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when priestly powers from above, and I mean those men who sit in rooms and pontificate, creating rules based on outdated policies with one goal: to control.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. Stunning images.

    They seem to have that unique quality that Steve McCurry is able to capture. Emotion and perfect lighting.

    • Thanks Vicki, lighting was a challenge for most of the shots, but that was also the fun. To be compared to Steve…those are great words as I love his style.

  2. Oh Randy, you always manage to leave me speechless 🙂

    Whether it’s in the open eyes, or the closed ones, all you need do is look, and the story is as clear as day. The depth of emotions written on the face is something no one needs explain, it’ s simply awesome to behold.

    Yes, you have aptly chosen a subject that not only touches and transcends culture or color, these times we live in calls for it. Removing all the dogma and rhetoric’s as you say Randy, truly leaves devotion free for any soul seeking freedom to partake in. It’s the most beautiful gift man can allow himself and it’s also one that when given,exhilarates not just the devotee, but any observer about.

    You have been away for sometime old friend, really really welcome back package here 🙂

    • Dotta, so great to hear from you and especially your thoughts written so beautifully below ~ so true, whether eyes open or closed, there is so much to see, hear and feel. Enjoy the coming weekend. Take care.

  3. The photos and the text are beautiful. I really like how the pictures portray many different facets of devotion.

    • Thank you Sheryl, I was surprised to think about all that I am devote to (family, love, work, hobbies…), nothing quite like that feeling ~ each unique as well.

  4. Very wise. Devotion and forgiveness are easily offered inside a loving situation. Thank you for the reminder, Randall.

    I really like the photo of the child reading. I also love the foggy boat photo. Breathtaking and peaceful. Thank you for posting. You don’t share enough with us…

  5. You and your writing and photography skills are awesome Randall! So touching! ❤

  6. Missed you! 🙂 But knew you were up to something great! Loooved your post, your images always speak on their own but you accompany them so well. I sometimes feel torn between devotion, to my clients, spirit work and mostly my family, and freedom to simply enjoy life by myself hehe Yet, I’m reminded again and again that it is in only in true devotion that we learn to love and are loved more, tompersist and live life so worth living, and achieve greater greatness. And leave this world free 🙂 xox

    • Great to be back and to hear from you! Interesting, and I do think that devotion can make people feel so thin from being spread-out over so much ~ but then as you say taking time to enjoy life, you realize how lucky we are. Cheers!

  7. Such a moving, beautiful post and such lovely pics. Especially love this line and the concept behind it:

    There is a simple, beautiful thread that is the backbone of devotion and it is the mysterious concept of love.

  8. Another stunning post from you, visually and in written form. I love how you say that all faith “share the same threads of belief” and love underlies the concept and practice of devotion. It does take a great deal of commitment and courage to practice and stick with a certain faith, and I do believe it also takes a great deal of self-belief too. There will always be others who don’t agree with what we believe in and it is times like these when we have to remind ourselves why do what we do.

    LIke you, I agree that the notions of devotion and freedom can marry each other. If we are committed to what we practice, we will always have a set of values to fall back upon. If we keep questioning, questioning our faith and what we believe in, we will always be on a path of continuous learning and won’t be blindsided by certain perspectives. Great post 🙂

    • Thanks Mabel, I think you are right in that self-belief is essential to devotion, and that devotion can build great belief in oneself. It makes learning and acceptance second nature, so we have no choice but to enjoy life. Cheers!

  9. Ah, what beautiful, lucid writing to accompany your exquisite photographs of intimate devotional moments. Well done!

  10. Reblogged this on closetoeighty and commented:
    “Ceasing to ask questions and instead listen to rules created by others taints the purity of devotion.” This is only one sentence from the wonderful new post of my friend Randall Collis. I love his photos and I love to read each sentence slowly. Every sentence expresses a concrete philosophical idea (very often in a poetic form). Thank you, Dalo!

  11. John 13:35 By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.

    One day, a man was walking across a bridge and saw another man standing on the edge, about to jump off. He immediately ran to him and said, “Stop! Don’t do it!” “Well, why shouldn’t I?” he replied. The other said, “Well, there’s so much to live for!” “Like what”? “Well … are you religious or atheist?” “Religious.” “Me too! And are you Christian or Jewish?” “Christian.” “Me too! Are you Catholic or Protestant?” “Protestant.” “Me too! Are you Episcopalian or Baptist?” “Baptist.” “Wow! Me too! Are you Baptist Church of God or Baptist Church of the Lord?” “Baptist Church of God.” “Me too! Are you Original Baptist Church of God, or are you Reformed Baptist Church of God?” “Reformed Baptist Church of God.” “Me too! Are you Reformed Baptist Church of God, reformation of 1879, or Reformed Baptist Church of God, reformation of 1915?” “Reformed Baptist Church of God, reformation of 1915!” To which he said, “Die, you heretic!” and pushed him off the bridge.

    When we get together with others, we might oftenly find ourselves discussing and even arguing our views on various topics, political, spiritual, etc. You’ve heard the phrase two Jews, five opinions? A wonderful post, so many opinions, ideas, views… But no matter what, the beauty of your pictures and thoughts is UNIVERSAL.

    Let’s not be like the man who pushed the other off the bridge, you say. Let’s laugh about it and try to learn from one another. Devoted to life and its beauty. The seed for growth, indeed.

    • Love the story Luana, and yes there is nothing more important than tolerance, as it is the vehicle needed to learn and understand this crazy world we live in. Thank you, and nice thought too, “be devoted to the seed of growth…”

  12. I’m currently in Andalucia, which must be the part of Spain with most devotion to their Catholic religion. They take their Easter processions very seriously. When they take out the Christ or the Virgin Mary from the church to march them through the streets, some people become so emotional that they cry. If it rains and they can’t take out the Christ or the Virgin Mary then even more people cry too, truly.
    However, I remember last year I went to an Easter mass in the church. What amazed me is that the church was practically empty! I cannot understand how there could be so much devotion every evening and night with the religious processions, yet then they didn’t go to church. Sorry to make this weird observation here on devotion, in your post which is wonderful, with such thoughtful words. I especially love the last photo and the 10th one.

    • Yes, Andalucia would be incredible this time of year…every Easter I think about my time in San Miguel de Allende in Mexico, and how lively/loving the people were during the holiday: truly devoted. I imagine Andalucia is similar. Thank you Sofia and cheers to a great Easter at home with your family.

  13. what beautiful pictures dear Randall excellent 🙂

  14. An incredible post Randall full of the most exquisite photography and profound words. A post that will stay with me for some time to come. Superb!

  15. “Once rules, regulations and intolerance are allowed into this mystic sanctuary, devotion becomes less than what its true destiny requires.”

    How true. It’s interesting to compare the religious scene in England and the U.S. In England the Church of England is the official state religion and as would be expected with any monopoly the services are generally staid and boring. In the U.S. multitudes of denominations compete for congregationalists and services are generally dynamic and emotionally satisfying.

  16. Really beautiful, Randall. The spirit, the reflections, of course the photos. I don’t agree that the major faith systems of the world have the thread in common. You have to stake your ground – unapologetically. Pick a lane. Christianity bears its distinction. But I love the music, rhythm, spirit OFs you name and the fury of devotion you meditate on. Thanks.


    • Thank you very much Diana, appreciate the comment and your kind words. Wish you a great Easter weekend.

      • Meant to add that I loved the beauty of reverence you captured and brought to light. Something the postmodern world is missing, as you say in your own way, the absence of which the postmodern heart does feel.

  17. these are stunning photos and very touching words, Randall…you never stop to amaze me how you capture light so skillfully in your photography… this is art!! are these shots from your recent trip to Myanmar?

    • Thanks Alexandra, the lighting was fun/challenging to work with, quite a few failures but that was expected 🙂 Yes, these shots were from my trip to Myanmar ~

  18. AMEN! Seriously, you cover devotion to the point. I, myself, find it hard to understand it. It’s consentious, and yeah, it’s awful that I’m with “society” as much as “spiritual”, but I really just can’tbut I really can’t find myself being one. I do believe that faith and belief, religous or not, is a powerful thing a person can hold on to even when things are dire and hopeless. Stunning, moving images. BEAUTIFUL POST.

    • Like me, I waver between wrapped up in ‘society’ and the now and then getting lost in nature and ‘spiritual’ aspect of life. It is always the latter that keeps me positive. Keeps everyone positive. Cheers, and thanks for the great comment.

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  20. Well Randall, you certainly touched a chord with this one! I’m glad I’m a bit late to the party as I truly enjoyed the comments. The post is wonderful, but you know that! All of the photos are superb, as always, but the little monk with the umbrella is a once-in-a lifetime. So many skills came together to make that one shot – obviously your devotion to your craft is among the things you value! I loved the message, but perhaps more iimportantly, I love that you had the courage to put it out there, knowing there would be those who would feel very strongly that your message is heresy. Thank you for sharing your gift with those of us who aspire to reach a next level, in whatever is important to us.

    • Thanks Tina, it is so wonderful to see your comments… this was fun post to write and put together, although was a bit apprehensive for reasons you mentioned.

      You picked up my definition of devotion very clearly: something/someone that excites us and moves us to reach our dreams. To move us up to a higher level. Is that not one of the most important thing in this world? And to see great people around the world reaching for the same is pretty uplifting ~ I think you’ve seen the same in your travels. Cheers 🙂

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  22. Such a thought provoking post. The photos are breath taking. I love the one of the smoke wafting into the corridor.

    • Thank you Sue, that photo is one of my favorites as well…like I walked into another world.

  23. What a gorgeous post and absolutely fabulous photographs. Devotion is a lovely subject to explore with you . Thank you for sharing.

    • Thanks Charlotte, devotion can bring out the best ~ and seeing your devotion with music is a great example.

  24. Oh my! What a feast for the eyes your photographs are. The play of light and shadow take my mind on journeys I hadn’t anticipated, and I want to step into a photograph and experience the beauty for myself. Truly lovely work – and accompanied by sensitive commentary.

    Seeing the faces raised or lowered in prayer, the look on the faces… it reminds me that I sometimes allow the link between me and something greater to grow thin with inattention. I need to remedy that – your post and photos task me!

    Wonderful work.

    • Thank you Kate, the lighting/shadows proved a bit difficult ~ but also perfect in setting the mood…makes it easier to fall into the photo.

      These days it is easy with so many distractions in life to lose focus on the “simple” act of devotion that can change perspectives and keep us grounded. Cheers!

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