“That which in the beginning may be just like poison but at the end is just like nectar and which awakens one to self-realization is said to be happiness in the mode of goodness.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 18.37)
यत् तद् अग्रे विषम् इव
तत् सुखं सात्त्विकं प्रोक्तम्
yat tad agre viṣam iva
tat sukhaṁ sāttvikaṁ proktam
Friend1: I have a particular area to where I want to direct today’s conversation, but let’s begin with a verse from the Bhagavad-gita.
Friend2: Sure. Which one?
Friend1: Where it says that something in the beginning feels like poison but in the end tastes like nectar.
Friend2: Oh. Yeah, that’s related to the mode of goodness, I believe. Makes sense if you think about it.
Friend1: Something like the saying, “No pain, no gain.”
Friend2: Exactly. You may not like what you have to go through right now, but be patient. The end will be worth it. The mode of ignorance is the opposite.
Friend1: Which would be something like getting drunk. I saw some t-shirt that had a joke about how drinking borrows from tomorrow to have fun today.
Friend2: Haha, that’s pretty good.
Friend1: Anyway, the basic principle is easy to understand. If you want something valuable, you have to tolerate some difficulty.
Friend2: Sure, but the material world is full of difficulty everywhere. You could be doing nothing, just sleeping, and get attacked for seemingly no reason.
Friend1: Does the poison/nectar duality apply to Krishna consciousness, as well?
Friend2: What do you mean, exactly? Is there pain in the beginning and pleasure in the end?
Friend1: Yes. Another reason I am asking is because of an experience I had recently.
Friend2: Which was?
Friend1: Travelling to attend a rock concert. A band I have seen many times. We arrived at the arena with plenty of time to spare, but then there was major difficulty.
Friend2: Couldn’t find parking?
Friend1: That’s the thing. There were places to park. The issue was the traffic. It was like the surrounding area wasn’t equipped to handle the number of people that would fit in the arena.
Friend2: What was the end result?
Friend1: We parked very far from the venue, maybe a mile away, after surviving the traffic. Then we had to walk through the cold rain to reach the entrance.
Friend2: Did you make the show on time?
Friend1: Yes, maybe by half an hour.
Friend2: Everything worked out, then.
Friend1: The thing is there was so much trouble just to experience a few hours of pleasure. Does bhakti have anything equivalent? Is there difficulty for getting a drop of nectar?
Friend2: There may be even more difficulty. Look at Prahlada Maharaja. His father tried to kill him for practicing devotion to Vishnu, who is God the person. Dhruva Maharaja had to meditate for a long time in a forest before getting a face-to-face meeting with God.
Friend1: Okay, so wouldn’t that deter people from taking up the bhakti path?
Friend2: The difference is that the nectar is transcendental. It is the param drishtva, or superior experience, described by Krishna in the Bhagavad-gita.
रस-वर्जं रसो ’प्य् अस्य
परं दृष्ट्वा निवर्तते
rasa-varjaṁ raso ’py asya
paraṁ dṛṣṭvā nivartate
“The embodied soul may be restricted from sense enjoyment, though the taste for sense objects remains. But, ceasing such engagements by experiencing a higher taste, he is fixed in consciousness.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 2.59)
Friend1: Still, wouldn’t people be scared away by the trouble endured?
Friend2: You’re already experiencing so much trouble. And for what? A few moments of happiness? Not worth it, if you ask me. Might as well steer everything in Krishna’s direction. Another amazing thing occurs. The experiences that were previously difficult become easily tolerated. Something like a runner having no problem completing a mile when previously they were huffing and puffing. That is why training is necessary, under the guidance of a bona fide spiritual master. Advance through numerical strength, such as with the routine of daily chanting the holy names: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.
Difficulties too much to take,
Just for concert journey to make.
And all for only hours a few?
Better in future not to go through.
Already with everywhere experiencing pain,
Some nectar with also poison stain.
With bhakti path seemingly the same,
But transcendental worth to the gain.