Can Devotion Be Considered Flattery

[Dhruva and Vishnu]“Although Dhruva Maharaja was a small boy, he wanted to offer prayers to the Supreme Personality of Godhead in suitable language. But because he was inexperienced, he could not adjust himself immediately. The Supreme Personality of Godhead, being situated in everyone’s heart, could understand Dhruva Maharaja’s awkward position. Out of His causeless mercy He touched His conchshell to the forehead of Dhruva Maharaja, who stood before Him with folded hands.” (Shrimad Bhagavatam, 4.9.4)

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Friend1: You know about the four kinds of diplomacy?

Friend2: Mentioned in the Vedas?

Friend1: Yes.

Friend2: Yes.

Friend1: I find it so interesting. You have these books that are at least thousands of years old. I know in truth that there is no known date of inception.

Friend2: The Vedas are an extension of the Supreme Lord Himself, who is beginning-less, or anadi. The Vedas are so important that even when God comes as an incarnation and preaches against them, the people in general don’t listen.

Friend1: Like in the case with the Lord Buddha incarnation.

Friend2: Exactly.

Friend1: So with all of these government officials working day and night to craft policy, the whole art of state administration can be summed up in four methods.

Friend2: Sama, dana, bheda and danda.

Friend1: Flattery, charity, division and force.

Friend2: Yeah, obviously you can elaborate further on each method. Sama is likely the easiest of the four paths. Just be nice to the other person. Flatter them. Don’t make a direct enemy out of them. That way maybe they will give you what you want.

Friend1: Dana is simple, too. It’s essentially bribery. Give the other party something. Men have been following this path for years to get out of trouble with wives and girlfriends.

[flower bouquet]Friend2: Haha, that’s true.

Friend1: I like bheda because there is a covert aspect to it.

Friend2: It’s kind of an underhanded tactic. You’re trying to get the other side to fight itself. Divide up the members and see if they can destroy themselves. This way you don’t have to do anything.

Friend1: And danda is brute force.

Friend2: When all else fails, flex your muscles, show your might.

Friend1: Alright, so the question I had relates to sama and dana, I guess.

Friend2: Which are generally reserved for the weaker party. The stronger party can use force at any time, if they desire.

Friend1: Okay, so that sets the table even better. We have the strongest party in God Himself. Since He is Bhagavan, one of the attributes He possesses is full strength.

Friend2: Yes.

Friend1: We are the weaker party since we struggle in the material existence. From the time of birth we are immediately overcome by the dualities of attachment and aversion.

“O scion of Bharata [Arjuna], O conqueror of the foe, all living entities are born into delusion, overcome by the dualities of desire and hate.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 7.27)

Friend2: Delusion affects everyone.

Friend1: So wouldn’t you say that approaching God, serving Him, is kind of diplomacy? You have the weaker party trying to flatter the stronger party.

Friend2: So much of Vedic literature is people offering prayers. There were the different demigods who tried to pacify the angry Narasimhadeva after He killed the evil Hiranyakashipu. Indra offered prayers in contrition to Krishna after the plan to kill the residents of Vrindavana was defeated by the Lord’s lifting of Govardhana Hill. There are countless examples, really.

Friend1: Perfect. That’s exactly what I wanted to hear. Aren’t those prayers equivalent to diplomacy, then? They are not genuine. It’s a way of getting what you want. It’s an angle to work the other side.

Friend2: And so you’re saying we shouldn’t give those words such importance?

Friend1: I’m just confused. Is it bhakti or is it something else?

Friend2: That is the magic of approaching God directly. Even if you are full of desires in the beginning, the association is purifying. The connection changes desires. The classic example is Dhruva Maharaja. He was so upset at being insulted in the kingdom that he went to the forest to get what he wanted. He meditated and underwent austerities for the purpose of pacifying God and achieving personal objectives.

Friend1: And then God came to Him, right? In the form of Narayana?

[Dhruva and Vishnu]Friend2: Yes. But something interesting occurred. Dhruva forgot about revenge. His desires changed. So in that situation you could say that maybe he was trying to win something from the Supreme Lord. The devotion wasn’t pure. Still, it was worth it. None of us are perfect. It is better to try diplomacy with Narayana than with an ordinary person. Narayana has the most valuable gift to give, bhakti, which is the eternal, original life for every spark of the spiritual energy.

In Closing:

Vedas giving many reasons to adore,

Like passing on diplomacy ways four.

To work the other side in course,

Bribe, divide or even use force.

Pacify and flatter easiest way,

Same not when to God to pray?

Magic of bhakti, like with Dhruva shown,

Desires changed to pure service alone.

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