(Kadamba Kanana Swami, 15 December 2012, Phoenix Ratha Yatra, South Africa, Q&A Lecture)
Well, I have been thinking about a metaphor. I call it the step-by-step metaphor. In material life, we have two steps, two feet in the world. As long as we have our two feet in this world, we get very preoccupied with all the affairs that surround us and everything seems terribly important so we always go from one important activity into another one.
When young, education is important. Later on, fashion is important. In every phase of life, everything is important. So, when our two feet are in the material world, then material life is extremely important. From one issue, we go into another and there’s always something burning and of great urgency and importance.
Then, into our life, comes a self-realized soul and by the association of such a devotee, we are suddenly struck with a totally different dimension… struck that there is a whole different dimension to life… a spiritual dimension and gradually… the spiritual world. Not just a little bit of religion in the form of spicing but actually a whole life of devotion as Prabhupada kind of painted it for us.
Suddenly, it kind of reawakens something in us… something that had gone to sleep… something we forgot but suddenly within us, there is a calling. Suddenly we feel called, and we feel like, “Yes, deep down inside, this is actually what I really want it.” And just on a emotional level, we feel strongly drawn to a spiritual life but then it has to become practical and one thinks, “Nah, it doesn’t make sense. I have so many important things to do!”
But that spiritual dimension has entered; that taste has come. At this stage, we are hesitatingly putting our leg forward, not yet on the ground, but we’ve lifted one leg off the ground. It’s floating. So, our spiritual life is sort of up in the air at that stage, but we are not completely on the material footing anymore. Then gradually… alright, we put a toe on the ground as if to sort of check it out; what is it like actually, toe in the water. We check out spiritual life a little bit, still not making commitments. Oh no. You know, don’t get carried away now! We’re not making commitments. I mean, really! We’re just experimenting, yes, a little, it’s a toe. In due course of time, our spiritual life becomes a little bit more established, becomes in a more solid way, part of our life and yes, we put the foot on the ground but the weight is still on the material side.
So, all the weight remains on the material side and now, gradually, in our spiritual life, we have to make a shift where the weight actually starts to come onto the spiritual leg and it’s at that stage that there is a real breakthrough! It is at that stage that a tangible transformation begins to take place. That is the stage which acaryas have classified as niṣṭhā or firm determination. It is that stage where spiritual life has become the priority and material life is there and it has its importance but it’s of secondary importance to spiritual life.
Until we come to that stage, we will be fickle. Until we come to that stage, we cannot fix our mind. Until we come to that stage where the majority of the weight is on the spiritual leg. Some weight may be there, on the material leg as well, but the majority is on the spiritual leg. At that stage, we take care of our material duties but see them as a secondary life.
It is that which Srila Prabhupada really wanted for us. Not anything less, nothing less. That was really his idea. When Prabhupada said that the devotees should become at least a madhyama-adhikārī or a devotee on the intermediate platform, then that’s what it means because in the intermediate stage, one comes to niṣṭhā. Up to niṣṭhā is the kaniṣṭha stage. So, there’s kaniṣṭha and then niṣṭhā. Kaniṣṭha is the initial stage in devotional service, the stage of weak faith. Kaniṣṭha translates as weak faith. So it’s the faith where we are not really convinced. It is said śraddhā’-śabde — viśvāsa kahe sudṛḍha niścaya kṛṣṇe bhakti kaile sarva-karma kṛta haya (CC Madhya 22.62).
Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu gave the definition of faith. The way he gave the definition of faith – he said that it is faith that when we engage in devotional service to Krsna, that all good will come in our life; that all good will come from that. That faith one must have. That must be very strong. So yes, that is not so simple, it seems. And on the other hand, simple, simple for the brave. One must be brave.