Everyone is above me, no one is below

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I can't say I practice this statement completely, though I appreciate the sentiment and contemplate the meaning. It is the attitude of the topmost devotee who sees everyone engaged in Krishna's service except themselves. Though I can't imitate this consciousness, remembering this statement helps me endeavor to see the good qualities in others. It is a good affirmative statement to honor people we meet or devotees we may know, and reflect that the shortcomings we may perceive in others, we may have as well--some in abundance!

The second class devotee has to make distinctions between the great souls, the envious, and the innocent people who can take up the path of bhakti. Though we may be beginners who try to see every devotee as a great soul, this blanket approach while initially good for our advancement, has to be replaced with proper discrimination derived from scripture, saints, and our own experience. Otherwise it will be imitation, and we may be taken advantage of, or not appreciate a truly advanced devotee when we meet him or her.

It is said that a little knowledge can be a dangerous thing, so although we may come to see less than ideal people or devotees, we should not think we are so great as to look down on them, or harshly, contemptuously criticize them. In truth our standing in bhakti is only by the mercy of our guru and Krishna and can be withdrawn if we become falsely proud of our blessed position.

I have spoken quite a bit about false humility, and the need to apply such statements of the advanced devotees realistically or appropriate to our realization. The reason for this is that we can be attached to a very low opinion of ourselves due to identifying our unhappy past as who we are, or out of fashion (to look good to others or to ourself) or to not take responsibility to do difficult, though important service (I am too fallen to do this or that).

The need for balance is crucial for our long term staying power in Krishna consciousness. While on the one hand we don't want to have an inflated sense of our own importance or spiritual standing, we also want to learn to trust our internal guidance system in order to make everyday decisions. Krishna is our intelligence and ability and we have to learn to use them in his service and to help others. False humility denies we have any good qualities, and false prestige imagines we are God's gift to mankind. Many of us fall somewhere in between.

Being able to make a reasonable assessment of oneself, materially, psychologically and spiritually takes time to uncover through maturity. We have to cultivate the desire for honesty in the practice of introspection, and employ constant prayers as often as our breathing, to avoid delusion and the desire for praise. Feedback from our spiritual superiors who we know have our interest at heart is also essential.

Sometimes it is said that a neophyte devotee only accepts their own scriptural conceptions or opinions (or those of their group or sect) while tending to be critical or indifferent to even well thought out views of others. We may not see how this "neophyte" mentality applies to us. However, it requires a little thinking about, since it is true that for many of us, our attitude many not be so blatant. At the same time we should not be so quick to think we have no such tendencies.

It is a common experience that new devotees--as well as people in general--are quite blind to their shortcomings from the higher standard of the Bhakti scriptures (i.e., we are envious of God). Interestingly, and often sadly, it is also true that even those who have been on the bhakti path for many years can also be blind to certain shortcomings they have grown so accustomed to them and/or have incorporated them into their spiritual foundation. I only bring this up so we may be aware of possible pitfalls to our progressive spiritual life. This is another reason spiritual life is referred to as a razor's edge--there many be danger with a little inattention. From another perspective, our razor may become dull if we don't keep up the intensity of our spiritual aspirations and practices.

Gradually by the practice of sadhana, our hidden anarthas (unwanted habits of thinking and acting) surface like impurities do when making ghee (clarified butter). We have also experienced that some new devotees on becoming self aware for the first time discover bad qualities they were previously unaware of. They sometimes think that these negative attitudes or qualities have been "caused" by Krishna consciousness, which can impell them to leave devotional service all together (I was never this bad before). If only they had waited longer they would eventually seen that these "bad" qualities are their conditioned nature (we are not our material story or drama!), and gradually their true pure nature as a servant of Krishna would be revealed. Prayer, patience, knowledge, realization and the association of saints is required for us to have the staying power to really experience the fruits of spiritual practice in consciousness of Krishna--our real consciousness, since we are part of him as the spark is part of the fire.

Spiritual life is about change, and not staying as we were, namely a conditioned soul having to remain in the material world to try in vain to be happy through various material desires and (in)appropriate bodies full of "egoic" lust, anger and greed to various degrees. Any position in the material world is not satisfying for the eternal soul, whether in heaven or on earth as a popular president, rich film star or whatever. We will generally agree that animal or plant life or existence in hellish worlds is undesirable. Yet we have to see any position in the universe as unnatural for us, the eternal, blissful soul, who are meant to have a loving relationship with Krishna. Any other position doesn't touch our soul, like the bird whose cage was kept very polished, but died for want of nourishment. The soul requires spiritual food, not material decorations for a dead body.

Krishna is so kind that he accompanies us in his expansion as Lord Vishnu in our heart birth after birth, allowing us to try to be happy in a fool's paradise, or the material world of birth, death, disease and continual rebirth. The truth is that we are in a dream of our own making, suffering from amnesia by being forgetful of our true spiritual identity and love of God. We can continue our sojourn throughout innumerable universes and bodies or we can turn to our true friend and love, Shri Krishna. The choice is ours.

However, at least we should make an informed choice. The bhakti scriptures like the Bhagavad-gita, Shrimad Bhagavatam and others lay out the naked truth of material miserable existence, in the context of our eternal blissful home with Radha and Krishna and their associates. This gives us an impetus to practice the process of spiritual awakening. Furthermore, having once tasted the nectar of Krishna through any of nine different methods of service in many varieties and combinations, the choice will be even more obvious. Of course until we are realized we have to make the choice between Krishna and illusion or maya constantly as our conditioned nature tends to pull us down. This is why we have to always keep our self in the light of Krishna's holy name and service, and in the company of his serious, sincere devotees.

Combined comments from old site

Fri, 02/20/2009 - 04:09 — Trauma
Hare Krsna

The title of this blog is what caught my eye. I "almost" feel that everyone is above me, no one is below. I suppose the fact that i have a human birth puts me above a few. I see other humans that are murderers, thieves, etc. I guess i can place myself above that consciousness.
Thank you Karnamrita das. You write well.


Tue, 02/17/2009 - 08:49 — Snehal
Self introspection

Hare Krishna!

What you say is so true!

I think we must be introspective for ourselves every day. This is how we can understand our good and bad qualities. Then work on using good qualities to serve Krishna and work on bad qualities to reduce them. (I say 'reduce' because I think it is very very difficult to overcome them completely.)

Until and unless we realize our strengths and weakness in bhakti, we will be tricked by illusion. Of course, maya can trick us anyways but I think this would help us identify maya's attack and we could then take Krishna's shelter.

Haribol!

Snehal


*Reply*

Wed, 02/18/2009 - 04:52 — Karnamrita.das
A common theme

It is a common theme in my writing--and Prabhupada certainly speaks of it frequently--about the importance of self analysis or introspection for the reasons you give. Although anyone in any condition can chant the holy name and engage in bhakti (knowingly or unknowingly), there is much more benefit if they have the desire to do it and some understanding of the object of their effort--Shri Shri Radha and Krishna. Self understanding is important for knowing how to situate yourself in an occupation and ashrama (whether to marry or become a renunciate). The externals of our life are important to give us support in our spiritual practices. We need to have a grasp on our deep desires and attachments. If we ignore or deny them they can gain power and explode like a volcano--and we often don't become aware of all of them until we mature as a person. We do have to control the senses which are compared to serpents that have the nature to act loosely and unrestrictedly, yet the best way to deal with the senses is to use them in Krishna's service. In addition we have to study the philosophy and pray a lot for spiritual strength. Everything will come in time.

Your friend in Krishna,

Karnamrita