Ego is a tall hurdle in any walk of life, but more importantly, in spiritual progress, it is the tallest. Only true mahatmas who epitomize perfection, lead a life of complete humility devoid of any pride. For all others, it is a goal.
This is true not just for humans, but for everyone else in creation; be it animals, king of devas/gods, or well, even the creator – Brahma himself. It is the killing of the pride that Lord Sri Krishna’s famous sports showed us in Srimad Bhagavatam through the four most important episodes in the crux of this great scripture – Brahma Mohanam, Kaliya Nardanam, Govinda Pattabhishekam, and Rasa Lila.
While the episodes themselves are fantastic, the take-home message is that of defeating pride and surrendering to the divine. In each of these episodes, the Lord uses the victims’ own innate property to make them realize their mistake and lose the pride.
Brahma, the creator, is not merely some four-headed divine being. Brahma is us. We create the world every morning when we wake up. We make art, music, poetry, and literature. We come up with fascinating new ways to design – buildings, railroads, pottery and the internet. We create new dishes to eat, and new styles of fashion. We are made to create. Brahma represents us; and the Brahma Mohana Lila (where his creator pride was crushed) was not just for Lord Brahma to learn a lesson. It is for us too.
While the Lord has very much endowed us with all the potency to ‘create’, He wants us to realize that it is indeed His presence within that makes us creators in the first place. Without Him, we are nothing. This, the Lord showed Brahma by recreating the Gopas, the cows, and everything else down to the little stick carried by the Gopas, when Brahma kidnapped ‘his own’ creations to show the Lord his powers.
It is the same case in the three other lilas – Kaliya Nardanam: to destroy the pride of our body and senses like that of Kaliya, Govardhana uddharanam: to destroy our pride of power/status like that of Indra, and Rasa Lila: to destroy the most dangerous pride of them all – the pride of being spiritually wise!
Alas! The pride in us will not vanish so easily, will it? But HH Sri Sri Muralidhara Swamiji would say that one should just enjoy Bhagavatam. We should keep aside the morals and tattva (philosophy), and just enjoy the lilas of the Lord. That will do. The transformation will happen automatically.
Life itself is a tremendous opportunity for us to realize this. Of course, life is not a freebie. We can do nothing to earn this gift of human life. In fact it is bestowed by the Lord’s unbounded Grace. And hence, undoubtedly, the journey of life teaches us lessons all the time. Srimad Bhagavatam opens our eyes to internalize this.
We see our pride come up every time we do something new, and want an acknowledgment, a pat in the back, a reward if you will. We are wired in a way to think that we are above all classes of beings. Even within the human kind, the French believe that the French are the best; the African thinks the same. From the tribes of the Aborigines, to that of a New Yorker, everyone believes that their clan is the most supreme. We don’t even have to mention the “Indian”, to whom being Indian is a source of great pride. Can’t we shake off this obvious pride, where we ourselves know that we didn’t earn it by doing anything ourselves? It’s not so easy.
When someone challenges us on a task, we want to do it even more; if not to achieve it, at least to show them that we can do it, especially without assistance. All we need is a small challenge, an ego boost, and off we go.
When someone insults us, we spring up in agony. “How dare they call me out, and insult me?” We can never pardon them. When the ego sprouts like that, our mind becomes a devil trying to exact revenge. The opportunities to recognize our pride are everywhere. Each day of our life gives us numerous chances to catch ourselves being proud. Such a gift is life.
The more we read the divine sports of Lord Sri Krishna and take in the beauty of Srimad Bhagavatam, Mahans assure a transformation. With or without the intent to change, the stories themselves have the power to induce change.
Bhagavatam shows us that we are not responsible for the achievements but the Lord is; it shows that the power of our senses, our intelligence, our ranks, our beauty are but an infinitesimal speck of the grandness of the Lord himself. When this knowledge transforms to experience, humility flowers, and pride is lost.
For our part, we only need to keep company with the Bhagavatam. The rest is automatic.
Sriram Ramanujam, Houston TX