Ego always gets in the way of our service. Perhaps our biggest problem is that we try to become Lord’s servants from the position of our false ego – as we imagine ourselves in our material forms. We want the glory of pure devotion to be bestowed on our material bodies, on our false perception of who we are. We want to become devotees without relinquishing our attachment to our present incarnations.
Basically, we want the best of both worlds – spiritual life in the material world. Maybe it was possible for direct associates of Lord Caitanya, I’m not going to discuss the exact nature of their bodies, but I’m pretty sure we, souls trapped in the 21st century, can forget about it.
Our bodies have their own priorities, they want to eat, sleep, mate, and defend themselves. Perhaps we can eventually learn to appreciate them as parts of Lord’s energy but even in that case they would be parts of the inferior energy, the one that doesn’t serve the Lord directly, the goal we hope to achieve. We can’t drag them into the spiritual realm, they need to be left behind.
So, problem is we want to keep them, can’t imagine ourselves without them, and we invest all our time and energy in making them perfect tools in Kṛṣṇa’s service, or at least that’s how we justify our efforts to ourselves.
I’m afraid it won’t work, false ego needs to go.
Śrīla Bhaktisiddhānta Sarasvatī’s lecture I mentioned yesterday gives us a few pointers to look for in this regard.
He started with the words of his guru asking people to collectively serve the Lord. That’s one easy standard to check our egos against.
Many persons egotistically profess, “I am Bhagavan’s exclusive servant” or “I have been selected to perform a particular service to Him because no one else is qualified to do it.” But Srila Gurudeva’s words issue from a heart melted with loving compassion: “Come! Let us forget our tendency to block each other’s spiritual progress; this is violence. Service to Bhagavan is superior to all else.”
I don’t think I’m alone in this, every conditioned soul wants special recognition. Everyone needs an assurance that he is doing an important job and that he is irreplaceable. This attitude naturally leads to fighting for our imagined place in Kṛṣṇa’s service, we want what is ours and we become very protective. Quite often we fight for what we think should be ours, too, and we do so by blocking other devotees’ attempts at securing that particular service. Not to mention an ordinary, mundane desire to be the best of the best even if it comes at the expense of others.
Śrīla Bhaktisiddhānta Sarasvatī says here that this tendency to block each other’s progress is violence. It’s not the first time I’ve seen him use this word but it might look out of place for those who are not familiar with his vocabulary. Violence to him means anything that hinders souls service to the Lord. It’s not violence in the material sense, it has nothing to do with any danger to our bodies whatsoever, he means violence to our souls, which is the only violence that matters. Or it could be turned around to mean violence to Kṛṣṇa Himself – by depriving Him of souls’ potential service we deprive Him of His pleasure He is fully entitled to. The last sentence in that quote emphasizes this point particularly.
Service to the Lord is superior or all else. Kṛṣṇa should not be deprived of any kind of service, however insignificant. We can’t place our own interests above His pleasure, however small in our eyes. We can’t deprive Him from enjoying our service in the name of our vanity, of our perverted desire to be better, more glorious servants than others.
By saying “superior to all else” he is not implying, “No one can do this service but me; I will not allow anyone else to do it.” My Srila Gurupadapadma’s nature contains no such violence.
Therefore, we absolutely need humility to succeed in pleasing the Lord.
Śrīla Bhaktisiddhānta then describes how humility must be present in saṇkīrtana, too.
Sri Gaurasundara explained that to genuinely call out for Bhagavan, one has to more humble than a blade of grass (trnad api sunicena). We cannot cry out for someone until we have accepted our own insignificance in relation to that person. We beg for assistance when we are forced to acknowledge our helplessness.
So far so good but there’s a big “however” here:
However if I cry out to Him with the intention of involving Him in service to me, or if I petition Him for the purpose of accomplishing any task, my cries lack the real humility of trnad api sunicena. Real humility is never found in an external show of humility, which is actually mere duplicity. Calling out to Bhagavan in the mood of being His master, expecting Him to obey like a servant, is ineffective. He does not hear such a call because He is supremely independent and fully conscious. Consequently, He is not controlled by anyone. Until a person’s egoism establishes roots in sincere, non-duplicitous humility, his prayers will not reach Bhagavan, who is fully independent.
This is what I meant when I said that trying to serve the Lord from the position of our false ego is useless. False ego forces us to accomplish tasks meant for our own enjoyment and if we appealed to the Lord from that position we would be trying to enlist His help in service to our own interests. It won’t work. We need sincere, non-duplicitous humility.
Another check of our qualification for chanting the Holy Name is our patience.
A person who is more humble than a blade of grass may cry out to Bhagavan, but unless he is endowed with the qualities of patience and tolerance, his calling out will still not bear fruit. If we show impatience by hankering after our own interests, our behaviour is in direct opposition to the mood of trnad api sunicena.
So impatience is a sign of opposition to the required attitude. If we sense it in ourselves it means we are not yet ready to properly call for the Lord. This is explained further:
If we are fully confident that Bhagavan is the Complete Being, and that our calling out to Him will never result in scarcity, we will not experience any dearth of patience.
Patience here is declared a function of faith. Complete faith in the Lord results in complete patience in waiting out for His mercy. Very simple and yet very profound. Success will come, if we know it with all heart and full confidence we won’t mind waiting for it for as long as it takes. After all, no amount of waiting or suffering can counterweight even the smallest drop of devotion. When we know what awaits as at the end of our road we will naturally get unlimited patience.
Finally, there’s this quick check, too:
Often, I think that I am obliging Him by my prayers, and therefore I engage in other activities in which I don’t need to ask for His help. This mentality also indicates the absence of tolerance.
It’s kind of hard to wrap my head around this one. “If I engage in activities where I don’t feel like I need Lord’s help it displays lack of tolerance” – how? Why?
Perhaps the clue lies here:
..if I remain adamant that I will accomplish my task on the strength of my own ability and competence, I will not be able to call out to Bhagavan in the true sense.
“My task” here, however, does not appear to be the same activity mentioned in the previous quote. Activities are activities, they go on with or without our participation, we don’t need to consider them as *our* tasks. An easy example would be breathing or digesting food – we don’t really put our hearts and minds into those. Perhaps we should, perhaps we should realize that we cannot and should not think of these activities as easy to do on our own.
This part is a bit confusing. Should we pray to the Lord so that He enables our life sustenance? Or should we consider such prayers as inherently selfish? What does me successfully digesting food have to do with Kṛṣṇa’s pleasure? I don’t think I can answer this question at the moment, perhaps it’s enough for today and I’ll see a better picture tomorrow.