How can we avoid over-controlling the things that are in our control?
Duration: 4 minutes 38 seconds
Transcribed by: Nikhil Fernandes
Question: How can we avoid over-controlling the things that are in our control?
When we have some control over the present, there is always the possibility that we may try overcontrol the situation. We can avoid this if our purpose is clear – that we want to serve Krishna. We should remember that service is meant to serve the purpose. If we are not attached to serving Krishna but to a particular form of serving Krishna, then this becomes a problem. The service should not become more important than the purpose.
When Srila Prabhupada was in Jhansi, he started the League of Devotees and achieved some success there. A politician along with some locals made a plea against him. Prabhupada was in a situation where he either had to hold out against them or leave that place which was slated to be the international headquarters for the League of Devotees. At that time Prabhupada could have fought this because he had legal claim over the building. While contemplating what to do, Prabhupada thought of what one of his godbrothers told him – that Jhansi was not a very metropolitan place and if he wanted to do something impactful it should be done in a more important place. Also, the people attending his programmes at that time, were coming more out of piety than any genuine interest in spirituality. Prabhupada felt that holding that property was not really serving his purpose. He thought that the effort required to hold on to that property was disproportionately greater than how much it could serve his purpose. Therefore, he decided to let it go.
If we keep the purpose in mind and periodically remind ourselves of it, then whichever form of service we engage in, we will not become too possessive about that. The danger is when we think that this service is the best and only way to serve Krishna. It may be the best in our understanding, but sometimes our definition of the best does not match Krishna’s definition of the best. If the service is not serving the purpose, then we must be ready to make adjustments. We all have to learn by experience.
Whenever we are faced with some adverse situation there are three broad alternatives: 1) we change ourselves 2) we change the situation 3) we walk away from the situation. Changing ourselves means understanding there is not much in our control and accepting things as they are. Changing the situation includes changing others. Walking away is different from running away. Running away is induced by fear and the feeling that you want to be anywhere but here. While the primary impetus in running away is fear, in walking away, the primary impetus is choice – that you have better things to do in life than fight this battle.
The Pandavas did all these three at different times. Initially when the Kauravas were against them, they tried to poison Bhima. They also tried to have them burnt alive. Yudhishtara asked his brothers to remain calm because accusing the Kauravas would aggravate the hostilities. Thus, the Pandavas changed themselves and tolerated the situation. However, after Draupadi was dishonoured, a line was crossed and the Pandavas fought the Mahabharata war. At that time, they changed the situation. Later, when Krishna departed from the world, they walked away.
A preacher went to deliver a lecture at some place. He does this once, twice, ten times or more, and sees that people are not interested. What should he do? Does he keep persisting over there or does he decide to hold the programme somewhere else? In principle, Bhakti Siddhanta Saraswati Thakur said if nobody is present, then preach to the walls. However, he did not just stay in Mayapur preaching to the walls, he travelled all over the country. He tried to send his disciples all over the world as well. The point is, whatever the situation we are in, we should be ready to serve. If a situation is stonewalling us in our service, we may go to another situation. Through introspection, consulting others, and seeing the situation from a distance, we have to decide whether holding on to a service is aiding the purpose of serving Krishna or not.
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