Process produces progress – focus on process, not progress
Sometimes parents tell their children who are reluctant to eat: “Eat, then your muscles will become big – like those of your favorite heroes.” The excited children may eat sumptuously and immediately check how much their biceps have grown.
We may join the parents in laughing at the children’s naïvete, but we might well be like those children in our attitude towards spiritual life. Initially, we are reluctant to spare any time for devotional service which is the nourishment for the soul. When we hear scriptural statements that bhakti-yoga brings deep fulfillment, we practice it energetically and expect spiritual happiness immediately.
However, the essence of spiritual growth is not self-centered enjoyment, but selfless love that focuses on the object of love, Krishna, and his pleasure. The Bhagavad-gita (09.14) indicates that advanced devotees endeavor to serve Krishna with determination and with vows. This condition – being determined to the point of taking vows – doesn’t seem to be a fulfilling condition; it seems to be a demanding condition that requires such vigorous exertion of willpower. If that’s the condition of advanced devotees, then, we may wonder, where is the happiness?
Actually, the happiness is right there: in that endeavor. The more devotees offer themselves to Krishna, the more they open themselves to him for receiving the flood of happiness that comes by connecting wholeheartedly with him. Taking determined vows helps them to offer themselves more to Krishna, thereby automatically increasing their happiness.
If we want authentic spiritual growth, we can’t let ourselves be obsessed with progress, constantly evaluating every devotional activity: “Is this making me happy?” Instead, we need to focus on the process of offering ourselves to Krishna through service. When we become absorbed in the process, progress will automatically result, and fulfillment will flood our heart.