03.21 – Why not model the desired example instead of desiring the model example?
Whenever we tread any challenging path, we gain inspiration from model examples. What they have achieved and how they have achieved it motivates us when our challenges seem overwhelming.
The same principle holds true as we ascend the bhakti ladder that takes us from materialism to pure devotion.
On the devotional path, the scriptures and the bhakti tradition offers us many model examples of pure-hearted exalted saints as well as of dedicated living practitioners. Still, we may sometimes find no model examples in our community. Or because of our own natures, conditionings and expectations, those examples may somehow not inspire us.
The Bhagavad-gita (03.21) recognizes the importance of model examples when it acknowledges that people generally emulate a leader. But this Gita verse also implicitly instructs Arjuna –and through him to all of us – to become a model example.
We may feel that we are too conditioned, too unqualified, too flawed to be exemplary ourselves. Even if that is true, we can still be exemplary at our level of practice. After all, examples of good ladder-climbers are needed not just at its top rungs, but also at its intermediate rungs – and even at its bottom. Those who are exemplary are so because they are gaining strength from their inner Krishna-connection – and that connection is available to us too. Of course, our Krishna-connection when we are at the ladder’s lower rungs may not be as strong as that of those in its upper rungs. Still by sincere prayer and practice, we can make it strong enough to enable us to be exemplary at our rung.
By thus striving to be exemplary, we can not only make our spiritual climb steadier, happier and swifter, but can also inspire others in making their spiritual climb similarly enlivening.