In the dictionary of Pushtimarg, the opposite of LOVE isn’t hate, it’s EGO. Ego acts in opposition to the emotion of a Daas – servant. Prabhu Shri Krishna will never accept a jeev impure with conceit, for where there is ego, pure love cannot blossom.
During the summer holidays, I finally managed to persuade both my Betijis (daughters) to sit down for a game of “Saanp-Seedi” – part of an effort to convince them that entertainment could also be had from simple things that need not be plugged in. There was joy in stuff that did not have a digital screen attached.
Therefore, as we rolled the dice and went up and down the snakes & ladders amidst squeals of delight and dismay, the elder one pointed out a fact – the snakes were the longest in the later part of the game. Therefore, even if someone had, for the better part of the game, been fortunate enough to avoid being bitten initially and managed to zoom up some of the ladders, they could still land on a snake and end up way behind the others. Getting nearer to the goal was not a guarantee of success; on the contrary, it only increased the risk of having a bigger fall!
Tragic! Nevertheless, a good example to learn from.
The blessed Gopis of Braj were already reveling in the highest state of bliss – the Raas. In their quest for the Lord of Braj, they had successfully climbed the ladders of Seva, gungaan and samarpan. In their love for Shri Krishna, they had no equal – it was one without parallel.
But Ah! That was when and how the serpent of ego struck and it took no prisoners. The fallout was one that was unimaginable for the Gopis – they were denied even a glimpse of their beloved!
Shri Vallabh explains it so beautifully while revealing in the Purushottam Sahastranam the alaukik names of Prabhu Shri Krishna based on the Shrimad Bhagvat 10.29.47/48,
सर्व भाव प्राप्त गोपी सुख संवर्धन क्षमः । गोपी गर्व प्रणाशार्थ तिरोधान सुख प्रदः ॥ ( श्रीपुरुषोत्तमनामसहस्त्रम् 182 )
Capable of increasing the joy of the Gopi who has achieved every bhav. To destroy the ego of the Gopis, by disappearing – Bestower of Joy.
Read the shloka carefully. Shri Vallabh reveals here the snakes and ladders encountered while treading the path of Grace, Pushtimarg.
Shri Vallabh first reveals the ladder – the infinite capacity of the ever-graceful Lord of Braj, to increase the joy of the Gopi. Purna Purushottam Prabhu Shri Krishna Himself has fulfilled the Gopi’s prayers; He has first prepared, summoned and then accepted her in His Leela. However, as Shri Vallabh subsequently reveals, the gopi is just not able to manage the emotion that arises out of knowing that being accepted thus by the one who is more beautiful than countless Kamdevs, Shri Shrinathji, she has achieved a position so exalted, that even Rishis, Sanyasis and Devtas can but dream of achieving.
As a result, Shri Vallabh then says, the Gopi just cannot stop herself from stepping on the wily snake of ego that lurks on her path. This results in a heartbreaking freefall. Prabhu Shri Krishna will never accept a jeev impure with conceit, for where there is ego, pure love cannot blossom. In the dictionary of Pushtimarg, the opposite of LOVE isn’t hate, it’s EGO. Ego in the sense of arrogance and conceit.
Shri Hariraiji sings of the connection between love & ego in the season of Basant in this Pushtimarg Kirtan,
मान तजो – भजो कंत – ऋतु बसंत आयो । (बसंत के पद)
Oh Gopi! Give up your EGO – worship the beloved – for its Basant, the season of LOVE. (Basant Kirtan)
According to Shri Vallabh, pure love can only flourish in an environment of humility-deenta. Thus the Lord disappears, to provide the Gopi with the ladder of humility to free herself from the wretched clutches of ego.
Shri Vallabh’s answer to Krishnadas Meghan’s question as to why even Bhakts sometimes fail to understand Prabhu’s Leela, is very enlightening in this respect. Shri Mahaprabhuji explains,
“This occurs when the jeev doesn’t surrender as is required. Surrender includes the giving up of his self, his possessions, authority and his EGO – for now I am His servant and under His control – thinking only himself as worthy he stays aloof from the company of other Vaishnavs. Prabhu Shri Krishna becomes dissatisfied with such a self-patronizing attitude. This path is one of humility, but the jeev isn’t humble…” (84 Vaishnavs 2|6)
Shri Vallabh’s sevak, Govinddas Bhalla, was in all tangible aspects, the perfect Vaishnav. He had given up his worldly possessions, earned only what was needed to sustain himself, he had come to Jatipura to serve Shri Shrinathji… All the other sevaks in the service of Shrijibava were in awe of him. For these Vaishnavs, Govinddas, having climbed the ladders provided in the marg of Pushti, was the quintessential sevak – the chosen one! He represented all that they aspired to. Just like the Gopis of Braj, Shri Vallabh had prepared, summoned and involved him in the seva of Shrijibava.
Ah! That was when Govinddas decided to step on the snake; the huge one that lurks on square no. 99 – the serpent of ego. He did the unpardonable; He started finding fault and criticizing the other Vaishnavs around him. For him Seva became a means of self-indulgence; something to flaunt in order to put other sevaks down – make them feel inferior.
In the Bhav-Prakash of this prasang Shri Hariraiji writes, “If only Govinddas had offered the same Seva with love, he would have had the Bhakt-vatsal Shri Govardhannathji follow him everywhere he went. But Govinddas was filled with tamas, It was ego (and not love) that influenced his Seva.
Therefore, the darling of Yashodaji, Nandnandan Shri Krishna, didn’t like it. He complained to Shri Mahaprabhuji, “One of your sevaks has angered me.” Shri Vallabh rushed to Jatipura and reviewed the Seva there. He interviewed each of the sevaks. Finally, it was Govinddas’s turn. On hearing him, Shri Vallabh could instantly sense the ego that influenced each of his actions. The ever-graceful Shri Vallabh even then showed him the ladder, “Do as the other sevaks are doing. They take prasad from what has been first offered to Shrinathji Bava, you should be doing the same.” But Govinddas was beyond salvage, he had reached a point of no return. Unlike the Gopis, the snake had pushed him right off the board. For him the pleasure of the fall was much more inviting than the climb of the ladder.
He answered, “Maharaj! How can I take Dev Dravya?” Shri Vallabh even then showed compassion, “Partake the prasad after we have done so.” To that, filled with conceit, he answered, “Dev Dravya or Guru Dravya, how can I partake any?” It was then Shri Vallabh ordered, “Then leave Seva.”
Shri Hariraiji explains – This is to make known that Govinddas was considered unfit for Seva as he was egoistic in his relation to Shri Shrinathji…Ego acts in opposition to the emotion of a Daas – servant…that’s why the Lord of Braj would not accept his Seva. This principle was made known. (84 Vaishnavs | 11)
Shri Vallabh elucidates the relation that Seva has with Ego,
अभिमानः च संत्याज्यः स्वामि अधीनत्व भावनात् (विवेक-धैर्य-आश्रय 3)
Also, Ego should be abandoned by feeling the authority of the master – Shri Krishna. (Vivek Dhairya Ashraya 3)
Ego has to decrease in order to advance in Seva. The surrender to Shri Krishna’s authority cannot be possible for a jeev not humble. Humility in the Seva of Shri Thakurji and the Guru and in relations with fellow Vaishnavs should manifest naturally. A Vaishnav should understand that a sure symptom of deviating from the marg of Pushti is when you start thinking of yourself as different from other Vaishnavs.
The serpent of ego can assume so many forms:
- Assuming that we are the only ones who are doing proper seva and have the correct bhav, the rest, well, they are just missing the whole point.
- Having a false impression that we are the only ones following Shri Vallabh’s siddhants while others are just steeped in ignorance.
- Entering into mindless discussions and bitter debates supposedly about the Sampradaya – these arguments are nothing but unnecessary hair-splitting and word gymnastics. They benefit nobody. (The time could be much much better spent spreading the sweetness and fragrance of the Marg entwined in each and every teaching of Shri Vallabh.)
- Enjoy finding faults in other vaishnavs doing seva, smaran, kirtan or in knowledge of protocols etc.
These are all sure signs that we have strayed from the path of devotion. Lacking in humility, the stream of love in us is getting dried up and has been replaced by a puddle of bitter self-centeredness. Ego has sucked our initial spontaneous, joyous and innocent affection for Shri Thakurji and is being replaced by dry, selfish and insensitive conceit.
Prabhu Shri Krishna will then surely disappear from our lives, Shri Mahaprabhuji has brought Him so near us and yet He was never farther away; for unlike the Gopis, we, blinded by our ego, may not even be aware of His absence.
It is the nectar that we wished for but spilled between the cup and the lip.
So coming back to our game of ‘Saanp-Seedi’, as I slipped down the large one for the umpteenth time, my little Betiji asked, “Nayna, will you ever learn to avoid that one?”