“One should not only hear submissively from the spiritual master; but one must also get a clear understanding from him, in submission and service and inquiries. A bona fide spiritual master is by nature very kind toward the disciple. Therefore when the student is submissive and is always ready to render service, the reciprocation of knowledge and inquiries becomes perfect.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Bhagavad-gita, 4.34 Purport)
Friend1: Humility is important.
Friend2: I read something funny related to that.
Friend2: You know Benjamin Franklin, right?
Friend1: No, I’ve been living under a rock for my entire life. Yes, of course I’ve heard of him.
Friend2: During his youth – or young adulthood, I’m not sure – he created a system for self-improvement. Basically, he listed several qualities that were virtuous and then kept a chart to see if he was developing them over time.
Friend1: That’s interesting. I guess the time period in which he lived explains that. You realize that no one living today would even consider following such a routine?
Friend2: Who cares about virtues? Just enjoy as much as you can. Watch movie after movie on your streaming video service of choice. Bash the companies that took the risk to enable the technology of today. Decry profit, even though without it no one would have incentive to work. In between sitting and doing nothing, get drunk and high and then eat as much as your heart desires.
Friend1: Sounds pretty harsh, but that is the actual situation for a lot of people.
Friend2: Anyway, one of the virtues Franklin listed was humility. In his autobiography, he takes a funny shot at himself by saying that the other qualities weren’t as difficult to acquire. But even if he were to acquire humility, he was vulnerable to being proud of how humble he was.
Friend1: Ha! That’s hilarious. “I’m so humble, just look at me.”
Friend2: I know, right?
Friend2: There is a specific context, though. Those two things, along with offering respect to everyone and not wanting it for yourself, enable you to always chant the names of God. Kirtaniyah sada harih.
Friend1: Here is my question. You’re familiar with the concept of an alpha male, I’m assuming.
Friend1: I would think it’s harder for the alpha male to take to devotional service, bhakti-yoga.
Friend2: Why is that?
Friend1: Because they have a more difficult time being humble. They are very active and dominant. They are go-getters. They don’t sit back and just observe the world around them from a distance. I would think they are tied to the mode of passion.
Friend2: And then the beta male would have an easier time accepting and believing in the higher power that is Shri Krishna? They won’t challenge as much, since that is not in their nature.
Friend1: Exactly. It’s almost like the distinction between winners and losers in life. If you’ve lost a lot, you have a better chance of relinquishing the fight to compete with God. On the other hand, if you have victories, or if you are not deterred by loss after loss, then it might be more difficult to approach an authority on spiritual matters and talk with them in a non-confrontational way.
Friend2: Now that is a better argument for your case. In the Bhagavad-gita Shri Krishna recommends approaching someone who has seen the truth. He advises to render service to that person and inquire from them submissively.
tad viddhi praṇipātena
upadekṣyanti te jñānaṁ
“Just try to learn the truth by approaching a spiritual master. Inquire from him submissively and render service unto him. The self-realized soul can impart knowledge unto you because he has seen the truth.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 4.34)
Friend2: The hope comes from another verse. Shri Krishna mentions that four kinds of people render devotional service unto Him. The distressed, the person who wants wealth, the inquisitive, and the person who is already knowledgeable and wants to go further. The alpha male could belong to any of these categories.
Friend1: It doesn’t matter which one?
Friend2: The idea is that they have a desire. Let’s say you have a go-getter, someone who is really outgoing and not afraid to take risks. If they find out that by following bhakti-yoga there is a chance for increased happiness, they might view it as a challenge.
Friend1: Another venture in which there is the chance for success.
Friend2: Exactly. And it’s not like the outlets for service are limited. They could take on a managerial role, organizing others in their devotional service. They could deal with the public, accepting the heat and criticism that a leader incurs. They could gauge their own progress, how close they are coming to Chaitanya Mahaprabhu’s description of the person who is best suited to chanting the holy names, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.”
Friend1: What about the humility part? Won’t that be difficult to attain if a person is constantly proud of their accomplishments in serving the Supreme Lord? At the same time, don’t they need to be a little proud in order to have incentive to continue?
Friend2: As the esteemed Founding Father noticed, humility is one of the more difficult qualities to acquire. There needn’t be such attention dedicated to it, though. Through coming to the Supreme Lord in the proper mood, everything takes care of itself. Even the powerful king of heaven got humbled one time, when Krishna lifted the massive Govardhana Hill and used it as an umbrella. In the shelter of maya there is always danger, but under that amazing hill held up for the devotees there is no cause for fear.
Since in accomplishing things set,
How humility the alpha male to get?
Then how to chant always from there,
When of self-insignificance not aware?
Taking up challenge, with strength to lead,
Many options in devotional service indeed.
In bhakti, chanting more and more,
All qualities coming, all accounted for.