Sri Ramakrishna would warn his devotees about the danger of vanity. He would say how vanity is a grave impediment to spiritual progress. In his own inimitable style he would draw inferences from incidents of daily life. He would explain vanity this way: “Those who have read a few books cannot get rid of conceit. They will boast of their knowledge and will be in no mood to listen to others. Once I had a talk with Kalikrishna (a man of learning) about God. At once he said that he knew all about that. I told him that does a man who has visited Delhi brag about it? Does a gentleman go about telling everyone that he is a gentleman? There was a fallen woman near the temple garden at Dakshineswar. How proud she was! This was because she had a few ornaments. One day a few men were crossing her path and she shouted at them, ‘Hey! Get out of the way, you people!’ If a fallen woman could talk that way, what can one say about the vanity of others?

Sri Ramakrishna would thus elaborate the dangers posed by vanity. It harbours a feeling of pride, knowledge, etc., in a person in a measure far more than what he actually possesses. It gives a false or wrong sense of comfort and well-being. These are great impediments to spiritual progress. Hence, a spiritual aspirant should be extremely careful to steer clear of the feeling of vanity. Moreover, the more a person progresses in spiritual life, the more humble he becomes. Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu in his famous “Shikshastakam” sings about being humbler than a blade of grass and having a quality of forbearance harder than a tree. Further, he talks of showing honour even to those who are supposedly lowly and about singing the name of God always.

This indirectly implies that if one possesses the first three qualities then only is it possible to remember God always.

by SWAMI SHANTATMANANDA

Published in the ‘Sacred Books of the East’ column, Sunday Guardian, 23rd Feb 2013

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