The meaning of respect by Sacinandana Swami


Materialistic society teaches us to be aggressive and calculating so we can push our way through. In Vaisnava culture it is opposite – we offer respect. The reason: when you give respect without expecting something in return, you open yourself up to the power of divine blessings.

Imbibing a culture of respect, where you are deferential towards others in general but especially towards elders and vaisnavas, brings a tremendous potency to you that cannot be accessed otherwise. The driving force of a spiritual society is the power of blessings from the vaisnavas and mercy from krsna.

Blessings and mercy take us beyond what we can hope to achieve by ourselves. our personal strength can bring about certain achievements but these will always remain within the limits of our karma, of what is preordained for us. only the power of blessings can carry us beyond. Srila Prabhupada is known for quoting napoleon who said “Impossible is a word in a fool’s dictionary.” I used to wonder how this is possible until I learned that Srila Prabhupada is referring to the extraordinary power of blessings received from the spiritual master that make everything possible. In a spiritual culture, therefore, every activity is performed after first collecting blessings from superiors.

we know that it is better to take a humble position and show respect than to take a superior position and demand respect. The moment you are respectful you open yourself up to blessings. My dear devotees, if you want to move forward in your life then you should know the art of giving respect to elders. If you do this, you gain a mystical support that ensures all your undertakings are successful.

There are five factors that determine our success and especially the fifth factor determines if success is possible at all. The first four: the proper place, time, endeavor and skill all depend on the fifth factor: Paramatma, the Supersoul in the heart, who arranges this world according to His plans. In spiritual culture we inhabit the opposite attitude to material culture where everything depends on one’s own strength and efforts. a spiritual attitude knows of a different power – the power of blessings from devotees.

Two important people to receive blessings from are our parents. The Lord personally shows by example: Lord Ramacandra first requested the blessings of His father Dasaratha before taking Sita as His wife, and Sri caitanya Mahaprabhu would not take sannyasa unless His mother Sacidevi gave her blessings. The dharma-sastras say a mother’s blessings are even superior to those of the father because she has carried us for nine months and given birth under great physical pain. Men could not endure the same pain, they would die from it, but the mother’s organism is equipped with the necessary resilience because of her exemplary love.

The english word respect comes from the Latin word respectare. Spectare means “to look” and re like in repeat, reanimation, reincarnation or resurrection means “again”. Thus, respectare means “to look again”. How can we apply this in our lives?

we usually look with the apara-vicara, which means the external, material perspective. In order to “look again” we must see with a different, improved perspective called the tattva- vicara, a perspective that seeks spiritual truth. as devotees we offer respect to all living beings. To practice this you can do the following exercise: learn to respect all devotees by “looking again”. Take for example Suresh patel; if I look at him in one way, he is a human being like all of us. He has the same needs we all have – he wants to eat, he wants to be happy, he want this and that, and sometimes Suresh will get on my nerves because he wants the same thing I want – he wants respect and to be recognized. His interest will sometimes cross my interest and
it will be painful for me. Maybe he will take something that I want for myself? or maybe he will be more successful than me and have more followers on his Facebook page? So, if I want to respect Suresh, who is a good devotee, I should look again.
What do I see when I look at the same Suresh with tattva-vicara? I will see that he is a spiritual soul and a part of krsna. He does not belong to any nationality or particular conditioning; he is an eternal soul and dear to the Lord. The Lord loves all of his parts and parcels and thus He is in the heart of Suresh. Yes, Suresh is a temple of the Lord.

This is the vision we can practice. Let us see each other with respectare – by looking again. You can see your significant other as an eternal servant of the Lord and that both of you are meant to support each other. If you are a brahmacari, you can look at the other brahmacaris as temples of the Lord where the Lord
is present, and thus respect and assist each other. The culture of respecting each other reaches its pinnacle when we respect superiors, mentors, more experienced vaisnavas and parents from whom we can collect blessings. Yes, even parents, though it may be difficult sometimes because they may see things differently from us. even blessings of non-devotee parents are important, so we should give them respect. They may not be happy with our spiritual path, but it remains important to try to have a relationship with them that induces them to bless us. we can act more properly, be kind, respectful and so on. Therefore, I encourage you please shift from material to spiritual vision.

From a lecture by Sacinandana Swami in almviks Gard, Sweden, July 31st, 2018.


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