Recently in the news, there was the story of a nine-year-old girl, Melody Sabnani, who donated 100,000 Rupees to the Indian Prime Minister for his ‘Clean Ganga’ initiative. There was also the news of Sri Manoj Bhargava, owner of a billion-dollar turnover company, who pledged 99% of his net worth for the well being of the worlds’ less fortunate. These are just a couple of the heart-warming stories of sacrifice and charity we hear from time to time. It is interesting to understand why such stories stir our feelings. The answer lies deep within us. It has to do with who we really are.
As spirit souls, happiness is our nature. We are tiny sparks of Lord Krishna, the Supreme Absolute Truth. His nature is described in the Brahma Samhita as ‘sat cit ananda vigraha’ – the form of eternity, knowledge and bliss. The qualities of the blazing fire are minutely present in the sparks as well. So we, His tiny part-and-parcels have the same qualities – eternity, knowledge and bliss. But, there is a difference in the way Lord Krishna experiences sat-cit-ananda(eternity, consciousness and bliss) and the way we do.
In the Bhagavad-Gita Lord Krishna says,
“The sages, knowing Me as the ultimate purpose of all sacrifices and austerities, the Supreme Lord of all planets and demigods and the benefactor and well-wisher of all living entities, attain peace from the pangs of material miseries.”
Excerpt From: HDG A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada. “Bhagavad-gita As It Is – Macmillan 1972 Edition – 5.29
The term ‘bhoktaram’ means the beneficiary or enjoyer. This verse reveals that Lord Krishna is the eternal proprietor of everything and it all exists for His supreme enjoyment. That is the nature of reality. We, His tiny parts do not possess anything permanently and our constitutional nature is to participate in His bliss by offering Him our transcendental loving service. Lord Krishna enjoys by accepting loving service and we, His tiny parts relish offering service to Him.
The reason why someone’s selfless service is pleasing to us is because such service is akin to our original spiritual nature of ecstatic loving service to Krishna.
The world we live in, though, exists in contravention of this reality. While there are a few heart-warming stories of giving, most of the time we observe exploitative activities of selfish enjoyment among the living beings. Material bodies are so made as to be in constant need. Hunger, thirst, birth, death, lamentation and illusion afflict all bodies and life is but a constant struggle to ward off these threats to happiness. This struggle ensues when the eternal soul identifies with the temporary material body. The artificial struggle is so engaging that the soul completely forgets his spiritual nature and becomes absorbed in staying afloat in the ocean of tribulation. In this condition, being happy and is difficult enough, what to speak of making others happy.
Everyone is happy with us: this can only happen when we sacrifice our own happiness for others. Many times pleasing others requires us to postpone, abandon or transform our own plans to accommodate them. Sometimes a mother gives up her career plans for the sake of her family.
The father forsakes his desires to satisfy his children. We may lose sleep over some urgent office work to please our superiors or co-workers. Eventually it can be seen that if we want to please everyone, then we have to sacrifice a lot of our own happiness.In reality, however, because of our intrinsic spiritual nature, the motivation of all our work is to please someone else.
On the other hand, if we are happy with everyone then it can only happen if we are able tolerate the little and big disharmonies in our relationships. We train ourselves not to consider flaws of others very seriously. This can happen when our spiritual perceptions based on scriptures are well developed and we are focussed on attaining higher spiritual goals. By this maturity we are not affected by the transient material reality. We have leant to be fully satisfied in any material circumstance.
To please others and to be pleased by others is a desirable situation impeded by one great limitation. We the minute parts of Krishna have limited consciousness. Our capacity to understand and reciprocate with others is limited.
Children rarely appreciate the sacrifices parents make for them and usually blame them for not being perfect parents even though parents have nothing but the children’s welfare in their hearts. Likewise parents often fail to identify and address the needs of children despite the best of intentions. Neither can a husband fully understand his wife nor the wife her husband, though sharing an intimate relationship. These are true scenarios in the lives of all people.
Over and above our limited consciousness, due the material condition, each one of us is so engrossed in seeking our own happiness and contemplating our own seemingly insurmountable troubles that our sentiments of empathy are easily surmounted by our anxieties.
Krishna is great and He alone is conscious of all living beings. Present in every heart, he is fully aware of their situation. He alone can understand and reciprocate with everyone. That is His supreme power. That is God.
It’s a virtue to sacrifice our happiness for the sake of others. It’s strength and wisdom to not hold any grudge against anyone and to remain satisfied in any condition. Such attitudes are close to our original spiritual nature. Such attitudes are pleasing to Krishna.
“One who is not envious but who is a kind friend to all living entities, who does not think himself a proprietor, who is free from false ego and equal both in happiness and distress, who is always satisfied and engaged in devotional service with determination and whose mind and intelligence are in agreement with Me-he is very dear to Me.”
Excerpt From: HDG A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada. “Bhagavad-gita As It Is – Macmillan 1972 Edition – 12.13-14 Translation
To practically achieve these virtues it is important to develop a strong desire to please Krishna. The instructions of the Lord in the Gita manifest on the top most layer of consciousness and assert over all other considerations in responding to circumstances. It is this that helps us deal with the imperfections of our day-to-day life.
This desire to please Krishna out of love for Him is called bhakti.
One can maintain perfect equanimity when there is an intense desire to follow the direction of Krishna. Such an attempt even if slight, leads to great inner developments in terms of transcendental knowledge (jnana) and detachment (vairagya). These are the basis of peacefulness in events when something we like does not happen or something we don’t like does.
Thus, bhakti makes us empathetic, peaceful, gentle as well as strong enabling us to please everyone and be pleased with everyone.