Tonic to Transcendence
There is a treasure that every devotee must seek. Not only is this treasure to be coveted by a Vaisnava, it is also always sought from a devotee. But what could possibly be desired by those who do not aim for the material?
Dr. O.B.L Kapoor narrated a story about Srila Prabhupada. Srila Prabhupada who was once a pharmacist, gave him a tonic at the pharmacy. When the doctor asked for his tonic to Krishna Prem, Srila Prabhupada replied, “I do not have a tonic, but I have a formula”. This formula was the topic of the seminars during the two day retreat organized for the Wellington devotee community at Otaki, New Zealand. Drawing upon the teachings given by H.G. Radheshyam Prabhu, H.G. Ambarish Maharaj Das gratefully shared his carefully collated knowledge with devotees thirsty for spiritual wisdom.
tṛṇād api sunīcena taror api sahiṣṇunā
amāninā mānadena kīrtanīyaḥ sadā hariḥ (Sri Siksastakam)
“One should chant the holy name of the Lord in a humble state of mind, thinking oneself lower than the straw in the street; one should be more tolerant than a tree, devoid of all sense of false prestige, and should be ready to offer all respect to others. In such a state of mind one can chant the holy name of the Lord constantly.”
This was Srila Prabhupada’s formula for Krishna Prem. Krishna Consciousness is a continuous path of self-improvement. And the single most important quality for a Vaisnava is humility. Not only should a Vaisnava desire this quality, a Vaisnava is always expected to display humility.
In the pursuit of any destination or goal, if we cannot measure where we are, we will not know if we are moving forward or receding backward. Therefore one of the most important elements in any endeavour for progress is measurement. With the right tools to measure our humility, we will know where we stand and how we may improve. The dimensions of “SRCGD” provide us the right framework to achieve this.
S for Service
How eager am I to serve? Or do I want to be served?
The eagerness to serve others is one of the first measures of humility. This should not be interpreted to mean that we cannot receive service. We may. But we should not expect service. When we render service, we should aim to please intentionally, not incidentally. Service rendered to us should be considered a favor done unto us, and should be remembered for a long time. But any service that we render should be regarded as our duty, and forgotten immediately!
Great souls aim to serve Hari, Guru and Vaisnavas selflessly, voluntarily, unconditionally, with loving sacrifice, without interruption and serve with their body, mind as well as words. This should be our aspiration and our yardstick for measuring progress.
R for Respect
How eager am I to respect others? Or do I rather strive after being respected?
Respect for others includes respect for their individuality, interests, expectations, their capacity, needs, conveniences as well as comforts.
We should never hurt anyone with thought, word or action. When we respect individuality, we recognise that everyone is different, and treat them accordingly. When we respect capacity, we recognise that the squirrel which moved pebbles as well as Lord Hanuman who moved boulders were both giving their best at building the bridge even while contributing at different levels – just as Lord Ram did. If we cannot respect others, we will not be effective preachers, whether it be to devotees or non-devotees. The ability to respect others is the second dimension of humility.
C for Care
How much do I care for others? Or do I mainly care for myself?
Care is given at different levels. Every devotee needs –
Physical care (e.g. food, shelter, health)
Emotional care (e.g. sharing, empathy)
Social care (e.g. association, community, programs)
Spiritual care (e.g. devotional service, chanting)
The cordiality extended to Vidura when he was welcomed back to Hastinapura teaches us how care can be rendered at all levels through the six loving exchanges (Sri Updesamrta Text 4). We should be forthcoming to provide care to any devotee who needs it and offer our service to them. The ability to care is the third measure of humility.
G for Gladness
Am I glad upon seeing the advancement of others? Or do I envy them?
Envy is one of the original reasons why we are in the material world. It leads to loss of intelligence, stone-heartedness and even destructive actions. Therefore it is imperative that we give up envy if we are to make any spiritual progress.
Great souls know that all talents and abilities are small parts of Krishna’s opulences. Therefore to envy others’ abilities would be to envy the Supreme Lord Himself. This problem can be conquered through gradual acceptance, opening our hearts through appreciation, glorification of others and always remembering the end goal of Krishna Consciousness. We can also take shelter through sincere prayers (while chanting, for instance) to remove any envy from our hearts.
D for Dependence
Am I fully dependent on Guru and Krishna, or rather on my own arrangements?
The final measure of humility comes from our ability to depend on senior devotees as well as equals, for guidance and suggestions in the decisions we take. The ability to depend on someone else can only come from seeing ourselves as insignificant and lower than others (tṛṇād api sunīcena). Moreover, who can fill a glass that is already full? The surrendered devotee will always be protected in life through dependence, under the guidance of Guru, Vaisnavas and Lord Krishna.
We may not remember everything from this framework for progress. Yet, we can pick just two aspects at a time and try to work on them. The devotees who attended this seminar were encouraged to do the same. Absorbed in drinking this nectarean knowledge, the needs of the devotees were cared for by H.G. Anang Manjari Devi Dasi, who ensured that carefully planned prasadam breaks left them without want for anything – their attention only swayed by the outpouring of wisdom, engaging activities, case studies and thoughtful questions posed by listeners.
And thus wisdom flourished through the six loving exchanges in a beautiful farm retreat, beside a flowing river, amidst blossoming plants bearing fruits and vegetables, chirping birds and the laughter of children. There was service, respect, care, delight and most of all, dependence on mentors and a community for advancement in Krishna Consciousness. Can a devotee desire anything more? The treasure had been discovered.