Adventures in Humility

News, Views, and Chews on spiritual issues.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Missing The Point

śabda-brahmaṇi niṣṇāto
na niṣṇāyāt pare yadi
śramas tasya śrama-phalo
hy adhenum iva rakṣataḥ

"For one who is expert in the scriptures
but does not fix his mind upon the Lord,
the fruit of his endeavour is like one who
cares for a cow that gives no milk."

(Srimad Bhagavata 11.11.18)

You'll have to forgive the raw translation but the basic elements are in place and the message should be clear enough. This is one of the verses that exemplify my own journey along the spiritual path. For years I used to admire those who were well-versed in scriptural literatures and the ease with which they presented their deep learnings of the shastras in spiritual discussions. As a matter of fact I still do admire such devotees because scriptural learning (especially those who have memorised entire scriptures) is no mean feat and not to be sneezed at. The wonder of it is how I desired to be one such "expert". Of course, I used to be one of those guys who always seemed to come up with an appropriate quote for any discussion that was going on, and as is naturally expected of such endeavours, a large amount of time was spent hunting for such quotes.

I now feel a mixture of disgust, revulsion and pity for myself when I was in that state of mind, though I can also laugh at myself as well. The reason for that is because, notwithstanding the fact that everyone is spiritually evolving according to their own pace and so will consequently arrive at their own realisations, attempting to use shastra as "weapons" in discussions/arguments is wrong, wrong, wrong! As per the above verse from the Holy Bhagavat, I believe that it is thoroughly inappropriate to be an "expert" in the scriptures only for the purposes of one-upmanship. This is a misdirection of the learning faculty and not at all in tune with Mahaprabhu's ideal of trinad api sunicena. It becomes an extension of one's ego when one acquires a queer satisfaction from presenting a "killer" quote that "wins" the discussion. "Ha ha ha! You can't find a quote to refute my quote, can you?? I've won, so take that!" This is a morbid and grotesque mentality.

Actually I am oversimplifying things. The ego and the desire to achieve fame and praise are actually very subtle and almost imperceptible things. It is very hard to detect them unless one is very good at introspection, humble, and always attempting to measure themselves against the 'trinad api sunicena' standard. In other words, one who excessively quotes shastra (unless their contribution is truly to aid a spiritual discussion) may or may not even realise that they are presenting themselves as an "expert" and would directly or indirectly receive praise for it thereof. The next challenge then relates to how to deal with such praise, but that is another story.

Anyway I think I'm raving on a bit so let me get to the point: People who are aware of my online activities may or may not know that, these days, I do not tend to talk so much on spiritual discussion forums unlike the way I used to do before. There are multiple reasons for this, but the main one is that I realised how much I was straying far from the path in my foolish attempts to imitate devotees and their learning in much the same way as is exemplifed in the above Bhagavatam quote. Of course, learning the shastras comes naturally from reading and meditation but it is an organic process that ought to evolve by itself. That is why, these days, I prefer to post inspirational verses from my readings with perhaps a few contextual comments. This is what I continue to do on a couple of the forums I hang out at. Occasionally I stray into some discussions but I would much prefer my contact with such discussions to be minimal. The nature of the Internet is such that people can get paranoid and lose their tempers over the slightest and innocent comments, so I would much prefer to restrit my participations in such events unless I am confident that I know the other respondents well enough and that they can exhibit a satisfactory level of Vaishnava ethics and behaviour.

Or, I might be vain enough to think that I actually know something and thus I have something to contribute to discussions. Here we go again, round and round in circles. At the end of the day it's not about what you know, it's about the extent to which you have practised your preachings in your daily life. So as per Bhagavata 11.11.18, what is the use of being an expert in the shastras when you haven't learnt how to fix your mind on the Lord? This is how I try to spend my time these days; I like to read shastras such as Caitanya-bhagavata, Caitanya-caritamrita, Srimad-Bhagavatam, and all the rest of it, and if I feel that I've stumbled across something nice that I think other devotees would appreciaste, I post it on a forum so that others can experience the joy that I get out of it.

The general idea is that one must not lose one's focus on the goal. The goal must always be kept respectfully upon our heads so that we are always reminded. Krishna-katha is the life of the Vaishnavas, it is the common bond that unites all Vaishnavas irrespective of lineage and sectarian mindsets. Krishna-katha can bring peace to the world as long as there are people to speak it and people to hear it. Krishna-katha can save us from the jaws of death. Brindavan is everyone's and Govinda belongs to all; Navadvipa is everyone's and Mahaprabhu belongs to all.

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  • At 10 June, 2007 06:14, Blogger visnudas said…

    This one really hit home for me.
    BTW thank you for the wonderful post on Mahaprabhu's drunken mad dance of spilling Radharani's Prema Rasa!
    I have wanted to write about that forever.

  • At 11 June, 2007 04:46, Blogger "Gaurasundara das" said…

    Thank you for your kind words. That verse was supremely wonderful, wasn't it? :)

    I'll post them all here soon so I can keep them all in one place also.


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