Yesterday I came upon the commonly quoted verse from the Bhagavad Gita7.3, “Out of many thousands among men, one may endeavor for perfection, and of those who have achieved perfection, hardly one knows Me in truth.”
My question concerns my reaction to the verse. Upon reading this, I immediately thought- “Oh good, so that’s why my family can’t really understand my path, because they are not the ‘one among thousands’ like I am.” I was then quickly put off by how puffed up I was and the prejudiced belief I held against my own family that I believed I was somehow the “chosen” one and they weren’t. I am also very concerned because I believe this way of thinking is a slippery slope. I think you can quickly switch from “Am I right in this?” to “You are wrong and I am better.” What can I do to keep this in check and how do I balance the fact that I DO believe I am on the right path, but I want to truly love and respect my family members as equals?
This question is also relevant to my feelings with the greater population. For example, I’ve often struggled with the balance between speaking about my strong beliefs around meat eating, while still honoring each individual’s path.
Regarding your questions, devotees do face this challenge: devotional service is a rare and exalted activity, and yet we must cultivate genuine humility in order to transcend our material impurities and return to our real life with Krishna. Here are some clues to solve this paradox:
- True advancement in Krishna consciousness entails developing love for Krishna and all souls. If you are healthy and a beloved sibling is ill, you do not feel proud of your health, rather you pray for your sibling to recover.
- The more we advance, the more we see how tiny we are compared to glorious Krishna. Thus even if Krishna has blessed me with Krishna consciousness, Krishna Himself, and all the great devotees like Prabhupada, are so much greater than me that my appreciation and reverence for them overwhelms the pride I might feel at my own good fortune.
- Modesty, not pride, pleases Krishna, so the more I realize that my pride is dumb and displeases Krishna, the more I discard it. I experience far greater joy in glorifying Krishna and His pure devotees and encouraging all other souls. That is the place of real happiness.
- And finally, if we chant Hare Krishna long enough, we eventually grow up spiritually! Modesty is part of the soul’s divine nature and it naturally manifests with spiritual practice.