Monday Morning Greetings 2020 #51 – The Krishna Challenge

December 21st, 2020

A friend shared with me an excerpt from a book he was reading on his favorite subject, the realizations of the Greek Stoics. I am always impressed with what he sends me:


“Listen, as the saying goes, it’s crisis time: make a last desperate effort to gain freedom and tranquility — to be a Stoic. Lift up your head, like a person finally released from slavery. Dare to face God and say, ‘from now on, use me as you like. I am of one mind with you, I am your peer.’ Whatever you decide, I will not shrink from it. You may put me where you like, in any role regardless: officer or citizen, rich man or pauper, here or overseas. They are all just so many opportunities to justify your ways to man, by showing just how little circumstances amount to.” (From Epictetus’s Discourses and Selected Writings, translated by Robert Dobbin, pg. 116)


Reading this, I felt challenged; Could I throw my hands in the air and “dare to face God” and say, as the best of the Stoics do, “From now on use me as you like”? I will soon again visit and stay with my mother. It is not at all easy for me to live there for many reasons, but knowing how overwhelmed my family is with their own responsibilities and struggles, it is not out of the question that more and more responsibility could eventually fall on me. If that is the case — that it is God’s will — I will have to bow my head to Krishna with full conviction and declare, “Whatever you decide, I will not shrink from it.” It won’t be easy.


I think my situation may be a good example of why, unlike the path of jñāna, the simple process of bhakti, which has no rigid prerequisites, can be so darn challenging. In devotion, all we have to do is sincerely serve the will of God, leaving the results up to Him. Anybody in any condition or station in life, therefore, can advance on the path of devotion. The only difficulty is if we are asked to do something that does not conform to our desires, in which case a simple task will seem difficult and will likely be resisted. In other words, the path of bhakti is only challenging because we don’t always like to serve a higher purpose, especially when, in the process, we have to relinquish control.


This “stoic” acquiescence to a higher truth is also called surrender. It is the foundation of devotion, for without surrendering selfishness — and that’s what surrender means — one can never enter the door of bhakti, or, for that matter, any sincere loving relationship.


As we go deeper in any spiritual endeavor, we will inevitably hit a barrier, and an inner voice will challenge us: “If you want the highest love you have to fully surrender.” The Stoics had it right. Are we ready to meet The Krishna Challenge and boldly declare in full devotion, “From now on use me as you like”?



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