Monday Morning Greetings 2020 #19 – The Secret to Advancing in Devotion

May 11th, 2020

A simple sādhu was asked by his friend for his secret in spiritual life. I loved his reply: “I do the same thing every day.” What he said struck me. It was simple and humble, but also brilliant and even witty.

 

A strictly regulated spiritual life certainly doesn’t conjure up the image of excitement. It is the key, however, to a truly dynamic one. Here’s why.

 

The strength of spiritual life are our practices, especially meditation, and the foundation of that practice is concentration. When our concentration is prolonged and uninterrupted, the mind gradually evolves to sattva, or goodness, which simultaneously raises one to a higher level of perception and contentment. It is hard to imagine achieving anywhere near this level of enlivenment without this “same thing every day” type of regulation, which fosters resolve and focus.

 

The mind is usually filled with a myriad of desires and responsibilities, ready at any minute to challenge the object of our meditation for attention. And that challenge becomes infinitely more difficult in today’s world if you add the multiple impressions of media, especially social media, that flood and agitate the mind. Without reserving an exclusive time and space for our spiritual practice every day, where as far as possible there are no other competing responsibilities or attractions, it’s hard to imagine resisting the two main obstacles to our focus, vikṣepa (distraction born of passion) and laya (lethargy and sleep born of ignorance). And without such regulation our practice will surely remain a chore and difficult to maintain. This is certainly true on the path of bhakti.

 

The foundation of bhakti is our relationship with God. Like all relationships, our attention to the object of our adoration is the basis of nourishing that relationship. But again, without the focus that regulated life affords us, we will likely be challenged on the path of bhakti by distraction or sleep, especially during our most important sādhana, the offering of our consciousness to Krishna in the form of His holy name.

 

There is no doubt that our goal is spontaneous devotion, but we should never equate our lack of regulation with such spontaneity. Those who truly have spontaneous devotion make every effort to discipline themselves without distraction. The devotion of Raghunātha dāsa Gosvāmī, the exemplar for spontaneous devotion, was so unwavering and regulated that it was described to be like the lines on a stone.

 

Those who have studied the life of Śrīla Prabhupāda marveled at how regulated his life was, even during his travels around the globe fourteen times. When I first stayed in Vṛndāvana, I had the fortune of being able to gaze out my window in the very early morning to view His Divine Grace sitting on his āsana in front of his desk on his upstairs porch translating the Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam. No matter where he was, Śrīla Prabhupāda never failed to do that early morning service. That type of resolve and regulation is the story of every accomplished spiritual adept in the history our lineage, even the modern-day saints of devotion.

 

It is great to hear about the exemplars of devotion. But what about us? Shouldn’t we feel discouraged in the attainment of such regulated and sattvic meditation and practice? Bhakti is a science. Therefore, we should feel assured that as soon as we set a time and place daily for a practice, our enthusiasm and taste will gradually grow.

 

I am here in New Jersey on lockdown. It facilitates regulated life. I have strictly scheduled my day mostly around chanting and hearing about Krishna. I joke that I love “my boring life”, but I can’t imagine anything more enlivening than doing the “same thing every day”.

 

“I offer my respectful obeisances unto the six Gosvāmīs, namely Śrī Rūpa Gosvāmī, Śrī Sanātana Gosvāmī, Śrī Raghunātha Bhaṭṭa Gosvāmī, Śrī Raghunātha dāsa Gosvāmī, Śrī Jiva Gosvāmī, and Śrī Gopāla Bhaṭṭa Gosvāmī, who were engaged in chanting the holy names of the Lord and bowing down in a scheduled measurement. In this way they utilized their valuable lives, and in executing these devotional activities they conquered overeating and sleeping and were always meek and humble, enchanted by remembering the transcendental qualities of the Lord.” (Śrī Śrī Ṣaḍ-gosvāmy-aṣṭaka, v. 6)

 

 

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