In a previous letter, Devi has beautifully covered the subject of universal love: expanding our love to everyone and everything until it becomes unconditional. I would like to address another aspect of love: how to deepen our devotion. Devotion is love turned toward God, or, more commonly, toward one of His awakened saints.
Usually we give our love to those who are close to us: family, friends, and coworkers. But with devotion, we also turn our love inward toward God. This change from outward emotions to inward devotion is what makes the difference between an Italian opera and an Italian saint.
God, of course, knows that impersonal love is difficult—after all, He created this drama in the first place. He knows that loving the saints, His awakened sons and daughters, is the first step in devotion. Initially, the spiritual masters accept, even encourage, personal love. But, as the devotee deepens, they may become more aloof, teaching us to turn our devotion past their form to God within them and everyone. Swami Kriyananda once helped us break our attachment by telling us, “No one is special to me. I’m not even special to myself.”
Here are three things I have found that help me deepen my devotion:
Thinking of my guru as often as possible during the day. He is my closest friend. I try to talk to him and include him when facing problems and decisions. This practice is not difficult: The challenge, I find, is simply one of remembering to do it.(Ah, forgetfulness, the great enemy!) I try also to remember that it is not Yogananda I love, but God who has manifested Himself in that perfect life.
Taking one devotional chant or prayer and repeating it over and over, going into the heart of it. Staying with one chant allows it to work its way into my subconscious mind, until I can wake in the middle of the night with the chant repeating itself on its own. I also try to bring it into the superconscious, by going beyond the chant’s words to its very soul. Lately I have taken up a Bengali chant loved by Master, “Kole tule ne Ma Kali.” The English words are:
Receive me on Thy lap, O Mother! Cast me not at death’s door.
Receive me on Thy lap, O Mother! Cast me not at delusion’s door.
Giving my love and devotion is essential, but so also is feeling Divine Mother’s love and devotion in return. In his Energization Exercises, Yogananda taught us to “Tense with will, then relax and feel.” The same principle applies here: Offer devotion with deep intensity, but then relax and feel God’s love in your heart.
You may well have other ways of deepening your devotion. It would be nice to share with others what has worked for you.