“To those who are constantly devoted and worship Me with love, I give the understanding by which they can come to Me.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 10.10)
ददामि बुद्धि-योगं तं
येन माम् उपयान्ति ते
dadāmi buddhi-yogaṁ taṁ
yena mām upayānti te
“If I come across a swami, an established bhakti-yoga teacher, or even someone who is new to the game, their way of life might seem overwhelming to me. Don’t get me wrong. I respect and appreciate what they do. I am intrigued in knowing just exactly how they came to a sudden change, to following a path which is so different from everyone else.
“I naturally compare against myself. I think of all the things I am accustomed to at the moment. You could call these ‘attachments.’ They are grounding. They are binding, sometimes in the physical sense, but at least mentally. Addictions work in this way; I feel as if I won’t be able to live without that thing to which I have an addiction.
“Will not the overall presentation be too much? Won’t I think that the person who is teaching me about devotional service is at too high a level? I have no chance of matching their elevation to a higher consciousness. I can’t even quit my regular caffeine habit. How am I going to dedicate my entire life to serving Krishna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead?”
His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada explains this concept of entering like a needle. It looks rather harmless. There is no reason to suspect any drastic change. What exactly is a tiny needle going to do, anyway?
On the other end, the same needle exits like a plough. It takes so much with it. The plough can wipe away huge tracts of land, flipping the soil over and preparing it for new growth. To accomplish the same with the needle would have been impossible for a single person.
Bhakti-yoga practice, in the explicit sense, begins with the needle approach. Just sit down and hear. There are volumes of published literature, containing both the original Sanskrit text and also words translated into various languages spoken in the modern day.
The hearing might remain like a needle for some time. Reading a page or two from Bhagavad-gita every day. Perhaps later endeavoring to make progress in Shrimad Bhagavatam. The taste increases, and gradually the needle expands in size and scope.
There may also be casual chanting of the holy names: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare. One or two rounds a day on a set of japa beads. Add in congregational chanting, sankirtana, with like-minded people.
Those in the official renounced order of life did not start out that way. They did not become a sannyasi overnight. Through enlightenment, from an awakening, through sober and rational thought, from considering the different options, the amount of time spent in life, the consequences to action, what might take place in the future and in the past, they come to a decision based on intelligence.
The source of that intelligence is Krishna. He says that those devoted to Him receive help. The Supreme Lord provides the knowledge from within, to reveal the path towards reaching Him. The plough is indeed a possibility, and the blessed transformation is due to the combination of Krishna and the spiritual master, who guide any sincere follower along the path to perfection.
To explain transformation how,
In like needle and out like plough.
Where first small steps to take,
Gradual progress to make.
Such as from shastra hearing,
Contemplation ignorance clearing.
Krishna Himself to show,
The proper path to go.