H.G. Matsyavatar Das

Monday, 24 August 2009

MRIDU (meek, gentle)

By Matsya Avatara Dasa

From the book: The 26 Qualities of the Spiritual Researcher

Other meanings:
sweet, peaceful
having a pleasant character
not harsh or rude

The virtues that we will study now are meekness and purity: we will analyze them by connecting them to social life as much as possible, and studying them closely also on the psychological level. Often when people speak of spirituality one thinks about something abstract, not well defined, and we also must admit that undoubtedly there is also an abstract kind of spirituality that is not useful to anyone. On the other hand the spirituality we are discussing here, as the focus of the Bhagavata teaching contained in Bhagavata Purana, Bhagavad-gita, Vedas and Upanishads, is extraordinarily concrete and represents the essence of life itself. The virtue we describe have innumerable applications in individual life also at the level of family and professional occupation, and the person that carries them has a beneficial and extraordinarily positive influence on all the environments around him. Even persons who carry serious character defects or personality disturbance have a negative and heavy influence, therefore we can state that such defects weigh down not only the individual that has them, but his family, co-workers, friends, and the entire community as well.
Mridu means sweet, meek, and meekness is a characteristic of enlightened people, a valuable quality of the soul; to possess it, the individual needs to have solved his problems - if not all, at least most of them.
It is not rare to see a pseudo-virtue that may externally look similar to meekness, but is actually weakness or shyness. Sometimes one who seems meek is definitely not so: he is creaking inside, even if he does not show it. A weak person seems to be meek only because he does not have the courage or the strength to affirm his own opinion, but genuine meekness is inner strength and a person who possesses it remains equal, undisturbed and kind in all situations. A really meek person moves in the world in a delicate way, walks almost on tiptoes, going through obstacles lightly.
Living in this world requires a lot of effort, because any action meets with resistance, including the simplest and most natural actions such as breathing, evacuating, digesting, obtaining the necessary in order to survive. One who is able to perform all these actions in a meek way, expressing this virtue especially in the relationships with others, must be considered an evolved person, who possesses one of the noblest qualities of the soul.
After we have ascertained that the person we face is not a weak or shy person, but a meek one, then we must consider that our interlocutor is a person of great value. When someone's projects of power, fame, sense gratification or wealth are modified or obstructed, if the person is not genuinely meek we will notice that he immediately changes tone, expression and attitude, because he does not have inner strength and thus he has a global collapse.
One who has realized a quality, mridu, is aware that people understand better if we relate to them in a sweet way. It is evident that in this case the presiding guna is sattvaguna. When rajoguna dominates, in the face of obstacles the reaction is passionate, nervous, impulsive, sometimes violent and destructive. When the personality is influenced by tamas, often the reaction does not even manifest because the individual lacks the power to understand what is happening.
A person who really possesses this quality is generally rigorous with himself and expects much from himself, well knowing that the journey towards the peaks of consciousness is very hard, but is just as tolerant towards others and always tends to encourage them, even when he needs to correct. The quality of kindness is considered so important that often we find puranic stories that highlight it; for example there is a rather famous one narrated in Bhagavata Purana, about the episode between the saintly king Ambarisha and the sage Durvasa. Thanks to the austerities he had performed, Durvasa had developed many siddhis1, but he behaved in a despising and offensive way against the generous and pious Ambarisha, to the point of exciting God's anger. In one of the verses in this story we read: “for a brahmana asceticism and knowledge are desirable assets, but if they are not accompanied by kindness they lead to degradation”2. Thus, even two jewels such as tapas (asceticism) and vidya (knowledge) get polluted or even transform into something that weighs down the consciousness if the person who carries them is not mridu.
Is it possible for anyone to adopt meekness as a way of life? Can a policeman be meek to an armed bank robber, or a magistrate be meek in front of heinous crimes, towards acts of violence that have damaged individuals and societies? Can a parent be meek towards a son that stubbornly keeps doing wrong, that repeatedly commits the same mistakes? Is it good to show meekness towards those who may mistake it as weakness and take the opportunity to keep indulging in deviant behaviors?
Meekness, too, like other virtues, is the result of a series of coordinated efforts performed consciously and deliberately, and is therefore a result that corresponds to a divine grace, a connection to the higher reality. It is not by chance that the persons who possessed this quality in the highest degrees were the saints described in the Scriptures. Yudhisthira Maharaja was famous for his meekness, although he was the world's emperor and frequently found himself in difficult situations. However the great souls, the masters, are such precisely because they are able to act in the world without losing their divine qualities, without staining them, without allowing them to fade away. These special personalities inform us that at the time when we need to be hard, strong, rigorous, we must be so only for the minimum required, so that we do not leave unnecessary agitation behind us. It is said that the Guru is as soft as a rose and as powerful as lightning: one quality does not diminish the other, and because we are on an absolute level they can perfectly live together without contradictions.
A father needs to correct his son, but if he does so correctly, meekness can return immediately after the correction, without creating a split or a drop in the quality of the relationship. Meekness can be substituted by another equally effective virtue when the situation requires it: a magistrate, a policeman, a father, a mother, an elder brother must sometimes intervene in a hard way. Meekness is not apathy or lack of responsibility; weakness is a fault, not a virtue. If at the time when a Guru is educating a disciple there is need to replace meekness with another virtue, he must do it. A meek person tolerates offenses towards himself, but not offenses towards God, the Master, or well-wishers. If rigorousness remains within dharma and is intended to support it, there will be no negative reactions: when we scold or punish someone, as much as the case requires it and with the intention of helping his progress, then it is very likely that this person will be grateful to us for his entire life. This is very different from punishing someone to gratify our own ego.
The citizens expect to live honestly, peacefully, serenely; the intrusion of thieves and criminals creates serious disturbance or even traumas, and the policing forces have been constituted to prevent that. In the name of meekness, a policeman or a magistrate cannot "let people be", just like a physician cannot neglect a festering wound: he must act even if that causes pain. In some situations meekness is madness rather than virtue; it also needs to be applied at the proper time, place and circumstance.
Stability in mood is an unequivocal symptom of mental health, in fact when an individual is affected by some psycho-pathology, one of the most obvious symptoms consists in mood swings. Contemplating the sense objects and depending on them is the cause of mental instability; the Vedic science can help us understand why. According to the Samkhya3 philosophy, probably one of the most ancient Schools of thought in this world, there are two archetypal energies: purusha and prakriti, spirit and matter. The universe is the result of their combination, and the embodied being, too, the jivabhuta, is nothing but a spiritual spark (purusha) encaged in a body made of matter (prakriti). The psychic structure is constituted by prakriti, matter, and is very sensitive to the energies that pervade this world. Vedic scientists made a great and important discovery that would be an extremely interesting concept for modern Western psychology: objects are charged with psychic energy, called pratyaya: a current of energy that from the psychic field of the objects stimulates the sense organs which in turn, working as transductors, transform the energy impulse they received into another wave length. If the individual is not stable, these psychic currents modify his psychic field in the form of vrittis, or mind waves. Vrittis are so powerful that they not only deviate but also attract and condition in an almost hypnotic way, leading the individual to believe they are factual, while on the contrary the individual is being overwhelmed by psychic currents.
The ancient treatises on Vedic psychology say that the mind takes the form of the vrittis that shape it, and someone who identifies with its fascinating play believes he is living the highest level of reality. Only one who is situated on a transcendent level, who has attained perfection in the self that goes beyond the body, the mind and the intellect, can remain stable in spite of innumerable currents of pratyaya or psychic energy constantly flooding his mind field. In Bhagavad-gita (chapter 2, shlokas 55-56), Arjuna asks Krishna a question:
"What are the symptoms of a person whose consciousness is immersed in Transcendence? How does he speak, and with which words? How does he sit, and how does he walk?" God, the Supreme Person, answers:
"O Partha, a man who becomes free from all desires of sense gratification generated by mental speculation and whose mind, already purified, finds satisfaction in the self only, is situated in pure consciousness. One who is not agitated any more by the threefold miseries or intoxicated by the joys of life, and is free from attachment, fear and anger, is considered a sage with a stout mind".
Mridu is the visible characteristic of this awareness and inner stability. The attempt to artificially search for happiness through the inadequate support of the body and mind produces frustration and agitation. When a person has become free from all desires for ephemeral gratification generated by mental fantasies, when the mind stops running here and there and is well settled under the control of the self, then the individual becomes stable and kind, too, because he is not goaded by the demands of the ego any more. This does not mean that we should think that the sage's personality is boring or shapeless; actually it has many characteristics and its own colors and peaks, just like a beautiful melody. In beautiful music or high-quality singing we find highs and lows, but they are all so well harmonized that they are almost undistinguishable because they all create pleasure. On the other hand, highs and lows in noise create irritation and sometimes headaches.


  1. Hare Krishna!
    Where can we get this book?
    your servant, Aghahanta das

  2. Hare Krishna!
    Please contact CSB International:
    csbinternational @ c -s -b . org

    Your servant
    Anantadeva dasa