To evaluate advancement, examine anxieties
Devotee-seekers often get the question: “How do I know whether I am making spiritual advancement?”
One reliable way is: by examining our anxieties. The Bhagavad-gita (16.11) indicates that material attachments cause immense anxieties. This statement points to a universal psychological principle: attachments engender anxieties.
Attachments reside deep within our consciousness. When aroused by some stimuli, they arise, triggering a gamut of emotions, especially anxiety. For example, if, on reading the news that our national team has lost a critical match in the world cup, we feel agitated, the anxiety indicates we are still attached to that sport. As anxieties are more easily discernible than attachments, examining our anxieties can help us trace back to the corresponding underlying attachments.
In devotional life, we strive to develop attachment to Krishna. We can gauge our devotional attachments by our spiritual anxieties. If the world’s distractions make us anxious about losing our precious Krishna-connection, that anxiety indicates a healthy attachment to Krishna. But if we recklessly rush into spiritually dangerous situations where angels fear to tread, that apathy indicates an alarming absence of devotional attachment.
The relationship between attachments and anxieties works the other way too: we nourish our devotional attachment by taking responsibility, even anxiety, about our bhakti practices: “Am I doing my mantra meditation attentively? Am I studying scripture adequately? Am I doing my service responsibly?”
Of course, the essence of spiritual life is not the presence or absence of anxiety, but remembrance of Krishna, which brings supreme satisfaction. So we should be anxious not just about doing specific devotional activities, but also about remembering Krishna when doing those activities and even when circumstances prevent us from doing those activities.
Such devotional anxiety will fuel our spiritual advancement and gradually propel us to the level of transcendental consciousness free from all worldly anxieties.