The Art of Devotion

Myanmar Devotion-1 Devotion inspires one of the purest sets of emotions, capturing love, loyalty and deep feelings of excitement that I do not think can ever be understood beyond our own personal experiences. In the world around us, so much devotion towards deities, lovers, children and nature, all linked to our desire to better understand. Myanmar Devotion-2 Devotion in its pure form is absolutely awe inspiring to witness. I may not share or understand the experience of the devotee, but often cannot help but feel some attachment with their act of devotion. Myanmar Devotion-3 To many, devotion is a scary word.  Devotion requires commitment, and the fear of commitment alone can send people running for the door. Contrarily, the only emotion equal to the feeling of devotion is the feeling of freedom.    Freedom to live, to pursue and to reach the potential hidden within, for this is what life’s about. This is the strange paradox between devotion and freedom. Myanmar Devotion-4 The integrity of people devoted to philanthropy has been inspirational since the dawn of time.  The world admires such people for the dignity and strength of their devotion. However, in today’s world with an overwhelming number of options with little time to spare, I wonder if such pure devotion is possible without restricting freedom? Myanmar Devotion-5 On the surface, devotion appears restrictive due to intense focus and drive, especially in what is now a sound-bite/tech based society where nanoseconds steal away cognate thought.  Is it possible to have true devotion and not have every fiber of your being focused on this nirvana?

“If this conviction had not been a strongly emotional one…they would hardly have been capable of that untiring
devotion which alone enables man to attain his greatest achievements.” ~ Albert Einstein

Myanmar Devotion-6 Perhaps the greatest window into the art of devotion comes from religions around the world, stunning in their emotional beauty.  We see people opening their hearts and soul, trusting in devotion. The beautiful fury of devotion. With the lesson that such beauty is tempered when priestly powers from above, and I mean those men who sit in rooms and pontificate, creating rules based on outdated policies with one goal: to control. Myanmar Devotion-7 It does not take an academic to recognize centuries of petty political ideologies sprung from ivory towers, exposing the self-righteous nature of man.  To control and manipulate devotion for purposes other than its pure source and nature is to extinguish the flame that made it so.

“Whatever I am offered in devotion with a pure heart –
a leaf, a flower, fruit or water – I accept with joy.” ~ Bhagavad Gita

Myanmar Devotion-8 There is a simple, beautiful thread that is the backbone of devotion and it is the mysterious concept of love.  Once rules, regulations and intolerance are allowed into this mystic sanctuary, devotion becomes less than what its true destiny requires. It becomes a misguided passion that takes us away from the immense potential. Myanmar Devotion-9 Ceasing to ask questions and instead listen to rules created by others taints the purity of devotion. It is pure devotion that makes it easier to find this oft spoken iron rod to lead us forward in life.  Faith does not mean to stop seeking answers or submit to blind faith, but rather to take responsibility. Myanmar Devotion-10 Questioning faith along the way is an integral part of human nature.  It helps redefine who we are and what we can become.  It allows for our devotion to evolve over time, granting flexibility and freedom in life to make the right decisions. Pure devotion is a journey to open up new ideas and see through destructive intolerances.  Like all good things, the greatest potential can only be reach when given the freedom to pursue. Myanmar Devotion-11 Watching someone from the opposite side of the world practice the religion of their culture, I see how beautiful Christianity, Islam, Buddhism and Hinduism are because they all share the same threads of belief.  It creates a sense of devotion within. All things are born from devotion: the rhythm of science, spirit of musicians, harmonies of mathematics and the devotion of a mother to her child.  The foundation of devotion is the seed for growth. Myanmar Devotion-12 Belief in a power we do not understand, yet surrender ourselves completely takes courage.  Behind this courage is love, the common thread that unites everything and everyone in the world.  You cannot love without the pureness of devotion leading the way. Take away all of the politics, the insensitive rhetoric of intolerance and there lies the beauty of real devotion. Myanmar Devotion-14

“When the sun of fierce devotion shines on the snow mountain…
the stream of his blessing will pour down.” ~ Drikung Kyobpa

In a world where we are always chasing something, lost in the false devotions shoveled to us daily by “society”, it is easy to miss what is at the heart of devotion and love.  Forgiveness. Myanmar Devotion-13 Forgiveness is a sacrifice, to grasp the simple significance of quality: quality of this short time on Earth and the quality of tomorrow.  Forgiveness can bring the freedom to move on with a clear heart, and through it strengthen devotion. It seems strange to think of forgiving others as a sacrifice, but I’ve seen pride and perceived slights crush love and devotion, every passing second creating a scar that could have been prevented with an act of forgiveness. Myanmar Devotion-17 The coming Easter holiday is perhaps the epitome of sacrifice.  Within this holiday are the select attributes that make devotion such a powerful state to experience. Forgiveness and sacrifice.  Two concepts I never before considered to be at the core of true devotion towards the things that I love. To be devoted to life, heart open and tolerant of all that is different guarantees a journey through life like no other; it will take the spirit places never before imagined. Myanmar Devotion-15

“The need for devotion to something outside ourselves is even more profound than the need for companionship.  If we are not to go to pieces or wither away, we must have some purpose in life; for no man can live for himself alone.” ~ Ross Parmenter

Myanmar Devotion-23 Myanmar Devotion-20

207 Comments on “The Art of Devotion

  1. You don’t stop surprising us! As always you impress me with your beautiful words and lovely pictures. Indeed, devotion is a big word! You can achieve it if you strongly believe in people. Being patient with them and having that power to see the kindness, not their bad faces. I consider that this divine part is the perfect way to make us be together despite all the difficulties!

    • Thank you Camelia, I like what you say “you can achieve it if you strongly believe in people…” That is perfect. Cheers!

  2. Absolutely amazing pictures that capture the essence of faith in those that believe.

  3. Wow, this is amazing. Beautiful pictures and excellent text.
    I came to know about your blog by the lovely Audrey at, “Oldest Daughter Red Headed Sister.” She suggested I checked it out and spoke very well of you.
    I traveled in China for a bit and lived in Hong Kong for almost a year. Loved it.
    “Freedom to live, to pursue and to reach the potential hidden within, for this is what life’s about. This is the strange paradox between devotion and freedom.”
    –I especially liked this here. It’s funny, because for me, I find that in my faith and my life journey, the more devoted I am to my creator, the more freedom I feel and have. Ultimately, we are all devoted to someone, something or some idea. However, many times the devotion comes along with some what of a bondage. Like you said, “a strange paradox”.

    • Thank you, it is great to hear about your travels (especially China/HK…great places). Very happy you liked that specific part of the post about paradox, as that is what intrigues me most and made me think so much about devotion. Cheers!

  4. As always you have captured some spellbinding and touching images. And the processing is excellent too. Devotion is an interesting concept that I have to admit I don’t fully understand. Nevertheless I see the beauty in the faces of the those blessed with devotion. Your words are as beautiful as your photos.

    • Thanks Otto, agree that the concept of devotion is one of those mysterious aspects of life…seeing it like I did in these photos was great as I wanted to capture what I saw and felt. Enjoyed writing up this post quite a bit. Cheers!

  5. Gorgeous set of images, Randall — such a wonderful glimpse into the world of devotion — you’ve truly captured it so well! Love the movement in the third one, and the beautiful rays of light in the fifth — but they’re all truly beautiful and moving!

    • Thank you Neely, when there is interesting lighting along with a camera, things can get kind of fun 🙂 Easy to get into the mood of the environment.

  6. Great post – nice to have something thought provoking to mull over! ….. and fabulous photographs too with wonderful light and atmosphere that really capture the ‘magic’ of devotion.

    • Thank you Noeline, you are right, the lighting (while a bit difficult) was really perfect for capturing the mood.

  7. ” To control and manipulate devotion for purposes other than its pure source and nature is to extinguish the flame that made it so.”

    That one sentence sums up the pivotal flaw with religion. The “faith” held in the hearts of honest, decent, respectful followers – I see this as a private matter. These are the people who are at peace within their faith, draw strength from it, wanting nothing more than freedom to go about their lives – faith in this form is a beautiful thing.

    “Devotion” used as a mighty hammer by a handful of “big religion executives” – so far removed from reality, they wouldn’t understand genuine faith if it hit them on the head. They care only for wealth, power and controlling populations.They make sure fear and retribution resonate – their only means of maintaining iron fist control.

    Your post and photographs are lovely – an exceptional piece 🙂

    • Thank you, and yes, that is the beauty yet danger of devotion… Nothing is as beautiful or pure as devotion from the heart, and sadly the opposite it true as well (and seems to be more common as income disparity grows around the world).

  8. These photos are just so beautiful. Very strong photography with incredible use of light that underlines the mood, the devotion, and what religion is all about, when it is not messed up with people using it for power. It is obviously important for many people, and I see peace in these photos, not war.

    • Thank you Bente, could not agree more…there is nothing but peace in these photos. The lighting and mood/atmosphere was incredible to witness.

  9. Such powerful images, full of light and emotion…what phenomenal work you do! I so agree with bentehaarstad’s comment above and I also see peace on the faces in your photos.

    • Thank you Susan, the ambiance was just perfect for photography ~ some serene moments to capture.

  10. Reblogged this on Life in Russia and commented:
    This is one of the most beautiful posts I’ve seen that expresses the heart of devotion, commitment and fear are the roots that most are not willing to do, it involves responsibility.

    • Thank you, you have beautifully & succinctly summarized what I had hope to say throughout the post. Appreciate it.

    • Yes, it was the thoughts behind the photos that I still find intriguing…such great subjects. Thank you!

  11. Reblogged this on Shambhala and commented:
    A devotion to the highest truths and human compassion is more important than devotion to any type of dogma, in my opinion.

  12. Randall, those are some seriously amazing photos! Not only they are beautiful but also profoundly evocative. Well done!

  13. Hi Dalo, you have mastered your craft. sir. Wonderful images and literature. Good that I got your blog to follow now. Thanks for sharing.

    • Thank you Sudarshan, a continual process of learning…and every now and then it comes out the way I had hoped. Cheers.

  14. Magnificent photos, Randall! The lighting, the sense of movement, the silhouettes, the color are quite special. I’m especially drawn to the fifth, tenth, and fifteenth ones, and loved the snippet from this quote: “If we are not to go to pieces or wither away, we must have some purpose in life; for no man can live for himself alone.” Bravo on this beautiful marriage of words and imagery.

    • Thank you Tricia, the 5th shot was a favorite of mine…a mellow stroll at dawn while the lighting was still nice. The quote hit me as well, finding purpose daily is a pretty great thing to do. Cheers!

  15. Randall,my our photographs are always so beautiful. I wish I had the funds to purchase a few to go in our translation of Dào Dé Jing when we finally publish it on Kindle or as an Issuu. Just stunning stuff. Thank you for sharing your vision. Namaste _/|\_

    • Thank you Keith, and since the Dao is out in front of us at all times, giving and to be shared ~ please feel free to use what ever photos you wish. Namaste _/I\_

      • Oh my heavens… All is indeed flowing. 🙂 Thank you so much! I’ll be finalizing the text over the next two months. I’ll be in touch with a copy of the text. _/|\_

  16. The images are fantastic. Especially the portraits. The unquestioning devotion is palpable. Beautiful.

    • Thanks, one of those times when the lighting was perfect (difficult, but that is why it was so perfect).

  17. No words to express the beauty this post graced my morning with, but somehow, just pushing the ‘Like’ button didn’t seem enough!

    Fantabulous! 🙂

  18. I’ve been blogging 8 years now. But I never seen a post as beautiful as this one (seriously, in all its meaning).

  19. I don’t normally re-visit posts, glad I did… I love these photo even more than last time I saw! Extroadinary and so very moving!

  20. I am not in a position to comment on this post, it just blew me away, with the images and words 🙂

    A masterpiece, my friend, not only for the photos but for the words and sentences too.

    It’s so nice to see how this post has captured the imagination of people by reading the comments.

    It’s a real tough ask to pick any one or two images from your collection, but there are two images that I feel deserve to be mentioned here, are the fifth one(monks walking towards the morning light) and the tenth one (small kid monk reading a book sitting near a pink open umbrella)

    Thanks a lot for sharing this gem of a post 🙂

    • Thank you Sreejith, very much appreciate your comments. The outline of this post came during my last night (New Year Day) during my last night in Myanmar. The people there opened their arms & hearts of their culture; really felt like an honor to experience it all. People devoted to a good & happy life. It was inspiring to see it all.

    • Thank you very much Petrus…for me there is nothing else like getting lost in photography. Cheers!

    • The look an beliefs of others are always fascinating, so it was great to be able to photograph them like I was able without intruding. Enjoyed this time very much! Thanks Christy.

  21. As always your photos are stunning. “To control and manipulate devotion for purposes other than its pure source and nature is to extinguish the flame that made it so.” A truth to cherish, especially in these times.

  22. Pingback: The art of devotion – from China Sojourns Photography | Sue Vincent – Daily Echo

    • Thank you Sue ~ a post that hits us directly in life, trying to understand what it is we will commit to wholeheartedly in life.

      • I was advised to get a cuppa before looking at your blog. Only in the sense that I would be transfixed and it would take time to peruse everything.

      • Thank you! I’ve only been blogging for a short time. Learning all the time, settling into it. 😏

  23. Reblogged this on Federflüsterin and commented:
    “Devotion” – ein Begriff, der im Deutschen sowohl Andacht, als auch Hingabe bedeutet. Andacht als Hingabe an das innerste Selbst und Aufgabe des Egos. In diesem Sinne auch Ergebenheit.
    Ist das Aufgabe der Freiheit oder gerade umgekehrt, sogar da erst Gewinn der Freiheit?

  24. Pingback: Loving & Serving God – Fullest Faith

  25. Pingback: Wisdom Wednesday: Devotion

    • Thank you for this comment, and it was good for me to return to this post and re-live the moments I took the photos and the feelings I had ~ wishing you a great Friday and weekend ahead.

      • Thank you so much, wishing you the same… I totally get what you mean about reliving the moment… it’s part of why (I am now realising).. to be able to record and somehow return to meaningful life discoveries I once experienced… the wisdom of your posts, combined with the atmospheric photographs also allows others like me to vicariously experience your discoveries, which is a treat! Thanks a lot

  26. Randall, what can I say! Your work impacts me in such a way that I sometimes read a post and look at your outstanding photos and need to come back to it a few days later because your lines and musings do move me profoundly. I mean this sincerely and with no exaggeration, amigo. I am truly in awe at your abilities as a writer, photographer, world-citizen and deep thinker. This post and the pictures really tugged at my heartstrings- devotion lies at the very heart of mysticism, which I feel really drawn to and connected with. We are all part of a bigger puzzle, I believe, and as such we cannot feel complete without connecting to something outside of our limited selves, which you conveyed superbly in your post, culminating in the last quote…Love your art, truly! Hasta pronto 🙂

    • Maria Elena, your comment comes at a perfect time 🙂 In the midst of a busy few weeks before heading back to Seattle for Christmas, there have been a couple long nights trying to install a new machine here at the factory that isn’t quite going to plan, so it is so great to read your words today. Also nice to come back to this post and words. Devotion to life seems to be the key. Sometimes, I even think when the more difficult times come if you have the devotion to absorb yourself in the moment, it is an opportunity to move up to a higher plane ~ and so far it hasn’t failed me 🙂 I like how you suggest that connecting with life, in some manner, is how we begin to feel complete – connecting outside of what we think our capabilities/possibilities are. This is why I like the last quote as well. The individual must search for the piece of life that excites them, a piece they devote their thoughts and days to understanding. Thank you very much for this timely comment and your insights. Hasta pronto, amiga, and great to connect with you.

      • Dalo, thanks for your wonderful reply. I already wanted to close my laptop for the day but i kept coming back to your thoughts on devotion and your new machine-issue. Also, just came across this quote “Get excited and enthusiastic about you own dream. This excitement is like a forest fire – you can smell it, taste it, and see it from a mile away.” Denis Waitley. Don´t know if the forest fire is the best of analogies these days, but what I am trying to say is – I think we can always connect to the power of dreaming and devotion to uplift ourselves in times of human struggle. The imagination is a door through which we can reach the higher planes you mention here, and through this we get to recharge and re-connect. Is that the same like absorbing yourself in the moment fully? Maybe, combined with the intent to reach out. We might need to have another chat about this sometime 🙂 Dreaming, devotion and excitement for what pulls us in/ towards it are powerful energies of inspiration and healing, right… Many hugs and hope that machine gets sorted soon amigo

  27. I was reading a bit of Umberto Eco, and he mentions some ideas of power, referencing Foucault. He mentions that power goes in many directions, and usually the head and the subjects enforce it. If subjects start to deviate the head will try to crush the movement, but likewise a head that will try to change the essence will be crushed by the subjects. In the reading it is of course more complex, but I think that devotion gives persons some tranquility as in their trust of something bigger they get some tranquility from gloomy thoughts about uncertainty, end of life, or judgement. Thank you for the golden light and spirits in your photographs, Randall : )

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