When I was a fifth grade student, there was a young boy whom I defeated in any game we played. Out of the humiliation of defeat, he would verbally abuse me. One day after school, I became so fed up with his insults that I twisted his arms behind his back and used a gamachā to tie him to a post about fifty yards from our school. The road there was used only in the day by commuting students and teachers, and so nobody saw him or heard his cries for help.
When dusk came and the boy had not returned home, his parents grew worried and went out in search of him. After searching all over, they finally reached the place where I had tied up their son. When they found him, the boy was incessantly wailing in fear. They quickly untied their son, and after he told them all that had happened, the three of them headed straight for my house. I could hear my schoolmate’s loud crying as they hurried down the road to our house, so I ran inside to hide. When they reached our house, they informed the first person they saw—my aunt, Śrīmatī Kusuma Cakravartī—of the situation.
My aunt patiently listened to their complaints about me. When they finished, she embraced the boy and said, “Has Narottama done this? I will certainly chastise him.” My aunt sat them down and served them the dishes she had made for the occasion of Pauṣa Saṅkrantī. When they became completely pacified, she called for me and gave me a proper chiding in front of them. “Why would you frighten anyone like this?” she said. “Do you think it was fair to this poor boy? If you ever do anything like this again, I will give you a punishment you will never forget.”
When the boy and his parents left for their house, my aunt sat me down and said, “Before reacting to the boy’s insults, you should have considered whether he was a worthy rival for you. We see that even animals make such judgments. An elephant, for instance, does not consider a goat or calf to be his rivals. Ask yourself: Will your birth in a brāhmaṇa family or the dignity of your family members be preserved by considering that boy your adversary? Pay no mind to anyone who uses profanity with you. While it is commendable that you didn’t beat that boy or speak harshly to him, tying him up and making him your adversary was shameful. You could have simply stopped playing with him.
“Listen, Narottama. You will always be benefitted by remembering this one simple proverb: nica ĵadi ucca bhāse, subuddhi uḍaya hese. This means if someone unworthy of your time speaks abusively to you, you should dispel the matter with a smile and don’t give it any gravity.”
I always tried my best to follow this teaching, and later in my life, I observed that Guru Mahārāja and other disciples of Śrīla Prabhupāda followed it, as well. They never gave any gravity to the words to those so-called disciples of Śrīla Prabhupāda who had no appreciation for the essence of his vicāra-dhārā, his line of thought, nor to the opinions of those who were against him.
Whenever I remember the above-mentioned incident from my childhood, another point, comes to mind. In those days, extended families would reside together in one home. There would be no issue if the elders of one family scolded a child from another family. There was no need to worry about upsetting the child’s parents, for they would never question why an elder has scolded or even beaten their child. Every single senior member of our family would teach us to offer praṇāma to our elders, to show them respect and to never disregard them. We were never taught to heed only the words of our parents, who brought us into this world. Rather, we were told to listen to and respect all our elders. This teaching was engrained deeply into our hearts.
It is due to my supreme fortune that I received this same teaching from my Guru Mahārāja, as well. Through observing his conduct, we learned to consider most of his godbrothers to be non-different from and sometimes even superior to him. The deep reverence with which he served them made it clear that he regarded them as objects of his service. Therefore, we were always careful to serve his godbrothers with the same care, respect and affection with which we served him. The consideration that any of his godbrothers were inferior to him never appeared in our hearts.