“The Supreme Lord accepts the devotion of everyone, but if anyone is envious of His children, then He retaliates”, said Haridāsa Ṭhākura, and I’ve covered the first part of this statement as best as I could. Second part, about retaliation, is no less interesting because it shows Lord’s involvement in our lives. He doesn’t only accept our service, He also punishes us when we do something wrong.
Usually, punishment is reserved for the law of karma but here Haridāsa Ṭhākura ascribed it to the Lord Himself. How’s that possible? Why would the Lord abandon His impartiality? If He is personally involved, why would we need a law of karma at all? The Lord doesn’t follow our laws and when He decides to punish or favor any one of us He is not going to do so according to karma but according to His own judgment.
Perhaps the confusion is due to translation. The other version floating around the internet goes completely differently: “Anyone who attacks others attacks God Himself.” Nothing about retaliation, nothing about Lord’s personal involvement. In this version karma still rules and punishes us according to our actions, not according to Lord’s desires. It makes more sense to me.
There’s yet one more translation: “However, if one living entity feels hatred or envy toward another, he ultimately reflects those emotions in his relationship with the Lord.” Once again, nothing about Lord’s retaliation, only that our envy reflects in our relationships. Nothing controversial.
I think I’d better leave it at that – unclear translation, possibly confusing.
Haridāsa Ṭhākura’s next statement is no less puzzling:
- Therefore I am only acting under the inspiration of the Supreme Lord.
- I follow whatever orders God has given in my heart.
- Whatever you see of me and my activities are direct manifestations of the Lord Who guides me from within.
Take your pick. In all cases Haridāsa makes a claim that none of us would dare to. None of us would say “I’m acting on Lord’s orders”. We can say this about other people but we would never claim it for ourselves. If we did, it would go against the principle of humility. We are servants of the servants of the servants, the Lord doesn’t talk to us, we get our orders from guru and appointed authorities, and most of the time we actually follow our restless minds.
Why did Haridāsa said such a thing? Was he not humble?
I don’t know what actually happened there but there are at least two good explanations for this. The first one comes from Śrīla Bhaktisiddhānta Sarsvatīs’ purport to the verse: “For this reason I am engaged in the service of the Lord according to the inspiration that He has given me.”
Nothing personal, no claims of grandeur, just a statement of a fact which is true for absolutely every living entity. As such it’s one of the best displays of humility possible – Haridāsa was only concerned with the Lord and His laws, not anything related to himself.
Second explanation is speculative but entirely possible, too – Haridāsa Ṭhākura was really getting orders directly from the Lord. It’s impossible for us but it could have been natural for him. It’s not the first indication of his exalted position, nor it is the last.
If he got the orders from the Lord and stated it there’s no transgression of humility principle either. Whatever we might think of ourselves, Lord’s involvement overrides everything. We should not minimize Lord’s glory for the sake of appearing humble. If the Lord manifests Himself and does something wonderful we cannot deny it happened just because we think that it should have been impossible according to our “humble” perception of the world. Denying Lord His glory would be a false humility here.
That was basically the end of Haridāsa’s presentation to the court. He only added that according to the same principle a Hindu might become encouraged to act as a Muslim and there’s nothing we could do about it because no one can go against his karma and the Lord.
All present Muslims, including the king, were satisfied, only the kazi, due to his sins, couldn’t let his envy go and advised the king to punish Haridāsa. His explanation was actually reasonable – if they didn’t stop Haridāsa more and more Muslims could have converted to Hinduism and allowing that was inconceivable. The king had a long standing commitment to propagating Islam and he couldn’t abandon it just because of Haridāsa’s eloquence.
The solution was reasonable, too – Haridāsa was to stop chanting Hare Kṛṣṇa and recite verses from Koran instead. If there’s only one God shouldn’t matter, right?
Haridāsa was unmoved. He said that he couldn’t go against Lord’s inspiration within his heart and that he had to follow it even if his body was cut to pieces.
Śrīla Bhaktisiddhānta offered another explanation, too – the Holy Name is fully spiritual and therefore serving it transcends whatever happens to the material body. Chanting the Holy Name is a function of the soul and therefore it cannot be stopped by material means. Also Haridāsa wasn’t going to accept some temporary code of conduct instead of the eternal obligation of the soul.
In other words, “no can do”.
The king said that if that was Haridāsa’s decision then it was out of his hands and he left it to Kazi. Kazi, not being spiritually advanced, thought that physical torture could overwrite Haridāsa’s conviction and by beating him publicly in marketplaces it would send a message loud and clear to any Muslim contemplating taking up hari-nāma. If everybody saw Haridāsa abandoning his faith they would certainly stop following him, Kazi thought. Somehow he didn’t think what message would be sent if he was unable to break Haridāsa despite all the beatings. He thought that in that case killing him would be enough. He miscalculated, of course.
What if he COULD break Haridāsa, though? We know it didn’t happen and we know it couldn’t have happened to a devotee of Haridāsa’s stature but similar challenges are presented to many of us with exactly the same goal – to show others that our faith is weak. Quite often we fail and people react to it differently.
Some conclude that we are only human and there’s nothing special about Kṛṣṇa consciousness. Actually, the majority thinks like that everywhere we did something wrong. We can overcome this perception if we persevere, though. If we do not give up our practice despite our falldowns people will take us seriously once again, they always do, it’s part of the public consciousness now – person’s worth is determined not by his failures but by his ability to come back.
From this perspective, our failures are immaterial and will be forgotten as long as we stay with our mission and what really hurts our image is not cases of abuse but devotees who give up and turn away. I’m sure they have their own valid reasons and they are guided by the Lord, too, but it still hurts us as a society. I’m sure for them it looks as if ISKCON fully deserves all the bad rap it gets, and on some level it is true, but, unfortunately for these people, they become not instruments for Kṛṣṇa’s service but instruments to obstruct Lord’s mission.
As a society we need obstacles to overcome just as Kṛṣṇa needs someone to play the role of the demons and fight Him, but for people put in this position it’s a loss of the opportunity to practice bhakti, which must be a favorable service. They simply won’t get the same rasa but something inferior.
That’s enough for today, tomorrow we’ll see how Haridāsa’s punishment played out.