śrī śrī guru gaurāṅga jayataḥ!

Rays of The Harmonist On-Line Edition

Year-5, Issue 9
Posted: 5 October, 2012

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


The True Meaning of
Being Humbler than a Blade of Grass

by Śrīla Bhaktisiddhānta Sarasvatī Ṭhākura Prabhupāda


Question 1: Is the material nature, or māyā, the root cause of the cosmic creation?

Answer: The material energy consisting of the three modes of material nature can never be the root cause of the creation of the universe. The Supreme Lord infuses His energy into material nature through His glance. Only then, by the strength of His energy, does nature (prakṛti) become the secondary cause of cosmic creation, just as iron becomes infused with burning power only after it is placed in fire. The false nipple on the neck of a goat – the very emblem of things that are not as useful as they seem – fails to deliver milk. Similarly, the material energy, or prakṛti, is only the ingredient cause of creation (upādāna-karaṇa), and cannot create the universe alone.

However, by virtue of certain aspects of nature that take the form of creative modalities, the material energy has also been described as the instrumental cause (nimitta karaṇa). But, even in that case, it is solely Kṛṣṇa who is the original instrumental cause. Lord Nārāyaṇa is the primary instrumental cause (nimitta karaṇa) and can be likened to a potter, while the material nature can be likened to the potter’s wheel and spinning-rod, which comprise the secondary instrumental cause (nimitta karaṇa).*

* This is an extension of a common analogy used to describe the difference between the two types of cause: ingredient (upādāna) and instrumental (nimitta). Clay is the ingredient used to make a pot, but it must be shaped by a potter. The clay is the ingredient cause (upādāna karaṇa) and the potter is the instrumental cause (nimitta karaṇa).

Just as a pot cannot be created without a potter, the universe cannot be created without Śrī Kṛṣṇa. The Kāraṇavaśāyī Puruṣa, Śrī Viṣṇu, resides in the Causal Ocean. From a distance, He glances upon the material nature. This leads to two actions. First, He infuses nature with countless living beings, who exist as the infinitesimal particles within the rays of His glance, and second, by touching māyā with just the semblance of His limbs, He personally generates countless universes.

That He touches māyā with the semblance of His limbs implies that He touches her with the mere impression of His limbs; they do not ever meet in the real sense. It is Śrī Kṛṣṇa Himself, the Supreme Being, who enters into each universe through His expansion as the Puruṣa avatāra. Therefore, Śrī Kṛṣṇa alone is the root cause of the creation.

It is said in the scriptures:

kṛṣṇa-śaktye prakṛti haya gauṇa kāraṇa
agni-śaktye lauha yaiche karaye jāraṇa

Śrī Caitanya-caritāmṛta (Ādi-līlā 5.61)

Brahma-dhāma, the plane of luminous spirit, exists external to the paravyoma, the spiritual sky. And external to that is the causal ocean (karaṇa-samudra). While the abode of full transcendental consciousness (cinmaya-dhāma) has no cause (karaṇa-śūnya), the material nature is composed of various causes (karaṇa-mayi). The space between these two realms is the divine causal ocean (karaṇa-samudra).

The Supreme Being, lying in that causal ocean, glances at the material nature, which exists extrinsically to that region, and it is this glance alone that engages nature in creation. The material energy (māyā-śakti) exists externally to the causal ocean and cannot touch it. The glance of the Supreme Being enters into the material nature and activates her.

Question 2: By what method should we rid ourselves of anarthas (tendencies that are obstacles to spiritual advancement)?

Answer: Without performing hari-bhajana, the living entity becomes a fruitive worker (karmī), an empiricist (jñānī) or one engaged in the pursuit of selfish interests (anyābhilāṣī). Therefore one must always call out to Bhagavān by chanting the mahā-mantra. One must chant a fixed number of Kṛṣṇa’s holy names, according to ones capacity, for it leads to deliverance from anarthas and sends inactiveness and lethargy far away. By engaging in chanting the holy names of Śrī Hari without offence, all varieties of perfection are achieved.

Question 3: How should the devotee behave while living in this world?

Answer: Although people around him will invariably engage in mundane conversations, he should not listen to such discussions. When a person is determined to move forward on his own dutiful path, nothing harmful can hinder him. He should offer respect to those who are averse to bhakti, but should not come to honour their behaviour. Rather, he should renounce it within the core of his heart.

When he has time, he should deliberate on books like ŚaraṇāgatiPrārthana and Prema-bhakti-candrika. It is better to have śāstriya-sādhu-saṅga (saintly association through authentic scripture) than no sādhu-saṅga at all. Later, for instruction in the art of internal, transcendental service (bhajana-śikṣā), direct sādhu-saṅga is necessary.

Question 4: What is the true meaning of being humbler than a blade of grass?*

* C.f. Śrī Śikṣāṣtaka (3): “tṛṇād api sunīcena taror api sahiṣṇunā amāninā mānadena kīrtanīyaḥ sadā hariḥ

Answer: Although the Vaiṣṇava is the topmost personality, he considers himself more insignificant than a blade of grass. In reality, he is not insignificant or lowly. Rather he is worthy of being honoured by the Supreme Lord Himself. Vaiṣṇavas are worthy of everyone’s worship and honour. This is why the word su-nīca* has been used instead of simply nīca (low).

* Apart from adding emphasis, the prefix su- indicates goodness, virtue and beauty. Therefore sunīca has often been translated as ‘humbler’ rather than ‘lower’.

“I am the dust of the lotus feet of Śrīla Gurudeva. I am the servant of śrī guru and Śrī Kṛṣṇa.” This transcendental self-conception (abhimāna) is indeed tṛṇād api sunīcatā* – being humbler than a blade of grass.

ṭṛṇāt – than grass; api – even; sunīca – humbler;  – the quality. Hence, tṛṇād api sunīca-tā indicates the quality of being even humbler than grass.

Śrīman Mahāprabhu gave three teachings: compassion toward all living entities (jīve-dayā); taste for the holy names (nāma ruci); and service to the Vaiṣṇavas (vaiṣṇava-sevā). Tṛṇād api sunīcatā does not mean duplicity – enacting humility externally or through words alone. The true meaning of tṛṇād api sunīcatā is the actual ability (adhikāra) to perform kīrtana. In other words, it means to have true taste for chanting the holy names, identifying oneself as the servant of Śrī Nāma.

Service to śrī guru and the Vaiṣṇavas is the only doorway to attaining taste for chanting the holy names. That service alone is tṛṇad api sunīcatā. One’s expression of lowliness (nīcatā), humility or prayer for mercy should be exhibited in front of the Vaiṣṇavas, not in front of avaiṣṇavas.

The mahājanas (the great spiritual authorities) have advised that one’s humility should not be made evident in front of anyone and everyone. To express one’s humility in front of an atheist who is envious of śrī guru and the Vaiṣṇavas, in front of a demoniac person like Rāvaṇa or in front of a pretentious brāhmaṇa, is not vaiṣṇava-sevā, nor is it tṛṇād api sunīcatā. If a person does so, he can never attain the ability to perform kīrtana, nor can he develop taste for chanting the holy names. In fact, such a misplaced display of humility is an act of violence toward other living entities. On the other hand, when Śrī Hanuman, the devotee of Śrī Rāma, set all of Lanka on fire, it was truly tṛṇād api sunīcatā.

Question 5: What does it mean to be compassionate to other living entities?

Answer: Śrī Caitanyadeva explains that the true meaning of compassion towards the living entities is to inspire them to engage in serving Śrī Viṣṇu (Kṛṣṇa) and Vaiṣṇavas. This is the most astonishing element of Śrī Caitanyadeva’s compassion.

Question 6: Is everything the Supreme Lord does beneficial for us?

Answer: Definitely. Everything that the most benevolent Supreme Lord does is solely an expression of His mercy. He is all-auspicious, so there is no scope for inauspiciousness in the arrangements He makes. Whatever He does and whenever He does it, it is solely for absolute good. All those conditioned souls who consider that apparent impediments to their happiness are harmful or the cruelty of the Supreme Lord, see only the first move in the chess game. They are unable to foresee what lies beyond the fourth or the fifth move.

The mercy bestowed by Śrī Caitanyadeva or His devotees is amandodāya-dayā*. There is no trace of anything that could be called harmful or lowly in their compassion. When bitter medicine is given to a patient, he calls the doctor a merciless cruel person, but when he is relieved of the disease, he realizes how compassionate the doctor was to give him the bitter medicine.

a-manda – nothing bad; udāya – gives rise; dayā – compassion. Compassion that exclusively awakens immense good fortune, without granting any insignificant results or causing any harm or loss, is calledamandodāya-dayā

Translated by the Rays of The Harmonist team
from Śrīla Prabhupādera Upadeśāmṛta 
Questions re-numbered for this on-line presentation


Śrīla Prabhupādera Upadeśāmṛta is a compilation of Śrīla Bhaktisiddhānta Sarasvatī Ṭhākura Prabhupāda’s instructions in question-and-answer form.


Rays of The Harmonist On-line, Year-5, Issue 9 “The True Meaning of Being Humbler than a Blade of Grass” 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.
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