śrī śrī guru gaurāṅga jayataḥ!

Rays of The Harmonist On-Line Edition

Year-4, Issue 4
Posted: 22 May 2011

Dedicated to
nitya-līlā praviṣṭa oṁ viṣṇupāda

Śrī Śrīmad Bhakti Prajñāna Keśava Gosvāmī Mahārāja

Inspired by and under the guidance of
nitya-līlā praviṣṭa oṁ viṣṇupāda

Śrī Śrīmad Bhaktivedānta Nārāyaṇa Gosvāmī Mahārāja

False Ego versus True Ego
(Baḍa Āmi versus Bhālo Āmi)

by Śrīla Bhaktisiddhānta Sarasvatī Ṭhākura Prabhupāda




Once upon a time there was a great battle between the demigods and the demons. When the demigods finally defeated the demons, they were extremely jubilant. In truth, the demigods were only victorious over the demons because of the influence of Bhagavān’s śakti, but the demigods forgot all about this.

They forgot that their power was mercifully given to them by Bhagavān, and within their minds they began to think that they had won the battle because of their own strength and expertise. Proud of their own worth, they began accepting the people’s respect and praise for the victory, for themselves.

Bhagavān, who was well aware of the foolishness the demigods were succumbing to, appeared before them in a disguised form to remove their pride. And indeed, when the demigods saw Bhagavān standing before them in disguise, they had no idea who He was. Therefore, they approached Agni, the god of fire.

“Who is this respected personality standing before us?” asked the demigods. “Please go to him and find out who he is.”

So Agni approached that great personality.

The stranger, who was really Bhagavān in disguise, asked him, “Who are you?”

“I am Agni, the famous personification of fire,” replied Agni.

“What power do you have?” asked the stranger.

“I can transform everything on the earth into ash within a single muhūrta*,” replied Agni.

* A muhūrta is 1/30th of a day, or 48 minutes.

The stranger then placed a piece of straw in front of Agni.

“Burn this,” said the stranger.

So Agni approached the piece of straw and tried to use his power to burn it. But somehow, despite focusing all of his power on the lone piece of straw, he could not burn it. Agni returned to the other demigods and addressed them.

“I cannot understand who this great personality is,” he admitted.

So the demigods next sent the powerful god of wind, Vāyu, to find out who that great personality was. Vāyu approached the stranger, who was actually Bhagavān in disguise, and as before, the stranger at once asked him, “Who are you?”

“I am Mātariśvā,” replied Vāyu, “the god of wind.”

“What power do you have?” asked the stranger.

“I can carry away any object on the face of the earth,” replied Vāyu.

The stranger, who was actually Bhagavān in disguise, placed a piece of straw in front of Vāyu and asked him to carry it away. Vāyu used all of his power to carry away the piece of straw, but he could not even roll it as much as the thickness of a hair. So Vāyu, too, returned to the demigods and addressed them.

“I, also, cannot understand who this great personality is,” he admitted.

The demigods then sent Indra, their king, to learn the identity of that great personality. But when Indra approached him, the stranger disappeared. Suddenly, the supremely beautiful Umā Devī appeared in the sky. When Indra saw her, he approached her and inquired, “Who was that great personality?”

Umā Devī replied, “He was Parabrahma, the Supreme Absolute Truth. Your glorious victory over the demons was only possible because of His grandeur. His śakti is the source of your śakti. If He were to withdraw His power, all of you would become completely worthless. Whatever ability, expertise, valour or heroism you may possess, Parabrahma is the sole master and origin of all of it. He is the controller of everything and you are the controlled, the subordinate. Whenever you begin to believe that you are accomplishing everything by your own śakti, He will immediately withdraw His śakti.”

If someone fails to recognize and honour the śakti of guru and Bhagavān, and instead wants to steal the profit, worship and prestige that are truly and eternally meant for them, then Śrī Hari, guru and Vaiṣṇavas steal all of the skills that person possesses.

Only when the jīva engages all of his ability and expertise in serving Śrī Hari does he become infused with the light of the profuse mercy of Śrī Hari, guru and Vaiṣṇavas. On the other hand, when the jīva engages his ability and expertise in nurturing his vanity or out of envy or malice towards śrī guru and Vaiṣṇavas, he inevitably guarantees his own, complete destruction. The sole, original support, or foundation, of all forms of śakti is Parameśvara, the Supreme Lord. Therefore, all wealth, women, gain, worship and honour is meant for Him alone.

pratiṣṭhāśā-taru, jaḍa-māyā-maru,
nāpela ‘rāvaṇa’ yujhiyā ‘rāghava’
vaiṣṇavī-pratiṣṭhā, tāte koro niṣṭhā,
tāhā nā bhajile labhibe raurava

Vaiṣṇava ke, by Śrīla Prabhupāda Sarasvatī Ṭhākura

The desire for glory and adoration is like the appearance of a tree within a mirage in the desert of material illusion. The demon Rāvaṇa – who was the incarnation of worldly lust – was unable to attain this tree despite battling with Lord Rāmacandra – the incarnation of pure love. In other words, Rāvaṇa coveted the position of Rāma, who is the Lord of everything. O mind, have resolute determination for the glory that is naturally inherent in a Vaiṣṇava – namely, that he is perfectly situated as the eternal servant of Śrī Kṛṣṇa. If you neglect to worship the Lord from this position, then you will inevitably attain a hellish existence.

Rāvaṇa was so bewildered by prestige that he wanted to acquire the position of Bhagavān Rāmacandra Himself. He fought in battle with Bhagavān because he thought he could even displace the Supreme Lord; such was his arrogance. But to obtain that honour was not in his fate, for he was destroyed.

When the jīva disregards Bhagavān’s śakti and vainly only believes in his own expertise, such destruction is his only reward. Therefore, all gain, worship and respect should be offered to the lotus feet of Śrī Hari, guru and Vaiṣṇavas and not appropriated for oneself. When the jīva knows himself to be the servant of the servant of Śrī Kṛṣṇa, and thus engages all profit, worship and adoration in the service of guru, Vaiṣṇavas and Bhagavān, then he can properly utilize the śakti given to him by Parameśvara.

The moral of this story from the Upaṇiṣads is that one should renounce the arrogant conception of ‘baḍa āmi ’ – the belief that ‘I am Big’, or ‘I am Great’. In other words, one should renounce false ego, which causes one to believe ‘I am the doer’ and ‘I am the enjoyer’ of everything, and that ‘I can accomplish everything by my own strength’. Instead, one should embrace true ego, or the genuine self-conception of ‘bhālo āmi ’ – the belief that ‘I am well’. In other words, one should reflect as follows:

“I am an insignificant living entity; the eternal servant of the servant of Śrī Hari, guru and the Vaiṣṇavas. Their mercy alone is my strength. They are factually my operator, and I am simply their instrument.”

We must always nourish the proper and honest mood of ‘bhālo āmi ’ within our heart. Indeed, the jīva’s independent and arrogant mood is actually his false ego, or his conception of being great and significant – that is, ‘baḍa āmi ’. On the other hand, the jīva’s genuine and heartfelt aspiration for mercy, along with his endeavours to rectify himself while remaining eternally subordinate to his guruvarga’s discipline is his true ego – that is, ‘bhālo āmi ’.

Translated by the Rays of the Harmonist team
from Upākhyāne Upadeśa

Upākhyāne Upadeśa is Śrīla Bhaktisiddhānta Sarasvatī Ṭhākura Prabhupāda’s instructions through the medium of scriptural moral tales.

Rays of The Harmonist On-line, Year 4, Issue 4 “False Ego versus True Ego - (Baḍa Āmi versus Bhālo Āmi)” by Śrīla Bhaktisiddhānta Sarasvatī Ṭhākura Prabhupāda , is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported License to ensure that it is always freely available. You may redistribute this article if you include this license and attribute it to Rays of The Harmonist. Please ask for permission before using the Rays of The Harmonist banner-logo.