When can a devotee seek honor instead of being humble?

by Chaitanya CharanJuly 23, 2014

Question based on this Gita-daily article:

Cultivate humility not as the justification for shirking responsibility but as the inspiration for embracing responsibility 

Transcription by– Keshavgopal Das & Ambuj Gupta

Question: In what situation can a devotee seek honor instead of seeking humility? In one of the Gita daily articles you mention how a devotee’s becoming humble doesn’t necessarily mean accepting dishonor. So when can a devotee seek honor instead of humility?

Answer: Actually we don’t seek honor instead of humility. Essentially we focus on serving Krishna and sometimes in the process of serving Krishna or for the purpose of serving Krishna certain honor is desirable or sometimes essential.

For example, if a person is going to share Krishna’s message so at that time among the audience there has to be some basic levels of respect. Ok, let me hear and examine what this person is saying but if a person is super critical and challenging and countering every sentence then that person cannot learn anything at all. So there has to be some basic level of respect. It’s not a speaker wants respect but if speaker find that at a particular place the audience is constantly argumentative than speaker just leave that place and go somewhere else and find the audience which are more receptive. Is that pride or arrogance? No. The focus is on service to Krishna. Whatever is required in service of Krishna we do that.

Now if we look at the principle of devotion, it is also expressed through our spiritual teachers. Srila Prabhupada himself taught his followers to pay obeisances to him. Why? Because that is the way respect is offered to the spiritual master. Prabhupada did not want respect for himself but by offering respect to him the disciples will make spiritual advancement. Therefore the principle of offering respect is not contrary to the principle of humility. Humility essentially means to be centered on Krishna. You not be centered too much on ourselves. The focus is to be centered on Krishna and do whatever is required in service of Krishna.

For certain services when the honor is required then it’s not wrong to position oneself accordingly. For example, if somebody wants to take up service for Krishna, say arrange some program then the speaker tells this is my profile. Is that bragging? No. When the profile is understood then the opportunity of speaking will be given. Sometimes some devotees when they write books or they come on television or somewhere then person may write that he is BE, BTech, MTech, PhD etc. then some people may object that this person is a spiritual teacher, then why does a spiritual teacher wants to display material qualifications? It is not that the spiritual teacher wants to display but by knowing that this person has material qualification also the audience will respect more. When the audience respect more then there will be more open mindedness to receive the spiritual teacher’s message.

Therefore wherever it is required, wherever it is beneficial for the service of Krishna there positioning oneself in a way that one gets the honor is not wrong. What is wrong is making that honor as the source of one’s happiness. Instead of focusing or remembering Krishna or pleasing Krishna and seeking happiness there-in and further becoming centered only on that honor, doing service for the sake of honor and rejecting service when there is no honor at all without considering what will please Krishna or benefit Krishna then that sort of honor centrism is arrogance and that is undesirable for bhakti. Where honor enable us to increase our service to Krishna then that is anukula to bhakti and that can be accepted. But then we also need to pray to Krishna, Krishna please protect me from becoming proud, please keep me humble. We may get respect from those who are below us and that may inflate us but if you remember those who are above us, the great spiritual teachers who had come before us and by remembering them we will depend on their mercy and that upward connection will keep us humble. Thank you.

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Chaitanya Charan

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