Let sleeping tigers sleep – don’t pinch them
“I thought I had become free from that attachment. Why has it come back?” Questions like these often describe our inner trajectory as devotee-seekers. When we start practicing devotional service diligently, we are often pleasantly surprised to see how it frees us from attachments. But, over time, we find the old attachments returning.
What went wrong? We mistook hibernation to be termination.
Our past attachments are like tigers; just as tigers devour our body, attachments devour our consciousness. Deep-rooted attachments like those involving lust and greed get uprooted only after many years of consistent purification; they are tigers that don’t die quickly. Nonetheless, diligent practice of sadhana-bhakti sedates them quite rapidly.
Those tigers remain dormant as long as we don’t pinch them awake. Unfortunately, pinching sleeping tigers is what we metaphorically do when we carelessly or complacently expose ourselves to provocative stimuli. Sometimes the initial pinches may not wake the tiger, thereby making us over-confident about our self-mastery. But the next pinch may be one pinch too much.
So, the cause of our agitation is not the return of our old attachments, but their re-awakening. To curb the agitation, we need to carefully minimize our exposure to provocative stimuli, as the Bhagavad-gita (03.41) enjoins. Whatever provocations the normal course of life unavoidably brings our way, we have to determinedly subdue. But beyond that we don’t have to deliberately expose ourselves to provocations for evaluating our purity. We just need to keep increasing our inner remembrance of Krishna and outer service to him till everything unconnected with him becomes increasingly unappealing.
If we can just focus on serving Krishna lifelong, the tiger will pass uneventfully from hibernation to termination, and we will progress undistractedly from the material world back to the spiritual world.
“Therefore, O Arjuna, best of the Bharatas, in the very beginning curb this great symbol of sin [lust] by regulating the senses, and slay this destroyer of knowledge and self-realization.”