One Step, Twenty Steps in Lotus lake

One Step, Twenty Steps

“When someone takes one step toward the Lord, the Lord takes twenty steps toward him.” It is a striking phrase which has vivified and energized the devotion of many yogis. Nevertheless, it can be interpreted, disregarding the plain meaning of the words, into something quite different. In a lazy period, one who believes himself a devotee can reason something like this:

What this says is that when I take a step toward him, the Lord takes twenty steps toward me. In fact he is doing the same as I do, namely taking one step, and then he adds nineteen more of his own. So if I take no step at all, then admittedly the Lord will not take that step either; but then he will add nineteen steps of his own to it. Adding nineteen to nothing gives nineteen, so he will still move nineteen steps toward me. He won’t arrive quite so quickly, perhaps, but the difference will soon be made up.

Someone who heard of this remarked, “That idea is based on addition, and it is against the clear meaning. What the text says is that when one step is taken toward the Lord, the Lord multiplies it by twenty. Even if it is only a single step, that step of the devotee becomes twenty steps by the Lord. But if the devotee cannot be bothered to take even one step … well, twenty times nothing is nothing. It is true that the Lord could appear immediately, but he leaves it to a devotee to have the joy of himself coming, even a little, toward the Lord.”

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