“The example is given that small lamps may become agitated by a little breeze, but the greatest lamp or the greatest illuminating source, the sun, is never moved, even by the greatest hurricane. One’s greatness has to be estimated by one’s ability to tolerate provoking situations.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Krishna, The Supreme Personality of Godhead, Vol 2, Ch 34)
For as many desires as can be found in the world, there is a corresponding religious system to meet them. These may be known as varieties of dharma. In Bhagavad-gita, Krishna advises Arjuna to abandon the varieties and stay true to the singular purpose, in full surrender to the Supreme Personality of Godhead.
माम् एकं शरणं व्रज
अहं त्वां सर्व-पापेभ्यो
मोक्षयिष्यामि मा शुचः
mām ekaṁ śaraṇaṁ vraja
ahaṁ tvāṁ sarva-pāpebhyo
mokṣayiṣyāmi mā śucaḥ
“Abandon all varieties of religion and just surrender unto Me. I shall deliver you from all sinful reaction. Do not fear.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 18.66)
The followers of the different varieties of religion may not view things in the same way. Through dogmatic insistence and allegiance to a particular faith, as they call it, they have their own view of God. It may be along the following lines:
“My God is an angry God. He does not have a sense of humor. He will not take too kindly to those who fail to surrender to Him. This is your only chance. Repent now and be saved. Stay in your sinful ways and you will suffer in hell for eternity. My God is a vengeful God. He will not forget the choice you made.”
Many images come to mind from the Vedic tradition to dispel this idea. As His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada explains, one way to measure greatness is to see the degree to which a person can tolerate a provoking situation.
1. Rama leaving for the forest
This story involves the avatara of Vishnu known as Rama. God is not limited to a single manifestation or a single image. Just as we change in appearance in a single lifetime, so the external visual of the Almighty does not have to remain fixed. We go from birth to birth, and Vishnu can go from appearance to appearance.
Shri Rama easily could have been provoked when He received the news of the sudden change in plans with respect to succession in the kingdom of Ayodhya. He was supposed to be the next king, as He was both the eldest son to the monarch and the chosen one based on consensus of the royal advisors.
The father, King Dasharatha, was caught between a rock and a hard place. His youngest wife, Kaikeyi, put him in a bind. Rama could have objected. He could have thrown in the line, “Do you know who I am?”
Instead, Rama left for the forest. He gave up the throne. He did not hold enmity. Rama’s departure is a clear indication of the quality of vairagya found within Bhagavan. One way to know God is to find the person who is most renounced. One way to measure renunciation is to see just exactly how much a person is willing to set aside.
2. Krishna lifting Govardhana
When Vishnu appeared as Krishna, there was a famous incident that led to the now annual tradition known as Govarhdana Puja. As a small child living in the Gokula community, Krishna convinced His father, Nanda Maharaja, to worship Govardhana Hill one year. This was instead of the annual yajna in honor of Indra, the king of heaven.
Though the residents weren’t trying to provoke Indra, this caused him agitation, regardless. He could not tolerate the perceived insult. Indra retaliated by directing severe rainfall to the area of Govardhana. The intent was clear. The message was obvious.
Krishna could have retaliated in kind. He could have taught the demigods a lesson they would never forget. Instead, He simply picked up Govardhana Hill and used it as an umbrella. Not only is that sacred mass of land dear to the cows and the neighboring residents, but it also serves as protection against the wrath of those who might have previously been friendly.
3. Krishna with Brahma
A similar situation occurred with Brahma. This time there was a trick played on Krishna. Brahma stole the cowherd boys and the cows from within Krishna’s area. How would the Supreme Lord handle the situation? What would He tell the residents when He returned home without anyone accompanying Him?
Krishna figured out a way. There was such a lack of disturbance in everyday life that Brahma eventually saw the error in his ways. Krishna did not hold a grudge. He did not retaliate, though He could have.
4. Vishnu meeting Bhrigu
Bhrigu was conducting a science experiment, of sorts. Like continuing education at home, in the absence of formal training at an established institution, that brahmana wanted to know who was the most tolerant.
He tested the degree to which provoking situations would be tolerated by Lord Brahma, Lord Shiva, and Lord Vishnu. The worst offense was reserved for Vishnu. Bhrigu kicked the husband of the goddess of fortune in the chest.
This was a sneak attack. The victim was not expecting anything of the sort. Of the three, Vishnu had the most justification for being angry. He could have retaliated in kind and no one would blame Him. Vishnu would be expected to keep the disrespectful in line, especially those who flagrantly violated the most basic standards of decency.
Instead, Vishnu apologized. He was concerned that Bhrigu might have hurt his foot. Vishnu’s chest is hard, after all. There was no sign of agitation in Vishnu. This supports the claim that the Supreme Lord is atmarama. He is fully satisfied in the self.
The amount of worship or lack thereof makes no difference on His disposition. The living entities are free to do as they wish, but if asked for an honest assessment, the recommendation is always in favor of dharma. Those who follow dharma have the chance to be as dear to Vishnu as Bhrigu, who has direct access to Vaikuntha.
To assess tolerance correctly,
With Vaikuntha access directly.
Bhrigu with swift kick to the chest,
Offense against Vishnu test.
Surprisingly to astound,
That not any agitation found.
Vishnu considering brahmana dear,
His unlimited kindness clear.
Categories: the four