Resting on our laurels? No resting! Not our laurels!
In material consciousness, whenever we achieve any success, we tend to parade and brag about it. We often carry this tendency with us into our devotional life. This becomes evident when we achieve something worthwhile in devotional service – be it external in terms of completing a demanding service assignment or internal in terms of implementing a challenging resolution for self-mastery. At such times, we tend to exhibit our laurels and rest on them– and thereby expose ourselves to two unnecessary dangers.
Resting: The first danger in resting on laurels is that the rest offers our inner adversaries – our mind and senses –time to recover, regroup and retaliate. When we achieve anything, we usually do so by disciplining and dovetailing our mind and senses. This inner success offers us a precious opportunity to press home our hard-earnedadvantage and push forward towards greater self-mastery. However, when we complacently rest on our laurels, we not only lose our upper hand, but we also give our inner adversaries a free hand for reprisals.
Our laurels: The second, greater danger in resting on our laurels is that the thought, “These are my laurels”may itself give our ego an opportunity to penetrate and pervert our consciousness. It may make us claim credit for successes that have actually been achieved primarily by the grace of Krishna and the guidance of his devotees and only secondarily by our endeavors. By claiming credit, we lose our enriching inner connection with Krishna and let our ego tighten its shackles on us.
To save us from these dangers, the Bhagavad-gita (13.8) reminds us that adambhitvam, the absence of the bragging tendency, is characteristic of those in knowledge.
“Humility; pridelessness; nonviolence; tolerance; simplicity; approaching a bona ﬁde spiritual master; cleanliness; steadiness; self-control; renunciation of the objects of sense gratiﬁcation; absence of false ego; the perception of the evil of birth, death, old age and disease; detachment; freedom from entanglement with children, wife, home and the rest; even-mindedness amid pleasant and unpleasant events; constant and unalloyed devotion to Me; aspiring to live in a solitary place; detachment from the general mass of people; accepting the importance of self-realization; and philosophical search for the Absolute Truth – all these I declare to be knowledge, and besides this whatever there may be is ignorance.”