The other day as I was taking a bath, the plastic bucket I was using, slipped and cracked. A piece from the rim of the bucket broke off and cut my finger. As I was waiting for the bucket to refill with water, I noticed that even after a long time the bucket wasn't filling up. It's at that time, I noticed a "not so apparent" crack at the bottom of the bucket which was causing all the water to leak out. I drew a lesson from this incident which is applicable to my spiritual life.
SEALING THE LEAKS
The process of spiritual life or Krishna consciousness which includes the nine fold limbs beginning with Shravanam (hearing) and Kirtanam (chanting) is like filling the container - the vessel of our hearts. For the vessel of our hearts to fill up, it should be leak free. If the container is faulty and contains many holes, the best of content, in the best of quantity will not help it fill. Anarthas like lust, anger, pride, envy, illusion, greed and other corollaries leave dents in our hearts because of which we are unable to hold onto the nectar of Krishna consciousness for a prolonged period. That is our misfortune. The process of Bhakti is therefore two fold.
- 1. To keep filling our hearts by engaging enthusiastically in the process of hearing and chanting.
- To seal the holes and leaks of the anarthas in our hearts by consciously and diligently working on them.
UNPLUGGING THE ANCHOR
Srila Bhakti Siddhanta Saraswati Thakur, a powerful teacher of the Vaishnava line used to narrate a graphic story of a marriage party that wants to cross a river in the night to go to the other side, for the marriage which is scheduled the next day. The boatman keeps rowing the boat non-stop for the whole night only to be surprised to notice that the boat is in exactly the same place as the previous night. That's when it dawns on him that he forgot to pull the anchor out. Needless to say that the marriage went for a toss. Bhakti Siddhanta Saraswati narrated this story to tell all spiritual practitioners that like this marriage party, our spiritual life can get jeopardized and stalled if we don't work on removing the anchor of our attachments to this world.
Practicing spirituality without working on removing our attachments is like rowing a boat with the anchor on - it doesn't get us anywhere. Then we wonder after years of practice, "Why have I not made any progress?". Instead of taking the onus of our spiritual stagnation on ourselves, we conveniently push the blame on the process itself and start doubting it's efficacy. In fact, one of the offenses in chanting the Holynames is to chant the Holynames while still maintaining material attachments. One senior devotee was making a funny joke with a serious point. He said that as a practice, devotees systematically recite the offenses to be avoided while chanting in the morning and in the course of the day, systematically commit all the offenses. Joke apart, the point is that we need to come out of the default, auto mode in spiritual life and take personal control of it by working on our attachments.
WEEDING THE WEEDS
The Chaitanya Charitamrta gives another brilliant analogy to explain the point of working on our anarthas, our weaknesses while simultaneously continuing to practice the process of Krishna consciousness. The Chaitanya Charitamrta compares Bhakti or spiritual life to a little creeper called Bhakti-lata. For this creeper of Bhakti to grow nicely, one needs to water it with a lot of devotion by the sincere practice of hearing and chanting the glories of the Lord. If one keeps watering this creeper regularly (nityam-bhagvata-sevaya) then this creeper will gradually but surely pierce all the coverings of the material world and reach the spiritual world to find shelter at the lotus feet of Sri Krishna. But, the Chaitanya Charitamrta warns us of a potential threat to the growth of this creeper and they are the weeds of anarthas that grow along side this creeper of devotion and can create commotion in our spiritual life. Therefore, along with watering this creeper, it is equally important to keep weeding these unwanted weeds from time to time if we want to find the ultimate success in our spiritual endeavours.
Thus, if we want to make great progress in spiritual life, we need to seal the leaks and the cracks in our hearts, unplug the anchor of our attachments and weed out the unwanted weeds of anarthas in our hearts while simultaneously continuing to practice the process of Krishna consciousness. I know that all this is easier said than done but we have to begin somewhere. And the best place to begin is by sincerely praying to Krishna from the bottom of our hearts to give us the strength and wisdom to give up our pettiness and thus experience His prettiness.