Can our humility be abused? It is an important question especially in this day and age when people are becoming money-oriented, selfish and care nothing for others. A pure devotee of the Lord sees everything as Krishna’s mercy; thus he is never agitated and also personally protected by Krishna. But as practicing sadhakas, we may wonder, “If I artificially tolerate and maintain grudge, that may spoil my consciousness. If I take tit for tat, that makes me no different from a common man and also will also put off others. What to do?” Here below, I am writing from my practical life experience along with some sastric illustrations.
I had gone to Bhaktivedanta hospital in a sumo sent from Juhu temple. While returning, I was sitting behind and doing my emailing. The driver was calmly driving and stopped the sumo at a signal. One young boy overtook from left side hitting the mirror on left side of our sumo and parked his bike in front of our vehicle. Our driver hastily checked whether anything happened to the mirror. Nothing had happened fortunately. Still he turned wild and screamed at the boy in front, “Do you have any brain? When there is red signal, what is the need of such a hasty overtake from left?” The boy sitting on his bike with helmet looked behind at us and again turned his face away. Again our driver wanting to instigate the boy to make him speak something shouted some more things. Now the boy took out his helmet and looked sharply at the driver and spoke some vulgar words. Now our driver also retaliated with some other bad words showing his fist at the boy. As the signal showed green, all vehicles starting moving and the boy drove off and so did my driver.
After a few minutes, driver told me, “Sorry swamiji, I had to speak vulgar words in front of you.”
I didn’t say a word, but looked at him for a while and continued with my work. After a few minutes, a conversation ensued between us.
“Do you think there was any mistake in my scolding that boy with bad language?” driver asked.
“What do you think?” I asked.
“I think, I did right; if we don’t show people our confidence, they’ll think we’re weak.”
“ok” I said and remained silent for some time.
“But swamiji, you didn’t tell me your opinion about my behavior?” he asked.
“You said you were right; then what makes you ask me this question again?” I said.
“No. I just wanted to hear what dharma in such situations is” he said.
Now I felt some compassion for him and closed my computer and began speaking to him:
“I will tell you a story. Once in Srirangam one male and female temple elephants were bathed in the holy pond. Their body was dried and beautiful tilaks were applied. A velvet cloth was put on their body. Now as they walked majestically towards the temple to greet the deities of Lord Ranganatha, on the way they came across a newly wedded pig couple. The he-pig whose body was dripping with stool and sewage waters came out of the gutter and showing his fist to the male elephant challenged him for a fight. The male elephant waved his head to and fro saying, “I am not ready for a fight with you.” Both he and she pig had a great laughter which disturbed the false ego of she-elephant. She asked her husband, who was hastily walking ahead as if fearful, “What a shame! You are so huge and the pig is so tiny. If you give him one kick, he’ll role like a football back into the ditch. Your body is big, but you’ve no guts.” The male elephant said, “My dear wife, we are Lord’s servants. We are supposed to reach the temple in time and greet the Lord. If I pick up quarrel with this dirty pig, then our bodies will become smeared all over with dirty gutter waters, stool and sewage. That is why I refused for the fight. Come, Lord is about to give his darshan. Let us rush to temple and call out ‘Ranga’ ‘Ranga’ as we do every day. Rather than act on the platform of our false ego, if we simply engage in Lord’s seva, we will achieve all good fortune.” When the she-elephant heard this explanation, she smiled with satisfaction, “I do agree that we should avoid bad association and keep ourselves pure. I am amazed how you could give up your ego like Srila Rupa goswami and Sanatana goswami who signed on the egoistic Digvijay pandit’s proclamation of success, not wanting to waste their time in futile debates. I am fortunate to have such a smart husband as you. By your association I will also go back home back to Godhead without having to become smeared by the gutter waters of ego clashes of the material world, by keeping my focus on the Supreme Lord Sri Krishna. Forgive me for my taunt that I hurled upon you in my ignorance.” Then both elephants reached temple on time and relished Lord Ranganatha’s beautiful darshan and forgot the episode with the dirty pigs.
When I completed telling him the story, the driver stopped the vehicle by the side. His face became litted up and with a beaming smile he exclaimed, “Now I understood everything. What a wonderful lesson you taught me today prabhuji! Thank you very much.” I asked him what, is it, which made him so jubilant. He said, “I am like a temple elephant, because I am driving temple vehicle. And people who speak vulgar words lower their status like that of pigs by such speech. And I should know my connection to the holy ISKCON and SP for whom I am working. Then I could have avoided speaking the vulgar words as I foolishly did today. It was spoiling my consciousness by picking quarrels with low-minded people, smearing myself with material gutter waters of ego clashes. For my whole life, I’ll never misbehave like this; rather, I will behave like the Ranganath temple elephants.”
I said, “Well done! You’re a smart learner because you’re a sincere devotee of Krishna.”
He asked, “But then, he hit my vehicle mirror. Are we just supposed to tolerate whatever others do?”
I asked, “But did your mirror break?”
He said, “No, Definitely not. There was not even a scratch. Probably I was a bit irritated that he has a bike small enough to overtake me! And I blurted out disproportionately on him for an insignificant mistake. If my sumo mirror broke, then was my taunting him justified?”
“Would that verbal battle help rectify the situation in anyway?” I questioned.
“Probably not, If the boy refuses to pay me some compensation for the damage, I could take him to police. But what if the police ignore the case and I don’t get compensation? May be then I could consider giving him a few slaps and kick him off, as a compensation” he said with force.
“Chanakya says that you should know your strength and weakness before confronting anyone,” I warned indicating that the boy may return a bigger slap that may necessitate an ear operation for our driver.
“Then if I let him go without fine or beating, will I not look like a fool?” he challenged.
“yes, if you couldn’t do anything, you might rather let go the case if you want to avoid damage to yourself. Then we could consider it a stroke of destiny and leave the matter there. But you can be assured that the boy who caused you damage and escaped without fine or punishment, will surely be dealt with by the Lord in his heart. Lord keeps track of everyone’s right and wrong and serves the results at an appropriate time. One may escape government or police or state law, but no one can escape Lord’s law. If you have firm faith in the Lord’s justice, you will not lament for not having dealt severely with the boy yourself. Because you and him both are children of God and justice will bring forth results according to one’s actions. By having faith in this fact, you can live a peaceful life even without having attained any compensation. Also, what if you had caused some damage to that boy in his previous life and you went unpunished? It is likely you’re getting reaction for the same. In this way, by keeping a long term picture of series of lifetimes, with Supersoul as a constant witness accompanying every living being, we can live a peaceful life always without lamentation, fear, anger, envy or revengeful attitude.”
He was very thankful for this understanding and I told him, “Since you are serving the Lord and his devotees in an ISKCON temple, Krishna is pleased with you and has helped you develop the right understanding, to make you truly happy in life.” He commented that freedom from false ego is far worthier than earning a million dollars and he said he will act wisely as per these teachings in the time to come.
I was thinking subsequently about what Srimad Bhagavatam says about Kali yuga. Yudhishthir maharaja observed in the beginning of Kaliyuga that businessmen were cheating the customers, brothers were quarreling, husband wife had ego tussles wanting to be separated, there was no respect for authority of superiors etc.
People who feel or say Humility is weakness and try to pose themselves as mighty by behaving aggressively or arrogantly often experience broken families, superficial relationships, loneliness, vengeful feelings, insomnia, dryness in life etc. Everybody in this world looks for being treated respectfully with dignity. Even to express our disagreement, we could do it without hurting others. When differences in opinions are honestly presented on a platform of politeness, respect and sincerity without minimizing or ridiculing or antagonizing the person whom we want to deal with, it is possible to avoid quarrels and heart burnings.
There was a snake disciple of Narada who had learned the importance of humility in life. As he practiced humility, he was severely stoned and beaten by some people and he went to meet Narada with body full of bruises. Narada told him, “Be always humble. But those who are unreasonable with you, then you can hiss showing your hoods, not to harm them, but to keep them away from exploiting you.”
In Mahabharata, you will always see Yudhishthira defending himself and his brothers from all the nefarious plots hatched by evil minded Dhrtarashtra’s sons, but you will never read anywhere Yudhishthira making a plot to hurt or harm them. Yudhishthira tried peace treatise by sending Lord Krishna, to avoid hurting all sons of Dhtarashtra in war. Although war became inevitable, the noble intentions of Yudhishthira should be surely taken note. When our intentions are noble and based on sastras, then we’ve Lord Krishna support with us. Thus although apparently Pandavas nobility was exploited in the beginning by Kauravas in various ways by poisoning Bhima, insulting Draupadi, driving them away to forest, not returning kingdom when they returned, still the ultimate success came to Pandavas only. We should have faith in Lord Krishna’s orchestration and in the glory of noble values that the sastras teach. Humility is courage, Arrogance and Exploitative mentality is weakness. That is why Hitler, though he terrorized the whole world at one time, he died by succumbing to committing suicide. Is it not cowardice?
Scriptures teach us the principle, ‘sarve janah sukhino bhavantu’ ‘May all living beings live peacefully and fulfill their responsibilities in a way that will help them return back home back to Godhead.’ ‘Live and let live’ is the principle. We don’t have to be aggressive or passive, but assertive always honest and just with full faith in the witness of Supreme Lord. We will discuss about it more another time.
In summary, when we encounter problems in our life, we should remember the following:
- Past Karma: Could be my past bad karma bringing this unpleasant event; this life is one among million lives
- Krishna’s Test: May be Krishna is testing my humility
- Respect Krsna’s Children: All living entities should be respected; they’re Krishna’s children
- Relation > Right: While dealing with devotees or spouse or family member’s relationship is more important than proving that ‘I am right; you are wrong’.
- Being submissive, prayerful, thoughtful & nonblaming in attitude helps solve most issues easily
- Supersoul is witness for all actions; we don’t have to be punishment awarders for everyone.
- Defend yourself in dangers and in situations when others try to exploit you
- Never harbor any malice for others; maintaining vengeance for others hurts us more than them.
- Humility saves families, friendships, peace of mind and gives freedom from false ego
- Avoid bad association that degrades our quality of consciousness by plunging us in ego tussles
Then our humility cannot be taken undue advantage of by anyone. It is always best to think twice before we speak and act. And while giving that dwell time for our contemplation, pray to Lord and Guru for help, “Please enlighten me and help me, what would be the most appropriate behavior in this situation? Let me not act in any way that goes against the right Vaishnava attitude and behavior.” Thank you very much. Hare Krishna.
The above article is an open book essay on Srimad Bhagavatam Canto 1.10-19, written by HG Radheshyam Das for the following question: “Parikshit maharaja (and many other personalities mentioned in Srimad Bhagavatam canto 1) was dealt with inappropriately, and they tolerated. And SB 1.18.48 says that devotee never retaliates. How do we apply this in our practical life? Does it mean that we should allow ourselves to be exploited?”