I was invited to give a couple of programs in the temple and the congregation, and Nitaisevini Mataji requested me to visit the school and answer some questions of the students. And they had a lot of good and meaningful questions - much to my surprise....!
During my visit to Vishakapatnam I had an opportunity to spend two nights at our ISKCON temple in Rajahmundry - a 4-hours' drive - and offer a couple of programs there also. The Krishna-blue temple complex is situated directly on a bathing ghat of the Godavari - one of the holy rivers in India. The devotees also took me to Kovvur on the other side of the Godavari - the historic place where Ramananda Raya met with Mahaprabhu in discussion. Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakur established a temple at this place and was visiting there twice, and so did Srila Prabhupada.
I took pleasure in engaging my audience in remembering the sweet details of the loving exchanges between the Lord and His associates while taking shelter under Govardhana Hill. And Indra's pride was another topic giving us deep instructions on the importance of cultivating humility.
His Holiness Gour Govinda Maharaja gives the following analogy during a lecture in Ghana on 20 January 1996:
"The pot of the heart should be made of these four constituents: humility, tolerance, respect and pridelessness. Mahaprabhu is the giver, and you are the receiver. If your pot is not made of these constituents, how can you receive?"
Those four qualities will gradually and naturally manifest as we become free from the demands and orders of our false ego. Only then can we truly receive the matchless gift that Srila Prabhupada and Mahaprabhu have given to us.
In the shastra we find nice explanations of the quality of humility. In his purport to the Bhagavad-gita (13.8–12), Srila Prabhupada explains:
"Humility means that one should not be anxious to have the satisfaction of being honoured by others. The material conception of life makes us very eager to receive honour from others, but from the point of view of a man in perfect knowledge – who knows that he is not this body – anything, honour or dishonour, pertaining to this body is useless. One should not be hankering after this material deception."
The anxiousness for the satisfaction to be honoured by others is once again the demand that the false ego casts on us. And in the ultimate sense it is useless, since it is related to the temporary situation of being in a certain type of body. It has no connection to the soul and thus will be insignificant at the moment of death. Humility means that we are free from such anxiousness.
Sanatana Gosvami further states in his Brihad-Bhagavatamrita:
"Scholars define humility as being: When a person, even though possessing all-good qualities, considers himself to be completely unqualified, worthless and unintelligent. Therefore, by his words, activities and intelligence, it is the duty of a sadhaka to conduct himself in such a way that he will become fixed in humility. An intelligent person should not do anything that is opposed to humility."
Even though we may have no good qualities, we may still consider ourselves so qualified, worthy and intelligent – something which the false ego whispers into our ear.
In the compilation Japa Meditations, His Holiness Dhanurdhara Maharaja gives insights into the question of how an advanced person sees himself as not being very elevated at all:
"A person who is spiritually advanced thinks he is not very elevated, for tasting the boundless ocean of devotional service, even a drop of it, makes one realise how much more there is to attain and how little one has."
This nicely explains how elevated personalities like Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura sometimes lament, seeing themselves as materialists who have simply wasted their lives. He had received insights into the ever-increasing, unlimited realm of spiritual experience. Since it is unlimited and ever-expanding to higher and higher levels of experience, whatever he tasted seemed insignificant, being merely the beginning.
However, a neophyte devotee who has not even gained a glimpse into the true nature of transcendence will think his experience of happiness to be a sign of great advancement. He does not even know about the ever-increasing realm of transcendental bliss available to a Vaishnava.
In the same compilation we find another statement by His Holiness Dhanurdhara Maharaja:
"How to feel humble? It is simple: introspect and be honest."
Let us remember the beautiful analogy given by Ramanujacharya to Anantacharya:
"A Vaishnava is like salt. Although salt brings out the total flavour of a gourmet preparation more than any other part, it remains hidden, and we glorify every other ingredient but the salt. Similarly, a true devotee performs all kinds of services, even great things, but always prefers to remain hidden, not seeking credit or glory."
We indeed never glorify the salt in a tasty subji, but rather give attention to the big pieces of paneer, although it is the salt that brings out the full flavour of a preparation. And we all have the experience of what happens when the salt wants to be noticed: Everything is spoiled when a preparation is too salty!
In the same way, a devotee wants to remain hidden like the salt, and does not want to be recognised. As the salt desiring to be noticed spoils the entire preparation, in the same way a devotee who strives to be recognised for his contribution spoils the entire offering to the Lord. It is contaminated by the false ego and receives a poisonous flavour. This is a wonderful analogy to meditate on...!
Another analogy comes to mind: Only that food which is well digested nourishes our body. Undigested food develops toxins, poisons the body and leads to disease, even though the food itself may be very nutritious. Anybody who has some knowledge of Ayurveda understands this. In the same way, any ability and opulence, if not digested with humility, becomes toxic and poisons our spiritual development. In this way, we can understand humility to be the digestive agent, which will prevent us from becoming intoxicated by pride resulting from our opulences and successes.
On the 15th of November I flew on to Mysore.....
Your servant, Devaki dd
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