Recently I came across a quote that I have read many times before throughout my life and has always remained with me. It is by Henry Ford, the founder of the Ford motor company. It reads:
“Enthusiasm is the yeast that makes your hopes shine to the stars. Enthusiasm is the sparkle in your eyes, the swing in your gait. The grip of your hand, the irresistible surge of will and energy to execute your ideas.”
Immediately I was reminded of the third text of the Nectar of Instruction: An authorized English presentation of Srila Rupa Gosvami’s Sri Upadesamrta:
utsāhān niścayād dhairyāt
saṅga-tyāgāt sato vṛtteḥ
ṣaḍbhir bhaktiḥ prasidhyati
Word for word:
utsāhāt — by enthusiasm
niścayāt — by conﬁdence
dhairyāt — by patience
tat-tat-karma — various activities favorable for devotional service
pravartanāt — by performing
saṅga-tyāgāt — by giving up the association of nondevotees
sataḥ — of the great previous ācāryas
vṛtteḥ — by following in the footsteps
ṣaḍbhiḥ — by these six
bhaktiḥ — devotional service
prasidhyati — advances or becomes successful.
There are six principles favorable to the execution of pure devotional service: (1) being enthusiastic, (2) endeavoring with conﬁdence, (3) being patient, (4) acting according to regulative principles [such as śravaṇaṁ kīrtanaṁ viṣṇoḥ smaraṇam – hearing, chanting and remembering Kṛṣṇa], (5) abandoning the association of nondevotees, and (6) following in the footsteps of the previous ācāryas. These six principles undoubtedly assure the complete success of pure devotional service.
The number one principle is enthusiasm.
Why do we do the things we do?
Having chosen the householder ashram and maintaining a family forces me into a position where I must mingle with non-devotees on a daily basis; as many of us, I am sure, must do.
On occasion this can lead to certain conversations I have learned to avoid. However, people watch people and people love to watch me. Being a foreigner where I live, I find myself observed quite a bit. As a result, most of my activities are discussed among the neighbors until finally one brave soul will approach and begin, rather blatantly I might add, to ask why I do some of the things I do. Basically what he would like to know is why am I not more like the rest of them.
The answer is simple. I want to go back to Godhead.
We have accepted a lifestyle many other religions and cultures may find overzealous or perhaps even too strict. It is often suggested to me that I should change religions in order to enjoy some mundane activity. But I cannot imagine myself converting to any other religion to suit material desires.
As devotees, we have made a commitment to rise early in the morning, bathe and chant our rounds while many are still enjoying their scheduled sleep. We prepare our own food, following strict guidelines then make offerings and honor prasadam, while others wait in line at fast food restaurants. We observe days of fast and abstinence and do our best to follow the instructions of our spiritual masters. If our Guru asks something of us, say writing an article or some other seva, we put aside all other mundane activity to fulfill his wishes. We have found more satisfaction in a life of service; rather than being a miser, wasting the life we have been given.
It isn’t always easy. I, for one, have two children and work a more than full time job. There are many demands on my time, my mind and my attention. Many mornings it seems I have just drifted off as the alarm is notifying me that it is time to get up and start the new day. I cannot count how many mornings I have been running behind and it would have been much simpler to buy our breakfast from a street vendor, rather than prepare and honor prasadam.
Life can get hectic running here and there and sometimes devotional service can seem a burden. So one must ask, how should I approach this seva?
From the purport
“One should accept this opportunity to return home, back to Godhead, very enthusiastically. Without enthusiasm, one cannot be successful. Even in the material world one has to be very enthusiastic in his particular ﬁeld of activity in order to become successful. A student, businessman, artist or anyone else who wants success in his line must be enthusiastic. Similarly, one has to be very enthusiastic in devotional service.
Enthusiasm means action, but action for whom? The answer is that one should always act for Kṛṣṇa – kṛṣṇārthākhila-ceṣṭā (Bhakti-rasāmṛta-sindhu).”
We must go after our devotional service with the same energy and enthusiasm that drives great artists to complete their masterpieces even though they may face financial ruin and starvation; or the general who is determined to take the battlefield even though his army is outnumbered; or even the mother bear who will stop at nothing short of her own death to protect her cub from danger. Whether that seva be large or small, noticed or not, it is most effective only when performed with enthusiasm.
In our preaching life, what would become of this great movement if, when approached, we mumbled a timid “Hare Krishna”, as opposed to the gut felt “HARE KRISHNA!” with a fire in our gaze that let’s people know we have been shown the path to liberation? It would go nowhere. The movement would fail.
This enthusiasm is what drives us to dance in the streets and sing the glories of the Lord’s Holy Name. It is why we wake up before sunrise to chant and why we continue to follow the four regulations, even when to do so becomes difficult and inconvenient. With enthusiasm, we show our dedication to serving the Lord and our Guru without thoughts of reward or return. If enthusiasm is lacking in these activities, they become hollow and meaningless, mundane and futile. Better to not be done at all.
In the Bhagavad-gita Krishna couples enthusiasm with great determination:
kartā sāttvika ucyate
Word for word:
mukta-saṅgaḥ — liberated from all material association
anaham-vādī — without false ego
dhṛti — with determination
utsāha — and great enthusiasm
samanvitaḥ — qualiﬁed
siddhi — in perfection
asiddhyoḥ — and failure
nirvikāraḥ — without change
kartā — worker
sāttvikaḥ — in the mode of goodness
ucyate — is said to be.
“One who performs his duty without association with the modes of material nature, without false ego, with great determination and enthusiasm, and without wavering in success or failure is said to be a worker in the mode of goodness.”
A person in Kṛṣṇa consciousness is always transcendental to the material modes of nature. He has no expectations for the result of the work entrusted to him, because he is above false ego
and pride. Still, he is always enthusiastic till the completion of such work. He does not worry about the distress undertaken; he is always enthusiastic. He does not care for success or failure; he is equal in both distress and happiness. Such a worker is situated in the mode of goodness.
Seva is life. It is our reason for living and we should not approach it with anything less than the energy, intensity and zeal it deserves.
I pray this finds you in good health and harmony.