Navigating our way between the ideal and the real
Life frequently forces us to face the conflict between the ideal and the real: what we want to be ideally and how we are really; how things in the world should be ideally and how they are really.
How do we deal with such personal and social constraints?
Gita wisdom comes to our aid by providing us multi-level spirituality with the option of choosing the level that best fits us. This egalitarian approach is most evident in its twelfth chapter (12.8)(12.09)(12.10)(12.11)(12.12) wherein it offers various levels at which to practice devotional service.
Choosing our level of practice is like navigating our way in a boat through an ocean. There is an ideal way, the straight way, from the starting point to the ending point. But most boat-drivers know that this straight way can rarely be followed as winds cause the boat to swerve. Trying to totally resist the force of the winds is sometimes impossible. But letting the boat go whichever way the winds take it will often make reaching the destination impossible. Intelligent and experienced boat-drivers know how to keep the boat directed towards the destination while taking into account its inevitable swerves.
Similarly, rigid practice of devotional service lifelong comprises the straight path from our present position to Krishna’s lotus feet. But life rarely allows us to tread that straight path. It forces us to face the turbulent winds of change – externally in our circumstance and internally in our moods. The best way to navigate these changes is by repeatedly reminding ourselves of our ultimate goal and contemplating how the present changed situation can be used to move on towards that goal. By learning this art, we can find our customized balance between the ideal and the real, and move steadily towards Krishna.
“Just ﬁx your mind upon Me, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, and engage all your intelligence in Me. Thus you will live in Me always, without a doubt.”
“My dear Arjuna, O winner of wealth, if you cannot ﬁx your mind upon Me without deviation, then follow the regulative principles of bhakti-yoga. In this way develop a desire to attain Me.”
“If you cannot practice the regulations of bhakti-yoga, then just try to work for Me, because by working for Me you will come to the perfect stage.”
“If, however, you are unable to work in this consciousness of Me, then try to act giving up all results of your work and try to be self-situated.”
“If you cannot take to this practice, then engage yourself in the cultivation of knowledge. Better than knowledge, however, is meditation, and better than meditation is renunciation of the fruits of action, for by such renunciation one can attain peace of mind.”