"There is a beautiful core to the word 'devotion', from de votum, 'to dedicate by a vow'." — The Aquarian Almanac

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April 16, 2015 Theme for Contemplation:The Core of Bhakti

“Devotion has mastered the hard way.”

– Virgil

“The time God allots to each one of us is like a precious tissue which we embroider as we beset know how.”

– Anatole France

April 17, 2016 Theme for Contemplation: The Core of Bhakti

“Devotion is the potent power that leads to and makes possible utter self-renunciation and self-surrender.“

— Bhavani Shankar

“There is a land of the living and a land of the dead and the bridge is love, the only survival, the only meaning.”

— Thornton Wilder

When we love something enough we give ourselves to it.

This was posted on Universal Theosophy as one of the Jewel in the Lotus selections:  It says so much about our theme.

"And, to this day, such Brahmins know that, during its early beginnings, psychic and physical intellect being dormant and consciousness still undeveloped, the spiritual conceptions of that race were quite unconnected with its physical surroundings. That divine man dwelt in his animal—though externally human—form; and, if there was instinct in him, no self-consciousness came to enlighten the darkness of the latent fifth principle. When, moved by the law of Evolution, the Lords of Wisdom infused into him the spark of consciousness, the first feeling it awoke to life and activity was a sense of solidarity, of one-ness with his spiritual creators. As the child's first feeling is for its mother and nurse, so the first aspirations of the awakening consciousness in primitive man were for those whose element he felt within himself, and who yet were outside, and independent of him. DEVOTION arose out of that feeling, and became the first and foremost motor in his nature; for it is the only one which is natural in our heart, which is innate in us, and which we find alike in human babe and the young of the animal. This feeling of irrepressible, instinctive aspiration in primitive man is beautifully, and one may say intuitionally, described by Carlyle. "The great antique heart," he exclaims, "how like a child's in its simplicity, like a man's in its earnest solemnity and depth! heaven lies over him wheresoever he goes or stands on the earth; making all the earth a mystic temple to him, the earth's business all a kind of worship. Glimpses of bright creatures flash in the common sunlight; angels yet hover, doing God's messages among men . . . . . Wonder, miracle, encompass the man; he lives in an element of miracle* . . . . A great law of duty, high as these two infinitudes (heaven and hell), dwarfing all else, annihilating all else—it was a reality, and it is one: the garment only of it is dead; the essence of it lives through all times and all eternity!"   SD vol 1 page 121

The other side of this passage, so to speak, can be found in volume two of the Secret Doctrine, where HPB briefly describes those who infused in Man 'the spark of consciousness.'

'The Endowers of man with his conscious, immortal ego, are the “ Solar Angels ” — whether so regarded metaphorically or literally. The mysteries of the Conscious ego or human Soul are great. The esoteric name of these “ Solar Angels ” is, literally, the “ Lords ” ( Nath ) of “persevering ceaseless devotion” (pranidhâna ). Therefore they of the fifthprinciple ( Manas ) seem to be connected with, or to have originated the system of the Yogis who make of pranidhâna their fifth observance (see Yoga Shastra, I I., 32.)'

(SD II 88)

April 18, 2016 Theme for Contemplation: The Core of Bhakti

“Let there be no negligence in your devotion.”

— Shankaracharya

“To us the Guru’s Word is the voice of Yoga, and the Word is the Veda, for it is inspired by the Spirit of God.”

— Guru Nanak

April 19, 2016 Theme for Contemplation: The Core of Bhakti

“Abide in Me, and I am in you.”

— Jesus

“The grateful soul of the wise man is the true altar of God.”

— Philo Judaeus

What exactly is devotion?

Is it an innate feeling, for example?  

Can there be devotion without an object of devotion?

Are there different forms of devotion - some good, some not so good?

It is difficult to define and to describe but one cannot help but feel like they know what it is intuitively. For me it is a combination of these words: love, commitment, admiration, dedication and gratitude.

I wonder about this too.  The feeling of love and commitment to our mothers and parents in general seem to be an example of something innate in us.  Spiritual parents ought to be accorded at least as much devotion one would think from an Occult standpoint. If it is natural to us how does it get covered up and distorted?

Can we say devotion is a force in our constitution that finds its expression in a feeling of admiration, loyalty, and adoration?  Essentially, all these sentiments are shades of love directed at something or someone.  People possess various degree of this quality depending on their individual temperament. 

Looking at the subject more widely, we can see how waves of emotion sweeping through the human family in some form of idealism during different times in history.  This force, related to universal sakti, is activated in accordance with the Law of attraction and repulsion.  It propels us in a particular direction that invariably shapes our attitudes and lives.

Devotion can be just a feeling towards someone, like a mother to the son, or a friend to another friend.  It can also be the force that drives us into action. Devotion becomes a means to an end, like a road that leads us to either a higher or lower region, and unless we walk on the road, we will never get to the destination. 

The focus of devotion is embodied either in a person or a cause or an ideal and the magnetizer is largely dependent on one’s character.  A materialistic person is drawn by materialistic ideals and becomes devoted to earthly pursuits.  We know a lot about a person just seeing their object of devotion.        

There are many mixtures in any emotion - souls whose manasic principles are strong often find expression of their devotion in the form of dedication, loyalty in the form of one-pointedness, and adoration in the form of reverence.   

Barbara - this is an excellent look at the subject of ‘devotion’ from a wider perspective. 

Yes, let’s consider it from the point of view of force related to universal sakti.  After all this universal sakti is said to be the source of kama (our 4th principle) and whence it returns at some point during the after death stages  (see Letter 13, note 3, for example in The Mahatma Letters to Sinnett).  

Your metaphor of ‘waves of emotions sweeping through the human family’ is particularly apt.  It’s interesting how particularly powerful emotions can spread through a group or a community - one might even say they can be contagious.  Perhaps this isn’t a metaphor at all?  Individual and collective karma may also play a powerful role as to how the feeling/emotional force may play out.

Yes - I agree with you that the form of devotion is very much dependent on the character of the person, which in turn means devotion can turn out to be spiritually sublime at one end of the spectrum or materialistic and earthly at the other.   Even devotion to a religious ideal or god can turn out to be a two edged sword - sadly, too often literally, as it becomes the force underlying intolerance and violence.

Perhaps one of the problems we have when exploring this kind of topic is the belief that feelings and emotions can be parcelled up into neat little packets which can be clearly labelled and distinguished from one another - such as ‘anger’, ‘joy’, ‘devotion’, ‘jealousy’, ‘compassion’, ‘loyalty’, ‘envy’, etc, etc.    I wonder whether all we can say is that Love and Hate are two opposite ends of the spectrum of feelings/emotions and some feelings are more associated with one end of the spectrum than the other.  Even so, it isn’t always easy to determine good and bad between the feelings.  It’s certainly the case that whenever we really listen to another person and the feelings they share with us, we soon discover that the nature of feelings is quite complex.

It’s said that from a theosophical point of view Humanity at this stage of our evolution is developing the fourth principle, Kama.  In which case, you’d think as theosophists we would want to better understand kama and the complexity of our feeling nature a lot better than we do.

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Permalink Reply by barbaram on April 29, 2016 at 6:19pm

Hi Peter,

"It’s said that from a theosophical point of view Humanity at this stage of our evolution is developing the fourth principle, Kama."

Do you know why kama is not one of the triple line of evolution? 

" I wonder whether all we can say is that Love and Hate are two opposite ends of the spectrum of feelings/emotions and some feelings are more associated with one end of the spectrum than the other." 

Do you see a difference between feelings and emotions? 

Permalink Reply by Peter on May 2, 2016 at 4:19am

Hi Barbara - apologies for the delay in replying.  You ask, ‘Do you know why kama is not one of the triple line of evolution?’   

Perhaps one way we could look at it is that the development of kama is an essential aspect of the Manasic (Intellectual) line of the triple scheme of evolution? (see note below).  The Secret Doctrine makes reference in a few places to the awakening together of both principles - Manas and Kama - in the humanity of the 3rd Root Race of our 4th Round.   It also make of Kama the vehicle of Manas.  For example, when discussing the relationship between the groups of Solar Hierarchies (Dhyanis) and our seven principles, the Secret Doctrine states:

“…group Four…endows him [Man] with his Manas and its vehicle — the Kama rupa, or body of passions and desires, the two elements of Ahamkara which evolve individualized consciousness — the personal ego.” (SD I 241)

That our 4th human principle, kama, is an important aspect of our ongoing evolution is illustrated in the following statements made by the Mahatma M in his letter to A.P.Sinnett.  In my view, it also supports your suggestion that it might benefit our understanding if we think of feelings/emotions as aspects of universal force or sakti:

“it is but at his fourth round when arrived at the full possession of his Kama-energy and is completely matured, that man becomes fully responsible”

“Volition and consciousness are at the same time self-determining and determined by causes, and the volition of man his intelligence and consciousness will awake but when his fourth principle Kama is matured and completed by its (seriatim) contact with the Kamas or energizing forces of all the forms man has passed through in his previous three rounds.”

“The whole individuality is centred in the three middle or 3rd, 4th and 5th principles. During earthly life it is all in the fourth the centre of energy, volition – will. Mr. Hume has perfectly defined the difference between personality and individuality. The former hardly survives  the latter, to run successfully its seven-fold downward and upward course has to assimilate to itself the eternal life-power residing but in the seventh and then blend the three (fourth, fifth and seventh) into one – the sixth. Those who succeed in doing so become Buddhs, Dyan Chohans, etc. The chief object of our struggles and initiations is to achieve this union while yet on this earth.”  (Letter 13, emphasis added)

It appears from the above statement of the Mahatma that our fourth principle, kama, plays a role up to and including Adeptship. 

Just as we have the polarisation of Love and Hate we also have the polarisation of intense personal self desire/gratification and universal love, and the field of kama appears to encompass both.  Perhaps this is why we find the following explanation of kama in the Theosophical Glossary.

“Kama is pre-eminently the divine desire of creating happiness and love; and it is only ages later, as mankind began to materialise by anthropomorphization its grandest ideals into cut and dried dogmas, that Kama became the power that gratifies desire on the animal plane.”

(Note:  For the benefit of those who may not be familiar with the notion of a triple line of evolution, this refers to the evolutionary triple evolutionary scheme HPB outlines in the Secret Doctrine vol 1, page 181 (original edition), which consists of the Monadic (spiritual), the Intellectual (manasic) and the Physical (the astral double around which the physical body is developed).

Permalink Reply by Peter on May 2, 2016 at 6:05am

Barbara - hello, again.  

I find it difficult to answer your second question, ‘Do you see a difference between feelings and emotions?’  It partly depends on the way in which we use those two terms.   The term ‘feeling’ appears to be far more flexible and general in its use in our language: I can say I feel cold or warm (physically).  Or, I can say I feel uneasy, confident, inferior, superior (attitudes).  I can also say I feel, happy, love, hate, angry, sad & so on (emotions).  I can even use it to refer to my opinion about something - ‘I feel you are right or wrong’. 

The term emotion has a far more limited use in our language, often used to refer to affective states of mind only, such as love, anger, jealousy, joy, compassion, sorrow etc.  Historically, emotions have been made to contrast with thinking and being reason-able. When used in this way the implication is that people labelled as 'emotional' are unreasonable.  Women, in particular, have suffered a lot from this attitude. In more recent years people have been exploring the notion of ‘Emotional Intelligence’.  One aspect of the notion of  ‘emotional intelligence’ is that our emotions (i.e. not just as our thoughts) carry meaning and can therefore provide us with enhanced ways of relating, understanding and responding to people, events and the world around us.  

Before I wander too far afield (I may be missing the point of your question, entirely) how do you understand the relationship between feelings and emotions?

Permalink Reply by barbaram on May 20, 2016 at 3:40pm

Hi Peter,

Very sorry for the delayed response.  Now, I should have more time devoted to the study.  I am always amazed by the depth and breath you bring to the discussion by  seeing the subject from so many facets.  It is truly remarkable. 

It may be a matter of personal preference regarding the distinction I make between emotion and feeling.  It is probably more accurate to view the difference lies in the degree in which the ego is involved.  Anything related to the personality can be classified as feelings and those that are more lofty, like compassion, love, honor, etc. as emotions.

I heard a teacher once said that when people feel, the sensation permeates throughout the body but, as we become more evolved, the feelings will not spread but become more localized in an organ.  This may be his way of saying feelings of ego activate the solar plexus and higher emotions in the heart.

Permalink Reply by ModeratorTN on April 21, 2016 at 6:19pm

April 20, 2016 Theme for Contemplation: The Core of Bhakti

“The sight of Thee is the beginning and the end; one guide, leader, path and goal.“

— Boethius

“My heart rises;

I fix my eyes upon You,

Next to You, beside You,


— Quetzalcoatl

Permalink Reply by ModeratorTN on April 22, 2016 at 10:57am

April 22, 2016 Theme for Contemplation: The Core of Bhakti

“Two things draw me to reverence; the starry heaven above and the moral law within.”

— Immanuel Kant

“Who chooseth me must give and hazard all he hath.”

— William Shakespeare

Permalink Reply by Laura on April 22, 2016 at 1:16pm
Is devotion to the Self of All Beings to not be disturbed by anything that comes to past. To be equal minded. Not reliant on external conditions.
Permalink Reply by Gerry Kiffe on April 22, 2016 at 1:42pm

In theosophy school for the children a chant was created that included the words: "To livefor and as the Self of all creatures."  Might this be what you are thinking about?  I would think and undeviating commitment to the welfare of all creatures or to the overbrooding Self of all would be an extremely high state of consciousness indeed.  It would be omething to strive for and imagine in mediation I am sure.  What disturbs this effort is the "me" mind.

Permalink Reply by Peter on April 23, 2016 at 1:54am

Devotion appears to be inseparable from action or service in relation to the object of devotion - whether person, cause or ideal. 

If I want to know if I love another person, the only evidence I need for my love is that I actually do feel it.  But can I properly claim to be devoted to another person, cause or ideal if there is no accompanying action or service on my part on their behalf?