03.41 – Are we pinching a sleeping tiger?
“I thought I had become free from that attachment. Why has it come back?” Questions like these often describe our inner trajectory as devotee-seekers. When we start practicing Krishna consciousness diligently, we are often pleasantly surprised to see how it frees us from attachments. But, as we keep practicing bhakti-yoga, we find the old attachments returning.
What went wrong?
Frequently, we mistake hibernation to be termination. Our past attachments are like tigers; just as tigers devour our body, attachments devour our consciousness. Deep-rooted attachments like those involving lust and greed take many years of consistent purification to be exterminated; they are tigers that don’t die quickly. Nonetheless, diligent practice of sadhana-bhakti sedates them quite rapidly.
They remain dormant as long as we don’t pinch them awake. Unfortunately, pinching sleeping tigers is what we metaphorically do when we carelessly or complacently expose ourselves to provocative stimuli associated with our past attachments. Sometimes the initial pinches may not wake the tiger, thereby making us over-confident, even proud, of our sense control or purity. But the next pinch may be one pinch too much.
That’s why we need to carefully and humbly avoid exposing ourselves to provocative stimuli, as the Bhagavad-gita (3.41) enjoins. As devotee-seekers, we certainly have to subdue the provocations that come unavoidably in the normal course of life. But to become pure devotees, we don’t have to expose ourselves to provocations, and thereby demonstrate our sense control or purity. We just need to keep increasing our inner remembrance and outer service to Krishna till everything unconnected with him progressively becomes unappealing, irrelevant, insignificant and non-existent.
If we can just focus on serving Krishna lifelong, the tiger will pass uneventfully from hibernation to termination, and we will progress undistractedly from the material world back to the spiritual world.