When I joined the ashram, we would have periodic exams from the Bhagavad Gita. Coming from an academic and highly competitive background, I desired to excel in these tests, and secure the highest marks. Although this ambition of mine was inconsistent with the ashram principles of servitude and the desire to remain humble, I nevertheless secretly desired to secure the first rank. I researched special information that would help me in the tests, and just as I would do earlier in my college, I didn’t share my finds with the other students in the ashram. I was constantly comparing myself with others, and even prayed to come first in the exams.
However our spiritual practises daily morning would leave us deeply nourished, and the regular classes for the monks highlighted how we want to be the servant of all, and desire that others go ahead of us. It didn’t take me long to realize that my secret aspirations were incongruent with the principles taught and upheld by others in the ashram. Soon this realization caused a conflict in my heart; was I a misfit in the ashram and how could I possibly be unnatural in desiring that others do better than me in the exams. Although externally I was humble and served all, internally I couldn’t pray and live up to the ideals expected of me. I was torn, and felt I am a hypocrite and couldn’t even offer sincere prayers to the Lord. Dejected, I approached my senior guide for help. His advice transformed me.
He suggested I don’t artificially give up my passion to outdo the others. He even advised I pray to come first in the exams, and there’s nothing wrong with it because that’s my heart’s desire. I couldn’t possibly artificially give up my spirit of competition. At the same time, he said, I could end all my prayer sessions with two additional prayers:
Firstly I could add, “Krishna if this is your desire, please let me come first”. He revealed to me how this additional phrase of ‘if you desire’ helps us give the ultimate prerogative to God. This sets in the mood of dependence on Krishna and keeps us humble. And if results don’t come according to our liking, we would be able to accept it with grace and dignity. Secondly he suggested I conclude my prayer with, “Krishna I asked you for so many things that may not be the best things to ask. But please give me the intelligence that next time when I approach you, I ask for things that are spiritually beneficial for me and would help me serve others happily”
This shift in my prayers immensely helped me; I could now ask what I want and also work on improving my state of consciousness. Slowly I saw a difference. Today I don’t desire to come first in the exams, and also my prayers are more meaningful and satisfying to my heart.
Srila Prabhupada also taught this principle; when he was sick in America and his young disciples were worried, he told them to pray to Krishna, “My dear Krishna, if you so desire please keep our Srila Prabhupada alive and healthy”. Srila Prabhupada said this way we humbly petition Krishna and accept His position of being the Supreme authority. Even during his final moments before he departed from this world, the doctor asked him if he had any desire, Srila Prabhupada humbly expressed, “kucch iccha nahin”- “I have no other desire”. His life was dedicated to carrying out Krishna’s and his spiritual master’s will.
By making this small addition to our prayers of ‘if it is your desire’ we shall soon reach this stage of placing our fragile lives in the loving hands of Krishna. And that would surely fill our hearts with unending happiness and contentment.