13.08: Resting on our laurels? No resting! Not our laurels!
In material consciousness, whenever we achieve any success, we tend to parade and brag about it. We often carry this tendency with us into our devotional life. This becomes evident when we achieve something worthwhile in devotional service – be it external in terms of completing a demanding service assignment or internal in terms of implementing a challenging resolution for self-mastery. At such times, we tend to exhibit our laurels and rest on them – and thereby expose ourselves to two unnecessary dangers.
Resting: The first danger in resting on laurels is that the rest offers our inner adversaries – our mind and senses – the time to recover, regroup and retaliate. When we achieve anything, we usually do so by disciplining and dovetailing our mind and senses. This inner success offers us a precious opportunity to press home our hard-earned advantage and push forward towards greater self-mastery. However, when we complacently rest on our laurels, we not only lose our upper hand, but we also give our inner adversaries a free hand for reprisals.
Our laurels: The second, greater danger in resting on our laurels is that the thought, “These are my laurels” may itself give our ego an opportunity to penetrate and pervert our consciousness. It may make us claim credit for successes that have actually been achieved primarily by the grace of Krishna and the guidance of his devotees and only secondarily by our endeavors. If we forget this reality, as do philosophically-uneducated materialists, then how has all our philosophical study done us any real good in freeing us from the grip of the ego?
To save us from these dangers, the Bhagavad-gita (13.8) reminds us that adambhitvam, the absence of the bragging tendency, is characteristic of those in knowledge.