Beyond the darkness: advancing beyond raja-guna and tama-guna
In his purport on SB 2.1.2, Srila Prabhupada gives us a series of cues about what prevents us from cooperating to spread the sankirtana movement. The central point is envy, which comes from material consciousness.
“The word medhi indicates jealousy of others. The grhamedhis, being interested in family affairs only, are certainly envious of others. Therefore, one grhamedhi is not on good terms with another grhamedhi, and in the extended form, one community, society or nation is not on good terms with another counterpart of selfish interest. In the Age of Kali, all the householders are jealous of one another because they are blind to the knowledge of ultimate truth”. (SB 2.1.2 purport)
As Srila Prabhupada points out, enviousness is the central point of materialistic life, creating all kinds of quarrels, disputes and ultimately wars, in all spheres of human life. Someone who is very advanced in spiritual life is supposed to be free from such envy, but not being so advanced, we still may fall victim of it from time to time. It’s something that is deeply rooted in our hearts and follows us very far into spiritual life. The grhamedhi is the chronic example, but there are many more subtle cases.
When we envy someone, it’s almost impossible to cooperate with such a person. We tend to avoid doing anything that will be beneficial or pleasant for him. In fact, we will want to make him disappear, to exile him or tie a stone to his leg and throw him into the river. Such sentiments can sometimes endure for decades, serving as fuel for all kinds of disputes and intrigues. That’s material consciousness, a symptom of association with the modes of passion and ignorance. As long as we are engrossed in the association of these modes, it’s difficult for us to not think like that.
“Arjuna said: O descendant of Vrsni, by what is one impelled to sinful acts, even unwillingly, as if engaged by force?”
“The Supreme Personality of Godhead said: It is lust only, Arjuna, which is born of contact with the material mode of passion and later transformed into wrath, and which is the all-devouring sinful enemy of this world.” (BG 3.36-37)
Nowadays, many devotees try to solve such problems by utilizing problem-solving techniques and other skills borrowed from modern psychology. Such techniques may help to some extent, but they don’t really cure the disease: they just mask the symptoms. They are more or less like an analgesic, that temporarily reduces the symptoms of the disease, making us feel a little less uncomfortable for the time being, without doing much to really cure it.
To really be able to get rid of this problem, both on an individual and on a collective level, we have to advance in spiritual life. That’s the main point. As long as we stay on the neophyte platform it will be difficult to cooperate. There will be a lot of intrigue, politics and so on, of which the root cause is lust and envy. We have to go up, progressing at least to the second platform.
One of the greatest problems of a neophyte is that although he pays respects to the deity, he is not able to behave properly towards other devotees and people in general. He still needs to develop faith, humility, and compassion, and thus learn how to control his envy and treat others properly.
Faith means to deeply accept this knowledge from our books and try to understand and follow this philosophy, adjusting our consciousness to the knowledge that Srila Prabhupada gives us, instead of the opposite. Faith means to take these scriptures as our heart and soul, accept that everything in Srila Prabhupada’s books is correct, and try to understand and apply each point from this perspective. Without faith, it is not possible to really understand these books, nor to successfully preach our philosophy, since someone who doesn’t have firm faith will not be able to inspire faith in others.
Next, we have humility and compassion, two qualities that frequently walk together. Both qualities come from spiritual practice and advancement. There is a saying from Einstein: “The more I learn, the more I realize how much I don't know”. Someone who knows very little usually thinks that he knows everything, but someone who knows more understands that there is much more to know. We have the same problem in spiritual life: someone who is not very advanced may think that he is a pure devotee, but someone who is a little more progressed starts to understand that there is still a long way to go, and thus starts to develop humility. As his knowledge and realization deepen he also starts to develop compassion, by understanding the precarious position of the people in this material world and by being able to relate to their distress.
As this faith, humility and compassion increase, we progress little by little towards the second platform, of which the main symptom is to be able to treat everyone properly. Because there is humility, compassion, and realization, it becomes natural to treat everyone well and cooperate with others. A devotee on such a platform doesn’t see friends and enemies, nor thinks how to enjoy or have power; he just thinks about how to help, how to serve. He is no longer interested in false prestige.
The first thing is that he gives his love to Krsna, understanding that Krsna is the Supreme and that he is His servant. To the devotees he gives his sincere friendship and cooperation, being their well-wisher. To innocent persons of the general public, he shows compassion, by preaching and trying to elevate them to the platform of devotional service. Finally, to those who are hostile or envious he shows indifference, staying out of quarrels and senseless disputes (SB 11.2.46). At this stage, we start to develop love for Krsna, and such love can be easily extended. As Srila Prabhupada explains: one who loves Krsna can love everyone. Where there is love, it is easy to have proper relationships and cooperation. As in other aspects of life, the true solution is to be Krsna conscious.
By advancing in spiritual life and being able to cooperate in spreading Krsna consciousness, we can please guru and Krsna, as the Lord personally says to the Pracetas:
“The Supreme Personality of Godhead said: My dear sons of the King, I am very much pleased by the friendly relationships among you. All of you are engaged in one occupation — devotional service. I am so pleased with your mutual friendship that I wish you all good fortune. Now you may ask a benediction of Me.” (SB 4.30.8)