Good and bad devotion
Devotion is important. Devotion can be understood in several ways. I like to think of devotion as something that has to do with the opening of the heart, like loving devotion. Devotion is essential in many kinds of spiritual approaches, both buddhist and otherwise.
We can use loving devotion, in the form of feeling love in our hearts or by praying to God, guru or our own essence, both in good and bad ways. A good or spiritually valid way is to use that emotional surrender as a stepping stone, use it and then discard it, not dragging it along. Just say the prayer, feel it having the effect of your biased mind opening up from the heart-region and then forgetting it. A bad way to use the same technique would be to keep the attitude of surrendering our egos, limited minds or dualistic problems and never let go of it. The point is not to remain inferior to whatever it is that you are praying or surrendering towards. The point is not to stay below or separate of your spiritual ideal. If you do, you end up being caught in the dichotomy of self and other, ”me” and the chosen ideal. Were you to keep this view, you only end up being as miserable as before.
When we pray, ”Heart, heart, heart... Love, love, love... Master, master, master...” or however it is that you pray, it is done because loving surrender is perhaps the most powerful way to bypass the self-based mind and with the help of that mechanism to go beyond the dualistic mind and enter rigpa. Now, if we insist and stubbornly stick with the idea, with the conceptual thought of ”heart”, ”Love”, ”guru” or ”God”, this will not happen. The point is to use a concept to go beyond it by applying loving surrender which is emotion. For a beginner, it is possible to experience bliss and overwhelming love, and this can be good because this can heal a lot of hurts, but from the point of view of our true self, rigpa or home awareness, this is not really the point. The point is, by applying the emotion of loving surrender, to reveal our true nature and become it, instead of becoming a self-biased fool. Rigpa is subtle, transparent, and there is no one there. There is no God or buddha there. You are not there either. Home or rigpa is nonspatial, non-dimensional and entityless. Just the openness, brimming with subtle power and life. You don't ”feel” rigpa. You don't and cannot ”recognise” it. Our home is beyond our self, beyond our minds. Home knows itself, it is self-cognisant. So, I feel, that loving surrender is correctly applied when it transcends itself and our knowing awareness (rigpa) is recognised. This is not rocket science. This is not ”highly spiritual” or something ”very evolved meant only for experienced meditators”. No, no. You don't have to create this barrier of difficulty and then pursue to go beyond it. Anyway, loving surrender or devotion can be useful.
Something important. The thing is that if you have never tried this, it is likely that you aren't aware of the emotional aspect of yourself, i.e. you can have a great of territory in your bodymind that you've never even become aware of. One can become a very skilled meditator, like a surgeon's scalpel, that can follow the breath for hours on end and perform analytical meditation like a machine but this doesn't mean that one has recognised one's truen nature, or arrived home even for a moment. Don't become a ”skilled meditator”. Open up. Lighten up!
What can be discovered with this application is that as our minds become clear and transparent, and we really see with the eyes, hear with the ears, feel with the bodymind, is that our problem is self-caused and the solution is never away. The solution is sort of ”here and now” but if you look for something that is ”here” or something that is in the ”now”, you are again playing with concepts and getting caught by them. Our home is beyond concepts. That's the thing. Pray and open your heart and see for yourself.
Loving devotion is as handy a technique as the diamond cutter mantra phet is. The first uses our emotional aspect to access rigpa and the latter applies our power of concentration brought to a momentary maximum combined with energetic power to access rigpa. It would be idiotic to keep shouting ”Phet! Phet! Phet!” on the top of your lungs all the time. You'd only end up exhausted. A few phets will do to cut through. It's the same thing with prayer. And ultimately it's the same thing with all techniques. Praying is enough when the heart and our whole being opens up. Opening up means becoming subsumed by rigpa. That is our home, our true nature, us as buddhas. This is not radical. This is how it actually is. Be practical. Don't romantisize. Try.
- Kim Katami, 10.9.2016