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18. “I don’t want to be forced.”

We’ve reached the conclusion. A multitude of excuses have been presented, and a series of responses offered. There could still, however, be one final reservation. Though everything may make sound logical sense, we still have to embrace it from within. “I can’t force it” someone may say “I have to do it from the heart.”
Krishna fully agrees. After speaking many verses, presenting a flawless philosophy, and patiently addressing all of Arjuna’s questions, confusions and doubts, Krishna humbly states that this wisdom is merely “His opinion” and that Arjuna should “reflect upon the conversation, weigh up the options, and then do as he wishes to do.” The Bhagavad-Gita thus concludes with a resounding emphasis on free will – a gift of God that He never impinges upon. Bhakti is an affair of the heart.
Every year I travel to the beautiful village of Vrindavana, the home of Krishna, for a boost of spiritual inspiration and rejuvenation. A casual stroll through the dusty lanes reveals a depth of wisdom. Holy places are invaluable because they’re a living theology; what’s written about in pages of books and discussed in hours of discourses, is lucidly revealed in the simple and sincere lifestyle of devotion that comes so naturally to the people there.
I make a point to visit the Radha Damodara Temple, where Srila Prabhupada spent many reflective years before coming to America. During his time there, he observed a Bengali widow who devotedly walked to the Yamuna River every morning, returning with a clay pot of sacred water for the daily temple worship. Sometimes he would open the gate for her, intently noting her demeanour. Moved by her devotion, he said she would surely attain spiritual perfection in this very life, her entrance to eternity guaranteed, for her heart was completely devoid of selfishness and pretention. She had grasped the essence – that she was a spirit soul, and the most valuable opportunity in life was to connect with the Supreme Spirit through love and service in whatever simple way she could. A natural devotion from deep within.
Even today, we encounter many saintly souls in Vrindavana. They live as lone mendicants in the holy land, probably with a vow to never leave, determined to end their days in complete spiritual absorption, diligently preparing for their imminent journey to the next world. They have understood this is the business end of life – where the greatest opportunities open up.
It always prompts me to reflect on the intensity of my own spirituality. We have to build momentum, increase the urgency and eagerly look for more and more avenues to genuinely go deeper. Gradually, all the empty promises of the world that steal our attention should fade into insignificance, allowing us to focus on the essence of life.
After much discussion, the ball, as they say, really is in our court. While one remains on the philosophical platform, there will always be a ping-pong of arguments to consider. Doubts will linger and hesitancy will remain. To become truly convinced one must progress beyond the intellectual. The higher dimensional methodology involves a transcendental exchange with Krishna. That is the greatest challenge and the greatest opportunity that the Bhagavad-Gita offers to us all. We have to make the step, and we have to make it with our heart.

“Thus I have explained to you knowledge still more confidential. Deliberate on this fully, and then do what you wish to do.” (Bhagavad-Gita 18.63)

References

18.63 – Krishna encourages Arjuna to exercise his free will.
18.66 – Krishna’s final piece of advice to Arjuna, encouraging a heartfelt surrender.