How can we avoid frustration at our inability to follow the standards of devotional service?
Transcription by- Keshav Gopal Das & Ambuj Gupta
Question: How do we overcome the frustration caused by the gap between the standards that we aspire for and the way we actually live, especially when the obstacles that is causing that gap seems to be unremovable and we keep repeatedly falling from the standard?
Answer: First of all standards are meant for inspiration. They are not meant for condemnation either for others or our own.
One of the most important aspects of standards is they are goals for us towards which we want to move. The purpose of the goal is to inspire us to keep moving forwards. In mountaineering different trekkers have different strategies. One strategy is that some trekkers look at the mountain peak. Ok, that’s what I have to climb and conquer and that’s what inspires them to move forward. Some sprinters they may imagine themselves holding the olympic gold medal and that inspires them to work very hard. There are others, especially where it requires arduous work, like trekkers or cyclists climbing up a hill on cycle. Often the other alternative is to just look at the step ahead and take that one step. Don’t bother about how far the top is because sometimes looking at the top may inspire us because that is what we are going to achieve. But, sometimes looking at the top may discourage. So far I have to go! How will I reach? At that time just looking at the next step and taking one step ahead is always possible.
Now in our own spiritual life, at different times, we may have to use different strategies or different focus for our vision. If you are finding that the standard that are talked about are too difficult to follow then it’s better not to worry too much about the standards and focus only on the practical steps that we can take. For example, I want to wake up early in the morning. Throughout my life every day I have to wake up early in the morning. That is very difficult. But tonight can I sleep a little earlier. Everyday I sleep at 12 O’ clock but today I like to sleep at 10 O’ clock. Instead of waking up at 7 O’ clock can I wake up at 5 O’ clock? So like that just take one step at a time. Every time when we take one step forward that slightly boosts our confidence and that enable us to stay on the journey. Ultimately, most important principle in bhakti is anulasya sankalpa pratikulasya varjanam. So if thoughts that standards are making us discourage then that is unfavorable to bhakti and because this is unfavorable to bhakti we don’t have to think too much about it.
Now we may wonder that if I don’t come to the standards how am I going to make spiritual advancement? However, the fact is that by thinking about the standards we are getting discouraged and we are not making spiritual advancement. Therefore, it’s important that, we know that standards are there, but it’s not that our present steps forward are dependent on that standard or dependent on our ability to follow the standard. Just take one step forward at a time. As we keep taking one step forward then we find that, over a period of time, we have covered significant distance. The thing which seems very difficult to follow, they become easier to follow after some time.
Now there are certain situations where certain lapses in standard are extremely gross. Then one may have to think of drastic steps for correction also. But unless it’s very gross or wrong, there are minor lapses which are not going to cause harm to others. Just with our own personal standards we are following short then there is no need to make big hue and cry publically or even mentally about it. Ok, this is the way I am but I am moving forward from here. When the frustration comes we should understand that even the frustration can be a product of maya, meant to discourage in Krishna consciousness. I have written in “Gitadaily” one article that the mind may cause us to lose the battle but we alone can cause ourselves to lose the war. So losing the battle means we may have lapse from the standards but losing the war means that we give up practicing devotional service. So that we should never give up and overall the important thing is not that just by adhering to certain standards we make spiritual advancement. It is by actually trying to remember Krishna, to connect with Krishna, to call out to Krishna and to do whatever for Krishna in whatever capacity we have that is what is going to help us to make spiritual advancement.
Now for some people by their past life or this life culture following certain standards might be easier. Some people may have lived saatvik life and because of that they can follow standards little easily. Some others may have lived rajsik or tamsik life and because of which following standards will be more difficult. That does not necessarily mean that the person who can follow standards easily because of past satvaguna is necessarily more advanced. The person is better situated for advancement. But if that ease which one follow standards makes one complacent, make one feel that I don’t need Krishna then one may comfortably stay situated where ever one in Krishna consciousness and not make further steps in going closer to Krishna. On the other hand somebody have to struggle to follow standards, that person may feel the need of Krishna more and take shelter and move onwards. In another article I wrote about how our weaknesses can be our strengths and our strengths can be our weaknesses. If our weaknesses can make us feel the need for Krishna and make us want to take more shelter of Krishna then that is good for us.
So to summarize don’t bother too much of standards if thinking about it is discouraging us, just like a mountaineer who might feel discouraged by looking at the top of the mountain. Take one step at a time forward. Secondly anything that inspires us to take shelter of Krishna is favorable and should be accepted. Anything that makes us discouraged, that is unfavorable and that should be rejected. So even if one feels guilt, even one feel pinch on the conscience don’t think too much about what the standards we are not able to follow. Focus on whatever I can do to move forward in Krishna’s service and who knows actually this can work out to our advantage because it can make us feel of Krishna and connect Him with more and therefore make steadier and stronger advancement in our spiritual service. Thank you.