“O Rama, for as long as You shall stand before me, even if it be for one hundred years, I will always remain Your servant. Therefore You should be the one to choose a beautiful and appropriate place for the cottage. After You have selected a spot, please then command me to start building.” (Lakshmana speaking to Lord Rama, Valmiki Ramayana, Aranya Kand, 15.7)
Friend1: What is the secret to success in bhakti-yoga?
Friend2: For you or for everyone?
Friend1: I’m already advanced, further along than you.
Friend2: Of course you are. That is wonderful news.
Friend1: I’m just kidding. You know, give me some general advice.
Friend2: What is the problem?
Friend1: It could be anything.
Friend2: Such as?
Friend1: Having a difficult time chanting my rounds each day.
Friend1: In this dark age of Kali, there is no other way of salvation than the chanting of the holy names. The names, which are words of Sanskrit origin, directly represent the Supreme Lord. They are different ways to know Him, to call out to Him in love. The spiritual master, the guru, has given the recommendation to chant the mantra a fixed number of times each day.
Friend2: Before you proceed, make a note of that word.
Friend1: Which one?
Friend1: Okay. So I’m having a difficult time chanting my rounds. That could be one problem.
Friend2: What is the difficulty?
Friend1: Motivation. Lack of time. Worrying over the worthiness of the activity.
Friend2: You’re thinking, “Am I getting anywhere with this?”
Friend2: As this is supposed to be general advice, what are some other problems?
Friend1: Let me see. Basically, they are all along the same lines. I know there is something I should be doing, but I’m having a difficult time doing it. I know there are things I shouldn’t be doing. But again, it’s not easy to avoid those things.
Friend2: And now you want a secret piece of advice that will solve everything?
Friend1: Yes. Please help me!
Friend2: What makes you think I have the answer?
Friend1: If you don’t, then I’m really in trouble.
Friend2: If I did, why should I tell you?
Friend1: Because it’s mean to keep it to yourself. Don’t be a kripana.
Friend2: Wow. You know the Sanskrit word for miser.
Friend1: Yes, and I have a visual example to go with the definition. Your face.
Friend2: The secret is that word I told you to remember before.
Friend2: Yes. Please the guru. You’re already taking advice from him. You must have some level of respect for that to happen.
Friend1: Of course. The guru is the authority. He is the link to the chain of succession which has Krishna, or God, at the origin. What if the guru is not around to help me? I need to know what is the secret of the people who do succeed.
Friend2: They love their spiritual master. Even on days when they don’t feel like carrying forward, they do so anyway. They understand that eventually success will come. That is the promise made by the representative. The devotion of the devotee never perishes. The Bhagavad-gita confirms this:
“He quickly becomes righteous and attains lasting peace. O son of Kunti, declare it boldly that My devotee never perishes.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 9.31)
Friend1: Okay, that is good advice. Thanks. But I feel like you are holding something back. There must be something else in the beyond.
Friend2: So many of these things you’ll come to realize on your own. Pure love of God is not some cheap thing. You can’t buy it from somewhere. The guru gives the seed of the creeper of devotional service, but it is up to the recipient to nurture that seed so that it one day blossoms into a tree.
Friend1: Let me try to come at this from a different angle, since you’re obviously being difficult. What is your secret? What do you tell yourself to keep going?
Friend2: Hmm. I don’t even think of it that way.
Friend1: What do you mean?
Friend2: There is no question of stopping.
Friend1: You don’t have days where you are doubting yourself?
Friend2: I’m always doubting whether I am pleasing the Supreme Lord. I always feel like I haven’t done enough for the guru. There is no doubt about that. But stopping is out of the question. This is who I am. It is what gives me happiness. It has come to define me. There is no thought of quitting.
Friend1: Wow, that’s nice.
Friend2: You asked for a secret and I’ll give you one. It’s there for everyone to read, too. Go to the Ramayana. Find the section where the Supreme Lord in His incarnation of Rama is roaming the forest with His wife Sita Devi and His younger brother Lakshmana.
Friend1: Okay. What am I looking for exactly?
Friend2: There is a part where Rama asks Lakshmana to find a spot to build a hut. Lakshmana’s response is amazing. It is the secret you are looking for.
Friend1: What does he say?
Friend2: That he will continue to be Rama’s servant, even if Rama were to command him for one hundred years. Lakshmana will never waver. That is the definition of pure devotional service. The attitude you should have is that if Krishna Himself came to you and asked you to stop chanting, you wouldn’t listen to Him. This is the attitude of the gopis as well. They love Krishna so much that He is powerless against them. Even if He tells them to stop loving Him, they won’t. You and I should have the same determination.
Trouble lately holy names to chant,
To get the proper motivation I can’t.
Secret is there in how to proceed,
So that one day finally to succeed?
In the spiritual master have full trust,
Even if incapable, to continue a must.
From Lakshmana in Ramayana verse find,
That to stay devoted no matter how much time.