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Monday, June 4, 2007

How to Counteract Insults

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Nityananda! Gauranga! Hare Krishna! Generally we can see that our mind be­comes especially agitated whenever we are insulted and the thorn of the desire to take revenge torments the mind for a long time. The only way to control the mind in such cir­cumstances is by shutting our eyes to the in­sults. On reading this, you will probably be thinking, "Why in the wide world should I not take revenge on the person who has insulted me? He has caused me so much pain; he must suffer." But the reality is that he is not the actual cause of our suffering. We must have done some sinful activity in the past as a reac­tion to which we are insulted now as per the law of karma. And the person who has in­sulted us is just acting as an instrument in the hands of nature to deliver us our due suffer­ing. When we understand this, then we will be able to take the insult in a mature way with­out being unnecessarily agitated and without maintaining a vengeful feeling.

This is vividly illustrated in an instructive pastime that took place about 5000 years ago. The emperor of the whole world at that time  was Maharaj Parikshit. Once when he was go­ing through a forest, he was afflicted by se­vere thirst. Though he was the king of the en­tire world, here he was in the midst of the for­est and there was no one to fetch even a glass of water for him. At that time he saw a sage, Shamik rishi, performing penance in a hut. Being desperate to quench his thirst, he re­quested the sage to give him a glass of water. The sage was in deep trance and so he did not even hear the king. Parikshit was angered due to this apparently discourteous behavior of the sage. In his anger he put a dead snake around the neck of the sage and went away. After some time when the son of Shamik rishi Shringi came to know about how his father had been in­sulted, he pronounced a curse on Parikshit, "You will die after seven days due to the bite of a poisonous snake-bird."

When King Parikshit was informed about the curse, his response was highly exemplary. He was the emperor of the entire world and he was also a pure devotee of Lord Krishna. And for a minor mistake on his part, a young im­pudent boy had sounded his death-knell. If King Parikshit had wanted he could easily have counter-cursed Shringi. But far from try­ing to 'get even' with Shringi, Parikshit hum­bly accepted the curse and immediately re­nounced his entire kingdom in order to pre­pare for his imminent departure from this world. He went to the banks of the Ganges, offered his humble obeisances to the great sages assembled there and requested them:

tam mopayatam pratiyantu vipraganga ca devi dhrta-cittam
isedvijopasrstah kuhakas taksako va dasatv alam gayata visnu-gathah

"O brahmanas, just accept me as a com­pletely surrendered soul, and let mother Ganges, the representative of the Lord, also accept me in that way, for I have already taken the lotus feet of the Lord into my heart. Let the snakebird—or whatever magical thing the brahmana created—bite me at once. I only desire that you all continue singing the deeds of Lord Vishnu."

In this way Parikshit reacted to the curse in a very composed positive way. And conse­quently he was able to end his life on a very glorious note by returning to the kingdom of God. On the other hand if someone takes an in­sult very seriously then he can never be peace­ful as is seen from the story of Hiranyakashipu.

The king of the demons, Hiranyakashipu, was the master of all the three worlds. He had practically conquered the entire universe. Just by the raising of his eyelashes, all the power­ful demigods would start trembling in fear. His small five-year-old son, Prahlada, however, did not accept him to be supreme and. did not obey him. Though he was the emperor of the whole universe, just one tiny boy not accept­ing his supremacy was intolerable for him. His life became completely miserable; he lost his night sleep. He decided to ruthlessly murder small innocent Prahlada. But when all his at­tempts to do so were foiled, he became totally dejected. And finally Hiranyakashipu himself had to meet a ghastly death.

In the same way, if a hundred people re­spect us but one person insults us, that one insult makes us thoroughly miserable; the re­spect of hundred other people has no value for us. But if we understand that all these in­sults are coming upon us as a result of our past activities then we can learn to shut our eyes to the insults.And when we are insulted in such a way due to some reason, we should learn to for­get and forgive. We should never maintain grudges. If we nurture an ill feeling in our heart towards a man who has insulted us without openly expressing it, that is even worse than openly expressed anger. Suppressed anger is like mental cancer. It leads to sleeplessness, it poisons blood, it increases blood pressure and takes away all peace of mind. An insult is like spilt milk. If milk is spilt on the ground, then what can we do about it? Its finished; it's done. So we should learn to forget such incidents, which have already occured and just go ahead with our regular activities without becoming distracted or diffident. But if we nourish the grievances and brood over the past happen­ings, then not only does it cause immense pain to our heart but it may also lead to disas­trous consequences, as seen in the following incident from the Mahabharata.

When Drona, a brahmana's son, and Drupada, a prince, were studying in the same gurukula, they became close friends. One day, in a moment of intimate friendship, Drupada promised Drona, " When I inherit the kingdom of my father, I will give half of it to you." Later, Drupada went on to become the king of Panchal, whereas Drona became a poor brahmana. Once in a moment of acute pov­erty, when his son was crying piteously for milk and Drona  had no money to get any milk, he remembered the promise of his boy friend, Drupada. He therefore went to meet Drupada and reminded him of their old friendship. Sit­ting on his majestic royal throne, in the midst of the court, Drupada looked at the poor brahmana standing in front of him and said to him, "0 unfortunate brahmana, how do you consider me as your friend now? Past friend­ships are meaningless. Only equals can be friends. Now I am a great king and you are a poor brahmana. Do not try to invoke a long dead relationship." Saying this, Drupada laughed at Drona, gave him a little chanty and sent him off. Deeply insulted, Drona left Panchal, but his mind was fixed on revenge. He did not forget and forgive; instead he kept the memory of the incident burning in his heart and resolved to take revenge when the right moment came.

Later on Drona became the military teacher of the Pandavas and the Kauravas. When they completed their training and asked him what guru-dakshina they could give him, Drona re­quested them to capture Drupada and bring him as a prisoner before him. On hearing the desire of their guru, first the Kauravas, headed by Duryodhana, attacked Drupada, who eas­ily defeated them. When the Kauravas returned defeated, the Pandavas, headed by Arjuna, in­vaded Panchal. They defeated Drupada, ar­rested him, brought him as a captive to their gurukula and threw him. at the feel of Drona. On seeing how Drupada had been thor-oughly humiliated, Drona smiled at him and asked him,  "Oh my dear king, do you now desire to revive our old friendship? It seems that your kingdom and wealth have all become mine." Humiliated and ashamed, Drupada couldn 't speak a word. Adding insult to injury, Drona further said, "After all, I am a liberal brahmana, I am not going to take away your life. Moreover I have always cherished affec­tion for you as a friend. So 1 still desire your friendship, but, my dear Drupada, friendship can only be among equals. Now you have lost your whole kingdom and have become a beg­gar. And your entire kingdom and wealth have now become mine. So how can friendship ex­ist between a king like me and a beggar like you9 Having pity on a beggar like you, I give half of my kingdom to you. " And Drona gave half of the kingdom of Panchal to Drupada.Although he felt severely insulted, Drupada kept silent, knowing that he was in no position to retaliate. He understood that the mar­tial power of Drona was much greater than his. And moreover Drona now also had the mighty Pandavas as his disciples. So Drupada quietly took half of the kingdom and went away, but in his mind, he resolved, "One day I will take revenge for this great insult. " Later Drupada performed a massive fire sacrifice (yajna) to beget a son Dhrishtadyumna, who would kill Drona.

Thus we can see that, when one is insulted by another, but is not ready to forget and for­give, then one insults the other, the other counter-insults the first and the fight goes on and on. So, when we meditate on insults, there is no end to such fights. Therefore instead of wasting our precious human form of life in brooding over such past events, it is better to turn to God and seek refuge in Him. And, even if our heart is very much pained by the insult, we should go to God for shelter just like Dhruva did. When he was insulted by his stepmother, Dhruva took the right shelter. He went to the forest and approached the lotus feet of Lord Vishnu. By taking shelter of Lord Vishnu, in­stead of being left in the cold tofutilely mourn and grieve, all of the pains of Dhruva were wiped out and he achieved a kingdom greater than that of his great grandfather, Lord Brahma. In the same way, we can also become free from all suffering if we turn to God when we are insulted. (Compiled by Radheshyam Dasa, Jaigopala Dasa, Chaitanya Charana Dasa, Sundara Vara Dasa.)