Sunday, October 4, 2009

Persistence Is Key

Hanuman practicing yoga “One should engage oneself in the practice of yoga with undeviating determination and faith. One should abandon, without exception, all material desires born of false ego and thus control all the senses on all sides by the mind.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 6.24)

Persistence is a vital trait to have when one is striving for success. Persistence can be defined as the act of being steadfast and holding firm to a purpose or undertaking. No matter what venture we may undertake, we are bound to fail in our initial attempts. As infants, we had to learn to crawl before we learned to walk. Walking didn’t come easy either and we fell down many times while taking our first steps. We required training wheels when learning to ride our bicycles because we inevitably would fall off when first riding.

Being successful in any venture requires familiarity and intimate knowledge of the field of activity. Theoretical knowledge can be acquired by listening to others but practical knowledge only comes through experience. We have no experience when we first start something new, so we are destined to encounter a few bumps along the road. The key to being successful is remaining steadfast and determined with the aim of achieving our goal.

There are many examples in history of very famous and successful people who were failures in the beginning stages of their careers. Radio talk show host Rush Limbaugh now commands an average weekly audience of over twenty two million listeners across over six hundred radio stations in America. He is so successful that he singlehandedly revolutionized the radio industry and made talk radio one of the most lucrative career paths. Still, Rush started out as disc jockey and was fired an amazing seven times from various radio jobs. Many higher ups in the industry told him that he didn’t have what it took to be successful on radio and that he had poor communication skills. Yet Rush was very persistent and he eventually landed a successful local talk show which served as the launching pad for his career.

Shrila Prabhupada His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, the founder-acharaya of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness, is one of the most famous devotees of Lord Krishna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead. The swami, more affectionately known as Shrila Prabhupada, got the first inkling for preaching life when he met his spiritual master, Shrila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati, at the age of twenty-two. Bhaktisiddhanta requested Shrila Prabhupada to translate the great Vedic texts into English and to preach the message of Lord Chaitanya in the Western countries. Shrila Prabhupada was initially hesitant to follow this instruction, but being a great devotee, he was very persistent in his service to Bhaktisiddhanta and to Krishna, and he steadily acquired knowledge of the mission of Lord Chaitanya as the years went by. Finally in the latter stages of his life, Shrila Prabhupada decided to take up the mission very seriously and he formed his own religious society in India, called The League of Devotees. Prabhupada desperately tried to spread the message of devotion to Krishna in India, but he saw very little success. He repeatedly pleaded with the Indian government to take his movement seriously, but they never did. So he instead turned his eye towards America.

After travelling on a steamship with nothing but six dollars in his pocket, the swami arrived in America to begin his preaching work. Even there, he struggled very hard at the beginning stages. He asked for help from his Godbrothers in India, but they never came through for him. Even a very wealthy man in India was ready to spend millions of dollars for building a Radha-Krishna temple in America, but the Indian government wouldn’t sanction the exchange of money. Not discouraged, Prabhupada continued his preaching mission all by himself. Through his hard work, his movement eventually took off, ISKCON was born, and the rest is history. The name of Krishna is now known throughout the world and it is all because of his tireless efforts along with the help of his disciples.

In the Treta Yuga, many thousands of years ago, Lord Krishna personally came to earth in the form of Lord Rama, a handsome prince dedicated to dharma. As part of His pastimes, the Lord voluntarily accepted banishment to the forest by His father, Maharaja Dashratha, the king of Ayodhya. Lord Rama was married to His wife Sita at the time, and he instructed her not to follow Him to the forest, and he asked her to serve the other members of the family while He was away. According to Vedic philosophy, God is rarely worshiped alone, for He is always seen with His pleasure potency, manifested in the form of a woman. God is the energetic, and His pleasure potency is His energy, similar to the concept of the woman being the better half of a man. Lord Narayana, Krishna’s four-handed expansion, is in charge of the universe. Narayana’s pleasure potency is Goddess Lakshmi, and Sita Devi was the incarnation of the very same Lakshmi, appearing in human form. Being God’s energy, known as hladini-shakti, Sita was completely devoted to Rama in every respect. The thought of being separated from Him was just terrifying.

“I shall therefore obtain permission and go, O dearly beloved, to the forest with you; nothing can make it otherwise.” (Sita Devi speaking to Lord Rama, Valmiki Ramayana, Ayodhya Kand, Sec 27)

Sita Rama In response to Lord Rama’s initial request for her to remain in the kingdom, Sita gave a series of arguments referencing Vedic tenets, which were all in favor of her coming along. These arguments were flawless, but the Lord was very concerned with how such a delicate and beautiful princess could survive in the wilderness. Sita was born and raised in the royal court of Maharaja Janaka of Mithila. After getting married, she then lived the most exalted life as the wife of the eldest son of Maharaja Dashratha. Being a woman, she was not given the traditional training by a guru in her youth, and thus Rama assumed that forest life would be very difficult for her. Life in the wilderness is meant for wild animals, beasts, and people who have completely renounced the pleasures of material sense gratification.

Lord Rama felt justified in his hesitance to bring His wife along, so He rejected these first set of arguments, and reiterated to Sita the dangers of forest life. Yet she wasn’t deterred in any way by Rama. In fact, she redoubled her efforts and put forth even more arguments in her favor. Sita was completely devoted to Rama, thus she wasn’t going to take “no” for an answer.

The lesson we can learn from this is that success in spiritual life takes great perseverance. In the initial stages, there are many rules and regulations that we must strictly follow. Shrila Prabhupada taught all his disciples to abstain from the four pillars of sinful life, namely: meat eating, intoxication, gambling, and illicit sex. In conjunction with this, disciples were required to perform at least sixteen rounds of chanting the Maha-Mantra, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare”, on a japa mala. One round of japa consists of one hundred and eight recitations of a mantra, so multiplying one hundred eight by sixteen gives the minimum number of mantra recitations prescribed for a daily routine. For anyone accustomed to the materialistic life of the modern age, such regulations seem almost impossible to adhere to. Yet thousands of people have learned to follow them, many of whom were not even raised in Indian families.

Krishna and ArjunaPerseverance and patience yield results, thus making them a vital requirement for one seeking spiritual advancement. We are likely to fall down in our initial attempts, but we should at no point give up. Unlike other endeavors where we lose everything if we aren’t able to see things to the end, there is no loss in devotional service. If we aren’t perfect devotees by the end of our current lives, we get to start from where we left off in our next life. Lord Krishna gave this very instruction to Arjuna in the Bhagavad-gita.

“The unsuccessful yogi, after many, many years of enjoyment on the planets of the pious living entities, is born into a family of righteous people, or into a family of rich aristocracy. Or he takes his birth in a family of transcendentalists who are surely great in wisdom. Verily, such a birth is rare in this world. On taking such a birth, he again revives the divine consciousness of his previous life, and he tries to make further progress in order to achieve complete success, O son of Kuru.” (Bg. 6.41-43)

Sita Devi was so in love with Rama that it pained her greatly that He would even think of living without her. When we love someone with all our heart, we always hope and pray that they love us just the same. Sita was so hurt by Rama’s suggestion that she remain in the kingdom, but nevertheless, her love for Him didn’t diminish in any way. She confidently stuck to the path of devotional service, and she boldly declared that the Lord could do nothing to stop her from going. She purchased Rama with her love and He was compelled to bring her along to the forest. We should all follow Sita’s example and boldly declare our love for Krishna and constantly remind Him that we will never leave His side and never stop thinking about Him, no matter what condition we may be in.