The test of spirituality is not absence of temptation but persistence amidst temptation
Some people think, “To practice spiritual life seriously, I need to be free from temptations. And as I still get tempted, I can’t practice spiritual life.”
However, the test of seriousness in spirituality is not freedom from temptation – it is the readiness to resist temptation. The Bhagavad-gita (05.23) urges us to tolerate desires even when they are present, and assures that if we tolerate thus while persevering in yoga practice, we will stay satisfied and become purified.
To understand this principle, consider the example of an animal trainer. The trainer’s purpose is not to get rid of the animal, but to get the animal to obey human will. Similarly, spirituality’s purpose is not to get rid of all desires, but to get our desires harmonized with divine will.
We grow spiritually not by becoming desire-less but by restraining our unhealthy desires and reinforcing our healthy desires. Desires for worldly objects are unhealthy because they keep us trapped in material consciousness, where we repeatedly suffer old age, disease, death and rebirth. Desires to love and serve Krishna are healthy desires because he is the all-attractive whole, whose parts we are eternally; connecting with him provides us devotional satisfaction and propels us towards spiritual consciousness.
The process of bhakti yoga strengthens our healthy desires and weakens our unhealthy desires. While bhakti-yoga is working its magic in changing our desires, we need to tolerate our unhealthy desires. During this transitional period, we needn’t unrealistically expect the absence of all desires; we need to just persevere even amidst the presence of unhealthy desires.
If we practice bhakti-yoga determinedly, then our desires, which are like unruly animals, become tamed, working increasingly for our long-term well-being, instead of against it. Such transformation of desire, not elimination of desire, signifies spiritual perfection.
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