging with Maa, Maa’s consciousness. In other words, we arrive at unity with our inner mastery or Guru, our Self, all the power that resides within us. Devotion is this state of being, rather than experiences filled with emotion.

In addition, within devotion is engagement, commitment, active decision making to be with a Master, to participate in certain teachings, to carry out a practice aligned with the Master and/or teachings. Before this devotion comes the enjoyment of experiencing the love of the Master, of loving the Master, of choosing times to be with the Master. Within true devotion is continuity, consistency, persistence, one-pointed focus, without vacillation or ambivalence or resistance. As devotion increases, the mental noise decreases; we move from the mind to the heart.

I can go on and on about devotion. However, rather than reinventing the wheel, and to take advantage of what I wrote earlier in my book In the Path of Light with Maa, here are a few words from that text:

“Be empowered by devotion. Devotion is a wholehearted commitment to someone or something, a commitment without reservation, without hesitation. My devotion to Maa penetrates my heart, and I feel my heart expanding and pulsating when I picture and call upon Maa. I feel deep love that emanates from the core of my heart and being. Yet devotion is beyond feeling; it’s a state that endures and pervades all life experience. It comes from a knowingness of what’s true and right and eternal. Devotion isn’t to be confused with emotion, which comes from personality. Emotion has within it attachment, expectation, and thinking something is missing that we have to find outside ourselves.”

“We just have to keep our eyes and hearts open to what’s constantly here for us. This alertness, this presence to what is, is also very much about devotion. Our devotion activates the Shakti, that divine energy that opens our eyes, raises our life force, and keeps us alert and aligned with the miracles of life. The miracles lead us to be even more devoted, committed, and resolute in our paths.”

“Bhakti. In my opinion, this state of devotion permeates and underlies all spiritual practices. When you’re truly disciplined in carrying out common practices, you’re devoting yourself to your Self, to realizing yourself through the sadhana. In the case of being disciplined in mastering the inner and outer worlds, you’re also devoting yourself to your Self. In both cases, you devote yourself to your guru if you’ve chosen to have an enlightened master in your lives.

There are different kinds of yoga or ways to unite with the Self. Yoga means union or to unify in Sanskrit. A main school is bhakti yoga, or union through devotion. In addition, there’s karma yoga through action, including seva; jnana yoga through knowledge; raja yoga through meditation (dhyana) and balancing mind and emotion; and hatha yoga through physical and energetic purification, including asanas (body positions) and breathing techniques.

I’m a bhakta, which means my main path to self-realization is through devotion. This became obvious to me, although I didn’t know the term at the time, when I met Maa and felt completely devoted at that instant. Maa has said that this path is the fastest. I would add that for me, it’s gotten me through life’s challenges, what we call “opportunities,” because I always come back to Maa. I’m back in the heart of Mother. I’m again the lover, beloved, and love itself through Maa and my devotion to Maa. In this devotion, the guru takes us from darkness to light (“gu” meaning darkness; “ru” meaning light).

Even if you’re not truly a bhakta in the strict sense of the term, you can devote yourself to your true essence. You can express your devotion by persisting in carrying out practices that enable you to realize that which you’re devoted to in your life. Bhakti, this devotion in your sadhana, means you’re offering yourself to the Self, or guru, in all that you do. It also means you’re surrendering. You’re surrendering your ego and personality, your desires and attachments, to that pure divine love within yourself.”

I’d love to hear your perspective about the distinction between love and devotion, and your opinion about where you are in relationship to devotion … to Sai Maa, to a Master, to your spiritual path. You can send me an email (swamijip@gmail.com) or offer a reply in my blog.