We were a batch of fifteen who joined as monks in the Mumbai monastery in 1999, the same year when India fought hard and brave to win the Kargill war against Pakistan.
Sixteen years later, one of the surviving members of the ashram confessed, “The kargill war got over in a few weeks, but this one is a daily war. Our victory would be at the time of death; until then every day and moment is a war against temptations and distractions from the path of pure devotion and selfless service”
Just as army men sacrifice their lives for the country, monks give up commonly sought after pleasures of this world so that they can serve the human society with one pointed determination. The illusory energy also known as maya acts as the enemy that seeks to tempt monks with allurements of money and women, so that their focused service is disrupted. Many slip and others even fall away from the path; it’s not easy to say ‘No’ unless there is a deep ‘yes’ for a higher cause, burning inside.
Just as soldiers are ever alert on the border to prevent the enemy from intruding, similarly spiritual soldiers are armed with the gun of awareness and positive attitude to combat enemies that come in the guise of slackness, fault finding, sex pleasure, wealth, pride and a host of others. Maya attacks a monk relentlessly; she never gives up on a practitioner even till the point of death. A spiritual warrior is ever alert and determined to win the war.
The veteran monks who have survived many attacks and are happily marching forward have shared two important realizations that can help younger monks in their struggles.
The withdrawal pain
When we falter and give in to maya’s seduction, then the next time around it gets more difficult to resist the temptation. And for the illusory energy, it gets only easier to pull us away, each time we succumb. That’s because our strength has waned each time we succumb to our lower nature. When faced with distractions, a sincere spiritualist will answer the question, “Am I ready to face the pain of this pleasure?” and that means if I enjoy now, soon afterwards I’ll face reactions and that would be painful. Besides, my resolve to resist the pulls next time would also get weaker. This is similar to the withdrawal pain that a drug addict experiences when he attempts to give up his addiction.
One reason why monks lose the fight to maya is because of faulty expectations. They wrongly expect the mind to cooperate in this war and when they eventually realize that the mind is not a friend, rather an enemy, they get discouraged, and let go the will to fight. Therefore it’s critical for a monk to have realistic expectations that this is not a happy life of enjoyment; rather it’s a life of purpose where he has chosen a gruesome war as his life.
And there is no peace on the border. Expecting the mind to ever support us in our monkhood is like thinking the enemy soldiers would remain cooperative and peaceful on the border. No! They are determined to break our country, so the mind’s mission too is to take me away from Krishna. Although the ‘withdrawal pain’ would be there, in reality it’s the naïve expectations of a happy go lucky life that is the root cause of misery for a monk. At least adjusting our expectations helps us face the enemy confidently.
Krishna hears our silent cry
The reason why our lives are beset with temptations is also because we subtly desire them. The Lord in the heart notes our desires and arranges the material energy to fulfill them. If until now, my subtle, unspoken desire to enjoy was being fulfilled by Krishna, surely He would reciprocate if I cry to feel loved by Him. Since He desires we go back to Him more than we desire to, He’d certainly fulfill our heartfelt desires.
Just as in the past we desired to enjoy, if we now yearn to serve and feel god’s love in our hearts, surely Krishna would respond.
In the fifteenth chapter of Bhagavad Gita, Lord Krishna declares that He is situated in the heart of all living entities and He awards them His remembrance and forgetfulness (15.15). Therefore if we now align our desires to His service, He’d certainly note our heart’s aspirations.
Just as we hanker for enjoyment, with the same intensity let’s now aspire as we talk, walk, eat, sleep, bathe, or read, “Krishna, please protect me, let me love you and feel loved by you”