Monday Morning Greetings 2021 #51 – Relationship is More Important Than Being Right

December 20th, 2021

One on the path of bhakti is not inclined to argue. At the least one should try to avoid it. Śrī Nārada felt strongly enough about this principle to include it in his carefully chosen sūtras for those serious on the path of bhakti:


“One should not engage in argumentative debate.” (NBS 75)


Of course, one may reluctantly engage in debate or argument to establish important truths to protect others from confusion, but, in general, a Vaiṣṇava doesn’t care to defend themself, especially in contentious discourse that is mostly based on ego. The starkest example of this characteristic was demonstrated in the life of the great Vaiṣṇava scholars Śrī Rūpa and Śrī Sanātana. When a prideful traveling scholar named Rupanārāyaṇa Sarasvatī, also known as digvijaya (a person who had conquered everyone in all directions) came to Vrindavan to challenge them, rather than waste precious time in argument, they informed the visiting paṇḍita that their reputation as great scholars was exaggerated. When he pressed them further for debate, they even signed his jayapatra, a letter acknowledging defeat by him, although by all accounts they were more than qualified to engage with him.[1]


The message here is clear. A Vaiṣṇava has one clear objective, to attain love of Godhead. He or she therefore doesn’t prioritize false ego—that cherished conception of being better than others, founded on the desire to be the controller and enjoyer. In contrast, most people in this world are figuratively ready to die to defend themselves. Die to defend themselves? Yes, just reflect on your reaction the last time someone told you that you were wrong! I did. It hurts to acknowledge our mistakes.


As the world has become increasingly polarized on practically every issue, I have been thinking a lot about how vigilant one on the path of bhakti must be to keep this principle in the forefront of their consciousness—that neither being right nor defending oneself from being wrong has value if it does not increase the devotion in our hearts or serve the upliftment of others.


At times, I have shared with my audience my penchant for branding and making catchy phrases. I would like to end with one that came spontaneously to my mind this year by observing how much this unhealthy ego-driven urge to always be right has been exacerbated by the nature of today’s polemic. My experience and observation are that relationships, even one’s important to the progress of devotion in oneself and others, are too often put at risk for the sake of victory, unless one is firm in the conviction that:


Relationship is more important than being right.



[1] Śrī Jīva, the nephew and disciple of Śrī Rūpa Gosvāmī, soon after Rūpanaryan Sarasvatī’s engagement with Śrī Rūpa and Śrī Sanātana, defeated the paṇḍita in debate after a seven-day discussion. For a more elaborate description of the whole story of Rūpanārāyaṇa Sarasvatī’s visit to Vrindavan and his consequent defeat by Śrī Jīva see The Six Goswamis of Vrindavan, Steven Rosen (Satyaraja Dasa), Ch. 5.


Comments are closed.