Insult to the Ego
A devotee is not only tolerant but also forebearing. A practical devotee interacts with the world in vision of anukulya sa sankalpa pratikulyasya varjanam, accepting that which is favorable for Krishna Consciousness and rejecting that which is unfavorable. Therefore although naturally tolerant to insults, cheating, deridation, etc. [SB 1.18.48] – he also very distinctively adheres to this principle.
Intolerance and retaliation stems from a false conception that we are this body. When faced with insult or admonished, our false ego- or the misidentification that I am such and such person, etc. – becomes hurt. The material mind whose natural function is to protect the ego and advocate this misidentification, then kicks in and thus a person either mentally or physically retaliates. The Bhagavad-gita says that such a bewildered person, thinks himself the doer, ahankara vimudhatma kartaham iti manyate. SB 1.13.45-46 also states how such a person thinks himself the protector of others, although he himself is in a conspicuous position.
The SB says how oneself is the dear most object of affection. For a pure devotee, understanding that we are the spirit soul, part and parcel of Krishna – he values his life (soul) because it is identical in spirit with Krishna. In addition, he sees how this material body, which was given by the Supreme Sanctioner and Observer, Krishna, as a means to execute devotional service for His pleasure, while in the material world. This is akin to a company providing a car to the driver for rendering service to the company’s CEO. The company here is material nature, the car is the body, the driver is the living being and the CEO is Krishna, who is the Controller, Enjoyer and Owner of everything.
The devotee’s vision is such that he knows that although this material body may fall due to called or uncalled for circumstances –he, the sould will never die. Na hanyate, hanyamane sarire. Thus, similar to Parikshit Maharaj – a devotee becomes fearless even of death [SB 1.18.2]. When Parikshit was unjustly cursed to die – he accepted it as the will of the Lord and continued for perfection in his devotional service [SB1.19.4]. A devotee works only to keep body and soul together, sariram kevalam karma (BG). Another example is seen in the Diary of a Travelling Preacher Vol. 2 by HH Indradyumna Swami Maharaj.
Krishna’s favor first
While visiting devotees in a war-torn country of east Europe, Maharaj took few devotees out on sankirtan into the stress of the dilapidated city. Suddenly, a group of men – all tough and army like – began to emerge and came towards Maharaj with knives. Maharaj instinctively began to swirl his big brass kartalas over his head in a self-defense action. The men dispersed, but few devotees were injured in the brawl. Later while at the local hospital visiting injured devotees, Maharaj sported the same man again. Not wanting to create a scene in a civil place, Maharaj stood firmly as the man walked – unarmed- slowly up to him and in a much uncivilized manner, directly spat on Maharaj’s face. Maharaj took the insult and did not retaliate.
It’s amazing how on one end, we find Maharaj engaged in a physical brawl and on another, he stood perfectly still. In the former scene he acted to protect himself and the devotees from physical harm – as their bodies are valuable assets to be used in Krishna’s seva. In the latter scene, he had no motive to gain for Krishna’s favor by reacting to the insult. As the action did not impede one’s performance of bhakti, one simply tolerates it, much like the winter and summer seasons. Attachment to Krishna makes one detached [SB 1.18.22] and naturally non-violent and renounced. By absorption in Krishna there is lack of hatred. Another example is of Jada Bharat, who was made a scare-crow then a servant of a king who severely insulted him. Out of compassion, he finally spoke up and the kind felt grateful to meet such an elevated personality. Devotees although engaged in the material world are not disturbed by happiness or distress [SB 1.18.50].
Service over Self
In Bhishmadev’s advice to Yudhisthira, he stated how much the Pandavas and Kunti devi had endured. Even Dharma in the form of a bull never retaliated to Kali who was beating him, because it was the duty of persons who upheld dharma to drive out Kali. The Pandavas too, fought only for Krishna’s desire at the opportune moment. A devotee is thus compared to a great lake and others are compared to a glass of water. Any amount of addition of salt (distress) or sugar (happiness) to a lake has no effect unlike the glass of water.
To conclude, a devotee sees everything – himself, the material body and the material world – in relation to Krishna’s service and pleasure. As such he doesn’t take seriously those actions done against him personally unless it someway or other impedes his service to Krishna. Therefore, he is tolerant but gives no room for someone to exploit him by disturbing his service to Krishna.
The following article is an answer to the Open Book Exam (Canto 1.10-19), by Hemarupa Caitanya Dasa, to the question: “Parikshit Maharaj (and many other personalities mentioned in 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?”