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Be humble or get Humbled

Indra begged Krishna to retrieve mother Aditi’s earrings and Krishna fought a battle with Bhaumasura and helped Indra. Indra profusely thanked and worshipped Krishna. But moments later when Krishna asked for the parijata tree, there was a war; Indra couldn’t part with the tree, and he was duly humbled by Krishna.

If an important person like Indra, certainly a devotee of the Lord can get bewildered by his position that he could fight with Krishna, what’s our position. If Indra, whose worship Krishna comes to personally accept, can slip in his consciousness, how precarious is our condition. Krishna comes to take our parijata tree too. He comes as Time, and when he takes our possessions and positions, we also feel fearful and competitive like Indra. We challenge Krishna and eventually we lose. It’s better to surrender to Krishna and allow Him to take what truly belongs to Him.

That’s the reason why in Krishna Consciousness we organize various festivals like pusyabhishek to realize how we are insignificant and have no position whatsoever. In this festival for instance, big industrialists, street sweepers, professors of colleges and students, high court lawyers and servants, housewives and big preachers, all come together to pluck flowers for the pleasure of the Lord. No one is big or small; we all remember our position as servants, and keep Krishna’s pleasure as the centre of our lives. This is how a devotee practises humility; by offering respect to all and expecting none in return.

Humility is a choice; humiliation is forced upon.  Unfortunately for most of us, humiliation comes before humility. To save ourselves from the pain of humiliation, we could opt for humility. How do we do that?

Simple; 1) Offer respect and appreciation for others, 2) Don’t expect the world to honour you, 3) Be internally anchored on Krishna Consciousness principles.

Often we wish we are respected;subconsciously we carry out our daily activities, being driven by a deep yearning for receiving love and appreciation from others. However this expectation is only frustrated over time. If you don’t get what you desire, it’s natural to feel miserable. But even if you are honoured by the world, the mind cheats you by desiring more. The mind is never satiated. If you get what you expect, you may be grateful for some time, but then you desire more. And then eventually we don’t get what we want. At that time we also forget what we already have. That’s how Indra forgot the favour Krishna did to him. We are thus fooled by the mind to be miserable. Better give up the race for honour and glory of this world.

Let’s instead focus on service; that will make at least one other human being happy. And his or her happiness will spill over to fill your own heart with happiness. Ultimately that’s what you want right? We want to be happy but somewhere we got the basics wrong; we’ve been fooled to believe that receiving love and respect will make us happy. Sorry; as long as we are a slave to our minds, no amount of riches and glory of this world will bring lasting happiness. It’s only in giving that we receive. The principle of being anchored on remembrance of Krishna and service to others will make us truly happy.

One common doubt; “Often I serve selflessly, but instead of being happy I have seen others expect more from me and then neither they are happy nor am I happy. I see people are selfish. How do I understand at such times that only selfless service brings happiness?”

Selfless service is the fruit of a healthy spiritual tree. The flowers and fruits come later; first we need to water the roots. Hearing and chanting Krishna’s Holy Names helps us water the root; our internal connection to Krishna is deepened. Then selfless service is sustainable. Then if people disappoint us, we won’t be discouraged in our service because we are spiritually nourished by the watering of the roots, by our connection to Krishna.

Our need for reciprocation and affection is fulfilled by Krishna and that helps us give abundantly. Giving without receiving from Krishna is difficult. Only Krishna can satisfy our minds and hearts completely. Otherwise even service can keep the hole in the heart big; the vacuum is filled only when we put the complete whole-Krishna- into our hearts.

Krishna unfailingly humbles us. Either I become humble or get humbled; the former is a happy choice but the latter is a painful experience. Habitually we are intimidated by Krishna-through His material energy- to practise humility. But no one likes to do anything out of compulsion. Just like any relationship isn’t sustainable if there is a feeling of coercion, similarly our relationship with Krishna will last a whole lifetime only if there is voluntary service, only when we serve as an expression of love.

It’s our free will to serve Krishna that sustains our bhakti. And therefore it’s important we cultivate humility as a natural choice rather than get humbled repeatedly and render devotional service grudgingly.

The author is a celibate teacher at ISKCON ashram at Chowpatty, Mumbai

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