From Emotion to Devotion

Srila Bhakti Sundar Govinda Dev-Goswami Maharaj describes the obstacles to attaining firm attachment in devotional practice.

Devotee: I have heard you say that we need a promotion from emotion to devotion. Can you explain the difference between emotion and devotion?

Srila Govinda Maharaj: Good question. If, when we get the tendency to search for Krishna consciousness though our good fortune, we get a proper teacher, then we will feel much enthusiasm. Through our enthusiasm we jump into the river of Krishna consciousness, but when we do so, we do not consider our capacity. Sometimes we do many things emotionally. It is our good fortune, no doubt, that emotionally, or devotionally, or in any way, we are connecting with Reality. That is always good. But when we need to be promoted [to advance in our practice], then we must be serious about our practising life. We must become serious about what at first we were doing emotionally through our good fortune upon finding a good teacher. We must practise properly; we must try to practise properly. If we do so, then gradually we will be promoted. A promotion that comes in this way is an actual devotional promotion. If what we do emotionally is good, then that is all right. But if it is not, then reactions will come to us.

Sometimes we see that qualified persons also get into a hopeless position. Srila Bhakti Vinod Thakur has mentioned six stages that come in our practising life: utsaha-mayi, ghana-tarala, vyudha-vikalpa, vishaya-sangara, and taranga-rangini. In the first stage, utsaha-mayi, we very enthusiastically jump into the river of Krishna consciousness and do so many things. As we proceed, we do not consider our capacity: sometimes we do wrong, and sometimes we do right. We do many things and feel great enthusiasm, but we try to do things without knowing the principles of practising life perfectly.

This stage comes to us through our good fortune, no doubt. We call anyone who tries to practise Krishna consciousness a bhagyavan-jiva, a fortunate soul. Many things go on in this mundane world, and we can take part in them, but we do not. Through our good fortune we are joining the line of Krishna consciousness.

Maybe after a few years, however, a situation comes in which we do not feel so much enthusiasm any more. That stage is called ghana-tarala. Ghana-tarala means ‘sometimes deep, sometimes shallow’. Sometimes we feel deep attachment, and sometimes our attachment is weak. Then we think, “Are we right or wrong? What are we doing? Is it good or bad? Why are we not developing in our practising life?” This type of light thinking comes to us. Then vishaya-sangara and the other stages. We sometimes feel attachment to the mundane, and sometimes to the transcendental. In this condition we pass through various stages during our life.

If we get a proper teacher’s association, then we will not be frustrated in any way. Maybe we will not get a result easily, but we will not be frustrated. We will not become hopeless. When we cross over the emotional stages, we will get devotion. Devotion’s nature is that it gives us steadiness on the path of spiritual life. In no way will our faith be disturbed if we get proper association: the association of a good teacher, a good Vaishnava. That is called sadhu-sanga, and with that whatever we do will be considered devotion.



Srila Vishvanath Chakravarti Thakur has outlined six phases that a practitioner goes through during the stage of bhajana-kriya:

  • Utsaha-mayi: false confidence.
  • Ghana-tarala: sporadic endeavour.
  • Vyudha-vikalpa: indecision.
  • Vishaya-sangara: struggle with the senses.
  • Niyamakshama: inability to adhere to principles.
  • Taranga-rangini: enjoying the byproducts of devotion (personal gain, worship, fame, and so on).

Srila Govinda Maharaj explains here and elsewhere, as it is given by Srila Rupa Goswami Prabhu, that the indispensable need of a practitioner to persevere through these challenges is sadhu-sanga: the association of a congenial and affectionate devotee who is more advanced than oneself.