“Being very much delighted and satisfied, those monkeys enthusiastic to see you arrived at the northern shore of the ocean.” (Hanuman, Valmiki Ramayana, Sundara Kand, 35.68)
vindhyādutthāya samprāptāḥ sāgarasyāntamuttaram |
tvat darśana kṛta utsāhā hṛṣṭāḥ tuṣṭāḥ plavamgamāḥ ||
Utsaha, or enthusiasm, is necessary for success in bhakti-yoga. Let’s assume I have the task of cooking for a large gathering. I am not looking forward to it. I know all the work involved in the process. It’s not like I can just concentrate on one thing. If I had to only make a cake, that would be easier. If I was only making one dish, it wouldn’t be so bad.
No, the entire menu is on me. I have to make sure everything is just right. There is no other option but to cook everything simultaneously, to ensure freshness. In this task there is little enthusiasm, but the work might get done regardless. Bhakti-yoga is a little different, as it is a lifelong occupation. It involves changing the consciousness altogether, from the material to the spiritual. Without enthusiasm, devotional service will be easier to give up, which is a shame considering the value of the human birth. There are many examples of utsaha in devotion from which to draw inspiration.
In His original form, the Supreme Personality of Godhead is known as Krishna. He appears in this world from time to time, typically in other forms known as incarnations. When He descended as Himself five thousand years ago, He appeared from the womb of mother Devaki, who was locked up in a prison by her evil brother named Kamsa. Devaki’s husband Vasudeva was also with her, and they both witnessed their newborn display the four-handed form of Narayana, which was done to inform the parents that their child was God Himself.
Krishna then directed Vasudeva to take Him to the nearby town of Gokula, where Kamsa would not be able to attack Him. Vasudeva carried out the orders immediately. He snuck out of jail and crossed over the Yamuna river, all while a storm was going on. He carried baby Krishna in his arms. He was able to succeed in this devotional act because of enthusiasm. The root cause was love; the father naturally loved the son. From love there was enthusiasm to please and bring happiness.
Vasudeva dropped Krishna off in the custody of Nanda Maharaja, who was a friend. Nanda’s wife was Yashoda. She was pregnant and when she woke up she thought that Krishna was her own newborn child. From there she offered motherly affection in a way that can’t be believed. There were no other thoughts in her mind; just how to please Krishna.
Though she didn’t have an office job exactly, she was definitely a working mother. She worked tirelessly throughout the day to make sure her child was happy. She churned yogurt into butter since that was the favorite food of her child. She would sing songs of His pastimes while working. She would even punish Him if He behaved naughtily. Yashoda served in this way because she had enthusiasm, which was again due to love.
3. His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada
Shri Krishna’s name and fame are found throughout the three worlds at all times. This is the meaning to all-pervading, or Vishnu. Sometimes the knowledge of Him remains dormant, within the heart only. It takes the guiding hand of the preceptor to awaken the knowledge. In the modern age, the reawakening has occurred for so many due primarily to the efforts of a brave swami, who left the comforts of Vrindavana-dhama at the age of seventy to sail across the ocean and deliver bhakti-yoga to the world.
Shrila Prabhupada could only do this if he had enthusiasm. The order was given by his own guru, to teach bhakti-yoga to the English speaking world; to remove the barriers erected through differences in language and culture. Bhakti-yoga is the eternal occupation for every living thing, but without knowing about it how will someone take it up? Without knowing about Krishna, how can there be enthusiasm? Through the great Vaishnava’s efforts and those of his followers, so many people now know about Krishna and practice devotion to Him.
4. Lakshmana building a hut
One of Krishna’s most famous incarnations is Shri Rama, the prince of Ayodhya. The events from Rama’s life are many. They are interesting and expansive to the point that they are the main focus of a lengthy Sanskrit work called the Ramayana. In one place, we find tremendous enthusiasm described so nicely by Rama’s younger brother Lakshmana.
“Oh Rama, for as long as You shall stand before me, even if it be for one hundred years, I will always remain Your servant. Therefore You should be the one to choose a beautiful and appropriate place for the cottage. After You have selected a spot, please then command me to start building.” (Lakshmana speaking to Lord Rama, Valmiki Ramayana, Aranya Kand, 15.7)
Lakshmana was with Rama and Sita in the forest. Sita is Rama’s wife. The three were going to be there for quite some time, so at one point Rama asked Lakshmana to build them a hut. Rama wanted Lakshmana to choose a suitable place. Lakshmana replied that Rama should be the one to choose a place. Lakshmana also said that if Rama were to stand before him for one hundred years even, he would always remain at the ready to serve.
There is no better example of enthusiasm in bhakti-yoga than this. The service is unmotivated and uninterrupted. It is not that with one goal being achieved, the desire to serve will end. In the highest stages, the enthusiasm in devotional service is as eternal as the service itself.
5. The Vanaras learning of Sita’s whereabouts
In later events in the Ramayana, Rama teams up with a king named Sugriva, who is a Vanara living with other Vanaras in Kishkindha. A Vanara is a monkey-like creature. With the literal translation of the word being “forest dweller,” these creatures had hints of civilized life in them. Rama could talk to them, and in sharing His plight the Vanaras became sympathetic. Sita was missing. Rama and Lakshmana were looking for her.
The Vanaras carried out the task of searching for Sita with enthusiasm. This doesn’t mean that there weren’t difficult moments. At one time, one of the search parties grew despondent due to lack of success. They were ready to quit when they suddenly got news of where Sita was. Delighted, they got up and headed for the seashore. They did this enthusiastically, since they were excited to still have the chance to please Rama. The leading Vanara, Shri Hanuman, would eventually be the one to find her. His harrowing journey to Lanka was so important that it takes up an entire section of the Ramayana.
Vasudeva crossing Yamuna through the rain,
Prabhupada making ocean journey like the same.
Lakshmana for Rama standing at the ready,
To continue service even hundred years steady.
Vanaras with enthusiasm the world searching through,
Hanuman brave journey when Sita’s location knew.
Examples from these special souls take,
How towards success in bhakti to make.