I was listening to a lecture in an ISKCON temple. The speaker talked about enthusiasm and patience. He said we should be enthusiastic like the rabbit and patient like a tortoise. Perhaps you know the story of the race between a rabbit and a tortoise. In this race the rabbit ran a lot of distance leaving the tortoise miles behind. But then he thought of taking a break and laid down to rest. As he rested he fell deep asleep, and the patient tortoise crossed him to win the race.
Similarly, some devotees enter the devotional path with hyper enthusiasm like the rabbit. But after cruising some distance they take a break. But there is no ‘break’ in devotional service. In the Srimad-Bhagavatam (1.2.6), devotional service is described as apratihata or uninterrupted. The patient tortoise ran the race in an uninterrupted way. Also Srila Rupa Goswami describes in his book Bhakti-rasamrta-sindhu, verse three, that some important principles of devotional service are: utsahan, nischayad, and dhairyat, or being enthusiastic, endeavoring with determination, and being patient. The rabbit showed that enthusiasm, but lacked the determination and patience which were present in the tortoise.
In our schooldays teachers told us we should not become like a rabbit, but should become like a tortoise. But Krishna consciousness is all about picking up the best from everyone and learning from it. Looking for the bright side provided me with newer insights into that story.
Enthusiasm, like that of the rabbit, is required to bring intensity in our Krishna consciousness; and patience, like that of the tortoise, is required for us to continue in spite of pitfalls.
A few days back, the Vice Chancellor of our medical university told us three extended versions of this story. I tried to connect them with the Krishna consciousness philosophy.
Second Race: After losing the first race, the rabbit organized a second race. This time he decided not to stop until he reached the finishing line. He did so and successfully won the second race.
We are also running on the devotional path, and Lord Krishna is standing at the finishing line. So we should start running and not stop till we reach Krishna. But the problem is we cannot choose to run at a slow speed, like the tortoise, as death is fast behind us. We have to reach Krishna before death reaches us.
If we keep on running fast on this path we are sure to reach the lotus feet of Krishna. But it is not that easy. Like on the highways of this world, the devotional highway also has malls set up by the illusionary energy, maya, which may distract us. A focused traveler never wastes his time in malls as he as determined to reach his destination in time. There are others who enjoy in these malls and never reach the destination.
Also on this devotional highway are many offshoots and crossroads. These are the distractive paths of yoga and jnana. These are the long way around and they take years to join back the devotional path and finally reach the destination. To avoid these misleading paths we have to follow the map shown to us by scriptures like the Bhagavad-gita and the Srimad-Bhagavatam.
Third Race: This time the tortoise arranged the route. He chalked out the path of the race in such a way that there was a river in between. The rabbit reached the river and could not help but stop, while the tortoise swam across and won the race.
Something to learn from the tortoise: Although he lost the second race, he did not give up. He made the necessary changes to win. This introspection is the integral part of Krishna consciousness. We may get defeated by maya or illusion many times. Then we have to introspect. Open our hearts before our seniors and peers for their feedback and understanding. They may suggest some changes in our devotional activities in form of intensifying our devotional service, improving our chanting, regularizing our reading of Srila Prabhupada’s books. We have to scan our devotional activities and realign them with the teachings of Srila Prabhupada.
Then was the time for the fourth race.
Fourth Race: The route was same as the third race. Both reached the river. This time the tortoise carried the rabbit on its back, and both won the race.
Some devotees will have enthusiasm, others patience. We have to learn from each other and inspire each other to win this obstacle race. In this material world, there is scarcity of jobs due to overpopulation. So if somebody else gets a job, we lose the opportunity. But that’s not the case in the spiritual world. We don’t lose job in Krishna’s palace just because many devotees pour in due to the Hare Krishna explosion. Rather, more the number of souls we help to get recruited in Krishna’s service, more chance of our becoming a permanent employee of the spiritual world. So we should give up this worldly rat-race mentality, and like that tortoise, carry the enthusiastic souls across the Viraja River which lies between the material and the spiritual world back home, back to Godhead.
(Art by Janardan Salkar)
Yugavatara Dasa is a lecturer in Anatomy in a medical college in Mumbai. He is a regular contributor to BTG.