practice alone does not make perfect

Practice alone does not make perfect. Sadhana, the word we generally translate to be practice, literally infers the effective means by which a desired outcome (sadhya) may be achieve. It is not the rote repetition of a thing. 

Cognitive scientists write of both general practice and deliberate practice, the later more productive as it focuses on self critique, improvement and a whole lot of effort. Beyond this they also speak of practice and achievement becoming a persons overwhelming concern, largely their sole purpose. With all this comes the notable artist, the expert--the master. And that is all true for bhakti-sadhana. 

So now here is the 'however', and that is--practice on its own is not enough. In sadhana-bhakti (devotion in practice), not only does one need teachers (gurus) as with learning most things, but one specifically needs their grace. What comes in the company of connoisseurs of devotion, who live and teach a life, as it were, isthe all important substance of their benevolence. Somehow the love they feel finds its way into our hearts. Their rich sentiments rub off on us and shape our ways of devotion.

At a certain point--the threshold between the mechanics of practice and intuitive devotion, is made possible by grace alone; there is no other option. This critical juncture, or the only cause of higher devotion is explain by the master of the aesthetics of devotion Sri Rupa Goswami in the following verse: krsna tad bhakta karunya matra hetuka, meaning 'The mercy of Krishna and His devotees is the only cause of attaining spontaneous devotion (raganuga-bhakti). And that is it.

Therefore in all of our practice we must be conscious of those around us, especially those with spontaneous and rich devotion. Become endeared to them and in humble supplication beseech their loving grace.

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