Calcutta, India — Thursday, July 8th

Humility, tolerance, respect

Srila Gurudeva is beaming happily, looking at a slide show on his PowerBook: digital photographs of the service activities of many of the devotees from various parts of the world. Appreciating the service mood of one devotee in particular, he taps the computer screen and smiles approvingly: "He is doing very nice service."

Then a look of frustration crosses his face: "I can't understand why he gets no respect," he says, shaking his head. "His behavior is a little rough, no doubt, but if we want to get service to the Lord we must tolerate so many difficulties. Then why they are not tolerating?"

Who is Srila Gurudeva talking about?

The names of the devotees (or the country that they are from) are not really that important, because the lesson to be learned from this incident is universal.

If Srila Gurudeva is talking about me and my service, then yes, although my behavior may not always be the best, the other devotees should learn to tolerate me because in spite of that, I am doing some service. Did Srila Gurudeva not say so?

Yet if the sandal is on the other foot, so to speak, then even though some other devotees' service is pleasing to Srila Gurudeva, I am unable to appreciate their service or respect their efforts because their behavior or their attitude towards me is sometimes a little rough, displeasing, or in some other way intolerable to me.

But to practice Krishna consciousness properly (kirtaniyah sada harih) presupposes that we be humble (trnad api sunicena), tolerant (taror api sahisnuna) and give all respect to others (manadena) without expecting any respect in return (amanina).

So what to speak if somebody's service is pleasing to Srila Gurudeva? To oppose that service — to envy that person, to want that pratistha for ourselves — is suicidal!

Humility, honor, and respect are the leitmotif of all Srila Gurudeva's talks. Indeed, if someone were to ask, "What did Srila Gurudeva talk about?" and you were to answer, "Humility, honor, and respect," you would be correct at least eight times out of ten.

We have to be so careful in our dealings with each other. We must learn to give our fellow devotees some respect (or at least the benefit of the doubt!) and not be so eager to make a name for ourselves or to promote ourselves, especially at the expense of others, because that sort of behavior, we have seen, will surely displease Srila Gurudeva.

Calcutta, India — Sunday, July 11th

Grace is not exclusive

Our relationship with Srila Gurudeva is not exclusive. Like Lord Krishna, whom he represents, Srila Gurudeva is all-accommodating: our relationship does not preclude others from having a similar relationship.

We are serving in one way, and our fellow devotees are serving in another way. We may see some difference, or some competitiveness in our service, but for Srila Gurudeva, it is all service.

Earlier this year, Srila Gurudeva remarked: "When I go to a country, different devotees from different factions try to serve me in various ways. Although locally the devotees may see some friction, or have some difficulty adjusting with each other's service, I do not have that difficulty. To me it is all service."

We must remember this, and try to accommodate the service and service mood of the other devotees. We must be very careful not to offend the other Vaishnavas, or worse, Srila Gurudeva, by criticizing or not fully appreciating the service of other devotees, or thinking that our service is acceptable and theirs is not.

In Sermons of the Guardian of Devotion, Volume Two, Srila Sridhar Maharaj warns that this envious attitude is detrimental to spiritual life:

"We want causeless mercy for ourselves, but at the same time we can't tolerate others in that same line: 'Why should he receive causeless mercy? He has got so many defects, so many disqualifications, why should he be accepted or given any chance?'"

We pray: "'Don't come to judge me, my Lord. If You come to judge me, I have no hope. Please grant Your grace.' But at the same time, in the same breath, we say, 'Why should this disqualified man get any grace? Why should he get some mercy and affection?' That is hypocritical.

"Generally, that is the basis of vaisnava-aparadha, an offense to the devotees. When a devotee is accepted by the Lord, he will be gradually purified, but we are very eager to find fault in him...

"If, in my case I want something higher [mercy above justice], but in the case of others I can't tolerate the same behavior of the Lord, that will be most dangerous for our own progress — it is suicidal."

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