Don’t give guidance alone – give confidence too

When we practice spiritual life for some time, younger practitioners may come to us for guidance in tackling problems such as the uncontrolled mind.

The mind is an ever-present problem that stymies seekers throughout history, as can be inferred from Arjuna’s raising this very problem in the Bhagavad-gita (06.33-34). Krishna’s response is instructive: he first agrees unreservedly that controlling the mind is a formidable challenge (06.35), then gently assures that the formidable is nonetheless possible by the right process (06.36). Such an initial acknowledgment by the mentor of the gravity of the mentee’s problem helps open the latter’s head and heart for subsequently receiving the solution.

Though getting timely reminders of basics can sometimes help practitioners, it can often irritate them when they are  stumbling in their struggles to apply those very basics.

The solution centers not so much on removing ignorance as on removing diffidence. The problem is not that practitioners don’t know what is to be done – the basic principles and practices are normally reiterated right from the beginning of spiritual life. Though getting timely reminders of basics can sometimes help practitioners, it can often irritate them when they are  stumbling in their struggles to apply those very basics. So when they are being overwhelmed by doubt and diffidence, they need urgently a boost of confidence: confidence that they can do it.

In the Gita, Krishna consistently and conclusively declares that the best process for mind control is bhakti-yoga centered on cultivating his remembrance. And he also assures (18.58) that those who become conscious of him will cross over all obstacles by his grace. This assurance applies to the obstacle of the intractable mind too. Drawing on such assurances, we can share the confidence that Krishna will help us triumph in the battle for mind control if we just persevere in bhakti faithfully.

When we thus offer not just guidance but also confidence, our assistance has a greater chance of becoming transformational, as was Krishna’s assistance for Arjuna.

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