The Power of Devotion

There’s a story about Nityananda that I heard from the man who was attending him at the time.  It was about an hour or so before Nityananda passed away, maybe a little more.  This man was a civil engineer and a long-time devotee of Nityananda’s, and was staying there looking after him at that time because Nityananda  had stopped eating. So, Nityananda said, “I’m going to go in an hour or so…I’m leaving.” This devotee said, “Please don’t go. Please.” Nityananda said, “If there’s one person who comes who has true devotion, pure devotion, I won’t go. I’ll stay.” He then asked, “Do you have true devotion? Is your devotion pure?” The devotee said, “No, Baba. You know I’m devoted to you, but I know my devotion isn’t pure.” Nityananda said, “A person, a real yogi with true devotion can compel, through the power of their devotion, even God to stay in the room. God wouldn’t leave the company of a person with true devotion unless he had permission. That true devotion is so powerful and so precious.”

I’m sharing that story with you because, though I don’t emphasize it very much and  Rudi didn’t either, devotion is very powerful. Devotion, that quality of connectedness, flow, and sweetness, transcends all of our desires. True devotion transcends all our desires. It transcends all of our agendas, and all of our attachments to any outcome. Devotion is the the field in which the purest, most perfect wisdom that is ever resident in the deepest part of you emerges and begins to express itself in the field of your life. Devotion is the medium in which true transmission takes place between teacher and student.

There are about a billion stories about the significance of devotion. Considering devotion is a really important and meaningful thing for us to do when we contemplate what it really means to grow. Devotion is the field in which growth is expressed.  In so many ways, working through our tensions is about cultivating devotion. Devotion is what makes spiritual work delicious.  While devotion isn’t much treasured here on earth, it is the most treasured thing in heaven. Devotion is the fabric from which heaven is created.

I’m sure the word devotion, for some of you, brings up tremendous resistance. Great! Wonderful! Devotion isn’t something that we’re here to fake.  I suggest that you take some time this week to think about devotion, to think about where to find it and how to express it, in your own way and from your own heart.

I Bow to My Teachers…and I Also Bow to My Students

I want to talk today about something very simple: the practice of bowing.

Whenever I come to meditate or to teach, I always bow. I bow to my lineage gurus, and I bow to all teachers who have made themselves available, who shared the benefits and insights of whatever difficult work they have done, to uplift the lives of people. Bowing to such people in profound respect is an important part of the tantric tradition. It is not in any way a demonstration of subservience.

Bowing is important for two reasons. The first is that the goal of our work is to have the palpable experience of the interconnectedness of the total unity of all. One of the reasons that a teacher is crucial is that if we can establish ourselves in the awareness of the interconnectedness between us and one person, then it is possible for us to take the leap from that experience of interconnectedness with one person to the experience of interconnectedness with all people, and from all people to all life forms, and from all life forms to the very living conscious field in which experience asserts itself in the first place. So, we’re not just bowing in respect for our teacher’s realization, their willingness to unconditionally accept and love us, and their allowing their own energy to be the nourishment for the awakening of our potential. We are also bowing to express our unity, which is the basic nature of reality.

In bowing to our teachers, we also bow to the work, the conscious effort that is necessary and appropriate in our endeavor to release ourselves from all of those limiting patterns that we were born into. Those patterns filter all the input and all the energy that we take in, and filter all the output, so that our understanding is always somewhat limited and our self-expression never truly meets the mark that we hope it would.

There’s one final thing about bowing that is also important. When I bow to my teachers, I am expressing my devotion. Devotion is the chemistry that unifies all the disparate aspects of my life and allows me to experience all the different ways in which I am called to express myself and the understanding that I am here to grow spiritually.

So, I bow every time I come to meditation. I bow to remember to reconnect to the wisdom aspect of our spiritual endeavor, which is the understanding that we are all completely interconnected. I also bow to remember the devotion aspect of my spiritual quest. That experience makes me feel really, really grateful, grateful for my teachers, grateful for my students, grateful for my life, and grateful for life itself. So please know that I don’t just bow to my teachers every morning. I also bow to my students.

A Tribute to Maestro Ali Akbar Khan

I was devoted to Maestro Ali Akbar Khan andhad boundless respect for him because he embodied qualities that are rare in any human being.  I see him as someone who, at every era in his life, was continually devoted, deeply, to his creative work. He was, after achieving a huge amount of recognition in the early 70’s, completely unaffected by it. Instead, he was obsessed with continuing to improve the quality of his playing, and his caring for every single note in every single piece elevated him to a level where it was not him that was playing anymore.  He achieved the siddhi of music, the gift of being able to find that space where music itself emerges and communicate that space to people who he performed for, so that you were not just hearing the music, you were absorbed into it.

Each of us, in the field of our own endeavor, has the possibility of discovering, of realizing something very profound.  Ultimately, it has nothing to do with the field of your endeavor, because making contact with a profound potential which is present for you requires you to transcend your own agendas, almost obliterate your own personal wants and needs.  It requires you to transcend the field of activity in which you’re involved.  In doing so, you become yourself in the biggest possible way. You manifest the skill of whatever it is that you’re involved in doing in a way that reaches from that potential that you’re absorbed into the potential that is present in every human being whom you touch, and something very amazing and special can happen.

There are so few people who care enough to strive for that level of accomplishment, and there are so few Americans who are willing to sacrifice anything for the sake of any higher achievement. It was really an honor to know Khansahib, and I have been continually inspired by him.

This is a video I made on behalf of the Maestro and Me, a campaign to preserve his legacy.