Dhanurdhara Swami September 26th, 2016
How we fight those words even when, well… we’re obviously wrong.
It was the early morning in the sweet land of Vṛndāvana during my japa meditation. As my concentration deepened suddenly some mistakes that I made drifted into my consciousness. I could have let those thoughts go, or at least I could try to, but the nature of those thoughts were forcing me to confront those mistakes, but before the pain of admission could pinch my ego, I heard a soothing voice come to the rescue.
“It wasn’t your fault! It was circumstantial. The mistakes were exaggerated. And you have accepted responsibility. You’re so humble…”
But just as I was rationalizing my faults, a more challenging and powerful message hit me. That week I had been teaching in my daily sat-saṅga the story “The Deliverance of the Wives of the Brāhmaṇas” from the tenth canto of the Bhāgavatam. I had just lectured on the part where the learned, austere brāhmaṇas were not only awakened to their own offenses, but also to the challenging realization of how paltry their spiritual attainment was as compared to their simple wives. They condemned themselves in the harshest way:
“To hell with our being initiated priests, our vows of celibacy, and our extensive learning! To hell with our aristocratic background and our expertise in the ritual of sacrifice! These are all condemned because we are inimical to the transcendental Personality of Godhead.” – Bhāg. 10.23.40
What struck me in this story was the Sanskrit word used for remorse that I gleaned to have the same root as tapa, which means “austerity” or “heat”. At least that’s how I read it. The story thus brought to my mind the point that embracing our faults is an austerity, a practice that burns our false ego – that cherished conception of being better than others as the controller and enjoyer.
So that day as I was watching the process of rationalization co-opting any sense of remorse I thought of this pastime and was inspired to just stop rationalizing and let the acknowledgement of my blunders burn the false ego, the insidious desire to be the controller. Internally I screamed, but at the same time the holy name became more and more the focus of my consciousness as I embraced the humble position.
“You’re wrong!” Oh how we hate those words, but at the same time how good they can be for us if we accept them properly. We have studied the teachings the Gītā so many times and we abhor the self-centered. Why then should it be so difficult to hear these words even for one fairly advanced on the path?
We have come to this world to seek our pleasure from enjoyment, not love. We thus seek power in the form of wealth, education, beauty, position, and so on to conform the world to our desires and a sense of superiority. As admitting our mistakes even to one other person or just ourselves means a diminishment of status or a loss of power, we fight that conception tooth and nail, even if it belies our core values and it is unbecoming to our spiritual life.
It is so counter intuitive, but all glories to “I’m wrong!”