Saturday, January 19, 2013

now vs. later

Verse 1.31: I do not see how any good can come from killing my own kinsmen in this battle, nor can I, my dear Kṛṣṇa, desire any subsequent victory, kingdom, or happiness

Here we see Arjuna ponder the question that we face on a daily basis. What's more important - immediate or delayed gratification ? Although everyone likes to say that it's the delayed or long-term rewards that are normally more important, it's very much easier said than done.

The main reason for that is because attaining delayed results requires sacrifice. It requires that we work, without necessarily seeing any results right away, and it also means we need to have faith that what we're doing is worthwhile. If there's no faith, then we'll lose the determination to continue on when we hit one of those "Why am I doing this again?" moments.

This point is so relevant to any aspiring bhakti practitioner because sometimes you feel like nothing is happening. It's very, very common. Long-time practitioners often say that when they first began practicing bhakti yoga it was like ambrosia. They felt the presence of Krsna, everything seemed to come so easy and they felt so happy. But then...the shoe dropped. All of a sudden everything became so difficult. They started seeing so many negative aspects of themselves, they found it difficult to follow various spiritual principles and were shocked.

What happened? The answer these practitioners gave was simple. See, Krsna is the ultimate salesperson. Know when you go to a store and they give you a free sample and you really like it? Well what happens if you want more? Sure maybe the really nice samplers might sneak you an extra one but if you really want more you have to pay. That's right! Where do you think that concept came from? Krsna of course!

So similarly Krsna will give you some free samples. He'll show you, "See how wonderful the practice of bhakti can be?" But then....he'll make you pay because nothing worthwhile is free. Krsna, however, doesn't want your money. He wants something much more valuable - your love. And how does that love practically manifest? Through time, patience, determination, service and all the other intangibles that we often take for granted. Of course, that doesn't last forever, but it's important to realize that when those moments do arise, it's so that we can grow and develop in our bhakti journey.

That being said, the practice of bhakti is also full of lots of immediate experiences and results. Ask anyone who has sat in a kirtan (the singing of mantras accompanied with music), it's instant bliss. Or another example is eating food that has been cooked and offered to Krsna with a beautiful consciousness. These are the things that always keep one going.

So next time it seems like the going is not only going to get rough but also tough, remember - great things come to those who wait (and persevere)!


  1. I could identify with the "instant bliss" you describe as being experienced during kirtan. I've only able to experience kirtan a handful of times but each time I remember feeling such a peace flowing upwards from within, a joy even.

    This post carries with it an important message. One I think that is hard to remember sometimes. Long term v. short term. For sure, we should invest in the long term but we live in societies that focus on the short term constantly and I find that can have a way of infecting our own perceptions.

    For sure, any spiritual path comes with it its peaks and valleys and plateaus. I think there's definitely a purpose and a lesson for a soul experiencing what is often described as "the dark night of the soul", where they feel so far from God, where everything seems so dry. Where there are no immediate rewards for their actions. Persistence is no doubt one of the lessons to be learned and devotion, a trait to be tested, during those times. As you mentioned, faith is essential and it is the current which carries one through the drought sometimes experienced. One's spiritual journey should never grow stagnant.

    I think one lesson that I am learning is it is not about the pleasant feelings that chanting sometimes elicits. It's about serving Krishna. One thing that I'm really starting to learn from the Gita is to act without expectation of the fruits, to give the fruits of one's actions to Krishna. I think the Gita refers to that as renunciation. Maybe if we expect nothing, but only to serve with devotion, and learn to find joy just in that and not in what comes from our efforts, then we fill find a more sustaining sense of peace than what the world offers.

  2. You've hit the nail right on the head and articulated it so beautifully Jessica. It is important to remember that any spiritual path has its ups and downs (as you mentioned) and that there is a purpose. It's those times that actually allow us to grow though and deepen our faith and trust.

    Also you bring up such a wonderful point about how it's not about experiencing pleasant feelings when chanting. The true bhakti yogi will sincerely say "If my difficulty/challenge brings you pleasure Krsna, then it is also my pleasure." So although we may got try plenty of dry spells when chanting, it is just serving to remove all the dust from the heart. Also, Krsna is so wonderful that he will reciprocate and not just leave us hanging!

    You're also absolutely right that if we expect nothing and serve with devotion we will not only learn to find joy, it will come automatically. It naturally comes with selfless service. And what to speak of peace, we'll find true happiness!

    Such wonderful and invaluable realizations Jessica! Thank you so much for sharing. :)