The Role of Devotion in Our Evolution

“The pinnacle of human emotion is devotion, but you can’t simply decide to be devoted.”

Thom Knoles

Devotion is often heralded as a path to enlightenment, but what does that mean? To whom or to what should we be devoted to?

Thom presents the Vedic position on devotion in this episode, teaching us that devotion is an effect rather than a cause, an outcome rather than an action.

It’s a compelling case that gives us full control over our ability to experience devotion and the rich rewards that come with it.

Subscribe to Vedic Worldview

Apple Podcast logo
Stitcher Podcast logo
Spotify Podcast logo
Google Podcast logo

Episode Highlights


The First Element of Devotion



The Significance of Personalized Mantras



The Proposition of Learning



Another Extraordinary Thing



Commitment to Regular Practice of Vedic Meditation



How Did You Live Without It?



Devotion & Dedication






A Supreme Form of Love



Falling in Love with Our Self



Unity Points and Recognition of Self



Transition from Love to Devotion



Mood-Making is Not Recommended



Dedicated Practice and the Emergence of Devotion



Devotion as a Natural State of Consciousness


Jai Guru Deva


The Role of Devotion in Our Evolution

[00:45] The First Element of Devotion

Frequently I’m asked what is the role of devotion in our spiritual practice, and if devotion is something that is to be cultured, then to what or to whom should one find one’s devotion channeled? I mean, one has to be devoted to something or somebody…

Let’s talk about devotion and its origins, and the way in which it spontaneously begins to express itself as a result of regular daily practice of Vedic Meditation.

I think the first element of devotion lies in acknowledgement and dedication. When we are first presented with the idea of learning Vedic Meditation, our teacher will say to us that there are certain criteria for actually embarking on the teaching, embarking on becoming taught by a qualified teacher.

One is asked to attend four consecutive days of one and a half hours each day of instruction.

On the very first day, there’ll be a request to bring along a few flowers and a handful of fruits, two or three fruits, as part of the offerings for a ceremony of gratitude that will be performed by the teacher to acknowledge her or his role as the loudspeaker of knowledge that’s come down through a tradition, thousands of years old, to make an acknowledgement that I’m not the innovator of this knowledge and I have a troth to you, my student, to teach it to you in exactly the way I received it, not to change it in any way.

That’s what that ceremony is, the imprimatur of.

[02:50] The Significance of Personalized Mantras

And then, the student is put in a position of having to possess sufficient curiosity and a willingness to follow a few simple instructions, among those that when you learn your personalized bija mantra, when you learn your personalized mantra for meditation, that you’ll agree not to reveal it to anyone.

And there’s a reason for this. There are multiple reasons. But the primary reasons are that, first of all, the mantra is private, and it has a resonance with your individuality. Your individual bundle of vibrations, and that mantra resonate.

And therefore, your mantra is unlikely to be the mantra that will be the solution for going into deep meditation for somebody else whose personal bundle of vibrations is very likely to be different to your own, at least in part, if not in totality.

And so then we ask our students not to put themselves in the role of being a teacher of this until they have had proper training and therefore to keep their mantra to themselves.

We don’t wish for our mantra, which is going to be the key to our own deep experience, whether the mantra is treated in this wise mischievously or in a way that is guileless, we don’t want her mantra in any way to be trivialized by another.

Whether they do so with mischief or they do so in a guileless fashion, our mantra needs to be something which, for us, is the important sound that is going to awaken our own deep inner experience. It doesn’t belong in the mouth of another.

[05:01] The Proposition of Learning

And explaining this and asking students to agree to it, and asking them to attend, and asking them to come for each of the sessions of instruction prior to them deciding that they’ve been trained, at least in their basic training, this is the beginnings of, first of all, acknowledgement and dedication to a proposition.

And what is that proposition? The proposition is, “I’m here to learn. And there’s someone in the room, the teacher, who I acknowledge has more experience in this area than have I.”

That acknowledgement, that sense of, “All right, there’s a period of time to which I’ll dedicate myself to the proposition that the teacher knows what she or he is doing.

“And I’m going to cast myself…”, whomever I may be. I may be someone who has only had marginal education about anything, or I may be someone who is a triple PhD in Eastern philosophy. I’m now going to place myself under the care of the Initiator of Vedic Meditation and, and see what happens. And, hoping for the best, and to become a student.”

[06:39] Another Extraordinary Thing

Then one embarks on that training, and one is asked then to do another extraordinary thing. And that is to actually carve out 20 minutes of one’s very precious time, twice each day, to dedicate oneself to the experience of Vedic Meditation.

It’s a very simple idea. If you don’t practice it, it doesn’t matter that you’ve learned it. If you don’t practice it, it can’t do anything for you.

If someone brings you some delicious nectar-like organic food, and you say thank you very much, but you never partake of it, then that delicious organic food, which takes some time to chew and masticate, it takes some time to think about how delicious it is and swallow it. It takes some time, perhaps, to prepare a plate for it.

If you don’t ever do any of that, then all of your thanks and acknowledgement of the culinary delight is, nonetheless, lost. So in Vedic Meditation, a teacher can prepare everything for you, but if you don’t actually bother to practice it, we can’t really hope for much.

[08:02] Commitment to Regular Practice of Vedic Meditation

And so then comes the next part of becoming a dedicated practitioner of Vedic Meditation. And that is to be someone who’s willing to do a long-term experiment, some long-term research.

And that research is research into what’s it like to be a twice a day practitioner of Vedic Meditation compared with what I very well know my life to have been like prior to learning this?

Some of the teachers whom I’ve trained have emulated my trend to tell my students, “Don’t worry about dedicating yourself for the whole rest of your life to 20 minutes twice a day. Give it about six weeks.

“If you practice Vedic Meditation for six weeks, every morning, every evening for about 20 minutes in the way that I’m instructing you to be effortless, to take it as it comes while practicing. And then just live your life in the usual way in between sessions. Then by the end of six weeks, your life will have been revolutionized.

[09:20] How Did You Live Without It?

“You will wonder, however, you managed to live a life without this practice. It will become such a powerful tool for giving you, instantaneously, levels of rest considerably greater than any level of rest you can attain to at any point in a night’s sleep.

“It will help you to release your stress and not be shackled and fettered any longer to those behaviors that are leftovers residue from past overloads of experience, no longer bound by these fetters of stress.

“You’re at liberty to express yourself. Your creativity, your intelligence, and naturally, much more energy is now available to you. The liberating of your brain has begun.”

And this you’ll see for yourself if you simply do make it non-negotiable for at least six weeks. You’ll never question again whether it’s viable to take out 20 minutes of your time from looking at Instagram or playing around on TikTok or whatever else it is people do these days when they pick up their devices, or gossiping with the neighbors.

[10:45] Devotion & Dedication

Instead of that 20 minutes less gossip, twice a day, and you end up with access to your full brain. This, you’ll see. And those who are willing to do the research, those who acknowledge that this teacher might know what she or he is talking about and are who are willing to carry out the research and do it, they find a remarkable change, radical change in life. This is the beginnings of devotion.

Devotion is found first in dedication. I’m dedicated to a proposition that makes eminently good common sense, practicing Vedic Meditation twice each day. And then as I continue to practice, natural human curiosity, what do people experience in Vedic Meditation who’ve been doing it for longer than me?

What is it I can look forward to? What kinds of experiences might be in store for me if I continue practicing? And what is it that explains these changes through which I’m going on a daily basis?

Asking the questions of a qualified teacher and receiving the answers, very, very satisfactory. One is beginning to experience the deep science of the science of consciousness.

Science means that there is direct experience. This is what we call empiricism, the empirical evidence that is acquired and accrued. And then the best theory, the conceptual delineation, to explain the observations. What is the best theory to explain what it is you’re experiencing as your practice as a Vedic Meditation practitioner continues to progress?

[12:55] Deva-Ocean

And one finds the answers progressively more and more compelling. And with each step of practice, with each stage of practice, one can look forward to the prognostications of the teacher coming to pass, that what is described as a natural progression of higher consciousness states, certain experiences that are hallmark experiences, which any meditator doing Vedic Meditation twice each day can expect after six months, after one year, after a year and a half, and so on, of practice.

Now one is really beginning to see that this body of knowledge is something that really makes a tremendous amount of sense, and it makes a tremendous amount of sense because it is natural. It’s obedient to the way that the laws of Nature work.

And I’m beginning to discover more and more what those laws of Nature are that govern the growth of human consciousness, that govern the growth of a higher consciousness state, and all of its applications and implications in daily life.

This is the beginnings, the very faint beginnings of devotion.

Devotion sounds like a very nice thing. Deva, Sanskrit word for a shining one, a god or goddess, or a supreme being even, and ocean, Deva-ocean. That’s a play on words by me. That’s not actually the etymology of the word devotion.

However, divine and devil both come from the Sanskrit Deva.

[14:47] A Supreme Form of Love

There is a world of beings that lies at the subtlest level of creation that is perceptible by an individual who awakens their deep, inner Cosmic Consciousness and then awakens their acute sensory perception to the extent of being able, with eyes open, to perceive in the regular outside world, the play and display of creative intelligence as personified; laws of Nature personified.

“It’s not just the wind. The wind has a feel about it. It has a way of touching the skin. It has information in it, and it is communing with me.” This is the individual experiencing Vayu, that consciousness, that intelligence that has predictable, reliable, repeatable behaviors in it.

So the capacity of our sensory perception to awaken our awareness of all of that that is surrounding us in terms of the intelligences of Nature, wanting to learn more about this, wanting to discover that my own deep inner Self actually is nothing other than these expressions of Nature in the world surrounding me.

I am surrounded by my own deep inner Self, experienced as perceptible in the subtle phenomenology of the world around me.

Then what tends to happen is a natural devotion.

Devotion is a word that we use as a supreme form of love. Love is a phenomenon that can only be described as recognition of self in another.

[16:58] Falling in Love with Our Self

When I want to meet somebody, supposing I am open to a romantic evolution occurring, you meet somebody, and you have your first time together. What you’re doing is looking for unity points.

The person appears wearing a pair of shoes that are the kind of shoes that you really like. And you might say to the person, “I love your shoes.”

“Oh thank you, very much. Yes, in fact, that’s one of my favorite brands. I’m impressed.” And then, you perhaps go and share a meal together, and there’s always that menu moment where you’re both looking at a menu, and each of you seems to be attracted to a particular kind of dish, which, perhaps you’d even like to share the dish because both of you like it.

Now you have two unity points, the dish of food and the shoes. And then you notice the background music is playing in a particular way, and your date is beginning to kind of rhythmically move to the music. And you say, “Is this music that you’re familiar with?”

“Oh yes.” He or she says, “One of my favorites.”

To which you respond, “And for me too. One of my favorites. Isn’t that funny?”

And you found a third unity point. Now you have shoes, culinary delights, and music. And the unity points are building and building. But let’s be honest about it, with deep honesty, if we look at this phenomenon, what we are in the process of falling in love with is ourself.

[18:54] Unity Points and Recognition of Self

We like, about whatever it is we like in somebody, we like whatever it is about them that resonates with what it is we like. We like about someone else the self-ness in them, the things about them that are resonant with self.

The things that are not resonant with self, those are not unity points, and they get pushed to the backburners.

“I’ll deal with that later. They seem to love roasted mushrooms, and I’m not too fond of mushrooms, and so that’s all right, but I have all…. I’m working with five unity points here. There’s only one disunity point. So, so far, it’s five to one, and everything’s looking good.”

What is it we’re searching for? We’re in a constant search for self-ness in the world around us. We call it the search for love. It’s the search for self. And we find the self in another.

When we find that selfi-ness in another, we start to call it like, or dare we even say the word love, because love can apply to so many things, and we’re all confused by that word, but we’ll go ahead and be adventurous and use that word anyway.

If love continues to grow beyond a certain saturation point, this is, and I have to remind you again and again, love of the self for the self.

[20:23] Transition from Love to Devotion

When I start to find selfi-ness everywhere around me, including in Nature itself, then my adoration of the way that Nature reliably behaves as if it’s my Nature, my adoration of the way that Nature behaves spontaneously as if it’s all designed just for me.

That natural adoration is making the transition from mere love into devotion. I’m devoted. I’m devoted.

I want to surrender elements of me that are not as grand as I see in all the big Me around me. I want to surrender the elements of me that are easily surrenderable. The preferences that I might have that are easily surrendered, that are easily let go of, in aid of unifying with all those aspects of me, the bigger Me, the big Self that I experience all around me.

In this natural devotion occurs.

Now an answer to the question, is it better to be devoted or not be devoted? Definitely better to be devoted. Definitely. Great.

The pinnacle of human emotion is devotion. Nice little rhyme too. The pinnacle of human emotion is devotion, but is there a devotion switch inside you which you can simply decide to flick that thing on?

My answer to you is no. You can’t decide to be devoted. You can’t think to yourself, “Oh, that devotion thing, that sounds pretty cool. Let me flick that devotion switch and I’ll fake it till I make it if I have to.”

In the Vedic worldview, faking it until you make it is a sure way to suffer, to experience suffering. We refer to this as mood-making. Mood-making is a derogatory phrase that’s applied to people who are faking it till they make it.

[22:47] Mood-Making is Not Recommended

Mood-making is not recommended. Mood-making is where you don’t quite yet have the experience that you’re hoping for, and so you try to create a mood to create that experience.

The reason why it’s not recommended is because it has an effect of straining the environment. It strains the social environment. In case you ever thought that anyone around you was convinced by devotion that is an act, then no one is convinced by it. People will be polite, and people are raised with manners by and large, and mostly you run into people who have sufficient manners not to provide you directly to your face a critique of how your mood-making is affecting them.

But you might notice that fewer and fewer people want to spend time with you. And if you’re beginning to experience that, you might even spot people crossing the street to keep away from you when you’re approaching, it might be a worthy question to ask whether or not we’ve been engaging in mood-making.

Mood-making has an odious effect in our social collective, not a recommended practice.

[24:12] Dedicated Practice and the Emergence of Devotion

So you’ll be happy to know that if you’re missing out on devotion, you don’t have to be concerned. All you have to do is continue being dedicated to the benefits of your practice. Your spiritual practice should reward dedication.

Dedicated practice is all that we need, and devotion will appear of its own and by itself.

Devotion is not a thing that we can culture. Any attempt to culture devotion is going to bring to the equation, the insertion of some of our individuality.

We’re asserting our individuality on a process which really is merely a natural result of a higher state of consciousness being attained to, and we can’t decide to be devoted.

So you’ll be relieved to know that devotion is not a task that you can perform. If it’s not there, you need not be concerned about it. Some people might say to me, “Oh, Thom, I don’t think devotion is for me.” And I’ll say, “Well, I’m so happy that you’re devoted to that idea, or dedicated at least to that idea. Don’t worry, it’s coming.”

And what is the experience when devotion comes? A spontaneous willingness to surrender oneself to become one with what it is that one is devoted to. It’s a spontaneous willingness to let go of the smallness of individuality, to allow one’s self, one’s identity, to naturally identify with that magnanimous great consciousness that you can perceive with your senses, that is all around you.

[26:16] Devotion as a Natural State of Consciousness

Devotion is not something that creates experience. You can’t create an experience by “getting devoted.” If you could just get devoted, everybody on the earth would be that way because , if you could, then you would.

Devotion is a natural state of consciousness that occurs spontaneously through the super refinement and super acuity of our sensory perception. It’s a natural acquisition, a state of consciousness to which we attain spontaneously.

Devotion really is more of an explanation of what one is going through than a practice in which one can decide to engage.

So devotion is our natural fate if we continue being dedicated to our practice, then elements of that level of supreme beyond which there’s nothing, beyond devotion, there’s only unity. And that’s a whole other subject.

But devotion compared with the little rivulets and little streams of romantic love that we experience in day-to-day relative life, devotion has a quality all of its own that is oceanic by comparison.

But let’s not decide to be devoted, let’s decide to be dedicated, and we’re open to whatever devotion might occur spontaneously through our regular daily practice of Vedic Meditation.

Jai Guru Deva.

Read more