Four Undesirable Qualities Shri Hari Would Overlook

[peacock feather]“The peacock has a strange body, speaks in a cowardly way, eats snakes for food, and has a ghastly mind. Tulsi says that Shri Hari still uses its feathers to adorn the head, and therefore everyone now says, ‘mine.’” (Dohavali, 107)

tanu bicitra kāyara bacana ahi ahāra mana ghora |
tulasī hari bhae pacdhara tāte kaha saba mora ||

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Most likely you won’t be able to complete a marathon, let alone win it, without some prior training. It’s not every day that a person runs for over twenty-six miles. The body is not accustomed to it. Even regular runners need to take some precautions. They eat a certain way. They make sure the body can handle going for a certain distance on a regular basis.

As such, there are rules and regulations. These are the components to what is known as training. From the outside it looks like torture. Why go through the struggle? Why put yourself through so much pain? There is austerity and sacrifice for sure, but the end goal is something desired.

In the same way, to reach the goal of the shelter of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, some austerity is necessary. There are rules and regulations. At the very least, with just following the basic guidelines of religion, without getting specific as to which one, good qualities should develop.

The primary four are compassion, cleanliness, honesty and austerity. Each good quality is beneficial for both the individual and others associated with them. At the same time, the relationship to the Supreme Lord is so amazing that even if a person has unwanted qualities they are considered a devotee. If the desire to serve Hari, which is one name for God, is sincere, then the best well-wishing friend, like the great purifying agent that His association is, overlooks the bad qualities.

1. Duplicitousness

[peacock feather]The example for analysis comes courtesy of the Dohavali of Goswami Tulsidas. The poet says that the peacock has a strange body; this is due to it being multicolored. For an individual this can mean being two-faced. Honest one day, lying another. Pretending to be someone’s friend, with the only interest of gaining a favor later on. Duplicitousness is not desired, since without honesty how can the world properly function?

2. Speaking in a cowardly way

Strong, brave, truthful speech is required on occasion. You’re in New York City at the corner of a street, waiting to cross. The sign says to wait. Someone else standing next to you ignores the warning and proceeds forward. You see that a bicycle is on its way, ready to collide with the pedestrian.

The cowardly way is to say nothing. Just watch. Don’t offend anyone. Don’t make a big fuss. The right thing to do is be brave and say something. Speak as loud as possible, to convey the emergency nature of the situation.

In general, speaking cowardly means to ignore the best interests of others. Go along to get along. Say whatever is necessary to make people like you. The sadhu is known for speaking strongly, getting to the point, and telling the truth to others about their real nature as spirit soul, separate from the perishable and temporary body.

3. Improper diet

One way to get the aforementioned quality of compassion is to stop eating meat. In the Shrimad Bhagavatam, there is the Sanskrit phrase jivo jivasya jivanam. This means that every living entity survives off another living entity. The food chain was explained in shastra long before modern science ever discovered it.

The human being still applies discrimination. If eating animal flesh were the same as eating a fruit that fell to the ground, then there would be no need to discriminate between human flesh and dog flesh. Anyone would eat anything.

The idea is that food grains have been designated for human consumption, and even that simply for maintaining the body; not for endless enjoyment. Since the culture has been inherited from so many past generations, it may be difficult for a person to give up food that requires so much violence. The austerity may seem impossible.

4. A ghastly mind

“Think good, positive thoughts. Don’t keep your mind in the gutter. When you focus on the negative too much, it will affect your behavior going forward.”

We have likely heard such advice before or given it to others. The mind can be the best friend of the living entity, but also the greatest enemy. From the uncontrolled mind comes horrible and regrettable behavior.

“A man must elevate himself by his own mind, not degrade himself. The mind is the friend of the conditioned soul, and his enemy as well.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 6.5)

With the example of the peacock, Tulsidas says that since Shri Hari wears its feather on His head, people now refer to the bird as mora, which also means “mine.” The sight of one feather can cause some devotees to faint, so strong is the association with God.

[Krishna with peacock feather]Despite every bad quality, Shri Hari can accept a person as His own, provided they want His association. He has made that promise directly in His incarnation of Shri Rama, when accepting the service of Vibhishana, who came from the land of man-eaters in Lanka.

In Closing:

Any religion, not needing focus one,

Good qualities from practice to come.

Like honesty and compassion,

Cleanliness and from objects dispassion.

But what if unwanted qualities to find,

Like duplicity, poor diet and ghastly mind?

Not regarded since bhakti association strong,

Like peacock addressed as mora since long.

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