Secret of pointed effort
Whenever we take on any assignment, especially when it’s arduous and time-consuming, discipline is crucial
In the Bhagavad Gita (4.38), it is said:
na hi jïänena sadåçaà
pavitram iha vidyate
tat svayaà yoga-saàsiddhaà
When we have begun the journey to acquire transcendental knowledge, it is not going to be an easy process, we have to keep putting in effort to receive knowledge from deep within our heart. This requires tremendous concentration, focus and a relentless desire to please and serve the Lord and connect with him.
Discipline is very important whenever we take on any assignment, especially when it’s arduous and time-consuming. Let’s discuss this further.
What is discipline?
Discipline is doing the right thing at the right time for the right reason. It can so happen that one does the wrong thing at the right time for the right or wrong reason. Sometimes the time is not always appropriate. Likewise, various permutations and combinations are formed according to the games played by the three modes of material nature. But when a righteous action is performed at the right time for the right reasons, it results in a greater good. Discipline is to bring these three in alignment to propel a higher purpose within, to become an instrument of superior cause. At the battlefield of Kurukshetra, Lord Krishna instructed Arjuna to act on this principle by triggering his sense of duty. If not used at the right time for the right reason, Arjuna’s years of discipline over his skills of warfare would have gone to ashes.
Discipline: A refining fire by which talent becomes ability
Everyone is blessed with potential talent. Yet, unless that talent is put through the fire of discipline, their transformation doesn’t take place. A lump of coal needs to be put under intense pressure to become
a diamond and gold needs to be melted under fire to be made into a valuable ornament. The laws of nature are designed this way. As human beings, this is applicable for us too.
An interesting anecdote from the life of Isaac Newton reveals to us his disciplined efforts to reach his goals. A neighbour of Newton always found him spraying bubbles every morning for eight hours in the hot sun. She thought he was childish and jobless. However, later she came to know he was writing his theories on the laws of physics through such experiments. Thus, although sometimes such acts appear foolish or simple compared to others’ extravagant endeavours, consistent effort can bring out the best abilities in man. Newton was highly talented, but one of his strengths was that he coupled his talent with a lot of diligent effort. Without that effort of refining fire, the talent cannot become an ability.
Discipline: Doing what you don’t want to do so you can do what you want
When beginning a new task, it is extremely difficult to perform. One may not have honed their skills to perform efficiently, and one may also lack particular behaviours to be proficient at the task. However, one would have entered into that unfamiliar territory with certain goals in mind. The best way to get started is to begin by doing things you wouldn’t like to do. Nobody likes studying, but good results in exams are earned through consistent effort to learn the subjects. Even Arjuna didn’t want to fight the battle of Kurukshetra. But he had to do so by following the instructions of the Gita with great tenacity to achieve desired results.
One more personality of note is Arnold Schwarzenegger, the famous Hollywood star, former governor of California and seven-time international bodybuilding champion. He wanted to become a bodybuilder and his father put him into a training regime. Although bitter in the beginning, he could taste the results of the transformation this training brought him. Interestingly, he noted that despite being able to lift only a certain amount of weight during practice, when standing amid millions of spectators during the championship, he lifted more than what he had imagined. This is proof that drastic advancements can be made when we are monitored by the right authorities. As is popularly known, ‘No pain, no gain’.
In any practice, spiritual or otherwise, the progress is gradual and ordinary when done alone. Naturally, spiritual discipline requires doing what one doesn’t want to do, like waking up early, sitting in place to recite the holy names of God for two hours, etc., but when accompanied by seekers of the same goal, there are excellent benefits of being motivated and pushing to perform activities out of your comfort zone.
The tendency of a soul conditioned by material life is to take the easy way out. However, the easy way is not the happy way. And good things never come easy. Discipline is doing what you don’t want to do so that in future you can do what you have been wanting to do.
Excerpted with permission from The Art of Habits: 40 Stories to Uplift the Mind and Transform the Heart, published by Penguin Ananda
A lump of coal needs to be put under intense pressure to become a diamond. As human beings, this is applicable for us too.