We need mountains to conquer ourselves – and bhakti offers us the best mountains
Seasoned mountaineers know that successful mountaineering is about much more than the achievement of conquering the mountain – it’s about the fulfillment of conquering themselves. The external challenges in mountaineering force them to confront and conquer their own fears, flaws and blind spots. Thus, they conquer themselves, or more precisely, their weaker self.
Gita wisdom spiritualizes this principle of using mountains to conquer ourselves. It first clarifies that our real self is the indestructible soul, a beloved part of Krishna. And our false self aka lower self or weaker self is any self-conception other than our spiritual identity. So from the Gita’s perspective successful mountaineers haven’t yet fully conquered their lower self.
What is the outer conquest that will truly bring about inner conquest? It’s achievement in devotional service.
Bhakti-yoga aims to spiritualize the material world by using it in Krishna’s service, so it can offer us opportunities for spiritual achievement in the material arena. The Bhagavad-gita (11.33) urges Arjuna to win the formidable upcoming battle and enjoy a flourishing kingdom by becoming an instrument for Krishna’s will. The Gita’s essential message is not about material aggrandizement, but about spiritual upliftment. That upliftment centers on raising our consciousness from speculation about our own small plans to cooperation with Krishna’s big plan for the all-round well-being of everyone. However, this upliftment doesn’t happen in a vacuum; it happens by intelligently and industriously striving to serve Krishna in this world.
That’s why bhakti-yoga frequently offers us challenging services such as writing magnificent books or building majestic temples or becoming eloquent speakers. We don’t have to reject such service opportunities as material ambitiousness. They may well be the mountains that Krishna has sent for us to conquer so that we can conquer ourselves.
“Therefore get up. Prepare to fight and win glory. Conquer your enemies and enjoy a flourishing kingdom. They are already put to death by My arrangement, and you, O Savyassaci, can be but an instrument in the fight.”