“Then I, resembling a cloud and having molten-golden earrings, made my way into Vishvamitra’s ashrama, for I was very proud of my strength due to the boon given to me by Lord Brahma. As soon as I entered, Rama quickly noticed me and raised His weapon. Though He saw me, Rama strung His bow without any fear.” (Maricha speaking to Ravana, Valmiki Ramayana, Aranya Kand, 38.16-17)
बली दत्तवरोदर्पादाजगाम तदाश्रमम्।।
तेन दृष्टः प्रविष्टोऽहं सहसैवोद्यतायुधः।
मां तु दृष्ट्वा धनुस्सज्यमसम्भ्रान्तश्चकार सः।।
balī dattavarodarpādājagāma tadāśramam।।
tena dṛṣṭaḥ praviṣṭo’haṃ sahasaivodyatāyudhaḥ।
māṃ tu dṛṣṭvā dhanussajyamasambhrāntaścakāra saḥ।।
Friend1: How can someone be proud?
Friend2: I have no idea what that means.
Friend1: From an intellectual point of view, pride doesn’t make much sense.
Friend2: Why is that?
Friend1: Because there are so many other factors at play.
Friend2: At play for what? I’m not sure I understand.
Friend1: Take a simple example of being proud over the kind of occupation you are in.
Friend2: Okay. Let’s do the CEO of a large company.
Friend1: It lands on the Fortune 500 list. The market cap is way up there. That means it would be really difficult for this company to go out of business. Mind you, it is not impossible. One false indictment by a rogue federal prosecutor and you could be done in a few months.
Friend2: Or if your company is built on a house of cards, with a series of interconnected loans. If they should default close to one another, the stock price will tumble.
Friend1: Sort of like during the sub-prime mortgage crisis. Anyway, this side of the discussion essentially makes my point, but we will revisit later on. Let’s say that I am proud over being the leader of such a company.
Friend2: Plenty of reason to be, as well. You get invited on the cable television networks to do interviews about the state of the economy. You fly on private jets. You decide who is fired and who is hired.
Friend1: I contend that it is still not wise to be proud. This is because so many other factors had to cooperate.
गुणैः कर्माणि सर्वशः
कर्ताहम् इति मन्यते
guṇaiḥ karmāṇi sarvaśaḥ
kartāham iti manyate
“The bewildered spirit soul, under the influence of the three modes of material nature, thinks himself to be the doer of activities, which are in actuality carried out by nature.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 3.27)
Friend1: You need the initial success. You have to find a product or service that has mass appeal. In this route, you are getting rich by satisfying the needs of the common man.
Friend2: As opposed to acquiring wealth through stealing or lying, such as with politicians and their family members.
Friend1: You do not have full control over that success. For instance, you might become wealthy selling paper. Then one day the digital revolution arrives and people have less need for paper.
Friend2: Think of the newspaper business. They still haven’t figured out how to adapt fully to the new landscape.
Friend1: And then what we were discussing before. Everything could collapse in a moment. That is why someone shouldn’t be proud. At least that is my thinking.
Friend2: There will always be a check. Reference the story of Maricha attacking the ashrama of Vishvamitra.
Friend1: From the Ramayana?
Friend2: The Rakshasa was proud of his strength and abilities. Though he was cursed to become a man-eating ogre, that specific body-type carried some assets, namely in the ability to terrorize others.
Friend1: Shape-shifters. Night-rangers. Man-eaters.
Friend2: And so attacking innocent sages in the forest was child’s play. Maricha was accustomed to success. He was falsely proud. Then everything got checked.
Friend1: How so?
Friend2: By Shri Rama. This is the same person who restraints everyone’s success already, through the all-devouring force known as time. Kala is undefeated, with its complete manifestation the ever-feared moment of death.
Friend1: I have heard His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada explain that every person submits to God eventually. The staunchest atheist sees Him at the time of death and has no other choice but to bow down to the superior force.
Friend2: In that light we can consider Maricha to be fortunate. He succumbed prior to death and also during that time. He was taught a lesson by Rama two times. Those incidents are nicely preserved in beautiful Sanskrit poetry. Rama defended Vishvamitra’s ashrama without hesitation, releasing an arrow that threw Maricha backward some eight hundred miles.
From success overly proud,
But not knowing that only allowed.
Since as the doer not set,
First sanction of nature to get.
Who controlled by the one standing,
With bow and arrow commanding,
Against Maricha enemy attacking,
With one strike far away backing.