Illuminations 31 – Do You Want Pride Or Do You Want Krsna

In the last issue we spoke about our need for recognition. In this issue I want to focus more specifically on how this hurts our relationship with Krsna – and how to deal with it.

There is something else that ties into this. Often devotees say that when I become Krsna conscious all good qualities will develop, so I really don’t need to focus specifically on developing them now. This is a common misunderstanding that I will also address in this newsletter. I think devotees often say this because they don’t want to confront their weaknesses and do something about them.

In this newsletter you’ll have a chance to look at your own pride and determine ways in which you can develop more humility.

May you always think of Krsna,

Mahatma Das

 Do You Want Pride, Or Do You Want Krsna

I Am Waiting to Bathe
If I walked into the temple filthy and smelly from not bathing for the past month and I explained to you that when I become Krsna conscious I will naturally become clean, so there is no need to separately endeavor to be bathe now, you would think I am nuts. And you’d be right. What if I told you the same thing about following the four regulative principles? You’d probably say, “Prabhu, if you don’t follow the principles it is going to make it more difficult for you to be Krsna conscious.” And if I insisted that when I become Krsna conscious I will automatically follow them, you might be thinking, “How is he going to be Krsna consciousness if goes out every night to the pub?

As obvious as it is that we need to practice good principles of hygiene and make all efforts to follow devotional principles to be Krsna conscious, there are a lot of devotees who believe they don’t have to independently endeavor to develop godly qualities, that all they have to do is go on with their devotional service and those qualities will naturally develop.

OK, there is some truth in that but it’s partial truth. It doesn’t mean we don’t endeavor to practice those qualities in our life. If you are always getting angry, it’s going to pose a problem for your bhakti. So if you practice controlling your anger, it will help your Krsna consciousness. And by improving your bhakti, it will help you get better at controlling your anger. The point is that they go together. It’s the supreme combo for becoming Krsna conscious – our effort and Krsna’s mercy. 

So let’s look at humility in this light (you can look at any quality in this way). Krsna says in the Gita, daivi sampat vimoksaya nibandhayasuri mata. Prabhupada explains in a class, “If we have divine qualities we are eligible to go to the spiritual world – vimoksaya. But if we have the demoniac characteristics mentioned in today’s verse (he is referring to BG 16.4 which lists the demoniac qualities of pride, arrogance, conceit, anger, harshness and ignorance) then we are in material bondage. We are the cause of our material bondage or freedom from material bondage. We simply have to develop either the demoniac qualities or the divine.”

We’re as Foolish as a Proud Dog
Prabhupada goes on to explain that that even dogs are proud. They proudly bark and are also proud of their dog body. Sound funny? Well we are also proud of our bodies and it’s just as funny. We have come to the material world because we turned our back on Krsna. Krsna didn’t want us to come here. It was our choice and He begged us not to go. But we insisted. For that horrible act we got this body, yet somehow we are crazy enough to be proud of it. We are proud of the symbol of our rebelliousness against God.  We think “my body is beautiful, my body is strong. I have lovely eyes, I have pretty hair.” Yet the body is a declaration to the world that I turned my back on Krsna, something that most living entities will never do. Shouldn’t we be embarrassed? Isn’t being proud of our bodies as stupid as a bit bull thinking he’s the best thing on the block?  Or isn’t it as stupid as a prisoner being proud of his prison uniform (“Hey, look at my cool bright orange jumper. Don’t I look good?”)?

So does pride stand between us and Krsna, does it keep us out of the spiritual world? Well, in that verse from the Gita discussed above, it was the first thing Krsna listed that keeps us in the material world. Sometimes I feel like pride is like the hub of the wheel of the material world and every aspect of material consciousness and material life is somehow connected to it. Prabhupada often quoted Christ as saying, “The kingdom of God is for the humble and the meek.” That means the kingdom of maya is for the arrogant and proud.

Getting in the Back Door of Vaikuntha
VaikunthaImagine somehow getting in the back door of Vaikuntha in your present consciousness. You are there in a spiritual body, but you still have the same consciousness that you have now. Imagine what it might be like. Would you be walking around hoping people notice how great you are for making it back to Vaikuntha, even though you got in by a fluke? Would you be looking at your beautiful body in the mirror thinking how gorgeous you are? Would you be thinking how smart you were for getting in to Vaikuntha before you were qualified? And worse, would you be thinking why Krsna gets to enjoy so many beautiful women and not you? Would you stand out like a sore thumb? If so, I think you can see how pride separates you from Krsna.

Pride makes it impossible to develop a deep loving relationship with Krsna, unless of course you are proud of Krsna, proud to be his devotee, proud to have found the path of bhakti, proud to be initiated into the Gaudiya sampradaya. That’s the kind of pride we want, not the demoniac pride which binds us to the material world.

Proud Of A Bag of Bones?
So I hear you asking, “But how can I be humble? It seems so difficult.” But how can we not be humble? Krsna created us humbly. He encased the pure effulgent blissful soul in a stinky, smelly material body, a body that can get pretty darn ugly if you live long enough. That is really embarrassing when you think about it.

But maybe you are proud that you are smart, or talented, or you know how to make a lot of money. Perhaps you are proud of being a good leader, parent, teacher, musician, or artist. You are not good at any of those things. Krsna is good at all of those things and due to some pious acts you performed in a past life He was kind enough to give you a little of His sakti. If he takes that sakti away – which He can do at any moment – you will become a babbling idiot. If He doesn’t give you the proper intelligence, you won’t even be able to figure out how to walk out of your room.

The irony is that not only do we know this, we know it all too well. But we choose to ignore it. We still want to take credit for doing something that Krsna gave us the potency to do. Are we thieves? Krsna gave us those talents to use for Him and we do that because we are pious. But because we are mad we take some of the recognition that belongs to Krsna and try to enjoy it ourselves. We might say it was all God’s mercy, but we still hanker to taste some of the glory. The ego has an almost unquenchable thirst for glory. We say all glories to Sri Krsna or all glories to Prabhupada, but do we really mean that? Or do we really mean “send some glories my way also?” If we think that way, it’s like taking something off the Deities’ plate to eat while the offering is being carried to the altar.

Afraid to Be Humble
Humility can sometimes appear scary. One reason is because we are afraid others won’t like us if they know who we really are. If they see that I am just an ordinary person full of faults, they won’t love me.

Actually, it’s just the opposite.

The truth is that if you are real, people will like you more. And you will like yourself more. More importantly, Krsna will like you more. Of course, Krsna loves you. But he doesn’t like it when you are proud. He is attracted by humility. Humility melts His heart.

But we might think if I am humble, I will be taken advantage of and people will walk all over me. But humility is really a jewel, an emblem of sincere surrender to a loving and merciful God. It is not a self-imposed torture. The deeper the spirit of humility, the deeper the feelings of love and happiness in the heart. And no one walked all over Srila Prabhupada. He could be bold as a lion while still being the most humble sadhu.

When you are in a humble state of mind, everything around you looks beautiful. When you are humble you are seeing though the eyes of the soul; you are seeing the intrinsic beauty in everything. It’s like having a beautiful fragrance around you all the time.

Wouldn’t you rather be smelling that fragrance than the foul odors of pride?

Humble people are the wealthiest. This is because they don’t feel insufficient in themselves. They don’t need to become happy by putting others down or showing off. And they are the highest because they are always bringing others up. When you bring others up, you go up with them.

Krsna consciousness means to have a taste for humility, to feel totally happy and peaceful thinking oneself unqualified to be Krsna’s devotee, thinking others better than oneself. And there is so much to learn from others when you think they are better than you.

Do I Want to Be Humble?
How strong is your taste for humility? How much taste do you have for the quality that can help you so much in getting closer to Krsna? How strong is your taste to present yourself to the world as a humble servant of God and all others?

This is a great barometer of your bhakti.  So let’s look at your barometer. On a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being the highest, how strong is your taste for humility? If it’s not at a 10, how can you get it there? In what ways do you need to think and act to get it there? Whose example would you like to follow to inspire you to get it there?

Next, list those things that are blocking you from getting it to a 10. How does holding onto them make you feel? How are they hurting your relationship with Krsna? What must you do to overcome them? And how will you feel twenty years from now if the anarthas preventing you from becoming truly humble are still sitting in your heart?

And how will Krsna feel about it?