As there are only a couple of days left before New Year people are putting the last touches on their New Year resolutions. Should we jump on the bandwagon, too?
I’m in two minds about this. On one hand what could possibly be wrong about making a promise to read more books, visit the temple more often or whatever it is we can do to improve our service? On the other hand I’m not entirely comfortable with the idea of resolutions itself, never mind tying it to a New Year’s day.
First of all, what makes a resolution? We want to do something better, that’s fine, why do we need to make a resolution about it? It might add some weight to our desire, officially sealing it as a pact with ourselves, making it a part of who we are. After we made a resolution and we are going strong we can look in the mirror and say – this is the man who promised not to eat chocolate and he is keeping it. Look at his strong will!
There you have it – a subconscious desire to appear strong and more devoted. If no one else notices it at least we can stroke our ego ourselves. And it’s all on bodily platform, as if we need any stronger connections to our bodies.
Another feature of resolutions is that there’s no punishment attached. At most we will suffer some disappointment of not living up to our own standards and that’s it. Gambling and drug addiction can really make one lose faith in himself but for devotees it’s probably the forth that would make them question their image of themselves as vaishnavas. Many do not take it too seriously these days.
On the other hand this fear of breaking a vrata can do wonders for one’s service. We are in the material world, we understand carrots and sticks better than anything else, if it takes fear to keep up with our sadhana than so be it, what’s the harm?
After all, a resolution is nothing else but a vrata, and taking a vrata is a genuine devotional activity. Not as heavily promoted as shravanam and kirtanam but it’s there, I’m too lazy to look up a book.
The only problem I have with vratas is that they are not ours to keep. Man proposes, God disposes. It’s by Lord’s mercy that we can stay out of trouble or have enough mental power to go to bed early and wake up before mangala arati every morning. If we don’t get Lord’s mercy for one reason or another, nothing can peel us off our beds in this “ungodly” hour when sleep is the sweetest. I know I shouldn’t be joking about his but it’s true, for people in modes of passion and ignorance brahma muhurta is a time to sleep, nothing else.
So, we can make up all kinds of promises to ourselves but the ability to keep them is out of our control. We can’t maintain the vrata artificially, not for a long time anyway.
Actually, the success depends on the strength of our desire, if we are really sincere and strong, Krishna will surely help. This means it’s not so much about making promises and announcing resolutions, it’s about how much we want to achieve what we set to achieve, and it’s about the purity of our desire.
That’s why I’m not rushing into New Year resolutions thing – I don’t see anything I want strongly enough to qualify for a resolution, any half-thought I idea won’t do.
Basically, we’ll know the resolution when it comes to us, we can’t do it artificially because of some arbitrary date.
I’m sorry I am not prepared for this New Year but it’s okay, I still have a couple of days left, maybe it will come to me. If not I won’t worry about it too much either.
Making a resolution is like taking a next step on the ladder of devotional service. We can’t rush these things, just chant and pray that the Lord engages us and provides that next rung to put our foot on.