Sometimes, people participate in runs to express their solidarity for a cause. In such runs, who wins the race is not important; who participates and perseveres till the end is.

Similarly, when we practice spiritual life, we are running a race – a race against time and towards Krishna, our all-attractive, all-loving Lord, whose parts we are eternally. In this spiritual race, we aspire to get as close to him as possible before our time in this life runs out. However, while running this race, we may develop an unnecessarily competitive mentality. We may get caught in showing that we are more spiritually advanced than others. Such a misdirected focus makes us proud if we are able to control our senses better than others or makes us frustrated if others can do that better than us. Either way, we end up distracted from Krishna.

A subtler distraction can be internal when we see spiritual life primarily as a competition against temptation. We consider ourselves as winners if we are able to eradicate worldly desires from our consciousness and as losers if those desires overwhelm us. The Bhagavad-gita recommends that we not burden ourselves with the unrealistic expectation of eradicating all worldly desires. It (05.23) assures that if we just resist lifelong the urges of desire and anger, we will be well-situated on the path of yoga and will be happy. This implies that we just need to keep resisting lifelong, even if the desires still remain present. Phrased in terms of the race metaphor, we just need to be finishers.

Of course, if we keep practicing bhakti-yoga diligently throughout our life, we will become absorbed in Krishna, thereby transcending temptation. Thus, by striving to be finishers, we will eventually be winners too.

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