Monday, January 21, 2013
where have all the saintly persons gone?
Where has society's morality gone? That's the question I'd like to begin with today. More so than ever the news is inundated with all kinds of disturbing events taking place all across the world. Where have all the saintly persons gone?
When I mean saintly, I speak according to the definition given in the Gita. A saintly person is one who is virtuous and who treats others with respect and compassion because they see that everything is a spark of God's opulence. By this definition, it is not a quality that is relegated to just a chosen few but actually a quality that all of us should practice.
Such attributes and characteristics do not just appear magically. They must be practiced. In fact, this actually reminds me of one of my favourite verses in the Gita. I know I'm skipping ahead, but consider this a little extra for today! ;) In Chapter 17, Verse 16, Krsna says, "And satisfaction, simplicity, gravity, self-control and purification of one's existence are the austerities of the mind."
I remember exactly where I was and how I felt when I was taught the full import of this verse. I was in Mayapur, India and was sitting in a room with about twenty bhakti practitioners from all over the world. I remember how the teacher emphasized the word austerity in this verse and a light bulb went off in my head. Austerity in this verse means to practice. Austerity implies some level of difficulty and the requirement of great mental determination in order to be successful.
Shocking isn't it? Take just the first quality that is mentioned in 17.16- satisfaction. It means that we need to practice satisfaction, what to speak of simplicity, gravity, self-control etc... This is just mind-boggling to the Western way of thinking, where satisfaction is something you either buy or something that happens at/to you, not something that you actually practice.
Similarly, saintliness is also a quality that must be practiced. But the question can be raised here. How can one practice a quality? Well...it's actually pretty simple. Anyone remember what was mentioned yesterday as being the most important principle of bhakti? Always remember Krsna and never forget him. If we are aspiring to be in this consciousness then we realize that every living entity (please note - not just restricted to humans!) we interact with is also very dear to Krsna and every situation we face is due to the results of our past action.
Hence, we see opportunities to practice qualities like tolerance, patience, detachment, compassion, paying respects to others...all the qualities that make one saintly.
Bhakti teaches us to view things from a different perspective, that of "What can I learn from this moment?" This fuels and can give impetus to our determination to act properly.
It is also important to note that aspiring bhakti yogis don't just practice good qualities to become a good person since that can easily lead one into the trap of becoming proud. "Just see what a great person I am. I'm so patient and tolerant!" :P
No. They see this cultivation of good qualities as being helpful in their practice of bhakti yoga. It's easy to be a nice person, it's harder to see the practice of good qualities as a stepping stone to advancement in bhakti.
The goal of bhakti is not just to be a good person who exemplifies saintliness. The goal of bhakti is to uncover and fan our hidden love for God. How one can do this is coming up in the Gita, so stay tuned!