“Devotional service is more or less a declaration of war against the illusory energy.” – Srila Prabhupada (Bhagavad Gita 9.30, Purport)
A young warrior brandishing an AK 47, and with adrenaline pumping, marches confidently to battle. His seniors and comrades encourage him to fight the enemy called ‘Maya’. He is confident and roars at the enemy, shoots a few bullets in the air, and believes his friends who assure him that he will emerge victorious. He is young and determined to win the war against Maya and go back to the kingdom of spiritual world. He preaches fearlessly and chants determinedly – his weapon is his bead bag. His shelter – the association of devotees.
As he chants, hears about Krishna, worships the deities, and renders varieties of devotional service, he is happy, and all knowledge about the enemy called Maya is convincing. He fills up his note book with the philosophy of Maya and asks questions and seeks answers. He is an archetypal happy devotee. Sometimes he dozes off during his Japa and morning class, still he is sincere and confident.
A few years pass in a happy Krishna consciousness life.
Then one day, suddenly, he sees a bullet whizz past him. It was a close shave and he feels shaken. Then another bomb explodes – he barely manages to dive to safety. He then takes guard, adjusts his gun (bead bag) and looks behind for those who egged him on to march into the war. He sees no one! A realization dawns: ‘I have to fight this battle alone.’ He has friends and spiritual support in the Krishna conscious community, still it’s his battle – he has to fight all his battles, alone!
All these years while he was flaunting his bead bag and preaching vigorously, Maya hadn’t taken him seriously.
But now she is determined to finish him.
As he fights this unrelenting enemy, he feels weak and disappointed at his own inadequacies. Sometimes, he also feels discouraged. Nevertheless, he imagines he is equally determined, and puts up a brave front. He smiles and assures himself and others that all’s well in his spiritual life, and he shall overcome all obstacles – after all he’s a dogged spiritual warrior. He truly believes he can win this war. However, secretly, he hopes and prays Maya takes pity on him and spares him the daily battles. He is getting battle weary.
One day he reads how Srila Haridas Thakur was tempted by the most beautiful prostitute, and how Maya personified tested him with all her enticing grandeur. He had known this pastime all these years, but now for the first time, it strikes him that Haridas Thakur chanted three lakh names every day. And since the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Lord Chaitanya Mahaprabhu Himself has declared him to be the greatest chanter of the Holy Names, Haridas surely chanted them attentively. And yet, Haridas Thakur wasn’t spared from Maya’s attacks. “And here I am, struggling to stay awake in my Japa,” wonders our combatant, “and unlike Haridas Thakur, I am chanting only 16 rounds, and I expect Maya to be lenient.”
This is a wake-up call. He realizes this is not an ordinary skirmish, but a lifelong war. A few battle victories doesn’t excite him anymore because there’s always the next time when Maya would attack. The more successful we are in our devotional service, the more tests and challenges await us.
To be continued….