Don’t expect anything from your practice of bhakti yoga. This also applies to any other form of yoga. If you practise asanas, pranayama, meditational practices and so forth, try not to expect anything. It is a strange thing that the more one expects, the less one will receive. This is because expectation implies ego and the greater the ego, the less one will make progress in yoga. This is very important. So in bhakti, don’t expect anything in return for your feeling of bhakti. Merely project your devotion without expectation. This is not easy, but try. This point is clearly explained in many scriptures. Tlie following are a few examples: “My devotee desires nothing, not even transcendence if offered to him by Me, for desirelessness is the most direct route to liberation.” These are the words of Krishna in the Uddhava Gita of the Srimad Bhagavatam.
In the same text, it is also said: “I am ever present with him who is devoid of all expectation, who is given to contemplation on Me, who is serene, free from hatred and sees Me everywhere.” In the Uddhava Gita, expectation is also related to the three basic modes of nature: sattwa, rajas and tamas. It says: “Worship of Me without expectation of reward is sattwic (purified aspect of nature); that done with expectation is rajasic (active and passionate aspect of nature); whereas that done with the intention of harming others is tamasic (inert or dark aspect of nature).” Lack of expectation is important, but it is not easy. If you have expectations, don’t worry. These will automatically disappear as you progress along the path of bhakti yoga.
This non-expectation also applies in everyday life. If you help someone, don’t expect thanks. You don’t deserve it. You should actually thank them, for they have given you an opportunity to help them. They have given you a chance to serve them, so thank them and don’t expect praise.
This world is a playground, a school where you can learn about yourself, where you can recognize and eradicate your imperfections and problems. Every person and everything is your teacher. Without interactions with other people and situations you would never be able to know your own hang-ups and limitations. Every second of the day you are understanding more about yourself. Sometimes this is obvious, usually it is less obvious and operating more subconsciously than consciously, so actually you should thank every person you meet for teaching you something. You should view every situation as a lesson. Though you may be helping another person physically, they are also helping you to understand yourself. If you help a person in distress, they are giving to you as well as you giving to them.
Non-expectation is a fundamental aspect of bhakti yoga. This was tersely stated by Chaitanya, the great Bengali bhakta. He said:
I pray not for wealth; I pray not for honours;
I pray not for pleasure, or even the joys of poetry.
I only pray that during my whole life
I may have love and devotion . . .
That I may have pure love to love Thee.”
This is bhakti without expectation. This is the epitome of bhakti. We do not expect you to live up to this elevated level of non-expectation, no ego bhakti, but bear it in mind as the aim. Let your aspiration be directed towards this perfect selflessness.