Monday Morning Greetings 2023 #28 – Accepting Praise and the Death of Devotion

July 10th, 2023

A devotee certainly doesn’t embrace praise. Rather, they resist it.[1]


Jaya! Jaya!”, meaning “victory”, is what subordinates chant to praise someone they revere. If one eagerly accepts that praise and doesn’t dismiss it in some way, at least internally, their devotional spirit will be dampened. Why? Casually accepting praise puts one in the center, which feeds one’s core material nature to enjoy, control, and to feel superior, which is antithetical to the mood of bhakti or devotion. In other words, devotion is the mood of serving the center, and therefore one who has devotion shuns praise that tends to move one towards the center and away from devotion.


It’s not that a devotee deflecting praise is just doing it from a theoretical platform of “it is not good to accept praise”. It is genuinely the way a true devotee feels.


A devotee who has the sincerity to look inward sees clearly that whatever they have of worth, including their talents and intelligence, is coming by the grace of God and can be withdrawn in a second. How then can a devotee seriously embrace praise for their status or accomplishments?


A devotee also doesn’t easily accept praise because an awareness of God naturally illuminates the true nature of the soul as simply one among countless jivas who are mere sparks of God’s splendor. How can a person with such realization possibly feel entitled to glorification independent of guru and Krishna?


But there is something more:


A devotee not only doesn’t feel worthy of praise, but they also have no taste for it. Only the humble feel affection or love, for whatever is received by a proud person is accepted as something deserved, not something coming out of mercy or kindness. As the humble devotee can feel God’s affection and naturally experiences feelings of devotion as a result, which is God’s pleasure potency, why would they seek praise to inflate their ego and dampen such joy?


One of the best ways to understand the philosophy of devotion, however, is through the devotees who exemplify it. A few examples:


Śrīla Prabhupāda had just returned from a preaching program where he had to speak strongly against another speaker who not only misrepresented the philosophy, but spoke offensively about Krishna as well. Śrīla Prabhupāda was fatigued from a long day of service, so when he returned home, he sat cross legged on the floor and had one of his servants massage his shoulders. The servant was proud of how his spiritual master quieted this cheat and suddenly had a vision according to his own nature. He envisioned Śrīla Prabhupāda sitting on a stool in the corner of a boxing ring like the heavyweight champion after thrashing an opponent. As he continued to massage Śrīla Prabhupāda’s shoulders in this mood, he blurted out, “Śrīla Prabhupāda, you are the greatest!” Śrīla Prabhupāda became silent for a moment and then soberly turned to his servant: “No, I am just a devotee!”


Forty years ago, in a sparsely attended maṅgala-ārati in the Krishna Balarama Mandir, someone pointed to Śrīla Prabhupāda’s vyāsāsana where a sādhu with folded hands was deeply immersed in prayer. That sādhu was soon recognized as the great saint Śrīla Akincana Krishna das Bābājī. As soon as Bābājī Mahārāja realized that he was being noticed in adulation, he immediately scuttled off.


In 1992 I wanted to do an article on the famous and very beautiful sādhu who was ordered by his guru to paint the name of Radha Krishna on every tree and wall in Vrindavan. I humbly asked if I could take his picture. “No. I am not in this for name and fame!” he forcefully replied.


Let us all remember the instructions of Śrīla Raghunātha dāsa Gosvāmī to his mind:


“O mind! How can the highest and purest prema ever touch my heart while the desire for prestige dances there like a shameless dog-eating, outcaste woman? You must constantly serve those unparalleled generals of the army of the Lord who are most dear to Him. They can quickly expel that woman and allow prema to enter the heart.” (Manaḥ-śikṣā 7)



[1] In Vedic culture one sometimes must take a position of spiritual leadership and accept adulation from their students, which is the duty of a students. Even if one must accept that adulation externally, they must be internally very vigilant to accept it only on behalf of and in a mood of service to their own spiritual master.


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