True devotion isn’t blind faith. Devotion comes through your own study and practice.
~ Orgyen Chowang Rinpoche
The more you study, the more you practice meditation, the more teachings you listen to, the more inspired you feel, and the more you give rise to a natural-born feeling of connection with enlightenment. That is devotion.
It is only through your own study and your own practice that you can feel more true devotion. The more you study, the more you practice, the more you listen to teachings, the more your mind becomes connected to enlightenment, and to manifestations of enlightenment like Buddha and Guru Rinpoche Padmasambhava. That opens your mind and relaxes you. That inspiration or connectedness is devotion.
You really take refuge in, you really admire, you really appreciate enlightenment. You really consider that to be your ultimate protection. That feeling occurs naturally without having to do anything to fabricate it. Through practicing and learning and listening to teachings or studying and reading books, that kind of inspiration and feeling of devotedness arises in your mind. It’s not as if devotion is something that can be imposed on you. It is not some kind of rule where someone tells you, “You must have devotion.” It comes automatically.
No one can tell you to fall in love. No one can say, “You must fall in love.” The conditions need to be there for you to fall in love. To love someone first you need to meet that person, whether it is your father or mother or child or lover or whoever. Then, the more you spend time with that person, the more you see their qualities and characteristics, the more you appreciate and admire them. You begin to feel really inspired by them. And then slowly through your interactions, through getting to know them more, you slowly begin to fall in love with them or develop an intimate connection of love.
Devotion works exactly the same way. It is not just faith. It comes about in a similar way as falling in love. The more you study Buddhist teachings, practice, listen to talks, read dharma books, contemplate enlightened qualities, the more a natural inspiration arises to connect with enlightenment and a connection to enlightenment is naturally built in your mind. You become devoted to, you admire, you really respect, you appreciate, you want to connect with enlightenment. Whether it is a happy time in your life, or a difficult time, at all times you always admire enlightenment. You always think and feel in your heart how special enlightenment is. Mentally you have that appreciation, and emotionally and psychologically as well there is a connection that occurs naturally. That is called devotion. That is the meaning of real faith.
It’s not that faith isn’t important. But the experience I’ve just described here is real faith. This is the genuine type of faith that we need. When we talk about faith and devotion we’re talking about building this type of connection with enlightenment. We sometimes hear the term “taking refuge” in Buddhist teachings. This is also what taking refuge is about. Once you have this type of faith and devotion, then you automatically take refuge in enlightenment. This devotion inspires you to do that. It inspires you to practice meditation. And it inspires you to attain enlightenment. All these are the result of genuine, real, true, authentic devotion or faith.