“The Lord said, you are talking like a learned man, but you do not know that one who is learned – one who knows what is body and what is soul – does not lament for any stage of the body, neither in the living nor in the dead condition.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Bhagavad-gita, 2.11 Purport)
Friend1: The wise lament neither for the living nor the dead.
Friend2: Pretty profound, eh?
Friend1: It is. The context was Arjuna’s lamentation over the future.
Friend2: He wasn’t even worried about what was happening at the moment. It’s not like he saw something tragic and lost heart. He was so wise that he looked to the future consequences.
Friend1: And then Krishna suddenly dashed that supposed wisdom, calling it ignorance instead. The truly wise don’t lament for the changes in time.
Friend2: Exactly. The future represented a different stage of the body for the people affected. Arjuna was worried about the impending deaths which would be the cost of victory in the war, a victory he would lead. It was his duty to fight. The other people had it coming. The future was set due to work already put in.
Friend1: I’m glad we’re in agreement here. This has been a good conversation thus far, but you know I like to poke holes in the argument. I’ve heard one where the devotee is naturally compassionate towards other people.
Friend2: One what? An argument? And define “devotee.”
Friend1: In this context I would say it is a wise person. Someone who has learned from Krishna and what He instructed to Arjuna. Particularly, they are wise enough to know to not lament for either the living or the dead.
Friend2: That’s good. A teaching I like to remember is what Shri Hanuman spoke to Tara. He compared the body to a bubble. It can burst at any moment, so there is no reason to think that one person is poor and another is rich. Everyone is living in one of these bubbles.
“Whom are you lamenting for when you yourself are pitiable? Why do you pity the poor when you yourself have now been made poor? While in this body that is like a bubble, how can anyone look at anyone else as being worthy of lamentation?” (Hanuman speaking to Tara, Valmiki Ramayana, Kishkindha Kand, 21.3)
Friend1: The devotee is para-duhkha-duhkhi.
Friend2: They feel pain at another’s pain. That’s pretty obvious based on Arjuna’s case that we’ve been discussing.
Friend1: Okay, but don’t you see the contradiction? If you know about the changing body, why should you lament?
Friend2: That’s a good point.
Friend1: Also, isn’t the devotee supposed to be humble?
Friend2: Humbler than a blade of grass, as Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu says.
Friend1: By feeling bad for others, there is some condescension there.
Friend2: Where do you get that? It’s compassion.
Friend1: There is a hint of, “I’m better than you.” It’s sort of like when the overzealous preacher tells someone else, “I’m praying for your soul.” The other person gets upset that their piety is challenged.
Friend2: I see what you are saying, but the compassion is legitimate and rooted in knowledge. The devotee understands the changing body, and how there are different stages. It’s a matter of vision.
Friend1: How so?
Friend2: By seeing a person suffering under the illusion of maya, the devotee immediately sees the many previous lives of that individual. They know just how difficult it is to acquire the human body. In that most auspicious form, which can bring happiness at every second through voluntary connection with the Divine, the valuable time is being wasted in activities already experienced. Prahlada Maharaja refers to it as chewing the chewed.
Friend1: That’s fine, but I’ll go back to the point of lamentation. The wise don’t lament.
Friend2: Ah, I see that you’re fixated on that. Let me tell you a secret. Lamentation will always be there. Arjuna didn’t go through the war like a robot. He had emotions. Shri Hanuman felt extreme lamentation in Lanka when searching for Sita. These are both very wise souls.
Friend1: So what is the point of the teaching, then?
Friend2: Don’t allow lamentation to take you off track. Don’t lament so much that it draws away attention from duty. The devotees feel compassion for others, but they don’t let that compassion divert them from the truth. They use it as impetus to further spread the glories of God. I’m helping you because I feel bad that you are wasting your abilities. You can be a much better devotee than me. I am just aspiring, after all. If I was truly God conscious, I would not be able to tolerate a moment of separation. The talents that you have, which I see exhibited in so many ways, can be used for your benefit and for society in general if you connect it with service, devotional service. That is why I feel compassion. This is the meaning to para-duhkha-duhkhi.
To not lament should he,
For dead or the living to be.
Since spirit soul in time-body stage,
Soon another birth, to turn the page.
But devotee also as compassionate known,
Through their intense mercy distribution shown.
Because of past lives, valuable time wasted,
Soul for bhakti meant, something higher tasted.