Once upon a time there was a very strong woodcutter.
He asked for a job from a timber merchant, and he got it.
The pay was really good and so were the work conditions.
For that reason, the woodcutter was determined to do his best.
His boss gave him an axe and showed him the area where he was supposed to work.
The first day, the woodcutter brought down 18 trees.
The Boss was very much impressed and said, Congratulations Go on that way!
Very motivated by the words of the boss, the woodcutter tried harder the next day, but he could bring down only 15 trees.
The third day he tried even harder, but he could bring down only 10 trees.
Day after day he was bringing down less and less trees. I must be losing my strength, the woodcutter thought to himself.
He went to the boss and apologized, saying that he could not understand what was going on.
When was the last time you sharpened your axe? the boss asked.
Sharpen? I had no time to sharpen my axe! I have been very busy trying to cut trees.”
THE MORAL OF THE STORY:
This story represents our lives in a nutshell.
We sometimes get so busy that we dont take time to sharpen the axe, in other words, do a “reality check” and take stock of our sadhana and service.
In todays world, it seems that everyone is busier than ever, but less happy than ever. Why is that?
Could it be that we have forgotten how to stay sharp? Theres nothing wrong with activity and hard work.
But we should not get so busy that we neglect the truly important things in life, like our personal sadhana, taking time to care for others, taking time to read etc.
We all need time to relax, to think and meditate, to learn and grow. If we dont take time to sharpen the axe, we will become dull and lose our effectiveness.
When liberated souls like Sukadeva Gosvami remain alert not to be trapped by the illusory energy by studying the Srimad Bhagavatam, what is our position with regard to studying of the Bhagavatam ?
The sharpening of the axe in the story is nothing but taking stock of our bhakti as to whether we are progressing, stagnant or being trapped in maya.
The only way to progress in our devotional service and be effective is by following the instructions of our Guru Maharaj i.e.,
1) Reading Bhagavatam and Bhagavad Gita daily
2) Chanting with love and devotion
3) Write our realizations
In SB 1.7.9 Sri Saunaka asked Suta Gosvami,
sa vai nivrtti-niratah sarvatropeksako munih
kasya vaa brahatiim etaam aatmaaraamah samabhyasat
“Sri Sukadeva Gosvami was already on the path of self-realization, and thus he was pleased with his own self. So why did he take the trouble to undergo the study of such a vast literature?”
In the purport Srila Prabhupada says that Srila Sukadeva Gosvami had already attained the stage of aatmaaraama and still he was attracted to undergo the trouble of studying the great Bhagavatam literature.
This means that Srimad Bhagavatam is a postgraduate study even for the atmaaraamas who have surpassed all the studies of Vedic knowledge.
Srila Prabhupada gives a punching statement in the purport of SB 1.4.4:
“Srila Sukadeva Gosvami was a liberated soul, and thus he remained always alert not to be trapped by the illusory energy.”
Whatever level we may be in our devotional service, the key is to be always alert and careful in performing our activities.