Hello! I’d like to wish everyone a Happy New Year! May 2023 bring health, happiness and light in your life.

This has been one of the most transformative years of my life I must say. I picked up Swamiji’s book for the first time. Went on to read many of his works. Also read many other views of other philosophers. We have, from a tender age always been taught that God is listening. God is working for us. God will bestow upon us everything which we wish for, with sincerity. 

However, my experiences in the past year have been in stark contrast to it. For I always wished to clear an exam I worked so hard for. Endured Covid, endured anxiety and what not. In fact, a person really close to me, who prays to God regularly, said that God assured me of my success. I was skeptical initially (I still am) because I really don’t think it is possible for God to converse with you unless the person has undergone extraordinary spiritual transformation. So I enquired. I asked if God exactly said if I’d crack this particular exam, on this particular date, in this particular year. All of which was answered in affirmation. I was genuinely astounded, but choose not to think of it any further. Fast forward 3 months, after failing to crack not one but 2 exams, getting rejected from an interview, I asked the person the same question again. I was greeted by a smile. A smile that veiled hopelessness. I knew something is wrong. If it truly were a word of God, it should be infallible. Once again, I chose to ignore it for more pressing matters at hand. After all, I was sitting at home doing nothing. A month later, I finally had a good job, filled with great, positive people around me. Life has been much better since. 

It is said that a person grows close to God when in times of conflict. I wholeheartedly agree. But the attitude to not let go of God when in times of distress is what separates the true bhakt from a selfish one. This is what I want to stress upon. When I gave more attention to the form of worship of that person, I found it to be riddled with selfishness, deep rooted in gains. Some gain or the other. “Please sort this tension at work”, “please cure my mom of disease”, “please get this done for me” etc. at the absolute trivialities. I distinctly remember that person praying to God for clearing out the traffic since he feared he’ll be late to office by 15 minutes, prayed to God when his favourite team was losing the match. All of which, never really mattered in the end. 

This I argue, is not bhakti my fellow seekers. It is some form of surrender. Surrender is always the first step. It is fine to ask God for selfish needs, people do it all the time. But never let God become your crutch. If everything in life is going well, there’s no point in asking for more. There will be traffic at times, your favourite team will lose at times. It is okay. Learn to let go and live. Trust me, I have tried to ask God for help in numerous exams. Not going to lie, I have produced stellar results. But now, looking back at 17 years of academic life, I find myself guilty of making the same mistake- making God your crutch.

Just as Swamiji says, “If you eat 2 samosas daily, and go and pray in the temple, you’re never going to lose weight.” No longer do I want to be shackled by these selfish desires. Acharya Prashant, a famous speaker said something very profound in a podcast(paraphrasing) – “Bhakti/ prayer is to acknowledge your own insignificance in front of the divine. The second you ask something from it, you are treating God as a service provider.” These simple words have had such stirring impact on my views towards bhakti.  This year, I have decided that I won’t ask for anything for myself. I have a good job, a good family, and His grace in my life. I ask only for the 10 year old girl who comes to beg in the train. For the blind couple who sings devotional songs of Lord Rama and begs for food. I want nothing but to see them live a good life. Even if there exists a system of giving a share of my good karma for them, or to endure some of their bad karma myself, so be it. 

I took up the Shreemad Bhagavad Gita for the first time this year. One of the verses which I categorically remind myself of everyday – 

सुखदुःखे समे कृत्वा लाभालाभौ जयाजयौ।
ततो युद्धाय युज्यस्व नैवं पापमवाप्स्यसि 

Fight for the sake of duty, treating alike happiness and distress, loss and gain, victory and defeat. Fulfilling your responsibility in this way, you will never incur sin.

I thank everyone who have read this. And of course, thank you Swamiji.

P.S. Also picked up a guitar this year. I am hoping the play Swamiji’s favourite piece “La Campanella” on the guitar and pray it reaches him someday. Its a long journey, but someday, I hope I become competent enough. Thank you!