On Small Ordinary Details Becoming a Masterpiece

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Chalking

Combined small efforts are what great achievements are made of. Everyone likes the results of hard labor, but many are hesitant to put in the necessary, often tedious, strenuous work. We want a lot of money, to be president, to win first place in something, to write a bestselling book, or to be a spiritual person, but find it difficult to imagine how we could get there from where we are now. Many of us have heard the famous Chinese proverb, “To begin the journey of a thousand miles begins with the first step.” Simple idea, isn’t it? Yet this simple advice is often missed, turning out to be rather profound. Taking the first step provides a key to achieving any success—we must begin, and remain fixed on the goal till victory is obtained. Remaining on the fence of indecision takes us nowhere. If we want something strongly enough we will find a way to accomplish it, though initially our steps will look insignificant. In addition to determination, we require Krishna’s blessings in order to accomplish anything worthwhile.

These ideas came to me today as I was caulking the sunroom that we are still working on. Caulking is not something particularly flashy or glorified as fun, yet it has to be done, and done well. It is also slow work, so that makes it even less gratifying if one is really attached to seeing a lot of results from their work. Another saying comes to mind, “If it’s worth doing, it’s worth doing well.” This is a generally good principle, but should apply even more for actions done for Krishna, since as devotees, our aim is to do everything as service for him!

As I was working I was thinking about how any project, task, goal, or skill, consists of many small repetitive steps—even what others may consider boring. However, to be bored with life, or a certain endeavor, means we have failed to connect it with Krishna. We have to keep our goals in mind, and offer each moment to Krishna in service. Then how can anything be boring? Whether pursuing an education, learning to play an instrument, practicing the fundamentals of a sport, or our regulated spiritual practices (sadhana), all have many repetitive activities, and steps which build on one another. We won’t see the ultimate fruit of our work for years, and we will stay the course only if we enjoy the process, while keeping our goal in mind.

A friend with writer’s block, complained about it to me. She sighed, saying that she thought I was always inspired in my writing. I thanked her, and commented that behind any skill, or what appears to be spontaneity, is years of practice. I told her that she should consider that I kept a journal for twenty five years, and have blogged for another six. Add to this the fact that I have practiced Krishna consciousness for the last 41 years. Those years have given me many experiences and mistakes to write about, as well as a certain devotional sensitivity. My current writing, being a combination of all these factors, becomes more understandable if this is taken into account. I am fortunate and blessed, yet if there is value in my writing, or if it seems inspired, it is no accident.

Praying together 2

I am currently working on a book of my blogs. It has been an effort of over four years—off and on of course, but it has remained on the table, and has gone back and forth between the publisher in India, and me in the US—and now he has dropped out altogether. I have experienced many ups and downs in this project, and at various times it seemed the book would be finished, only to stall, or require something to be added! At present I am adding the corrections into my laptop from a printed out version the editor used. Talk about tedious! And there are so many small details to attend to, as there has been all along—“why can’t I just have the book”, I might ask. I could have given up in frustration, grow tired of all the tiny details, or I can make the changes and move forward.

We are all challenged to see Krishna everywhere, including in the small things in life. Whether taking that first step on our journey, or the continual small endeavors that make up a goal, all our efforts are important. Small devotional actions and thoughts accumulate into the attitude we carry. The choices we make moment to moment which are based on this attitude are like the tiny dots in a photograph. They determine if the devotion in our life is in sharp focus, or is blurred, fuzzy, or unclear. At death, a snapshot is taken of our consciousness, and that determines our next birth, and whether we remain in the material world, or go to Krishna’s abode. That superlative goal is broken down into small actions and thoughts about Krishna, which culminate in our life’s masterpiece of loving Krishna! May we all be on that joyful journey, where each small step leads to Krishna—those steps are very big. Perspective changes everything!

Balarama and Krishna with cows