Friday, November 4, 2011

Patience and Enthusiasm

I’ve often been told that I’m extremely enthusiastic. Truth be told, at times I’ve wondered if that was a compliment or a backhanded way of saying something else!

In our Vaisnava tradition enthusiasm is one of the cornerstones that our bhakti journey should rest upon. I’ve always found it quizzical when the inevitable question comes up “How does one become enthusiastic?” There are several responses I’ve heard over the years but the one that always stands out is “Associate with those who are enthusiastic.”

Being enthusiastic, however, is not so difficult. One naturally becomes enthusiastic about something that motivates them, inspires them or enlivens them. I would argue that maintaining enthusiasm in our day to day sadhana and services is what is more challenging. It’s easy to feel enthusiastic for a second, an hour, a day or perhaps even a week. But we, in the line of the great Vaisnava acaryas, aspire for more. We aspire for lifetime upon lifetime of consistent and ever increasing enthusiasm to not only serve Krsna but to serve the Vaisnavas.

In a lecture I was recently listening to, the dual workings of patience and enthusiasm was highlighted and as the proverbial saying goes a light bulb finally went on in my head. I’ve often found it almost contradictory that both of these qualities are extremely important in the cultivation of bhakti. In my experience, being enthusiastic often results in me wanting something right now, whereas patience requires just that- patience which is something that I firmly believe Krsna has on his priority list for me to acquire right along with humility!

However, as was explained in the lecture, having one without the other can lead to a recipe for disaster. If one is simply patient and waits and waits and waits without investing any action, nothing will come of it. Conversely, if one is extremely enthusiastic and is not patient then if the results of one’s endeavor do not come immediately, one may become disheartened and give up altogether.

It is often proclaimed “Work as though everything depends upon you and pray knowing everything is dependent upon God (Krsna).” In that one sentence one can find patience and enthusiasm as the underlying seeds which need to be planted in order for the flower of Krsna bhakti to blossom. In fact, it will lead us to the coveted goal we should all aspire towards- steadiness in service, in sadhana and in our consciousness of Krsna at all times.

So the next time you feel yourself getting extremely enthusiastic or feel as though Krsna may be testing you by making you wait for something, remember that it’s not just patience or just enthusiasm that are required to advance. It’s both.