Preaching With Half Humility
By Kesava Krsna Dasa
It is an accepted fact that when we preach, and repeat what we have heard – hopefully with some Suka relish – then this is humility in action. But if this is reinforced with aggression, superiority postures, and some ‘authorised’ hate, it is no longer humility. Then what is it?
To repeat what we have heard is an act of surrender, and surrender is a sign of humility. But this is just one aspect of humility, for according to the “trnad api sunicena…” verse, there are four behavioural symptoms. If we just exhibit one, two or three of them, then our humility is not complete – it is partial.
If we put a lot of emphasis on simply repeating, but at the same time, we are less developed with – manadena – the giving of respect to all, then we are not truly humble. It is easy to be mislead by signs of humility and they can be impressive. But genuine humility is an multifaceted development.
On the plea of representing our guru, we may want to pursue a certain trend, or to counter other types of preaching done by others. That same plea can cause us to exert ourselves with shared biases that increase – amanina, and still call it ‘humble.’
When we have a superior message to give, and we have all the answers to life’s problems, this can easily put us into superiority mode, and – manadena – is curtailed. If our sense of – manadena – is minimised, we shall have difficulty in allowing people to be attracted to our Suka messages, which can become dukha – misery – instead.
Giving respect to all, is not to be confused with some mayavada “everyone and everything is divine” equality. Even though we have to avoid the envious, that is still done with respect. Mayavadis might themselves be envious of the Lord, but we can attract them with proper exhibitions of humility, just as Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu did when visiting the mayavadis at Varanasi.
Lord Chaitanya attracted the mayavadis by exhibiting – amanina – and – manadena. When He sat down near the foot-washing basins, a twofold attraction appeased the hearts of the mayavadis. Merely sitting there, He earned no respect for Himself – amanina – which attracted the mayavadis. He simultaneously gave respect to all the mayavadis by sitting there as well, as if He belonged to an inferior sannyasa order. This also attracted them.
This type of behaviour would look strange in the West, but we can adapt the same to appease usually highly-strung, opinionated and directionless people. People want to see and hear from someone genuine. We know how hard that is. Even a devotee having a full compliment of humility might still attract misguided suspicion by wearing a Rolex for instance, or speaking from an elevated seat. On the other hand, a successful person might be attracted to a devotee wearing a Rolex, thinking that perhaps not all devotees are fanatical and forever poor hermits.
Being respectful to all, cannot happen if we retain ignorance emotions like hate, or engage in short-term forms of ‘sankirtana.’ It does not require hate to avoid envious people. Such circumspection is earned through the enlightened mode of goodness, and all four of the humility qualities belong there, and form the basis for further progress in Krishna consciousness.
This is also saying that if we exhibit one good quality, that of repeating what our guru says, but we fall short in the other areas of humility, we are not fully in the mode of goodness, nor are we fully humble, what to speak of being transcendental, as some devotees believe. The process we are following is transcendental, but we ourselves have yet to develop transcendental qualities. To be transcendental is to be selfless, and selfless preaching is the most attractive.
Srila Prabhupada says this of mayavadis without specifically identifying them: “Anyone this humbleness and humility is taught everywhere. Without being gentle, humble, how one can be a man of knowledge? But at the present moment the humility is forgotten. Everyone is proud unnecessarily. Although he’s nothing, he’s proud. So much so that sometimes a rascal says that “I am God.” This is the modern civilization. He’s so puffed-up, so proud, that one claims to become God, what to speak of other things. No. The first thing is that one must be very humble.” (Bombay, October 3, 1973)
Trying to be selfless humble in the face of forgotten humility is not easy. Genuine humility can appear as a weakness or inferiority disorder for people in the mode of passion. An authentic and vastly deep Vaisnava culture developed and learned through humility is also not an easy sell. But there is one way of winning even the most obstinate of foreigners to Vaisnava culture, and it is something we have either forgotten ourselves, or are neglecting.
Our natural detachment can interfere with this, as well as fear of contamination. Misplaced emotions like hatred add to the blockage. Inexperience and lack of training can cause needless bad impressions of Iskcon without it.
It is the highly effective need to make friends with whomever we meet. If devotees have competitive ‘sankirtana’ quotas to meet, then people become means to that end. How many opportunities for quality time pass by this way? How many potential friends did we neutralise because people realised that we are not actually their friends, but just after their Laksmi to help bolster our scores? Are we attracting people this way?
In situations like these when people seek real and genuine friendship – and we can provide it – our competitive edge or fear takes precedent. With the spirit of friendship, diehard evangelists and complex atheists can relate to us on a human level. This friendship is for their eternal credit. Are we extending ourselves enough this way?
This friendliness forms a part of our – manadena – in preaching terms. When – manadena – is added to repeating what the guru says, more substance is added. To preach or to do ‘sankirtana’ without being friendly is not full humility. Are we able to rue all that we could have done, had we emphasised proper preaching with – manadena?
A strong emphasis on – manadena – with respectful friendship will enhance our quality of preaching. This quality will earn us far more in terms of Laksmi, resources and support, than trying to maintain by short-term immediate results types of ‘sankirtana.’
If we put this into perspective of how our devotees fare in their spiritual lives without – manadena, we will notice that preaching with partial, half or a quarter humility does not engender long-term steadiness, attachment to the holy name or chanting, establishing deep friendship with devotees, and so on. Our outward preaching reflects our inward training and development.
If we understand where we can prioritise and focus more on quality over quantity, we shall have a bright and prosperous future, in which more and more people will want to be a part of. This is not new-age pep talk. It is not positive hype, or cutting edge managerial technocracy. It is ageless proven formulae based upon all-round humility recommended by Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu Himself. Perhaps we can also realise that real humility is not so shallow and cheap either.
Ys Kesava Krsna Dasa
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