Why does it take so long, we wonder? It is common to experience a sense of frustration with our spiritual efforts. When progress seems to take forever, our very impatience can become an obstacle. We need to respect the way nature works and take things a step at a time.

A good friend, Sagar, shared this story from ancient India. But, first, a disclaimer: Warfare is a terrible solution for resolving conflicts in this world, as we are currently seeing with the tragic events in Ukraine. But as Yogananda pointed out in his explanation of the Bhagavad Gita, war can also be seen as a symbol of the inner struggle between the ego and the soul. So, let’s take this story as a spiritual analogy.

Chanakya, a great general, undertook a noble war on behalf of his king. His first move was to attack the enemy’s capital. This stronghold, however, was too well guarded. His forces were badly defeated, his army was scattered, and he had to flee into the wilderness.

One day, Chanakya entered a little village in quest of food. As he passed by a hut, he heard the excited voices of children. Their mother was serving them hot rice porridge. Suddenly a young boy cried out, “Ouch! I burnt my fingers.”

“Well, what do you expect?” the woman said. “Naturally they will get burnt if you are as foolish as Chanakya.” Intrigued and curious, Chanakya barged into the room.

“Who are you?” asked the mother of the children. “What do you want?”

“I just came in to find out the meaning of your words,” said Chanakya.

The woman was surprised. “I was merely telling the children to eat properly,” she said. “I had served them hot porridge. They should have realized that it was hottest at the center and started eating from the outer portion, which cools first.”

“Yes, but what has Chanakya got to do with it?” asked Chanakya.

“Everything,” said the woman smiling. “Chanakya was foolish to attack his enemy’s strongest point, the well-guarded capital, at the very outset. Just like this silly child trying to eat the hot porridge from the middle! That’s why Chanakya lost and had to flee. Instead, he should have started by first conquering the small provinces on the periphery in order to weaken it.”

“Thank you so much, Mother,” said Chanakya to the woman. “You’ve taught me a wonderful lesson in war strategy. I shall not make the same mistake a second time.”

Chanakya regathered his troops for another attack. And this time the army set about conquering the smaller fiefdoms first. Advancing slowly but surely, they eventually succeeded in taking the capital.

“Going Within,” by Nara Bedwell.

The lesson for us is that we need to take one step at a time, and win the small spiritual battles first before going on to the bigger ones. Take, for example, restless thoughts during meditation. We will end up frustrated if we assume we can quickly tame the mind. Let’s conquer the outer provinces first. Start with the body, by keeping it relaxed and motionless. Then go on to the breath, just watching it come in and out without trying to control it. Try to practice Hong-Sau for a minute at a time with good concentration. Once you’ve achieved that, you will find it easier to focus on subtler aspects such as the inner sounds and lights. Work with achievable goals and celebrate the little victories. Over time you will naturally extend and deepen your concentration. Gradual growth is nature’s way.

The same principle applies to other aspirations. In seeking to master your desires, for example, don’t assume you can start with strongly defended, primeval ones such as security and sexual attraction. Work on manageable habits, taking on one at a time until you can transform it. Slow down in order to speed up. In the end, little steps lead to big results.

With patience,

Nayaswami Jyotish

Listen to Jyotish as he reads the blog, then expands on it, often adding special behind-the-inspiration stories and answers to common spiritual questions. Subscribe to the podcast or download the audio recording by right-clicking here. Or listen to it here (8:17):

27 Comments

  1. Sometime I get so caught up in what I’m doing I forget to breathe. A dear friend of mine who I am honoring with this comment as she has been received at the final rest, gave me Wisdom advice. While painting the wall up against the the crown mold in a different color I would catch myself holding my breath. She asked me to try exhaling on the brush stroke and inhaling on the brush dip. Improved not only my painting but my life. Thanks Steph. And thank you sir.
    JBoyd

    1. Hello Jerry,
      Although learning techniques to control breathing in activities is a great metaphor for learning to control breath or to watch breath in meditation, it must also be noted that when a person is engaged in any concentrative effort , the breathing will slow down or stop. I was a painter for awhile and noticed, as a Kriyaban as three of us were ” cutting in” at the ceiling or moldings it would get extremely quiet with no talking and almost no breathing going on. It was my joy to understand that with greater concentration comes less breathing and how that works in meditation as well. More good painting and more good meditation are right there for us if we wish to put in the effort. It gets easier over time and the joy becomes natural and is just there for you to bring in and revel in. Best to you

  2. Gratitude for your guidance and truly shall follow one step at a time. Thank you so much 🙏

  3. Thank you! You are so right, little steps lead to big results! It works for me. Jay Guru!

  4. Very motivational and educative article. Thanks a lot🙏🙏🙏

  5. Jyotish always “hits the spot” with his writings because of his realization and his deep intuition and his raw experience in how the process of inner unfoldment works.
    It could be added that with practice , everything gets better and easier. After some years with Kriya , you can look back and find that you don’t struggle as much with getting deep in meditation because the intuitive “how to do it” just comes through naturally and you let go of the bank and drift easily with the current down stream to greater joy and inner accomplishment.
    Whatever we concentrate on becomes more evident in our lives.

  6. Thanks Jyotish,
    Great advice!
    Just what the doctor ordered!🙏

  7. Thank you, Jyotish — exactly the reminder I needed today.. Over-achieving is a tough barnacle to scrape off my Earth-ship.
    Gotta’ remember — a barnacle at a time.

  8. I really like the analogy–it’s very creative and helps bring home the point, which I’ve always found such a comforting and encouraging one.

  9. I respectfully add my own experience briefly. As I approach self-realization from the “smaller steps first” aspect, I was also being fed these smaller steps by the higher power (God, Universe, etc.) I call these small steps first, “low hanging fruit.” We don’t expect to step onto the tennis court and play pro tennis, and we don’t expect to play Chopin when we sit at the piano. It takes practice, and the better we get with the small stuff, the bigger stuff just starts to appear. The universe supports us in this way. It has been an amazing path for me. The harder it gets the more willing I become, because I know I am growing more and more by the intensity of the energy in the challenges that are placed before me. Thank you, and much love and respect to all.

  10. Thank you Jyotish!

    I love your advice of “Slow down in order to speed up” ! You were absolutely right, “We need to respect the way nature works and take things a step at a time.” because of my profession, I always finish all the tasks before the end of the day, and of cause it ended up with lots of mistakes and bad judgement! I am still learning to slow down and looking at the task as an outsider instead of taking it too personal! Thanks again for your wisely advice!

  11. I love the painting very much and your words with so much love and patience, dear Jyotish. Thank you for the infinite love – like the sky ✨✨that you give with Devi💙💙

  12. Many thanks, dear soul, for the wise reminder that small yet focused steps are key. Also listening for God and Guru’s advice from meditation and wherever else it might come from. Thank you Sagar for the wonderful example of listening and paying attention to the clues that God and Guru give us through others, especially our fellow gurubhais. Namaste

  13. Dear Nayaswami Jyotish Ji,

    Thank you for sharing this wonderful blog… very profound, encouraging.. Start small and celebrate little victories… very nice.
    Banat Banat Ban Jai :-)

    Joy,
    Prem

  14. Thank you so much Jyotish! Both you and Devi a such amazing writers and speakers. Every posting of a Touch of Light, brings me such joy and understanding!

    May Peace, Joy and Bliss fill each moment, until the day that is all we know.

  15. Good to read your thoughts. I just hope Putin doesn’t read them too.
    Mahalo!

  16. This lesson of Brahmachari Sagar today I find it very practical with a lot of sense and I feel motivated to practise it immediately. Very grounded, feets on Earth. It coincides with May 28 daily message related to Sri Yuktewar’ s practical intelligence , as well narrated by Master.

  17. These words are worth reading over regularly. Thank you for the encouraging way to set attainable goals first as our strength grows.

  18. Thank you for the simple and clear explanation through the analogy.
    Today, I have completed my Ph.D. thesis submission. It could take shape through each small step. Your word always inspire me. Thank you so much.

  19. So beautifully put dearest Jyotish Ji. Thank you thank you. Loved the timely guidance – its encouraging. Am going to let your inspiring words keep ringing in my mind and heart as I make baby steps towards the goal.

  20. Great lesson for Chanakya and for me today. I have been trying unsuccessfully to change some habits all at the same time. I will start with the easiest. I will take it easy. I will celebrate my little victories before I move to the next battle.
    Thank you!

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