Difference between Love and Devotion

Devotion should be of such a nature that a person, while living in this world and doing his daily work, should surrender everything to the Lord and should not forget Him even for a moment; and if he were to do so, he would become restless.

Lord Krishna says:

I consider him to be the highest yogi who has faith in and devotion for me, and who, in that state of faith and devotion, repeats my Name.

Bhakti is described in the Krishna Leela. It is also briefly described in Bhagwat. The gopies (cowherd girls) had dedicated everything – their physical selves, their mind, their souls and their possessions – to their Lord. Their minds were always engrossed in remembering Him and they were always thinking of Him, so much so that they would see their Lord everywhere. To these lovelorn gopies, Krishna one day said:

Oh gopies! You have broken the iron-like strong hoops of worldly attachments and have merged yourselves in me with devotion and love. This state of your mind is beyond any reproach, and I am not capable of repaying a love like yours. Therefore, you should kindly relieve me of that burden.

Krishna once sent a message to the gopies through Udhava, and while giving the message to Udhava his throat was choked and his eyes were shedding tears of love.

He said:

Oh Udhava! These gopies have surrendered their minds and their hearts to me. I am their life. They have forgotten all their worldly duties for my sake, and all their worldly responsibilities have been surrendered at my feet. I am, therefore, always thinking of them. These women of Gokal consider me to be the highest object of love and they are restless in my absence. When they remember me, they forget about their own bodies and minds. And now they are just living from day-to-day in the hope that I will soon return to their village. They are one with me and I am one with them.

Udhava went to their village and spoke to the gopies about Yoga. He was surprised to see their condition, for they were having the vision of Krishna both inside and outside at all times of the day and night.

The gopies themselves told him about their state of mind in the following words:

There is no room left in our hearts for anything other than our Krishna. That Lord is in every pore of our body. When we walk or talk, when we are awake or asleep, we cannot forget; nor can we be away from the vision of our Lord even for one moment. Udhava, you have given us a very elevating discourse and we are extremely grateful to you; but we are helpless because our minds and bodies are full of devotion to Him. An ocean cannot be contained in a pitcher, and our eyes are now restless to see our Lord Krishna.

They then continued:

Oh Udhava! We are not capable of doing any yoga practice. Being women, we cannot understand the yoga of knowledge. How should we do our spiritual practice? You ask us to close our eyes wherein the image of our lord is always present. Good fellow! You have a sweet voice and a sweet tongue, but we are not prepared to listen to your deceitful words. You ask us to keep our hair tied and our ears torn like those of a yogi. Who is prepared to take this trouble? You ask us to besmear our bodies with ashes (Babhut) and to give up the use of sandalwood. You do not know that we are burning in the fire of separation. The lord for whom the yogis do such austerities and roam from place to place because they are separated from him – that same lord is seen by us within. He cannot be separated from us even for a moment, just as our shadows cannot be separated from us.

The gopies then told Udhava:

Oh Udhava! Please go and give your yoga teachings to people who are suffering because of separation from the lord. Here, He is with us at all times, for we have become one with our dear lord.

Devotion, love and intense love (bhakti, prem and ishq) are three separate names, but they have the same meaning. There is no difference. There is, however, a slight difference in the degree of their intensity.

Devotion is a spontaneous magnetic current which attracts one towards one’s Beloved. And love (prem and ishq) consists in merging oneself into one’s Beloved. It is one-pointed attention and attachment to the Lord. In other words, it is the culmination of devotion.