What are the Obstacles to Spiritual Growth? | Shistastakam Trnad Api Sunicena Verse Meaning

Two Enemies Of Spirituality

Lord Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, the direct incarnation of Lord Krishna in this current age of Kaliyuga says, “Trnad api sunicena taror api sahisnuna amanina manadena kirtaniyah sada harih”

तृणादपि सुनीचेन तरोरपि सहिष्णुना .

अमानिना मानदेन कीर्तनीयः सदा हरिः

(श्री शिक्षाष्टकम् Shikshashtakam)

“One who is humbler than a blade of grass, more forbearing than a tree who gives due honor to others without desiring honor for himself is qualified to always chant the Holy Name of Krishna.” Here the secret for the attaining the highest level in spirituality is mentioned. The two aspects of the mind which are the greatest impediments for our spiritual progress are

1) The desire for praise, recognition and glory from the world

2) Our aversion to personal insults and defamation.

For almost 100% of the population, it is the mind which is in charge of their lives. This means that man is the servant of the diktat of the mind. When thoughts and emotions are active, it naturally follows that awareness is low. When this happens, we become slaves to the orders given to us, by our minds. Our inability to see our “minds” separate from the Self, introduces the two tendencies mentioned above. All our lives, we are hankering for inner peace and happiness. However we have handed over the task of attaining these goals to the mind. Mind has another name “Maya”, which means “that which is not”. There is also another way of looking at it. The mind, is tuned in such a way that, it hands over those things to us, which are actually opposed to what we are looking for. This means that if we are looking for light, the mind actually hands over darkness to us, saying that it is light and since our awareness is low, we trust the mind and take that to be true. Since we are “unaware” we accept all lies to be true. This is the very basis of our material life.

When one gets praise from the world, one becomes happy. When somebody appreciates our work we are overjoyed. When someone insults us or puts us down we feel low and angry. We seethe with revenge. These two tendencies of aversion towards insults and hankering for praise are “unhealthy” by all means. This is what the Vedic scriptures and the sages say. If these two tendencies are natural, if we want to put it that way, then we are naturally not inclined to be spiritual. For cultivation of spirituality, the opposite has to become true in our lives. Unless this happens, spirituality cannot catch root, in our lives. When we become uncomfortable and restless when somebody praises or commends us and when we become happy and contented when somebody hurls insults or abuses on us, it can be safely concluded that we have become humble. Only under these conditions, humility is said to be a part of us.

Usually when somebody praises us, we may say “Oh, I do not deserve this” and try to become humble, but inside, we are happy and enjoy the feeling of praise. This is hypocrisy. This is a distortion of consciousness and is a poison for spiritual well-being. Instead, if one is a serious spiritual practitioner, one should constantly and consistently avoid praise. Even if someone is genuinely praising us, we need to direct that praise as “Praise of the Lord” in our hearts and redirect all the praises to Him and join our voices in His praise. That is the greatest transmutation of praise, in the positive direction. With this redirection, one can cultivate true humility.

When someone is abusing or criticizing us, if we become eager to accept those hurls endearingly, it can actually serve to make us more humble and soft. However this strength only develops within us, as a matter of sadhana (साधना spiritual practice). When one is eager to accept insults, one can direct those insults to puncture our own ego. We may pray thus when we get insulted “Oh Lord, I do not know how many people or beings I may have insulted or hurt. You are so kind that you are given those back to me. I deserve more of these insults, since I am a fallen soul. I owe all the insults of the world and You deserve all the glory and praises. I have bequeathed my rightful property in the form of insults. Oh Lord, I am so thankful to You”. When one prays thus and increases one’s capacity to accept insults gracefully, the heart becomes soft and humble. It should be also noted that the mind may revolt and try its level best to ignite hatred and revenge. This is when our hearts should go to the prayer of Lord Chaitanya Mahaprabhu as taught by him to the world. The Lord says that unless we become like a blade of grass inside our hearts, Grace cannot come. We should have the capacity to take even stones thrown on us by the people; just as a stone thrown on trees will only bring down the fruits laden on the trees. A man who is humble thus, has the capacity not only transform oneself, but develops the wits to transform society. This is the power of humility. The Lord also says that unless a man is humble in his heart, no amount of chanting the names of the Lord can yield results. The heart which is humble can only have the power to summon the Lord.