02.59: Is our self-mastery determination’s feat or devotion’s fruit?
Attaining self-mastery – bending our impulses to our principles – is vital for us to make tangible spiritual progress. On the devotional path, the means that we choose to strive for self-mastery are especially important.
There are two broad ways to self-mastery:
- As determination’s feat: We see self-mastery as a peak for our willpower to scale. As our focus is only on our own will, the only higher pleasure that we can get in our bid for self-mastery is the pleasure of the ego, the self-centered exultation of having conquered our desires. Self-mastery, if achieved, often increases our ego, and makes us look down contemptuously or at least condescendingly at all those who cannot perform feats of determination like us. The self-centeredness, the infatuation of the ego and the condescension towards others – all these make our heart inhospitable for Krishna, and so deprive us of any substantial devotional progress.
- As devotion’s fruit: When we long to offer our heart to Krishna, we see our worldly impulses as obstacles to that devotional offering of our heart. To express our heart’s longing for Krishna, we busy ourselves in his service and absorb ourselves in his remembrance. Due to the resulting focus on Krishna, the Bhagavad-gita (2.59) indicates, we automatically move away from, or rather, move beyond worldly passions. For this forward movement, we obviously need and use determination, but we don’t let determination dethrone devotion as our goal or our focus. Thus, self-mastery grows naturally and necessarily as an incidental fruit of our devotion to Krishna.
Self-mastery, when rightly achieved, becomes the launching pad to catapult us into an eternal life of love and service to Krishna.