What does it mean to not take credit for the things we do?
Transcribed by- Vrindasundari Devi Dasi
Question- What does it mean to not take credit for our services? Does it mean that we should not have our name associated with whatever service we are doing? Say if a devotee writes an article or a book, the name should not be there on the book, or if we do some service, nobody should know which service we are doing?
Answer (short) –
- Not taking credit means that whatever we do should be done in consciousness of Krishna.
- Taking credit means that whatever we do is done in “I” consciousness or self-consciousness.
- External form of not taking credit, for example not mentioning name in a book or article, may not necessarily mean not taking credit. It may be or may not be, depends on devotee’s internal motivation.
Answer (long)- Not necessarily that concealing the name is a precondition for not taking credit, nor does it assure that we’re not taking credit. The point of not taking credit is that ultimately our purpose is to be conscious of Krishna, love Him and serve Him. So to the extent we are focused on Krishna, to that extent we are advancing in bhakti. To the extent we are focused on thinking about ourselves and our own greatness, and delighting simply in that greatness, to that extent we are not Krishna conscious. That is self-consciousness which is undesirable for bhakti. The central rule is smartavyaḥ satataṁ viṣṇuḥ, “always remember Krishna, never forget Krishna”. With this in mind, we should do our services. We should always keep checking our intentions. For example, after doing the service, we should ask ourselves what are we focused on? Are we thinking, “Now I have proven my greatness to the world, now everybody will come to know how great I am, how talented I am, how dedicated I am.” If our focus is on “I”, then that is what it means to take credit. It means to wallow in self-consciousness, which is counter-productive for our bhakti.
There are some external forms of not taking credit, for example- not having one’s name exhibited or told- but is it necessarily not taking credit? It can be. But it doesn’t have to be. Sometimes, it may happen that I may not want my name known to the other people, but those who already know I have done some service and did not take the credit by keeping anonymous, it may very well be that actually I want even more credit. “Oh, see how selfless this devotee is, that he doesn’t even want the name.” It’s not that anybody who says “I don’t want my name”, is actually always hankering for more credit. Somebody may give big donation and may genuinely want to stay anonymous. What any devotee’s motivation is, we can’t judge for ourselves. And we shouldn’t judge. Some devotee may give a big donation and may want the name to come prominently, not because of any credit, but because to set an example for others.
Sometimes some devotees may say that, “I don’t feel qualified to sit on the vyasasana, therefore I will sit on a simple mat and from there I will give class.” Now, that may be because of genuine humility. But then, one aspect of humility is to not inconvenience others. Not inconveniencing others means that if some devotee is not sitting on the vyasanana but sitting on a mat on the ground, the listeners often have to strain their necks to look at the speaker and it’s inconvenient for them. If my humility is causing inconvenience for others, then is that really humility? Is that an exhibition of my service attitude? Similarly, some devotees may say that if we don’t write our name on the books or articles that we publish, we are not taking credit. Again, if the article is well-written, the readers will want to know who has written it. If the name is not there on the article, then the readers will have to make a greater effort to find about the author.
Further, not putting the name on our book or article may also raise questions about the credibility and the authenticity of the work. Non-devotees will also not be able to relate because there are certain standards which are there when we write something devotional. The standard is that, normally a piece of writing, whether it be article or book, that is associated with the name of the author.
Actually, not taking credit where it is due may also lead to missing opportunity for future services. For example, if some devotee is a good writer, and then some major opportunity for writing comes in the future but if people don’t know about this devotee’s writing skills, they will not be able to contact that devotee and a bigger opportunity for service may be lost.
Yes, as devotees, we do want to avoid taking credit, but that means we don’t want to be self-conscious, we want to stay Krishna conscious. When we are able to do some service, as devotees we should focus on “it is Krishna who has given me the ability, it is Krishna who has given me the opportunity, and it is by Krishna’s mercy that I am able to do the service.” That way, if we stay conscious of Krishna, if we stay grateful to Krishna and the devotees, and don’t become self-conscious, then we are not taking credit for ourselves.