Ego! How this small yet powerful part of man can be completely blind! It is like a destructive drug, for whoever falls victim to ego loses everything. It is like a wild animal that destroys everything in its path without consideration. Destruction of others and of one’s self, is the result of an uncontrolled ego.
Nourishment for the powerful ego is found in the intellect. Intellect is both wonderful and dangerous. Trained, developed and properly used, the intellect is one of the highest faculties. However if used improperly, the intellect only gathers impressions and passes judgement. Nothing is integrated, nothing is experienced and Reality is disregarded. The intellect then believes itself to be Omniscient and Master of the world.
There is a wise Indian saying. There are eight manifestations of mental alcohol which blind the intellect: pride of race, of youth, of beauty, of physical strength, of family, of position, of money and of knowledge. Vanity blinds like the strutting arrogance of a drunkard who considers himself superhuman. In reality he has lost control. Many people suffer from the illness of pride, which brings symptoms of jealousy, being argumentative, hate and distrust.
It’s not difficult to carry a full water pot on the top of your head, as they do in India, but you will not get far before a half-filled one sloshes and spills. In the same way, the mind is always subject to disturbance as long as knowledge is imperfect and incomplete.
This is how it was with one group of men who had retired from their profession. Formerly railway officials, professors, military men and Sanskrit scholars, each of them possessed a certain amount of knowledge and skill, but were terribly conceited about them. Having nothing to do, they passed their time travelling around, humiliating people by challenging debates. They especially liked to embarrass other learned men or swamis with their practiced questioning.
One day, this group came to Mahaprabhuji's ashram as he was holding satsang.
"We have heard you are a great scholar and we have come to be convinced it is so," one of them provocatively asked. "Tell us what you know!"
Mahaprabhuji had no chance to reply before another interrupted, who had some poetic ability.
"Recite one of your poems, we want to assess your skill!"
Remaining peaceful, Mahaprabhuji welcomed the men with a loving heart, just as he welcomed all visitors and graciously invited them to sit down. He looked at them and as nothing was hidden from him, he knew their thoughts and characteristics. In a bhajan he began to reveal their negative attributes, so as to instruct them in better behaviour.
Dear readers, it is difficult to translate Mahaprabhuji's beautiful poetry into English, as it has quite a different feeling in Hindi. Therefore I can only attempt to convey the general essence of that bhajan here.
KAHA VED PATHI TRIPATHI KAHAVE
Those who study and call themselves scholars,
Those who consider themselves poets,
Those who dress themselves like holy men,
Those who prize external cleanliness,
What do they gain if they have not studied the Supreme
Or purified their mind?
If they have not realized God,
What’s the use of poetry or a splendid gown?
Those who study law yet still don't know the law of God,
Those who think only of their body
Which will one day be ash spread by the wind,
What can they gain from this?
Only God can stop the fallacy of such thoughts,
Without Him, all is just pretence.
In further verses the bhajan refers to the true aim of life: to behave well and not only to ‘appear’ well.
Suddenly it seemed to these retired men, that they had accomplished absolutely nothing in their entire lives. They were seized with sorrow as they realized that they were growing old and might not have much time to make amends.
"O Master," they cried, "is it really too late for us? We surrender ourselves to you and humbly beg your guidance and protection. Gracious Lord, can you forgive us?"
Mahaprabhuji's heart is full of love for all creatures and there was no question of anger or annoyance within him. He denied no one, forgave all and corrected and removed the negative qualities of those who put their trust in him. Lovingly he looked at them and sang again:
SANTO SE KOI SIROMANI MANUSYA
The Saint is the crown of humanity!
The Gita, Ramayana, Bible and Koran all praise the glory of Saints,
Their words shower all mankind in Blessing.
The Saint selflessly gives, he gives everything to everyone,
He lives not for himself, he lives only for others,
As a messenger of God, he comes in love and compassion
To purify the world of sins!
God's mercy we experience through the blessing of the Saint,
The Saint is unsurpassed
In love, devotion, humility, kindness and mercy.
When Mahaprabhuji had finished the bhajan, he said, "With the blessing of a Saint it is possible to realize everything, but don't be deceived, dear brothers! As you well know, the ego surrounds itself with the appearance of wisdom and many call themselves holy or pretend to be wise. Go where your thirst will be quenched. If your heart is really seeking then you will find your Master. My dears, your prayers for forgiveness are heard, it is never too late to do good, every second is valuable."
The men begged Gurudeva, "Lord, please initiate us and take us as your disciples."
"I will give you a mantra which you shall practise every day," Mahaprabhuji answered. "From now on learn to be as kind and humble to all as much you were unkind before. Never forget there is something you can learn from everyone and only God the Almighty is perfect."
Grateful for his words, they left Mahaprabhuji and praised him with all their hearts. For these men the following words from The Ramayana proved true: "Only by God's mercy is it possible to meet a realized Master."
Next Chapter: Meeting with Mahatma Gandhi
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Overview: The Divine grace of Sri Mahaprabhuji