“Endeavor executed with intelligence in Krishna consciousness is called utsaha, or enthusiasm. The devotees find the correct means by which everything can be utilized in the service of the Lord (nirbandhah krishna-sambandhe yuktam vairagyam uchyate).” (Shrila Prabhupada, Nectar of Instruction, Verse 3 Purport)
Friend1: I have a question about enthusiasm.
Friend1: I’ve heard that it is a necessary component for success in devotional service, bhakti-yoga.
Friend2: Yes, that comes from the Upadeshamrita of Shrila Rupa Gosvami. The English translation of that work is “Nectar of Instruction.” The word utsaha means “enthusiasm.”
Friend1: Right. It makes sense. If you’re just going through the motions, how are you going to succeed in something. There have been times where I was so into something that I lost track of time.
Friend2: There you go. That is the proof. If you’re enthusiastic you go beyond the limits to succeed. You can impress yourself even with capability.
Friend1: What about Arjuna?
Friend2: What do you mean? And which Arjuna?
Friend1: There is more than one?
Friend2: Krishna had a friend named Arjuna during His youth in Vraja.
Friend1: Oh, I didn’t know that. I was referring to the famous bow warrior, the son of Pandu, the brother of Bhima, the cousin of Krishna.
Friend2: Okay, so what about him?
Friend1: Enthusiasm, hello?
Friend2: You’re telling me he’s not enthusiastic?
Friend1: What about the start of the Bharata War? The whole premise of the Bhagavad-gita is a warrior in distress, a reluctant fighter. Arjuna doesn’t want to continue. He’d rather lay down his weapons and move to the forest.
“Sanjaya said: Arjuna, having thus spoken on the battlefield, cast aside his bow and arrows and sat down on the chariot, his mind overwhelmed with grief.” (Bhagavad-gita, 1.46)
Friend2: And obviously that is the opposite of enthusiasm.
Friend1: Yet we know he was successful in devotional service. Isn’t that a contradiction? And don’t tell me it’s because of…
Friend1: You took the words right out of my mouth. Yes, yes, Krishna arranged for Arjuna to be in illusion. This wasn’t mahamaya, which everyone else is subject to. This was yogamaya, meaning that the illusion was only temporary and ultimately for Arjuna’s spiritual benefit.
Friend2: It’s the truth, though. You can’t be such a close friend to Krishna and lose enthusiasm in service. Still, I can explain the contradiction in another way.
Friend1: Please do.
Friend2: There was lack of enthusiasm because Arjuna didn’t see the connection to bhakti-yoga.
Friend1: What do you mean?
Friend2: He didn’t think that fighting in a war constituted service to Krishna. He didn’t see it as his duty. Rather, he was worried about enjoying the fruits of victory. He thought maybe he was fighting simply for enjoyment.
Friend1: And if that’s the case, then it’s bad.
Friend2: Right. Either way, fighting or not fighting, if your aim is sense gratification, the end result is not beneficial.
Friend1: I see.
Friend2: The whole teaching of the Gita is to dovetail your prescribed duties for Krishna’s benefit. Work so that you please God. Work, but stay renounced. Don’t be attached to the results.
Friend1: Then why do you need enthusiasm? There has to be a benefit you’re seeking.
Friend2: That’s a keen observation. Be detached from the results of karma, but be attached to Krishna’s pleasure. That’s why Arjuna was able to go ahead and fight enthusiastically. Through his prior doubts he already established that he wasn’t in it for himself. He had no desire to rule over a kingdom, even if it rightfully belonged to his family. He went ahead with the conflict because Krishna advised him to.
Friend1: How do we know that we’re working for Krishna’s pleasure?
Friend2: The guru. The spiritual master shows you the way. They describe God to you. They reveal that the Supreme Lord already rests within your heart as the Supersoul. They go further and describe the transcendental features belonging to the Personality of Godhead. They refer to that personality as Krishna since He is all-attractive.
Friend1: What about pleasing the guru?
Friend2: The bona fide spiritual master is a representative of God, so pleasing them means automatically pleasing Krishna. In that sense you don’t even have to know about enthusiasm, perseverance, birth, death, reincarnation and the like. Just please the guru and you’ll get enthusiasm as a result.
Upon gaining future’s sight,
Arjuna not ready to fight.
Kingdom to come at a cost,
So enthusiasm for endeavor lost.
Connection to bhakti not seeing,
Reminded by Krishna, the Supreme Being.
Utsaha success hinged upon,
Necessary for devotion to continue on.