Favorable Expressions

The conversation got started about humility. We were trying to discuss what it is, what it’s not, and how we might all get more of it.
Well, I guess there was a misunderstanding of some sort between myself and Lisa (Go-Seva). I’m still not exactly sure what the misunderstanding was. However, it ended up with her saying she thought she should “disengage” from connect until she could “express herself favorably” and me saying “we don’t need to express favorably”, we have to just express what we express, and then work from there for our own purification”.

The conversation got started about humility. We were trying to discuss what it is, what it’s not, and how we might all get more of it.
Well, I guess there was a misunderstanding of some sort between myself and Lisa (Go-Seva). I’m still not exactly sure what the misunderstanding was. However, it ended up with her saying she thought she should “disengage” from connect until she could “express herself favorably” and me saying “we don’t need to express favorably”, we have to just express what we express, and then work from there for our own purification”.
(forgive me if I’m not quoting this right, or misunderstanding what was said, I’m only trying here….)

That whole exchange got me thinking so much about this.

What’s a favorable expression? Who of us is really giving out “favorable expressions” all the time, or even most of the time. I know there are lots of advanced devotees who are able to do that because that is “who they are”. They can’t say anything that sheds an “unfavorable light” on them (from anyone’s view, or any devotee that is) because that is simply how pure they are.

For the rest of us, that’s not the case. It’s very hard to “reveal” all our weaknesses and misconceptions in front of others, and especially hard to do it on the Internet, where it’s posted in print, for “eternity” for anyone and everyone to see.

I think about this a lot when I’m writing blogs here, or making comments to people. I know some of my faults and weaknesses, but certainly not all of them, or even close to all of them. I’m plenty aware they are there, though. Now, try to imagine how the things I write (blogs and comments included) must appear to any devotee who is more advanced, more pure, than I am?

Well, some of these devotees are people I’ve known almost all my life (in some way). They may or may not be reading anything I’m writing, but they very well could be…. it’s on the internet after all. The world of Iskcon devotees is a really small world in a lot of ways. Sure, I care about what they think, and I don’t want to look like a total idiot to them, or have them see how un-Krishna conscious I really am. Who would want that?

So, what should I do then? Stop writing, stop posting things, stop saying anything at all in print that anyone could read and examine and see what ways I’m not “expressing myself favorably”?

There are a few things that I’ve thought of that keep me doing this writing anyway, regardless of the fact that I may look foolish to others, limited in my scope of knowledge, full of false ego (meaning incredibly puffed up), and all my impurities are visible too… I know that. Very advanced devotees can “see” the false ego and the materialistic conceptions in others. I guess we can all “see” that way to varying degrees, depending on our own purity and advancement. Like maybe I can see the some of the conditioning of a newer devotee, and someone more advanced than I am can see mine.

The few things:

1). If we all wait until we’re pure enough or advanced enough to write everything perfectly, then few of us would be writing, or commenting, and someone needs to do it.

2). If I’m striving for humility then what better way than to expose my weaknesses and look foolish in front of other devotees. It helps me with humility.

3). Any devotees who are able to see my weaknesses and impurities can always tell me about it, and thus help me. (and I am genuinely grateful for that help, since that’s the way we get free of these things) Any devotees who are able to see them, are also going to see that I’m making a sincere effort to serve Srila Prabhupad somehow by writing things that I think will be helpful to other devotees. Seeing that my efforts are sincere, to the best of my ability to be sincere, will keep them from being offended by me, or telling me that I “should go away from connect until I can express myself more favorably”.

Antony posted a blog here recently saying that we should all feel free to express ourselves in the forums and please just “say what you want to say” (or something like that). That was a great message. Well, no one likes to be “wrong”, or say the “wrong things”. We also would like to be helped if we say something, and someone else sees a way to help us with it. So, we could just not say anything, and thus never be corrected, and also never be helped. Or, we could realize we’re all in this together, and just say what we say, and take it from there.

Since I’m not nearly perfect in any way, I’m going to say things (even though motivated by the desire to serve) that may upset others. Others may say things that upset me. A lot of times, the lessons I need most to learn are the ones that are the hardest to hear, and affect me the most. This is usually true of everyone.

I’ve had a few times here with Karnamrita (who has been very inspirational and beneficial for my spiritual life since I joined connect) where he made a comment to me about something and I went into a total panic. I felt sure he had just “nailed” me on my deepest weakness. I wrote him a few letters in private about it, asking him “what did you mean by that comment? were you referring to such and such weakness of mine?” Well, he wrote back and said he hadn’t even been thinking about “such and such” he was just making a comment. lol.

So often Krishna is speaking through us, all of us, and the messages we see are what we need to see. Other times, devotees are directly telling us something they think we need help with. That’s still coming from Krishna.

The point being, none of us are “perfectly favorable expressions” until we’re very pure, and we are all in need of help, correction, and guidance. Even if no one says anything to me about “what’s wrong” with the things I write, I still am aware that there is plenty “wrong” and many devotees can certainly see that.

That’s what it means to be “in the fire” of purification and trying to do some service. We won’t always give “favorable expressions” of ourselves. Compared to Srila Prabhupad, there is nothing “favorable” about my expressions. However, I still know that Srila Prabhupad wants me to keep trying somehow. That’s how we get purified, that’s how we make advancement. Just express what we can to the best of our ability and accept the lessons we learn as a result.

Maybe it helps someone else here to know that we are all in this position together. Though my expressions may appear “more favorable” to some of you, there are plenty of other more advanced devotees who can see all the fallacies in my expressions. I don’t stop posting things on connect until I feel like I might be free of ever looking foolish though.

That reminds me of something someone said about being “undisturbed” and how that is in Bhagavad Gita, that the devotee is “undisturbed”. I told them it’s not that we don’t feel things, it’s that we don’t allow the “disturbance” to stop us from endeavoring to do our service and become Krishna conscious. We all feel disturbed at times, that’s just the nature of the material world. The main thing is that we don’t allow the disturbance to stop us from our efforts to become Krishna conscious, or stop us from doing our service, whatever that is.

Even better than that is to look at the disturbance and see in what way we can use it to become more Krishna conscious.

That humility thread was really helpful to me, all the things everyone wrote gave me a deeper understanding of it myself, even though I was the one writing the original blog. 🙂 Thank you all for the ways you assist me in my spiritual life constantly. Thank you Lisa (Go-Seva) for your “expressions” there. You made me think very deeply about this concept.

* Navasi’s blog
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Tue, 10/07/2008 – 06:34 — tekisui
tekisui’s picture
The nature of discussion and debate

There is something important to be said about the nature of discussion and debate.
Namely, discussion and debate usually work by the principle of opposition: one party says something, and the other counters it.
When people are in agreement, relatively little discussion and debate can be had.

To have a discussion and debate forum, it is prerequisite that there be some opposition, some disagreement, even if it is in the form of one person having more information than the other, or one person being more/less advanced than the other.

However, if we are not aware of this inherent characteristic of discussion and debate and don’t take it into account, things can easily get out of hand, and we can get carried away by the internal machinations of the phenomenon of discussion and debate.

In Buddhism, there is a teaching that I find very useful: One should not use the Dharma to attack others and to defend oneself in debate. Meaning, one should not use scriptoral knowledge and references in order to attack others and to defend oneself in debate.
So for example, if one is having a discussion with someone and the other person says something one doesn’t like and feels aggravated by – and then one uses an argument like “Ah, that person is just in maya, what they say is worthless” or “God will smite you for uttering this” – that would be wrong action, a misuse of scriptoral knowledge and reference.

I am not sure if there is an equivalent teaching in Vaishanvism, but I think a lot of hot blood or just misunderstandings could be done away with by heeding that principle that one should not use scriptoral knowledge to attack others and to defend oneself in debate.

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Tue, 10/07/2008 – 13:50 — Go-Seva
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I am still learning

I am feeling very humble, Navasi, now that I have inspired you to write a blog about my ridiculous rantings regarding my expressions 🙂 Actually, the whole thing started me thinking about humility first, and expressing myself second. When you had wrote about false humility and how some people are very over the top with their “most fallen” comments and the addressing of everyone as “mataji/prabhuji” and such, I sort of felt attacked. I generally feel that most everyone, if not everyone, I befriend on Connect is more elevated than I and thusly, I try to address them with respect so as not to offend. I do feel an obligation to try and serve all Vaisnavas, but I realize sometimes this is not possible. So, do I exclude some but not others? For instance, there is one devotee on this site who has asked me to sponsor them into the US. I don’t have the capacity to do this, but another devotee who has asked me to help him with an Ayurvedic diet, I can help. But as Navasi has said, this helping/serving is not humility, so I have learned a valuable lesson and am rethinking my written offering to serve anyone now.

About expressing myself, sometimes I have all of these feelings and ideas, so many, TOO MANY, it feels like I am trying to push a golf ball through a garden hose, and they just don’t come out correctly, or concisely, or favorably, in my writing. If I feel that I am being attacked, I guess I am more defensive and then everything from there just flows by and doesn’t sink in. I am realizing that I have been on the defensive all of my life, and still am at times, so I must let my guard down to progress spiritually.

I truly want to be instructed and corrected, so thank you, Navasi, for showing me one of MY weaknesses and encouraging me to take more lumps to come closer to Krsna. Sometimes I think of all the lumps I have taken in life for material pursuits, and I am sad that these were mostly wasted. Now, reaching the Lotus Feet of the Lord is my ultimate goal, and I am very determined to try and reach this goal in this lifetime. I just hope I have enough time left to do it!

Hare Krsna Hare Krsna Krsna Krsna Hare Hare
Hare Rama Hare Rama Rama Rama Hare Hare

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Tue, 10/07/2008 – 05:27 — Karnamrita.das
Karnamrita.das’s picture
From Satyaraja Prabhu’s Dandavat article

Here is an excerpt from a Dandavats article about Bhakit-tirtha Swami and her teaching of leadership qualities. http://www.dandavats.com/?p=1003
The antithesis of good leadership was found in the leadership of Enron.

“With narcissism and fraud as Enron’s leaders’ only real legacy, they stand a long distance from the principle-centered leadership of Vedic monarchs, especially as espoused by Bhakti Tirtha Swami. In fact, Watkins articulated the problem much in the same way the swami would have, perhaps because of her Christian background. All spiritual knowledge comes from the same source, recognizes the same basic truths: “We want honest leaders,” she says, “who are decisive, creative, optimistic and even courageous, but we so easily settle for talk that marks those traits instead of action. Worse, we often don’t even look for one of the most critical traits of a leader: humility.”

“Her words reminded me of Srila Prabhupada. Once, when a young hippie had attended a few Sunday feasts in the early days of the Krsna consciousness movement, he noticed that, when devotees became angry, they would say to each other, “Just chant ‘Hare Krsna.’” On one particular occasion, Srila Prabhupada was in attendance, and he had become angry about something. Seeing this, the young hippie naturally turned to Prabhupada and said, “Just chant ‘Hare Krsna.’” As the guru, Prabhupada could have become aggravated with the hippie; he could have ignored him, waving him off as little more than a nuisance. But, no. Prabhupada showed a wonderful sense of humility: he simply put his hand in his bead-bag and started to chant ‘Hare Krsna.” He knew the hippie was correct.

“Another incident involves Srila Prabhupada at an airport, when numerous devotees came to greet him as he was about to board a plane. Apparently, his many disciples were blocking the aisles while enthusiastically chanting the holy name. To accommodate the airport custodians, who were having difficulty navigating their way around the devotees, one leading disciple stepped up on a seat and announced that all the devotees should move to one side. Upon hearing the announcement, the sea of of devotees shifted to a particular part of the lounge — including Srila Prabhupada. “Oh, you don’t have to move there, Srila Prabhupada,” said the devotee with the loudspeaker. “But I am also a devotee,” said Srila Prabhupada. This is humility.

“A humble leader,” wrote Watkins, “listens to others. He or she values input from employees and is ready to hear the truth, even if it is bad news. Humility is marked by an ability to admit mistakes.

“There is no humility in either Skilling or Lay,” she concludes. “By ‘taking care of himself,’ Lay violated one of Jesus’ leadership lessons, found in Mark 9:35: ‘If anyone desires to be first, he must be last of all, and servant of all.’” Krsna consciousness teaches nothing if it does not teach how to be a servant — a serant of both God and humanity.

“This is Bhakti Tirtha Swami’s main thesis — that we must learn to value the “servant-leader.” In corporate lingo, it’s the one who clearly demonstrates that the interests of the organization and its customers, employees and investors come first, not his own. As Watkins says, “Humility is a critically important trait in leaders. We have to ask ourselves, Is our society cultivating humility? Do we exhibit that trait individually and collectively as a nation? Will we stop and learn from the Enron lesson in leadership failures, or will we just shrug our shoulders and thank God we’re not Ken Lay?” By following the example of Srila Prabhupada, we can learn to live according to principles and qualities that could have saved Enron. This includes humility, and so much more.”

Your friend in Krishna,


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Thu, 10/09/2008 – 23:06 — Navasi
Navasi’s picture

Dear Karnamrita,

When you posted this I didn’t fully understand the relevance.

I was distracted at the time because I was thinking so deeply about the point of my blog regarding the fact that we don’t always “look favorable”.

I’ve been coming back to this over and over and trying to understand it more.

This morning, reading it, it becomes more obvious that it’s actually incredibly relevant because as devotees, we all have to be able to lead others in the most important way, namely spiritually.

Every one of us, no matter who we are, will be leading someone else who is less far along this path the we are. That’s what Srila Prabhupad wanted us to do (as you know, of course).

Whatever we know or understand, we need to teach it to others, thus leading them spiritually. We are required to be leaders just by the very fact that we have been given this knowledge.

So leadership, and the qualities of leadership are essential to understand and develop for all of us. It’s even more relevant that the quality of humility is so critical for a leader, and this is stated so clearly in this excerpt.

Thank you very much for posting this, it’s so important.

I only just now understood this. Sorry for the “delayed reaction” 🙂

Hare Krishna,

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Tue, 10/07/2008 – 04:56 — Aruna Locana
Aruna Locana’s picture
Distribute the Sublime Knowledge

That’s right Navasi! What you said is really important, everyone has the right to write, to share their realisations about the philosophy. Once I wrote a letter to my gurudev about this topic and I would like to share with you what he said:
“By repeating what we have heard or read, the knowledge stays alive and become realized. Srila Prabhupada personally instructed me to write, and in one letter to me he stated, “Keep on with the practice of writing articles;in the midst of your heavy duties go on writing something glorifying the Lord and put our philosophy into words. Writing articles means to express oneself how he is understanding the whole philosophy. So this writing is necessary for everyone.” (SP letter dated August 12, 1971)
“Also, sharing the knowledge that we have received from the spiritual master and Krsna is the only way we can at least try to repay our debt to them. So please continue to write and distribute the sublime knowledge of Krsna consciousness–and by your steady efforts and Krsna’s mercy gradually realize it fully in your heart.”
Giriraj Swami
From this day on even noticing my bad qualities for writing and also poor knowledge of the language I felt inspired to do it.

Thanks for giving support to it!!

Hare Krsna

Aruna dd

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Tue, 10/07/2008 – 21:57 — Navasi
Navasi’s picture
Thank You All

Thanks, everyone, for your wonderful comments here.

It’s so inspiring to read all the different things you each have to say and add to these topics.

: )

Hare Krishna!