H.G. Matsyavatar Das

Thursday, 20 August 2009

VADANYA (magnanimous)

By Matsya Avatara Dasa

From the book: The 26 Qualities of the Spiritual Researcher

Other meanings:


Rupa Gosvami glorified Shri Caitanya Mahaprabhu by calling him maha-vadanya, supremely magnanimous, or greatly merciful. A really magnanimous person is benevolent towards everyone, not only towards human beings, what to speak of only to some human beings.

Generosity is a natural characteristic of one who is vadanya. There are two forms of generosity: one is about gifting things, and the other is about giving oneself. Bhaktivedanta Svami Prabhupada has explained that we can engage in devotional service by donating our intelligence, our resources, our time, and also by donating ourselves. Giving things is a gradual process through which we learn to donate ourselves: this is why dana is important. Dana means wealth, money, donation. Today everybody is obsesses by the idea of having or receiving, but in the light of the Shastra we can state that in order to have, we need to give: one who has given more will receive more. This is another example of symmetry.

If we have excess of something and lack of something else, this means that we have given much in one sense and little in the another sense, so if we want to receive more in the future we need to learn to give in the area of our shortcomings.

However, being magnanimous is not simply about being generous. It also means we have the tendency to great actions, great missions, and in spiritual realization the greatest thing we can do consists in offering, to those who want it, the opportunity of knowing oneself and to reconnect with the Divine. In order to do big things, we first need to become victorious over our wild ego, to tame our inner beasts; in this way we become more open to others, too. We become more understanding, more generous in a wider sense.

In his Nichomachean Ethics, Aristotle describes the non-assuming greatness of a magnanimous person, who must be good and virtuous: "he does not become depressed because of criticism and does not become excited because of glorification: he is silent, and when he speaks, he does so in a soft voice." This closely resembles some passages of Bhagavad-gita that describe the sage or mahatma, the bhakta or devotee. Here is an example:

One who is impartial with friends and enemies, balanced in honor and dishonor, heat and cold, joy and distress, fame and infamy, always free from all bad association, always silent and satisfied about everything, unconcerned about his dwelling, fixed in knowledge and engaged in My devotional service, is very dear to Me1.

Vadanya is a person who is open to everyone, able to give to everyone. This does not mean we want to discourage those who give in a more "restricted" way, or once in a while, because this is good practice to learn to do more and better.

The highest and most complete sense of vadanya consists in donating oneself without reservations, being able to attain that state of consciousness where we think that the time we have been given is not ours to spend, but is intended to help others, that the body we have been entrusted with is not for us, but it is intended as an instrument to be used to help many people, that the intelligence we have been granted must not be utilized for selfish purposes, but to help others to solve their problems, and similarly also the fire in the stomach, agni2: we must become aware that it is intended to transform the energies contained in food not to do whimsical activities, but to spread the message of salvation.

A devotee eats, gets informed and acquires means in order to operate a primary transformation from the heavier material elements to the subtler and spiritual elements, just like a tree wants to offer its fruits and shadows to others.

Thus vadanya is a mahatma, a great soul that like an ocean receives thousands of rivers and does not get agitated, does not spill out, and never dries.

Some people become agitated for very small things, when anything does not go according to their own wishes: these people are the opposite of vadanya, they are kripana or narrow-minded, small and miserable. On the other hand, the magnanimous persons can receive the troubles of many and absorb them, sublimate and purify them without getting agitated; and they are also able to help those who suffer from those problems to integrate their personality.

In this case we have vadanyas that are not just great souls, but also have a great mind and great intelligence. In order to get to this platform one must take distance from mental dullness and the tyranny of one's own senses, not only from the sense objects.

1 Bg. XII.18-19.

2 Fire (see Latin ignis) and the deva of fire, through whose mouth the offerings of the sacrifice are consumed, accompanied by the threefold repetition of the word svaha (oblation).

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