Krishna Prema's Food for Thought 2019 # 23 - How to Subdue the False Ego?
I felt disturbed, I guess my false ego got triggered. I thought to myself: „You do not understand the whole picture!“. Recently a senior Devotee gave me feedback that a seminar was not properly organized. Although I tried to accept the feedback in a humble way and I understood that I could have done better, I felt that I was not properly understood and that I had to clarify things! If we get challenged, if someone gives us unpleasant feedback, we generally try to defend ourselves, but according to Vaishnava Etiquette we should not do that. Why? Because such a situation is a great opportunity to subdue our false ego!
A Vaishnava does not defend himself. (1) That, of course, requires a lot of tolerance. How tolerant we have become is a good measurement for our advancement. The more our false ego is reduced, the more we are able to tolerate.
In scriptures, we find many examples of tolerant devotees who did not defend themselves when attacked, such as Srivasa Thakur. Although the envious Gopala Capala created a conspiracy by placing paraphernalia, such as wine, for the worship of Bhavani in front of Srivasa Thakur's house claiming that he is involved in some Kali worship, still he did not defend himself at all. Instead, he said: „Now all you respectable brahmanas can understand my position“, even though it was not true. Of course, knowing Srivasa Thakur's spotless character, nobody believed it anyway and the offender got leprosy within three days. (2)
Another example is Citraketu. Lord Shiva glorifies him after he accepted Parvati's curse without defending himself: “My dear Pārvatī, (Shiva tells) you are very beautiful in your bodily features. Certainly, you are glorious. But I do not think that you can compete with the beauty and glory of devotees who have become servants of the servants of the Supreme Personality of Godhead. (..) Just see, although you cursed the King, he was not at all afraid or sorry. Rather, he offered respect to you, called you mother and accepted your curse, thinking himself faulty. He did not say anything in retaliation. This is the excellence of a devotee. By mildly tolerating your curse, he has certainly excelled the glory of your beauty and your power to curse him. I can impartially judge that this devotee, Citraketu, has defeated you and your excellence simply by becoming a pure devotee of the Lord.“ (3)
To tolerate an insult or a curse is a powerful way to subdue the false ego. Since this is not so easy we need to be deeply rooted in our relationship with Krishna. Therefore chanting the Holy name is so important.
Chanting the Hare Krishna Maha-mantra is ultimately the most powerful way to subdue our ego. While chanting, we offer the prayer to the Supreme Lord „Please accept me! Please engage me in Your service!“ In other words, we remember our true identity as an eternal servant of the Lord.
That's the whole idea of devotional service: sarvopadi vinirmuktam - we become free from all kinds of upadis, all kind of designation like I am a man, I am a woman, I am Swiss, I am Indian, I am ugly, I am beautiful, etc. By rendering devotional service we learn to identify ourselves as a servant of the Lord. But then sometimes in due course of time we start to accept new upadis. I am a brahmacari, I am an Asharam leader, I am senior Grihasta, I am temple president, I am Sannyasi, and so on. The false ego again makes us identify with our roles even in spiritual life. In this way, one can completely miss the target! Instead of becoming a humble servant we develop a desire to become a great personality.
This shows that we can't get rid of the false ego just by chanting in a mechanical way. Transformation of the heart does not take place automatically. It requires deep inner work. It requires a lot of introspection and honesty. Only then can we truly overcome our false ego and finally start to identify ourselves in our natural constitution as a simple servant of the Lord and His devotees.
1 - A Vaishnava only defends his Guru, Krishna, and other Devotees. If everyone follows this etiquette, then there is no need to defend one’s self, since Devotees protect each other. And we speak here of verbal attack, not physical. If a devotee is physically attacked he or she, of course, has a right to defend. See also BG 1.36 six kinds of aggressors.
2 - Described in Caitanya Caraitamrita, Adi Lila Chapter 17
3- Sria Prabhupada`s Purport on Srimad Bhagavatam 6.17.27