18.36: Are we waiting for a holy cloud to form around our heads?
“Surely, but not now.” This is often our default response when saintly people urge us to make our relationship with Krishna a priority. We rationalize: “At present I don’t always feel happy while serving Krishna; people around me don’t appreciate what I am doing. Let me wait till things improve – internally and externally.”
We can call this expectation “waiting for a holy cloud to form around our heads.” All of us have probably seen pictures of smiling seers with a halo discoursing to respectful masses; their radiant smile reflects their inner treasure and their respectful audience reflects their outer influence.
Might we be procrastinating because we are expecting grace to bestow a similar inner treasure and outer influence in our spiritual life? If yes, then we are overlooking the fact that spiritual advancement is a matter of not just divine grace, but also human choice. The Bhagavad-gita (18.36) outlines the process of spiritual advancement succinctly: abhyasad ramate yatra duhkantam ca nigachhati by practice, we develop a taste for spiritual happiness and thereby attain the end of sorrow. Let’s analyze this verse into three stages:
Stage 1 – Grace: Krishna gives us the opportunity to practice devotional service.
Stage 2 – Choice: We accept the opportunity gratefully and practice devotional service wholeheartedly.
Stage 3 – Grace: Krishna grants us a constant inner happiness and a conducive external environment to share that happiness with others.
If we expect stage 3 to precede stage 2, aren’t we shirking our responsibility in our relationship with Krishna? Is that love?