Yesterday I was talking about qualities of a devotee as they were described by Kṛṣṇa in His reply to Uddhava. They are spread over four ślokas (SB 11.11.29-32) and I finished only one, seven features out of twenty-eight in total. When I looked at the same list today, however, nothing stood out of the ordinary and so I am kind of disappointed. Let’s see if I can still find something inspirational there.
Next quality, after endeavoring for the welfare of others, is freedom from desires, kāmair ahata-dhī. Exact translation is intelligence undisturbed by kāma. It’s a great one but not specifically devotional, all transcendentalists must have it to be called transcendentalists. In the purport explanation of this quality is the longest of all, and probably for a good reason because this point is deeper than it looks at first.
I think it’s been years since I discovered that problem with controlling our minds is actually a problem with our intelligence. It’s not that our minds are exceptionally strong, it’s that our intelligence is weak and inadequate. Of course Kali Yuga acts both ways – we have more desires and we have less intelligence, but the mind doesn’t have a mind of its own, it just registers attraction between senses and sense organs. It’s very simple in that way and it is said that it is originally born out of mode of goodness, hence the simplicity.
We should give it to our minds – they are not duplicitous, they aver very upfront about what they want, our only misfortune is that they want all the wrong things. Why? It has been explained in this purport – “the Supreme Lord supplies the desired fuel that causes the fire of lust to burn painfully in one’s heart,..” We come here to enjoy and the Lord dutifully provides.
We take being born for granted but if we consider how many millions and billions of living entities surround us every second, mostly as bacteria, and they don’t get a chance to enjoy a human form of life. When Bhāgavatam describes how living entities fall from the sky with the drops of rain, get born as grains of rice, get eaten by a man, transferred to semen, and only then get to become human. Most of the grain nowadays is fed to pigs and chickens, being eaten by a man is a rare privilege, and lets not forget anti-carbohydrates diets.
I have another question in this regard, though – does every spermatozoon in men’s semen carry a soul within it? Or is it one soul taking shelter in the impregnated ovum regardless of which spermatozoon did the job? I think the former makes more sense – every spermatozoon appears to have a life of its own, each has got it’s own flagellating tail that propels it forward. If that is true, then one discharge carries some fifty million spermatozoa, give or take ten-twenty million. Only one of them gets to be born. What are the chances?
Otoh, it might be that all these millions of souls are destined to live only a short life and die, again and again, while those destined to become human get their bodies on the first try.
Anyway, my point was that getting this human form of life is very very rare and should be considered as great mercy even before we talk about spiritual potential. We can also consider the amount of patience needed to attain a human body and get an idea how long we might have to wait to see results of our chanting. We probably need incomparably more patience than we have now.
The purport continues: “..but the Lord does not give self-realization to such a misguided person.” If we just follow our mind and engage our senses we won’t get self-realization from the Lord, therefore we need strong intelligence to keep our mind under control. We need to know how this world works, how illusion works, how modes of nature compel us to act and so on. Armed with such knowledge we will consider urges of the mind as insignificant when compared to our real benefits. As I said, this part is more or less the same for us, impersonalists, or Buddhists, but the purport then takes it further and discusses the situation of a devotee, which is indeed unique.
Devotees do not rely so much on their intelligence but on being engaged and protected by the Lord. Impersonalists learn to tolerate their minds through austerities but devotees control them not because they “know better” but because the Lord gives them a higher taste. Their senses are sharp and active but they are not engaged in personal enjoyment, only in service to the Lord.
It’s ABC for us but we shouldn’t take the opportunity to serve for granted either. It can happen only by Kṛṣṇa’s arrangement, we can’t do it on our own. Consider how many variables need to come together for us to perform a simple arāti, for example. There need to be Deities first. There need to be a temple. There need to be a program of temple worship, the schedule, the funds, the paraphernalia etc. Then we need to have a second initiation and proper training. We also need permission from our authorities, we can’t just get up on the altar and conduct an arāti. We also need to take turns with other devotees because on person can’t physically carry all the ISKCON deity service by himself.
For many of us, actual, authorized service to the Lord takes only a small part of our day while we are forced to spend the rest of our time chasing our minds. Perhaps this is when having strong and clear intelligence is helpful.
Speaking of duplicity – it mostly manifests in our intelligence. Our minds are too simple to scheme, our hearts are mostly in the right place, but it’s our intelligence that works very hard to find ways to justify our sense indulgence and not feel guilty about it. It’s our intelligence that scans our memory for quotes and examples where enjoying matter looks innocent and even welcome. We never forget those, I know I don’t.
Devotee’s intelligence is strong and independent of the modes of nature. It’s impossible to sway, it doesn’t give in to passion and it doesn’t devise elaborate plans to enjoy in the future, nor does it give in to the mode of ignorance which leads one to self-destructive activities.
Well, it’s time to wind up this post and I covered only one word. At least the next one is very close – dāntaḥ, controlling one’s senses, which is a natural next step, that’s what intelligence undisturbed by material desires is for. A devotee achieves this by engaging sense in Lord’s service, as I already said, but, perhaps, we should give the credit to the Lord for engaging His devotees’ senses. On our own we can’t do anything, we are totally dependent on the Lord to provide the opportunities for us to serve.
I’ll end this up by saying that this dāntaḥ shouldn’t be confused with dantaḥ, a word that relates to guess what? Dentistry. Dantaḥ with short “a” means teeth.