Ideals and Values/Mada (Excessive Pride) The Fifth Internal Enemy

From Hindupedia, the Hindu Encyclopedia

What is ‘Mada’?

The Sanskrit word of excessive pride is Mada. It means excessive vanity about one's accomplishments including education, finances, family heritage or social status. It is one of the six formidable enemies of the mind which are not easy to conquer. Śankarācharya defines this word in the following way - "vidyaadinimittaatsvasmin aadhikyabuddhih” meaning   " The mental attitude born in the form of 'I am a great person. I am healthy, rich and a great soul and who is equal to me on this earth,' is spoken of as Mada or Pride by the learned ones."

Such attitude of arrogance with regards to one's accomplishments tends to be self-perpetuating. It is perfectly reasonable to set the goals and working hard to reach them and then finally patting oneself on the back for the efforts and the results achieved. Arrogance tends to be self-perpetuating. It gives an immediate sense of gratification, as one feels important for the moment. It also feeds upon itself and grows. For those who live in this self-created exaggerated opinion of themselves, the realities of life situations eventually cause them to be taken by surprise and to suffer great disappointments. Pride is akin to a balloon that keeps growing until it eventually bursts.

Some people are very status conscious. They think that just because they are rich or good looking or intelligent or powerful, others should bow before them. They are so full of themselves that even though they do not respect others or treat others with dignity, they expect and demand that others should treat them specially. But virtuous people do not ask for special privileges for themselves. Instead, they always treat everyone with dignity and always do their bit. They do not think that just they owe anything to others. They do not think it is their duty to serve others or help out others. They feel that they are a blessing to the human society and that others are fortunate to have them in their midst!  They are ‘intoxicated’ with their wealth, power, glory, looks etc. These people eventually come to ruin.

 

Different Grades of ‘Mada’ or Bad Pride:

The Sanskrit language has several terms to describe the different grades and types of pride. Note however that these words are used interchangeably in Sanskrit to a great extent, just as they are in English.

  • Abhimāna or Mānitva: Conceit, Egomania. The characteristics of a person whose mind is over-powered with this type of pride is described as follows - “Mānitva means demanding respect from others for the qualities one has. In a human being the need to be recognized is natural. However, when this need is accompanied by feelings of insecurity about oneself, then one seeks acceptance from others. When one demands respect from others, one puts oneself in their hands. Not getting respect makes one insecure, angry, and at times, more demanding. In receiving respect from others, one can never be sure whether it is given spontaneously or because it is demanded. If one occupies a position of authority, one may receive respect from people by virtue of being in that particular position, but once the position is gone the respect also goes away with it. When one is able to accept oneself, one has discovered respect for oneself. One then has no need to demand respect from others.”[1] 
  • Ahaṅkāra: Egotism, Egocentrism, Selfish behavior. A person depicting this mental flaw only thinks about himself, and not about others. He looks at everything from only his own perspective and starts judging others. For example, a person from the United States showing this behavior does not try to understand how and why people in the Middle East believe in and do certain things before he starts commenting, “Why do the people in Middle East wear a tent and walk around with a towel on their heads?” Only if the person had some understanding of the climate in that region, he would not make this silly remark. Rishis and Sants say that the greatest harm of Ahaṅkāra is that it takes us away from Bhagavān because we even refuse to acknowledge His gifts to us every day. We only look at things from our perspective and say, “I am rich because I worked hard. What has God got to do with it?” As long as we have this flaw in our character, we can never surrender our mind, heart and soul to Him, and therefore we can never be one with Him.
  • Darpa: Pride with arrogance and intolerance. A person who suffers from ‘Darpa’ is sharp-tongued and rude to others. He has no patience with what he perceives as the flaws in others (“I do not suffer fools gladly”) even though he might actually have several flaws in himself.
  • Mada: Total Intoxication with one’s power, wealth, glory, influence etc. This type of a person is so full of himself that he has absolutely no concern for how others feel due to his behavior. Even when this person does something good to others, it is merely a tool to satisfy his own ego.

The Types of Good Pride

All pride is not bad. A true Sadhu does not even have these two types of pride but most of us are not Sadhus. The common person must have the following two types of pride, otherwise we are not even fit to be called human being.

  • Constructive Pride: Pride is not always bad and constructive pride is good. The latter helps us to overcome our weaknesses so that we can excel in our work. Constructive pride in the overall performance of our sports or academic team, for example, instills in us a sense of belongingness to the group and motivates us to put in our best in the team effort for the victory of the entire team. When we take pride in our work, we try to improve our skills further, and put in greater effort so that the task can be completed perfectly. Pride in our country can inspire us to practice and uphold our glorious national heritage and traditions. But excessive pride can be destructive, especially when we try to make others look bad or make then look small in comparison to us. This type of pride leads to arrogance, boastfulness and conceit. For example, it is OK to be proud of our country, but this pride should not lead us to insult people from other countries. It is acceptable to be proud of our cultural heritage and our religion, but we should not tease others by saying that theirs is inferior.
  • Self-Respect: Secondly, pride does not mean that we should have no self-respect. If we allow everyone to humiliate us and make fun of us, then they will do it even more and will totally crush us. Self-respect means that we walk away from situations or people where we are insulted constantly. Continuing to stay where we are always insulted or making friends with people who always tease us and criticize us can have a negative effect on our self-esteem. Such a person will then lose confidence and faith in his own abilities because people around him are always criticizing, insulting and ridiculing him. Bhagavān Krishna therefore says that we should not be ‘atimānī’ (excessively proud) and instead we should have just enough pride that is sufficient for self-respect. In His own life, when Duryodhana invited him to a feast, Krishna chose to reject his invitation and go to Vidura’s home for a simple vegetable dinner saying, “We should eat in other’s homes when we are in trouble, or when that other person loves and respects us. I am not in trouble right now, and you have no respect or love for me.”

Harms of Pride

As expected, being overpowered with pride results in several harms to us.

  1. Pride makes us loose a correct perspective of things. We start believing that there is no one as great than we are, and none greater than us, which is never true.
  2. Pride earns us many enemies. People start hating us we ourselves start acting in a rash and imprudent way, eventually bring us to ruin. Vidura said - Liquors indeed cause intoxication, but the intoxication caused by opulence is worse because a person intoxicated by his wealth regains his senses only after complete destruction.[1]
  3. Pride nullifies the fruit of our good karma and makes us an inferior person. Conversely, forsaking pride and arrogance makes as a superior person. Refer the story of Ramanuja and Dhanurdasa below.
  4. “Austerity,[2] charity, self-discipline, control over the senses, shame in doing Adharmic acts, straight-forwardness and compassion towards all creatures – these are the seven gates to happiness. But the feeling of self-pride or self-importance envelops these seven with a blinding darkness, and destroys the happiness of all men that results by practicing these seven virtues.”[3]
  5. Showing pride is considered a very cheap behavior. People who are really cultured and mature do not exhibit boastful behavior and they are not proud.
  6. Garuda said to Indra: Gentlemen do not praise their own strength, nor do they describe their good virtues from their own mouth.[4]
  7. Krishna said to Arjuna: When you speak your own praises, you kill yourself with your own hands.[5]
  8. Pride Distances us from Bhagavān: We cannot reach Bhagavān unless we give up our pride, humble ourselves and surrender our heart, mind and soul to His feet. An egotistic person does not acknowledge the greatness of the Divine Power, and cannot accept that all of our gifts in life are from Him. Therefore, this person, covered by the darkness of his ego, can never see the light of Bhagavān. The story of Madhusudana Saraswati below illustrates this point. Sant Kabir says:
    “As long as there was the ‘I’, there was no Hari (Bhagavān). And when Hari appeared, there was no longer ‘I’. The entire darkness in my life disappeared, when I saw the lamp of the Divine.”[6]

Ways of Overcoming Pride

  • Appreciate the Factors Contributing to your Success : One must remember that in the accomplishment of any of the goals, several factors are involved and all of the factors must operate effectively for that specific outcome, such as:
  1. The very capacity to do comes from Bhagavān
  2. The laws & materials involved
  3. The contributions of individuals seen & unseen in the accomplishment
  4. Many other factors known & unknown

Understand that the laws known and unknown, that operate to give one results of actions are uniform and unbiased. Our personal efforts are only one of the factors in determining what we get. Understanding the workings of Karma in this way helps us overcome the belief that we are ‘entitled’ automatically to rewards for all of efforts. There can be infinite possibilities for the things to go wrong or differently, in spite of one's plans and efforts. Remember the Murphy's Law: if anything can go wrong, it will! Remember the English idiom which goes, "There is many a slip between the cup and the lip." Once an individual recognizes the many factors involved, he/she becomes a more sensitive individual. Such individual understands that there is no basis for arrogance in any accomplishment.

An example would be that whenever a student wins a prize for his or her academic accomplishment or a prize for sporting competitions, the winner must acknowledge the help that he received from his teachers, coaches, parents, friends and siblings – their encouragement, their training, their money that went into buying books or sporting equipments and so on. Therefore, to overcome this enemy, one should understand properly the following:

  1. Strengths
  2. Weaknesses
  3. Accomplishments
  4. Failures
  5. Attitude towards them

Then recognize and acknowledge the part played by so many other individuals and other factors in one's achievements.

  • Accept Criticism with an Open Mind: Always stay in close proximity to your critics and pay attention to what they are saying. According to the saints, a critic is one of the best friends that anyone can have, because his comments and criticisms help us improve ourselves, and realize that we are not as perfect or great as we imagine ourselves to me. Sant Kabir has given a very beautiful verse in this regard –
“Make a hut for your critic and always keep him close to you, because the critic purifies your character without the help of soap or water.”[7]
  • Vinaya or Practicing the Virtues of Humility and Respect for others: We will learn more about this later. The fact of life is that what are our accomplishments in our own eyes may not mean much to others! For example, does winning a Spelling Bee contest mean anything to a tribal living in the jungles of Africa or to a farmer in the United States? Nothing at all! Therefore, all accomplishments have their limitations – most of them really affect us and us alone. There are very few accomplishments that have an impact on many people, and these are better than personal accomplishments. Sant Kabir mocks at people who get puffed up with pride because they are great, but whose power and strength is of no use to others in the following words:
“So what if you are great? You are like that date palm tree that gives no shade to the traveler, and whose fruit is so high up that it is difficult to get.”[8]
  • Empathy: Put yourself in the place of others and try to understand them and their situation. When you do this, you will understand that what you think to be their flaws or their mistakes are not really mistakes. Therefore, you will conclude that there is no reason for you to feel superior and get puffed up.
  • Pratipakṣa Bhāvanā[9]: Consider the harms that your pride can bring upon you.
  • Prasāda-Buddhi[10]: Kṛṣṇa and our Ṛṣis teach that attributing every success and accomplishment or even failure as the will and gift of Bhagavān keeps us free from pride, and also from mental pain. When we are rising in our life, let not this feeling that “It is all due to my intelligence and efforts” come to your mind. Instead, think that “I am blessed that Bhagavān has showered His grace on me and had brought me up here.” Likewise, whenever there is a calamity in your life, do not feel low or depressed, but say to yourself,
“I accept it as the will of Bhagavān. He is always just and surely must have a plan for me. I will take this misfortune too as His gift, and will start working harder in the hope that He has better things in store for me.” The story of Arjuna below illustrates this method of overcoming pride.
  • Dāsya-Bhakti[11]: This means doing all our tasks as if we were acting on the constant orders of Bhagavān. As His servant, we are merely doing his bidding. So there is no need to feel puffed up over any achievement because were merely following his orders and direction. Dāsya Bhakti is also an acknowledgement of the fact that Bhagavān alone is the most powerful, most wise, most knowledgeable, the true giver of all that we have Ṛṣis and so on. We are very small in front of Him. So there is no reason to be proud and think of ourselves as the greatest. And not only with regard to Bhagavān, our is teach us that we should practice ‘Dāsya-Bhakti’ also towards other Sants and Bhaktas. This makes us act humbly towards others. The stories of Rāvaṇa and of Dasimaiyya below illustrate this point.
  • Appreciation of Achievements of Others: We can never be the greatest person on earth, nor can we have the maximum amount of all the good qualities, skills and possessions. Others too can be as competent or even more competent than us. Everyone on this earth has some special skill, and is superior to us in some way or the other. Therefore, we should look at others with appreciation, and admire their goodness. This will help us to put ourselves in the right place and understand that we are not the only ones who are great, there are many others too. So, why get proud and arrogant? The story of Guru Nanak below is a good illustration of this point.

The following words illustrate the last two points above very well:

“On a dark night glow-worms flying about think that they are removing the darkness. When stars begin to shine, the sky appears brighter and the light of the glow-worms begins to fade. When the moon rises, the light of the stars begins to become dim and faint. When, however, the day dawns at the end of the night, the sun rises and puts out the light of all the luminaries of the night. Likewise, the egotistic self fades into insignificance when the light of the supreme self dawns in its glory.” Swami Sambuddhānanda

 

Story: Arjuna and Hanumān meet at Rameshvaram Before the Mahābhārata war started, Arjuna went on a pilgrimage with some saints to Rameshvaram in south India. There, a Brahmana explained to him how Bhagavān Rāma had constructed a bridge of stones with the help of the army of Sugreeva to cross over to Lanka. Arjuna commented with pride, “Rāma was a great archer like me. Then why did he have to take the help of monkeys? He could have constructed the bridge with his arrows, just like I can!” The Brahmana felt a bit offended that Arjuna should have insulted Rama. But he kept quiet and went his way.

A monkey who had been following them said to Arjuna, “You are quite foolish. No bridge of arrows could have sustained the weight of monkeys. It would have collapsed by their weight. If you can construct a stronger bridge, I will become your servant!”

“I will show you how. If I fail, I will immolate myself here and now on a pyre,” said Arjuna. So, he started shooting arrows after arrows and soon, a bridge of arrows appeared on the ocean, extending out from Rameshvaram towards Lanka!

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But as soon as the monkey stepped on the bridge, it collapsed and the monkey fell into the water. So, Arjuna created one bride after the other, stronger than before, but each time, the bridge would collapse no sooner had the monkey taken a few steps. To keep his vow, Arjuna piled a heap of logs and set them alight to commit suicide. But just then, a young man appeared and stopped him. When Arjuna told him the whole story, the young man said, “But wait, a vow is not valid if there was no witness. How can you be so sure that it was the weight of the monkey that caused the bridge to collapse? Try once more.”

The monkey agreed and Arjuna constructed one more bridge from his arrows. The monkey started walking on it. But unlike the previous times, the bridge did not collapse! The monkey was none other than Lord Hanumān who could increase his bodily size at will. So, he bloated himself into a giant. But the bridge would still not collapse! Then, Hanumān started jumping on the bridge, but it still stood intact. Hanumān realized that the young man was none other than Bhagavān Rāma. Arjuna too realized that the young man was none other than Bhagavān Kṛṣṇa. They both prostrated at the young man’s feet, and immediately, he took his real form as four armed Bhagavān Viṣṇu of whom both Rama and Kṛṣṇa are Avatāras! Viṣṇu said to them, “I came here because Arjuna was being too vain and because Hanumān was being too proud of his strength. Remember that I am the source of everyone’s strength!”

Story: Bhagavān Śiva humbles the pride of Mighty Ravaṇa Ravaṇa was an evil King who ruled a country called Lanka. He had 10 heads. He had a step brother named Kubera, who was very rich. Ravaṇa attacked Kubera’s palace and looted everything that Kubera had. Then, he started returning to Lanka in his flying chariot. Suddenly, the chariot stopped in front of a mountain. He tried a lot, but the chariot would not go above the mountain. He discovered that this mountain was Mount Kailash, on which lived Bhagavān Śiva with Devī Parvati. Ravaṇa was very arrogant and proud of his strength. He did not want to return to Lanka by another route. So he decided to uproot Mount Kailash and then go back to Lanka by the same route that he wanted.

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He got off the chariot, and started uprooting the mountain from the earth. The mountain started shaking. All the companions of Śiva and even Devi Parvati became worried and scared. At last, Ravaṇa uprooted the entire mountain and lifted it on his strong arms. But Śiva just smiled. He pressed the mountain with his little toe of the right foot. Immediately, the mountain came crashing on Ravana. Now Ravana was trapped under the mountain. He was getting crushed. Ravana realized that it was wrong of him to be proud of his own strength. Shiva used just the little toe of his foot and was able to crush Ravana under the mountain. Therefore, Ravaṇa apologized to Śiva, and he sang prayers from the Sāmaveda to Him and asked for forgiveness. Bhagavān Śiva forgave Ravaṇa, and asked him to go back to Lanka. This story shows that although Ravaṇa was the most powerful person on this earth, Bhagavān Śiva was able to defeat him very easily by pressing the mountain with his little toe. No matter how strong we are, we should remember that there is no one who is stronger than Bhagavān because He alone is Almighty, the most powerful!

Story: Ego Separates Madhusudana Saraswati from Bhagavān Madhusudana Saraswati was a very renounced scholar that lived in the 17th century. He was born in what is today Bangladesh, and lived in Bengal and Varanasi, where he wrote his famous works like the commentary on the Bhagavad Gitā. He also organized the ascetic orders of Dashnami Sanyāsins and opened some of these orders to women and Śudras for admission. A beautiful story is narrated on how he forsakes his ego and merged it with Kṛṣṇa, melting his pride in the love for Kṛṣṇa.

One day, he was busy writing his classic on Advaita Vedānta called the ‘Advaita Siddhi’. Suddenly, a monk entered his study room, and rudely sat on a very high pedestal in front of him. Madhusudana Saraswati was taken aback but immediately upon sitting, the Sadhu asked Madhusudana Saraswati – “Tell me truthfully. During a philosophical debate with another scholar, do you feel agitated in your mind when you are not able to refute or respond to your opponent’s arguments?” “Yes,” said Madhusudana Saraswati. The Sadhu then asked, “And when you defeat an opponent, do you feel euphoric?” “Yes,” replied Madhusudana Saraswati again.

The Sadhu smiled and said, “You have not shed your ego to the extent that you should have. I recommend that you worship Kṛṣṇa. In the course of time, you will lose your ego, merge in Kṛṣṇa and experience a joy that you cannot get even if you defeat the greatest scholar on this earth in a debate. You are a great scholar of Advaita Vedanta, but you will get the fruit of your wisdom if you have devotion for Kṛṣṇa.” Then, the Sadhu instructed Madhusudana Saraswati in the 8 syllabled mantra on Kṛṣṇa and left.

Madhusudana Saraswati chanted the mantra for six months with the correct procedure but he saw no result.  So he repeated his religious vow for another six months. But Kṛṣṇa did not appear to him even in his dreams. Despairing, Madhusudana Saraswati thought, ‘What a fool I was to have abandoned my profound study of Advaita Vedanta for the sake of this useless chanting and prayer.”

He left Varanasi and went to Kapiladhara – a sacred waterfall close to Amarkantak on the Narmada River in central India. One day, a cobbler[12] came to him and said, ‘Swami-ji, looks like you have no patience or persistence. You gave up your search for Krishna in a mere twelve months, whereas even the less knowledgeable people spend their entire lifetime in His search.”

Madhusudana Saraswati was greatly humbled. “How could this cobbler know what I have been doing in the last one year?” he thought. He asked the cobbler, “How did you find out that I gave up my search for Kṛṣṇa in a mere 12 months?” The cobbler replied, “I have pleased a ghost, who tells me secret information about others.” Madhusudana Saraswati replied, “I have not been able to see Kṛṣṇa. Perhaps, you can teach me how to see your ghost. I am willing to humble myself and see that unclean ghost, because he may be able to take me to Kṛṣṇa.”

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The cobbler told him the correct procedure to propitiate the ghost. Madhusudana Saraswati now started worshiping the ghost, but when he did not appear even after three days of non-stop prayer, the ascetic got angry. Now he, a scholar, walked himself to the hut of the humble cobbler and asked him why the ghost had not appeared.

The cobbler replied, “My mantra is effective and true indeed. But the ghost is scared to appear in front of you. He says that you have chanted the Gāyatri mantra for many years, then the Vedas for a long time. And finally, the mantra of Kṛṣṇa for a year. All this has made you very powerful. If the ghost appears in front of you, he will get incinerated immediately and therefore he dare not come to you. The ghost says that you need to have more persistence and patience. Chant the same mantra of Kṛṣṇa with devotion and faith for six more months and you will see a magnificent result.”

Madhusudana Saraswati was chastened and he did as the ghost had said. And after six months, when his ego had melted away and his heart had been filled with the love of Kṛṣṇa, he had a Divine vision. Moved by this vision, Madhusudana Saraswati then wrote his masterpiece, ‘Bhakti-rasāyaṇa’,[13] a famous treatise on the path of Bhakti.

Story: The Pride of Devar Dasimaiyya brings his Downfall In the 10th cent. C.E. in the Indian state of Karnataka, there lived a great devotee couple of Śiva by the name Devar Dasimaiyya and his wife Thukkalai Devi (also called Duggale) . One day, she procured some spinning yarn of great quality. With prayers to Śiva on his lips, Dasimaiyya wove out a beautiful piece of cloth depicting the scenes from the stories of Śiva on it. Thukkalai suggested that they should use the cloth for adorning the Mūrti of Śiva in their local Mandir. But Dasimaiyya had other plans, “Let us sell this piece of cloth. We will get a lot of money and this will rid us of our poverty forever.”

Dasimaiyya tried to find a suitable buyer but no one could pay enough to justify the excellent quality of the cloth. Finally one day, he saw a Sadhu who worshiped Śiva passing by and offered the cloth as a gift to him. The Sadhu was overjoyed and in return, he said, “I have only some salt, grains, spices etc., that I had begged for. Let me give these to you.” Dasimaiyya returned home with the Sadhu’s gifts and his overjoyed wife put these food items in separate jars. Next day, she found that her food jars had miraculously turned ‘never-emptying.’ Whenever she withdrew some quantity of food from the jar, it filled back. The couple realized that it was none other than Śiva who had blessed them for their devotion. They became using the never-emptying food jars to feed devotees of Bhagavān every day.

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But after some time, pride entered the mind of Dasimaiyya and he began thinking, “There is no greater giver than Śiva, and there is no greater receiver of his blessings than I.” Śiva then decided to teach him a lesson in humility. There lived another saintly couple, Śankara and his wife with their students. The group toured Mandirs of Śiva frequently in South India. One day, they passed by the village of Dasimaiyya and stayed close to his home. Dasimaiyya was very impressed by their Bhakti towards Śiva. In the morning, Śankara’s wife asked one of their students to go around the village and beg for alms. Dasimaiyya heard it and remarked to Śankara and his wife with a tone or arrogance, “Why do you want to go around and beg for food? Śiva has chosen me as His special Bhakta and has given me a never ending supply of food. I can single-handedly take care of all His other Bhaktas.”

Śankara was taken aback by Dasimaiyya’s arrogance and he replied, “I am glad that you have been blessed by Śiva but it does not behave him to be arrogant. The same Śiva who gave you a treasure can also take it back. Prosperity and poverty are all through the grace of Bhagavān alone.” Saying this, he picked some trash from a heap in front of them and flung it in the air. The trash immediately turned into gold nuggets before falling back to the ground!

Dasimaiyya was startled and returned home to relate the miracle to his wife and explained how this was a result of his insulting the saint with his pride. She had something else to tell him, “Our pots of food have stopped refilling on their own. Perhaps this is the result of the insult caused to the saint. We should go and apologize to the saint and also ask Śiva to forgive us.”

The couple returned to Śankara who said, “Remember that all riches in life are the blessings of Bhagavān alone and you can retain them only till you remain humble. When a Bhakta becomes proud and arrogant, Bhagavān Śiva takes back his blessings. But you have realized your mistakes now and have learned the importance of humility in life. Therefore, Śiva will bless you back with sufficient food and resources.”

The pots of food in Dasimaiyya and Thukkalai started filling up again and they spent the rest of their lives feeding the Bhaktas of Bhagavān. Dasimaiyya himself became a great saint in his later stages of life and wrote beautiful poems in praise of Śiva. He spread the worship of Śiva among the wild tribes in the region that lived by hunting. He asked them to give up eating meat and instead earn their livelihood by extracting oil from seeds and selling the same. Under his influence, the local King also became a follower of Bhagavān Śiva.

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Story: Guru Nanak crushes the pride of Sufi Wali Kandhari In the year 1521, Guru Nanak visited Hasan Abdal, a place in northern Pakistan, where there was a hill at the top of which there was a spring of fresh water. This spring was the only source of fresh water in the region and it flowed down from the hill to the town below. A few years earlier, a Muslim Afghan Sufi[14] named Wali Kandhari settled down next to the spring.

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In the course of time, people of that time started paying visits to Wali Kandhari and offer respects to him. His little hut became a center for pilgrimage. Wali Kandhari now became proud and he started using his influence to harass the people and persuade them to convert to Islam. When Guru Nanak visited the area, the locals were very impressed by his spirituality and teachings and began to flock to him for his darśan. This really hurt the pride of Wali Kandhari and he became jealous and angry. As a result, he shut the spring on his hill, depriving the town below of all water. The people then appealed to the Sufi to resume their water supply, but he scornfully said, “Ask your Guru Nanak for water because now you respect him and not me.” When the people went to Guru Nanak, he said, “Do not worry because Bhagavān takes care of everyone.” Guru Nanak then sent his Muslim disciple Mardana up the hill with a request to release the source of water. But the Sufi got angry with him, abused him and sent him back. Guru Nanak asked Mardana to go back several times and ask for water humbly, but each time, he was abused by Wali Kandhari and asked to get lost.

Finally, Guru Nanak lifted a rock where he was sitting and miraculously a clear stream of water appeared at that spot! Meanwhile, the spring at the top of the hill where Wali Kandhari lived dried up. The Sufi was mad at this and he pushed a huge boulder from the hill towards Guru Nanak, thinking that the Guru will be crushed to death. But Guru Nanak sat still, with a calm mind. As soon as the boulder reached Guru Nanak, he merely touched it and the boulder stopped immediately! Wali Kandhari was shocked because it was humanly impossible for such a huge boulder hurtling down at that speed to get stopped. He realized that Guru Nanak was a great Sant and he came down from the hill and apologized to him. Guru Nanak asked him to give up his pride and anger and treat all the human beings irrespective of their religion, as children of Bhagavān. Even today, the spring that had appeared miraculously at the base of the mountain still exists and a beautiful Sikh shrine[15] was constructed about 200 years back at the site with a pool filled with clear water coming from that spring. The shrine also has the boulder with a clear imprint of the hand of Guru Nanak.

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Story: Dhanurdāsa and Rāmānuja When Śri Rāmānuja became old, he needed support to walk. Every morning, he would take a bath in the river Kaveri and then return to the temple, leaning in the shoulders of Dhanurdāsa. This annoyed some of his followers who said, “Dhanurdāsa was a foolish person in the past. Moreover, he is not born in a great family of Brahmanas. Why don’t you lean on the shoulder of one of the more prominent of your disciples?”

Rāmānuja replied, “Knowledge, birth in a great family and wealth can make one arrogant. Dhanurdāsa does not have any of these three types of arrogance. The Kaveri River’s water can only clean my external body. But the man’s heart and mind can only be cleaned by the touch of a person like Dhanurdāsa, who has no arrogance of wealth, knowledge or birth in an elitist family.”

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Story: Ganesha crushes the pride of Kubera Kubera was the treasurer of all the Devas of Heaven. He was responsible for storing all of their gold, diamonds, silver, food, horses, electronics, cars and boats. He was very rich and lived in a beautiful palace. This palace was in a city called Alakapuri. Kubera was proud that he was very rich. One day, he hosted a lavish dinner party. He invited Śiva, Parvati and their children Ganesha and Karttikeya to the party. Ganesha was very hungry. He started eating food immediately. Ganesha ate so much food that no one else had anything left to eat. But, Ganesha was still hungry. So, after all the food was finished, Ganesha started to eat the utensils, the furniture and everything else in the Palace.

When nothing was left, Ganesha threatened to swallow Kubera himself. Now Kubera became very scared. He ran to Bhagavān Śiva and fell at his feet, asking for his help as Ganesha's voracious hunger had no limit. Kubera said that he was very sorry for being so proud of his riches. But now he had realized that all of his money was not enough to feed even a child! Kubera promised that in the future he will be more humble and won’t boast of his riches anymore. Śiva then gave Ganesha a handful of roasted grain, which he ate hungrily. Immediately, his hunger was gone. Ganesha was not hungry anymore!

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Through this story, Bhagavān Ganesh wanted us to learn that children should eat whatever their parents give to them without complaining. The food that your parents give to you is much more satisfying and healthy than what you can get in fast-food joints or in other people’s homes. Ganesha also wanted us to learn that when we give food to others, we should do so with love and devotion and not with pride. Kubera was very proud of his wealth. He made a big show of all his gold and silver. But, he could not give enough food to satisfy Ganesha’s hunger. But if Kubera had given even a little food to Ganesha with love, Ganesha’s tummy would have become full.

Further Reading

Vedanta and the Resolution of Human Ego” by Chitra Raman at http://chitraraman.voiceofdharma.org/articles/general/the-relevance-of-vedanta-to-modern-life
[1] Page 91 in Purnavidya, vol 6

[2] Swami Akhandananda Sarasvati (1966), pp. 15-16


Notes & References

  1. Mahābhārata 5.34.53
  2. It means (tapas).
  3. Mahābhārata 1.90.22
  4. Mahābhārata 1.34.2
  5. Mahābhārata 8.70.29
  6. Verse of Sant Kabir
  7. Verse of Sant Kabir
  8. Verse of Kabir
  9. It means thinking the opposite consequences.
  10. Taking everything as the grace of Bhagavān.
  11. It is regarding yourself as a servant of Bhagavān.
  12. The profession of a cobbler was considered a lowly profession in those days.
  13. It means The Alchemy of Devotion.
  14. Sufis are Muslim saints who follow the path of spirituality, but many of them were also religious warriors who fought against non-Muslims.
  15. It is called Gurudwara.