I was reading Patanjali’s Yoga Sutra (1.14), came across this beautiful knowledge. It explains about Practice, and what makes someone's practice pure. There are three qualifications for practice.
The first qualification for practice is that it should be done for a long time. Unfortunately, we just want the result immediately. If I ask you to repeat a mantra and tell you will become more peaceful and realize beautiful things within, you will go back home, repeat it for three days and then call me “I have repeated it for three days but nothing happened. Maybe this is not a suitable mantra for me. Can you give me a different one? See? So Patanjali says. “for a long time.” He does not say how long.
And then second, it should be without break. I often hear, “Oh, I have been practicing Yoga for the past ten years but I am still the same.” “How often?” “Oh, off and on.” So it must be continuous practice also.
And the last qualification: “in all earnestness.” That means with full attention, with the entire application of your mind, and with full faith in your achievement. Even when you want something or somebody on the worldly level, you will be after it day and night. You don’t sleep, you don’t even eat – you are always at it. If this quality is necessary to achieve even worldly success, how much more so for success in Yoga. So let us not be like little children who sow a seed today and dig it up tomorrow to see how much the root went down. We need all these three qualities – Patience, Devotion and Faith.
This reminds me of a small story given in the Hindu Scriptures. Here it goes
“In the Deva Loka, or the heavenly plane where the divine beings live, there is a great maharishi (sage) called Narada. Just as there are great Yogis here, so there are also among the gods. So Narada travels all over and sometimes comes to earth to see how we are doing. One day, he was passing through a forest and saw a Yoga student who had been meditating for so long that the ants had built an anthill around his body.
The Yogi looked at Narada and said, “Narada, Sir, where are you going?”
“To Heaven, to Lord Siva’s place.”
“Oh, could you please do something for me there?”
“Sure, what can I do?”
“Could you find out from the Lord for how many more births I must meditate? I have been sitting here for quite a long time, so please find out.”
Then Narada walked a few miles further and saw another man, but this one was jumping and dancing and singing with all joy: “Hare Rama Hare Rama Rama Rama Hare Hare; Hare Krishna Hare Krishna Krishna Krishna Hare Hare!”
When he saw Narada he said, “Hi Narada! Where are you going?”
“Oh, that’s great. Could you please find out for how long I have to be here like this? When will I get final liberation?”
“Sure, I will.”
So, after many years Narada happened by the same route again and saw the first man. The Yogi recognized Narada. “Narada, I haven’t had any answer from you. Did you go to Heaven? What did the Lord say?”
“I asked, but the Lord said you have to take another four births.”
“Another….FOUR….births!!! Haven’t I waited long enough???”
He started shouting and lamenting. Narada walked further and saw the second man still singing and dancing.
“Hi, Narada. What happened? Did you get some news for me?”
“Well, tell me.”
“Do you see that tree there?”
“Can you count the leaves on it?”
“Sure, I have the patience to do it. Do you want me to count them right away?”
“No, no, no. You can take your time to count.”
“But what has that got to do with my question?”
“Well, Lord Siva says you will have to take as many births as the number of leaves of that tree.”
“Oh, is that all? So at least it’s a limited number then. Now I know where it ends. That’s fine. I can quickly finish it off. Thank God that he didn’t say the leaves of the entire forest!”
Just then, a beautiful palanquin came down from Heaven, and the driver said, “Come on, would you mind getting in? Lord Siva has sent for you.”
“I’m going to Heaven now?”
“But just now Narada said I have to take so many more births first.
“Yes, but it seems that you were ready and willing to do that, so why should you wait? Come on.”
“And what about the other man?”
“He’s not even ready to wait four more births–let him wait and work more.”
This is not a mere story. You can easily see the truth behind it. If you are that patient, your mind is more settled, and what you do will be more perfect. If you are unsettled and anxious to get the result, you are already disturbed; nothing done with that disturbed mind will have quality. So, it is not only how long you practice,but with what patience, what earnestness and what quality also.
Source: The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali (1.14)