needs your help. This project is maintained by donations, which have been reduced during the pandemic. Kindly consider supporting this very important service project. Click here to contribute.

"Don't get no Respect"

I think respect is really a way of life—a consciousness of the sacredness of all life and in fact everything that exists as it relates to God. In how I see the word, it is what Krishna consciousness is all about. We are learning to respect and honor God—Radha Krishna, Gaura-Nityananda and all their expansions and devotees—great teachers or gurus, devotees in general, but in fact all living beings and everything that exists. Although honor is not given as a synonym for respect, to me it could be. Given synonyms are deference and reverence.

A well known comedian now passed on was famous for his routine that “I Don’t get no respect”. Not getting respect means receiving disrespect. Respect is an important word, and a word with many meanings. Here is something to start on from the dictionary which I think would be useful to consider in beginning our brief discussion:

RESPECT: esteem for or a sense of the worth or excellence of a person, a personal quality or ability, or something considered as a manifestation of a personal quality or ability: I have great respect for her judgment. / deference to a right, privilege, privileged position, or someone or something considered to have certain rights or privileges; proper acceptance or courtesy; acknowledgment: respect for a suspect's right to counsel; to show respect for the flag; respect for the elderly./ the condition of being esteemed or honored: to be held in respect.

I think respect is really a way of life—a consciousness of the sacredness of all life and in fact everything that exists as it relates to God. In how I see the word, it is what Krishna consciousness is all about. We are learning to respect and honor God—Radha Krishna, Gaura-Nityananda and all their expansions and devotees—great teachers or gurus, devotees in general, but in fact all living beings and everything that exists. Although honor is not given as a synonym for respect, to me it could be. Given synonyms are deference and reverence.

Thus, there is a gradation of applications depending on context for the various inferred meanings of respect as in higher expressions of honor, reverence, or worship. We respect according to the person and our realization of who they truly are, though everyone should be respected to a degree. If we can accept this, we still might ask, "How much?" Some devotees have a problem with the use of honor when it is applied ordinary people, such as between a husband and wife who are encouraged by some marriage educators to honor one another. I think this is because some think it is meant only for saintly persons and God. I believe this is a cultural bias of Westerners, which doesn’t exist as much in the Eastern cultures especially of olden times.

I just took my wife to the airport and am sitting in a book store writing this and people watching---something I love to do. People are complex and fascinating. Being souls having human experiences, they are being subjected to so much less then their normal condition through the limitations of matter. Every person we meet or relationship we have in our life is important and educational if seen in the right way which gives us clues about the meaning of life. If only we could understand who we truly are and who we are part of, nothing else would matter save reviving our love and relationship with him/them, Shri Shir Radha Krishna [God]. If they do something to reveal themselves as less then their spiritual identity, like trying to steal from the store, I take appropriate action, praying to apply the idea to hate the sin, not the sinner.

Whenever I am with people, here or in the store where I work, or shopping etc, I feel respect and honor for everyone--well most everyone, I am not perfect, yet this is my general attitude. The tendency of the false ego is to create separation between me and others. I am the subject, they my object. We automatically categorize people, as if a label made them a known entity or less then I. We all have mental stereotypes in which we often put people---that seems to be the way our brain is wired, yet it is so much less that people are.

We also make such distinctions and categorizations with devotees, yet we have to be very careful in assuming we know someone, especially on-line where so much projection can go on and we rely on written communication which is so prone to be misunderstood. Of course misunderstanding happens face to face as well.

I would like to suggest that we assume the best about others—in a word, RESPECT and do unto others as we would have them to us, and practice EMPATHY or trying to understand why a person is asking or stating something. If we have some negative reaction to what someone says we have to stop and ask our self why. Could there be another way to understand them? Is it what they said, or did it bring up some doubt in our self or in Krishna consciousness [our spiritual life]? If a person expresses a doubt does it call in to question our own doubt?

Remember that people are like mirrors who we tend to see as we are. For example we usually think what something said would mean if we had said it, rather than what it might mean differently to the person. Another truth to consider is that a person may have faith in Krishna or certain aspects of the philosophy but have doubts in others. I would say that could be true for many, though it is not always admitted. To be able to express ones’ doubts is courageous and is the only way to get them retired, though one must find the right person to talk with. If devotees can't share their doubts or reservations with other devotees, where are they to go?

One of the definitions of a guru—either instructing or initiating— is one who destroys our doubts. Having doubts is the nature of living in the material world which is the plane of doubts and limitations. We shouldn’t be surprised. The spiritual world is really the land of all possibilities, the land of true faith and love, and to get there we must find those who can end all our doubts and convince us to take up Krishna consciousness (or revive it) with full determination by their example and realized words compassionately shared. At least we would expect our friends to support us, believe in us, and respect us.

Let us all consider how much we are on a path of respect and honor for everyone and everything as we endeavor to see them with spiritual eyes, rather than seeing material friends or enemies. All things and souls are Krishna's property and energy. That vision is Krishna consciousness. Respect! Don't disrespect!

Combined comments from old site

Sun, 12/07/2008 - 21:21 — tekisui
The burden of political correctness

I think the biggest problem when it comes to issues of respect between humans is "political correctness" - that particular brand of indirectness, sugar-coating, empty optimism, fake appreciation, acted honesty, and an eagerness to take offense.

Any kind of human behavior - positive or negative - is easy to deal with, as long as it is direct, straightforward.

But with people who behave in a politically correct manner, one never knows where one is at. And this is the troubling part.

For example, instead of saying "I don't like you and I would prefer not to communicate with you", the politically correct person will say "I appreciate your input, it helps me discover new horizons" - and the communication continues, becoming more and more messy and more and more harmful.

Hare Krishna.


Mon, 12/08/2008 - 13:44 — Karnamrita.das

I don't quite follow how P.C prevents people from being respectful. I see how it can confuse honest communication so you don't know where people are really at, so maybe you are saying that one never knows if offered respect is genuine. In shallow relationships for sure, though in the PC world it does seem like no even constructive criticism is allowable.

My sense about the lack of respect felt allow with its expression is just the time we live especially in the West. The individual rights are glorifying as being everything, and others are suspect do to the abuse of some, and so many people are less then ideal. Thus we don't respect others (because they are just like me), or their opinions, or even who they may be as a person---and their story of how they have developed their outlook. Lack of respect comes from self absorption and taking ones self too seriously, our opinion to great. Those are some reasons. I'm sure there are more. Kali is sort of an age of disrespect where we tend to quarrel over nothing, and would rather kill someone or some group rather than have to accommodate differences.

Your friend in Krishna,



Mon, 12/08/2008 - 19:11 — tekisui
Criteria for "respect"?

PC only really becomes a problem when one person is PC, and the other isn't.

Which brings me to the point that people have very different ideas about what constitutes "respect".

For example, there are Christians who feel disrespected if one is not a Christian and doesn't show an interest to become a Christian.
There are people who feel disrespected if one doesn't agree with them.
There are people who feel disrespected if one corrects their notions about oneself. (Ie. I say "X", they claim I said "Y". If I correct them and say I said "X", they say or imply I am being disrespectful, that I am calling them a liar or that I am doubting their intelligence, or that I am just picking a fight. This phenomenon becomes especially poignant in online communication where all references are wrtitten, easy to look up.)
There are people who feel disrespected if one doesn't put oneself down in their presence.
There are people who think respect and liking are the same.
And so on.

Personally, I have the experience and impression that no matter what I will do or say, someone is always going to feel disrespected by it.

People do have different criteria for what constitutes "respect".

Many also expect that others will know these criteria in advance, without asking.

As for accomodating differences: Why should people accomodate differences? Without an all-overarching, all-encompassing philosophy, one cannot accomodate differences to begin with, even if one wants to.
Often, when people set out to "accomodate differences", what they actually do is that they diminish the importance of those differences, no matter how small or how big those differences are, no matter how important each party might find those aspects of themselves that are trying to be accomodated.

Hare Krishna.


Tue, 12/09/2008 - 00:20 — Karnamrita.das
So I guess another point is

So I guess another point is that people can have big defenses and are easily disrespected and angry, which is symptom of Kali---having a short fuse and flying off the handle. It happens between individuals and religions and nations. The world is biased and defensive.

I know it happens between people though I haven't had that much experience. Our life experience greatly affects how we perceive others and the world. Using myself as an example: I grew up with a drunk angry father who might hit me for no reason that I could tell. I was often ducking to avoid getting hit. This greatly colored how I saw interaction with others. I was very careful to be "tuned in" to how what I said affected others. I would rather be safe and not be myself then to chance someones anger which meant by my conditioning-- pain. It has taken me many years to overcome that need to please or not anger others---basically willing to compromise who I was for the sake of survival.

Another side is that I am a very sensitive person. I care about people and want to help them. Whether through healing, speaking or writing, my intent is be a source of upliftment. I put that energy out as much as I can and to a large extent that is what I receive back. With all their faults---and I have so many myself---I believe in people and what they can become.

The soul is pure though now diseased. Somehow my quest is to help them awaken in some way---not like a "do-gooder" type but through kindness at the very least, praying that others can awaken. I don't mean to imply in anyway that I am special or anything like that, yet I also believe in sharing my journey and perceptions. Believe me I have my struggles with a few people and have to keep my distance.

My point is someone like me could have a very poor attitude toward others believing people are hateful and angry who will stab one in the back if we let our guard down. However, due to my nature and good fortune I was able to a large extent to overcome some very negative childhood conditioning. I sincerely believe, have experienced and have found scriptural support for that what we give out we attract. If we see and treat them in a certain way it is certain that most people will treat us similarly.

Your friend in Krishna,



Tue, 12/09/2008 - 07:49 — tekisui
Bias and defensiveness

Sure, many people are biased and defensive in this age. They don't practice religion, or they don't practice it properly, so they have little or no security in their lives - so they are anxious and feel threatened a lot.

I has not been my experience that people will treat us in a similar way we treat them. Sometimes they do, sometimes they don't.

But it has been my experience that people often treat us in line with what they impute our motivations are, caring nothing for what our actual motivations are - their perception of our motivation is all to them.

Intellectual scrutiny is a behavior that is often misconstrued as threatening, as if it were guided by malicious motivations. Point out a logical flaw in someone's view, or point out that they are misrepresenting you - and they will often claim you hate them or something like that, or that you are at least stupid or inept ...

This is actually a way for people to become insane: When others, out of defensiveness, or true malice, continually misinterpret a person. When someone continually claims you said "Y" when you actually said "X" - in time, this can make you lose sanity.

Hare Krishna.

Tue, 12/09/2008 - 00:18 — bhaktincarol
Kali Yuga?

Some are trying to serve themselves.


Tue, 12/09/2008 - 00:31 — bhaktincarol

Karnamrita prabhu,

I wrote my own response, and it seems to have been posted at the same time as yours!

I wasn't questioning your comment. This was just my response.


Sun, 12/07/2008 - 17:06 — Snehal
Respect out of love and compassion

Hare Krishna!

We can respect others out of fear or out of love. I remember I had a teacher in school, who was very strict. I respected her a lot but not because I liked or loved her but just because I feared her. I have also seen peolpe who worship Lord with lot of respect just because they feel, they would be punished if they dont respect God.

But being devotees we worship God with respect because we are trying to love Him and understand Him. We also want to respect others (devotee and non devotees) not for the sake of respecting them. Rather we must first feel the respect within and then express it in appropriate words and actions.

I feel, to realy feel that respect within, we must first understand that none of us is perfect. We are all conditioned souls and hence subjected to commit mistakes, get illusioned and cheat. When we understand this to be the reason for a particular behaviour of an individual, we can be compassionate towards him. Of course, we dont encourage any bad or wrong behaivour but try understand and feel compassion for the conditioned soul. I think I is what it means to love a sinner and not his sin.It is only when we have love and compassion for every conditioned soul (which is a part and parcel of Krishna), we can respect everybody irrespective of their good or bad behavior.




Mon, 12/08/2008 - 14:36 — Karnamrita.das
Internal and external respect

My belief is that every soul is worthy of respect and kindness due to its being part of Krishna, though how we express it depends on the degree of manifested divinity or even good material qualities. We should be like the bee looking for nectar (good qualities), not like the fly who always finds the sores. We don't condone improper unbecoming behavior, yet we look for the spiritual spark in a person to fan. Though we may avoid the drunk, we shouldn't be hard hearted and hate the person. A saint sees everyone except himself as a devotee, yet we have to make distinctions based on behavior. The general principles we can apply according to our realization. I am speaking of developing a life or attitude of respect and honor. Practice makes perfect and we can start from wherever we are.

Shri Chaitanya informed us that broadly speaking anyone who has uttered the name of Krishna is a devotee and we can respect them at least within. Honest devotees who are following the principles of K.C to the best of their ability we may offer outward respect, and superlative devotees we can serve as the representative of Krishna.

Your friend in Krishna,


Sat, 12/06/2008 - 19:46 — Keerty
Hare Krsna!

This is a wonderful post! I was just thinking about the concept of respect the other day.

Being originally an Indian, I have been taught that respect and honour is very important in every aspect of life. I've been scolded for accidently stepping on a magazine even!

In general, I was quite surprised to see this lack of ‘respect’ in people who were not South-East Asians; this is where your comment about the ‘cultural bias of Westerners’ comes in, Prabhuji.

However, I now find that this lack of respect cannot be limited to Asians, because it is becoming almost universal in this age of Kali. When I witnessed a boy throwing a chair at his teacher, I was gobsmacked. Why would anyone do that? How could they?!

Your post enforced my opinion that this happened because ‘respect is really a way of life—a consciousness of the sacredness of all life…’ This lack of understanding of Krsna’s property is how we lack respect for anything, including ourselves and other souls.

Additionally, speaking of Krsna’s proerty, as well as the treatment of fellow human beings, I wanted to draw attention to vegetarianism as well. If one can feel no respect for other living entities then one cannot progress, as we hinder the progress of Krsna’s spirit souls to return back to Him.

Thank you for this blog post, Prabhu.

Hare Krsna.


Sun, 12/07/2008 - 01:14 — Karnamrita.das
Respect for animals and the natural world

Respecting animals so we don't commit violence to them is very important, as is not exploiting the land for materialistic purposes. I should have mentioned it, so thanks for bring it up.

In a broad sense all life is sacred as is everything in the world, though we give more respect to certain places and people who help us remember and serve Krishna, so as I mentioned it is a question of degree. I posted this blog on another site and someone had a problem with the idea of respecting everyone, when there are terrorists and evil people causing harm to others. Although it is true that in the name of respect we may not "embrace the tiger" we can still see them as spiritual beings though greatly forgetful of who they are spiritually.

I am not a warrior though such people are needed in the world. I am cultivating the vision of spiritual person, aspiring to see all on the soul level. That is the natural path for me. Of course if someone is vindictive and hateful against me, then that would be a real test. In general I haven't had to face antagonist people, though a very few have pushed my defensive buttons and I have become angry. Never the less the principle of respect and honor I truly believe in and do my best to practice. I feel it is good for me and good for others.

Your friend in Krishna,



Sun, 12/07/2008 - 07:17 — bhaktincarol
It is wonderful to read

It is wonderful to read this!
You both are describing the respect we should have for individuals, and what is Krishna's property, all around us.

I remember a class I attended at the temple. We should practice respect for others, but should not expect respect for ourselves. I remember the devotee giving the class emphasized that insects will not respect us, dogs will not respect us they will continue to bark, other people will not respect us, sometimes even other devotees will not respect us. He reminded us of the grass, how everyone steps on it, how individuals relieve themselves of their waste on it, and yet it continues to spring back, continues to give us a soft place to step and to rest. It tolerates all the disrespect that it is given.

I wondered how much I should tolerate when I did service with someone who commonly spoke about their lust ideas. I asked a very good devotee and was advised to tolerate, and the devotee added, what should it matter to me what they speak about? I tried to put this into practice in my life, and although it was not always comfortable, I was able to tolerate.

More recently, I'm trying to work through tolerating and learning to deal with someone who (what you wrote reminded me of this) seems to have the intention to disturb, and who displays enjoyment when they succeed. When they try to scare me and are actually putting me at risk, I separate myself from them. But when it is just a matter of my not agreeing with their behaviors, I try to tolerate.

I think I am being taught not to be so proud, not to expect so much respect, maybe to learn not to put so much importance on what is outside and around me. And I try to remember that this individual was put into my life for a reason, as everyone is put into each of our lives.

I also want to add something that a devotee said, that I have kept for years:
'You will have to become a very tolerant, a very wise person -- to get along with other very wise, opinionated devotees.'

I only hope I can learn these things.

bhaktin carol


Sun, 12/07/2008 - 09:11 — Karnamrita.das
How much to tolerate?

In general we want to have respect for everyone as a soul. More respect is offered people based on their positive behavior materially and especially spiritually. Toleration is another quality to apply in our daily living though it's application also depends on the circumstances, the person, and our realization.

We are advised to tolerate the ups and downs or dualities of the material world. We can tolerate the less then ideal qualities of behavior of anyone, including devotees, though we do have to draw the line somewhere. While there is a place for sharing with a devotee friend one's "dark side"or struggles in K.C, though in general while doing service (at the Temple?) we should do our best to speak in spiritual circles and avoiding loose negative talk. Sometimes there may be nothing you can do, yet at other times, you can speak up that certain topics of conversation are not uplifting, but distracting you from your service and the devotional mood. We shouldn't tolerate lewd, offensive behavior or speech.

Here are three verses from the Gita chapter 17 vs 14-16 that you might find helpful--especially the, or the second one given:

"Austerity of the body consists in worship of the Supreme Lord, the brahmanas, the spiritual master, and superiors like the father and mother, and in cleanliness, simplicity, celibacy and nonviolence."

Austerity of speech consists in speaking words that are truthful, pleasing, beneficial, and not agitating to others, and also in regularly reciting Vedic literature.

And satisfaction, simplicity, gravity, self-control and purification of one's existence are the austerities of the mind.

We may not always be able to speak about K.C or Krishna katha though at least it should be favorable for it and for our service together or for respectful devotee relationships. There is no harm expressing to someone that their particular emphasis of conversation is not appropriate. (It is very helpful if possible to listen to lectures or kirtanas while doing service to go deeper into the philosophy or set the best mood) In the case of improper or disturbing speech it is not a question of tolerance but helping a situation be better for both of you. You can bring it up in a kindly and respectful way, though in some cases you may need help in dealing with less then ideal conversation or behavior. Here is what Prabhupada says in his pp to 17.15 as above quoted:

"One should not speak in such a way as to agitate the minds of others. Of course, when a teacher speaks, he can speak the truth for the instruction of his students, but such a teacher should not speak to those who are not his students if he will agitate their minds. This is penance as far as talking is concerned. Besides that, one should not talk nonsense. The process of speaking in spiritual circles is to say something upheld by the scriptures. One should at once quote from scriptural authority to back up what he is saying. At the same time, such talk should be very pleasurable to the ear. By such discussions, one may derive the highest benefit and elevate human society. There is a limitless stock of Vedic literature, and one should study this. This is called penance of speech."

Your friend in Krishna,



Mon, 12/08/2008 - 02:30 — Go-Seva
I am very grateful this subject came up

Haribol~ I have been wrestling with this very topic for several weeks, but couldn't put the label on how I was feeling....disrespected. Now that this nice blog is posted, all my cloudy thoughts have been cleared.

I guess I thought that as an aspiring devotee, you should think that Krsna puts us in certain situations to help our devotion or learn something. You should be "as tolerant as a tree." The situation that I have been in has been very intolerable, but I have been tolerating because I felt I should (for many reasons I cannot discuss here.) Now that I can see what Srila Prabhupada says about this subject, I understand that I shouldn't tolerate this situation another day.

Thank you very much prabhuji for your insight and instruction.