Ch 5, VERSE 18
विद्याविनयसम्पन्ने ब्राह्मणे गवि हस्तिनि ।
शुनि चैव श्वपाके च पण्डिताः समदर्शिनः ॥१८॥
brāhmaṇe gavi hastini
śuni caiva śva-pāke ca
vidyā—with education; vinaya—and gentleness; sampanne—fully equipped; brāhmaṇe—in the brāhmaṇa; gavi—in the cow; hastini—in the elephant; śuni—in the dog; ca—and; eva—certainly; śva—pāke—in the dog—eater (the outcaste); ca—respectively; paṇḍitāḥ—those who are wise; sama-darśinaḥ—who see with equal vision.
The humble sage, by virtue of true knowledge, sees with equal vision a learned and gentle brahmana, a cow, an elephant, a dog and a dog-eater [outcaste].
brāhmaṇe gavi hastini
śuni caiva śva-pāke ca
“The humble sage, by virtue of true knowledge, sees with equal vision a learned and gentle brahmana, a cow, an elephant, a dog and a dog-eater [or outcaste].”
So, just drawing your attention to the last two words sama–darśinaḥ, or to “see with equal vision.” This quality is one of the significant indicators of a person’s spiritual advancement. We see from the very beginning of the Bhagavad-gita, the foundation for all of the instruction that Lord Krishna is giving to Arjuna is the understanding that the bodies are not who we are, that we are in fact the atma, the self, the eternal spiritual being residing within. And amongst all of the living beings, apart from the Supreme Being, we are all equal. That then dictates a person’s relationship, their behaviour, in dealing with or interacting with other living beings. So this equalness of vision it truly is very central to spiritual life and spiritual advancement.
There’s a couple of other verses that refer directly to this, in the Bhagavad-gita as well. In the sixth chapter, the ninth verse it states:
“A person is considered still further spiritually advanced when he regards the honest well-wishers, the affectionate benefactors, the neutral, the mediators, the envious, the friends and enemies, the pious and the sinners all with an equal mind.”
So, just touching on that for a moment. You generally see here different categories of people, as they interact or relate to me, and the general tendency in the material world for people that are immersed in material identity, material vision, is to behave differently and to interact differently solely on the basis of these different identity labels, how you’re identifying someone. So, I mean, the most obvious is that a person behaves or reacts in one way with a friend, and an entirely different way with a perceived enemy. And in terms of whether someone is considered low and sinful or very pious there will be a tendency to interact differently as well. But a person as stated here, is further spiritually advanced when he regards all of these with an equal mind.
So we can see this wonderful vision that we are encouraged to actively cultivate, and how society and the world would be much better off if people actively strove to cultivate this vision, this understanding, this appreciation. Even if everybody was not actively engaged in cultivating this, if a significant—say 10 or 20 percent of the population was, that would have a remarkable impact upon the rest of the population. Everybody becomes very much influenced by people that they encounter.
I recall, in the work that I do in the prison, meeting a convicted murderer who was a pretty—in his early life an active gang member, very murderous, a very violent person. And he was given a 19 or 21 year sentence for murder. And there were two people that visited him, not always, but from time to time in prison. Both of them were elderly white men. He was Maori. And one of them was very steeped in Maori culture and promoted the teaching of the culture tikanga and te reo, the Maori language, to inmates of Maori extraction who had become very disconnected from their culture, as a way of helping them undergo change and find more meaning in life than what they currently had. The other was a Christian missionary person who was just a very, very gentle person.
And I can remember this prisoner, he was one time visited by this elderly man before Christmas, and the elderly man, as part of their conversation, said to him, “Brownie, would you like to sing a hymn with me—a Christmas hymn with me?” and Brownie said, “Why the f would I want to do that?” That was his response, but then as we became engaged in deeper conversation over time, you could see how deeply this person had affected and influenced the prisoner’s life, to the extent that when he got out of prison, he actively sought out this gentleman and his wife, and would visit them, and was utterly devastated when the man was killed in an accident—a car crashed into his house. So you can—you really do see how even a minority of people who are living by these principles, how they can have a deep and quite remarkable effect on society.
So another verse I will just read to you. This is from the 6th chapter, 32nd verse:
“He is a perfect yogi who, by comparison to his own self, sees the true equality of all beings, in both their happiness and their distress.”
So just drawing your attention, that “by comparison to his own self” one sees the equality of all beings both in their happiness and distress. This vision of things, this way of seeing things, this clarity was really important. One of the most significant by-products of cultivating this vision is the development of empathy; and with the development of empathy one actively seeks the welfare of others, or at least minimum, will not do something to harm others, knowing how they feel and what they are experiencing.
The arousal of empathy is one of the most significant developments in people that are sexual predators, who have a life of criminal sexual behaviour, exploiting, particularly young people, for their own so-called pleasure. And one of the commonalities with them is that they are utterly oblivious to the harm that they cause others.
The big driver for almost all criminal activity, all hurtful activity, is intense selfishness. You’ll see in most criminal activity the offender doesn’t actually see a person there. They are fixated on something that they want, that they think will further their happiness, their enjoyment. And so if they’re holding up a store, if they’re robbing someone, if they’re doing a burglary, whatever, they just don’t see a victim. They are fixated on what they want, and they are going for it, and if someone gets in their way, it’s just an obstacle to getting what they want, and they’ll deal with it however they need to. And it’s often the mentality of people that are sexual offenders. They refer to it as more of a crime concerning power than actual sexual desire, and that’s largely true seen in this context as well. And so the development of empathy really brings about monumental shift in how people will engage and deal with each other.
I’ll just read a little part of the commentary that Srila Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupad wrote on this verse: “The brahmana…”
Well, I’ll just pause there, for those who don’t know what is a brahmana. The ancient Vedic system divided society into four basic groups. These were known as the varnas. The brahmanas were meant to be the leaders of society, not in the sense of political leaders but thought leaders. They guided people on how to live properly, and in value systems that elevated society and specifically spiritual values. And so a brahmana was considered to be both learned and compassionate. And so when they speak of such a person they are speaking of these qualities.
And similarly the outcast that’s been referenced here, they were those who lived on the margins of society, who may be users of drugs and intoxicants, quite often engaging in some criminal activity, having no regard for social norms, many of the characteristics that you see with these homeless encampments that you see around the cities in the world now, where people become afraid to go there in the evening—the chances of getting held up or mugged or worse, the rampant use of drugs and things. Such persons were considered outcasts. And one of the characteristics of this outcast group was that they were not very concerned about what to eat and what not to eat, what is considered clean or unclean, and so they were known to, from time to time, kill and eat dogs. And you see in certain societies around the world this is a kind of activity that people like to engage in while, usually, drinking, amongst a bunch of guys drinking, amongst friends, they will kill a dog and cook it and eat it, while engaging in drinking. So it’s speaking to a certain category of person.
So in this verse which we’re having now explained by Srila Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupad, we’re seeing contrasting categories of entities.
“The brahmana and the outcaste may be different from the social point of view, or a dog, a cow or an elephant may be different from the point of view of species, but these differences of body are meaningless from the viewpoint of a learned transcendentalist. This is due to their relationship to the Supreme, for the Supreme Lord, by His plenary portion as the Paramatma, is present in everyone’s heart. Such an understanding of the Supreme is real knowledge.”
So we see now that there are two things that are guiding the development of this vision. One is the equality of the soul, the spirit soul within, regardless of what type of body is being acquired or what type of mentality one is being currently—the soul is currently being covered by, that does not erase the equality of the being within. So that is one guiding principle.
And the other is the recognition that within the heart of all living beings (I don’t mean the heart as the muscle that’s beating away, but within that region, within the core of one’s being) resides an expansion of the Lord known as the Paramatma, or the Supreme Soul, who is accompanying each individual on their sojourn through this material world, waiting for them to turn and recognize the actual Lord of their heart, and to rekindle this lost relationship which is the relationship that we are all seeking. The love, the friendship, the companionship, that intimate friend that we all seek, we—that desire exists because of this covered relationship which is eternal, eternally part of who we are.
And for one who is cultivating the vision to recognize that the Paramatma is accompanying each living being within the recesses of their heart, it really does direct and control how I behave towards this individual, because the Lord of my own heart is witnessing these activities, and if someone is so dear to this Lord Paramatma, the Supreme Soul, in spite of whatever mentality they may be manifesting or the nature of the body they may be wearing, that living being is incredibly dear to someone that is meant to be important to me; and that will really shape how I behave with them how I deal with them, how I perceive them.
So these two principles are really important spiritual principles. And what Srila Bhaktivedanta Swami said is confirmed in a later verse in the Bhagavad-gita from the 13th chapter, the 39th verse, where it states:
“One who sees the Supersoul equally present everywhere, in every living being, does not degrade himself by his mind, and thus he approaches the transcendental destination.”
So, we have discussed how we have a higher nature and a lower nature. The higher nature is that nature of the soul itself, and the lower nature is the natural tendency of the body and the mind. If one allows themself to be controlled by that lower nature then one is on a path of unhappiness—a path of unhappiness for themself, an unhappiness that they will cause for others. Of course, it’s always going to be mixed, but generally this is where it is all going. And that path of unhappiness, the path of pain that we may cause to others and inflict on others, is always the product of how our mind is functioning.
We’ve discussed how the mind is very powerful, and when it is influenced by greed, by lust, by envy, one can be drawn into behaviour that is destructive to oneself and to others. And in this way one degrades themself. So this verse is very important, that if there is this constant perception of the Supreme Soul or, as Bhaktivedanta would often describe it, the Supersoul, that if we are constantly aware of the presence of the Lord within our own heart and the heart of others, then that will make it so we will curb the mind. We will curb the tendencies towards lust, greed, envy and anger; and we will behave in a more compassionate and kind way.
This same idea is also stated in the Bhagavata Purana where it says,
“One should always remember the Supreme Personality of Godhead in His localized representation as the Paramatma, who is situated in the core of every living entity’s heart. Thus one should offer respect to every living entity according to that living entity’s position or manifestation.”
So a very, very powerful sloka.
In another verse, also from the Bhagavata Purana, little later on, it says:
“The Supreme Personality of Godhead has created many residential places like the bodies of human beings, animals, birds, saints and demigods. In all of these innumerable bodily forms, the Lord resides with the living being as the Paramatma. Thus He is known as the purusavatara.”
So again, a wonderful description of how the Lord accepts as His residence the body of all living beings.
In the Katha Upanisad and the Svetasvatara Upanisad there is that—a verse that refers to their being like two birds in a tree, the body being likened to a tree, and the two birds are the individual soul and the Supreme Soul. And it describes that one bird is busily engaged in trying to enjoy the fruits of the tree but is always suffering from moroseness, and the other bird, who is the Paramatma, is simply standing there as a witness to the first bird, waiting for that first bird to turn and recognize his eternal friend. Very wonderful descriptions that clearly guide the type of vision that we need to be cultivating and understanding.
So I’ll close out with a final verse from the Bhagavat Purana that should be the motivation for one who is really cultivating spiritual understanding and who is desirous of being pleasing to this Lord of our own heart. It says:
“The Lord is very satisfied with His devotee when the devotee greets other people with tolerance, mercy, friendship and equality.”
So this is the guiding principle, this is the aspiration, these are the characteristics and qualities that one should aspire to achieve, or attain, or cultivate. And of course, the foundation for them are these two things: The vision of the equality of all living beings, regardless of what the state of their body is, what type of body, or the state of their mind, or the nature of their work, or their lifestyle, or anything. And the second is that all living beings are very dear to the Supreme Lord, and knowing that, and knowing that He is standing next to the living being within their heart of hearts, one should act and behave in an appropriate manner with all. And it’s defined here that one should greet other people with tolerance, mercy, friendship and equality.
Thank you very much.