Sri Ramakrishna would often advise his devotees about the need to be extremely alert and awake in spiritual life. He would say that there is no place for laxity in spiritual life. He would often find that many devotees come to him once in a while and try to participate in the satsangs, but whatever they hear and seemingly understand would not be translated into action. They would go back to their old ways the moment they returned home. He used to visit the houses of various devotees in Kolkata. At one particular place, an elderly person would often come to have his darshan, but would fall asleep and would not wake up until the master was about to leave. Just before his departure when the man woke up to find that he had missed the discourses, he would regret his action. This is illustrative of people who basically have good intentions, but do not have the grit or capacity to carry them forward to gain spiritually. With reference to such people he used to narrate a story.
Once, a jatra, a simple theatrical performance requiring minimum infrastructure and other facilities, was arranged in a village. One person reached the venue much ahead of time. He had brought a mat with him. Since he had arrived early, he spread the mat to rest a while. But he fell asleep and slept through the entire performance. He woke up only after the jatra was over and was sad that he had missed all the fun and joy. He had to just fold his mat and go home.
Thus Sri Ramakrishna would say that unless one is extremely focused and goal-minded, it is not possible to achieve much progress in spiritual life. That is why in the Upanishads it is said that a spiritual journey is like walking on a razor’s edge. Even the least carelessness can lead to tremendous disaster. Eternal vigilance is the price for reaching the true goal of life.
-by Swami Shantatmananda, Sunday Guardian, 20th Dec 2014