What are we thinking about when we think about honor?
Many of us think about superheroes. About Batman and his tireless fight against crime to avenge the deaths of his parents. About Superman and his staunchness about the lines of good and evil, the lines he will never cross. We imagine them to believe in things that, at the end of the day, are ideals worth upholding, and taking pride in the struggle therein. We all have such firm beliefs in this sense of struggle, this trial of faith, and that we will arise the better for it.
Others think about honor as memorials. When Christians bury the dead, a gravestone is erected to enshrine their memory, to put a physical imprint on the earth in place of those who are gone. Artists, by their craft, seek to honor the millions that have come before them, painting, sculpting and sketching in the way of Da Vinci, Monet, Stuart and so many more. By preserving memory, we humans are vain enough to believe that something of the past still remains within ourselves; that by the act of the mind alone, we safeguard honor forever. It is a powerful form of devotion we perform, to remember the world in such a way.
Fundamentally, behind both conceptions of honor, there is a thought. That thought is that by holding ourselves to some standard, by following some path we believe righteous and true, we are good people. Honorable deeds and words, in turn, come from and create honorable people. We do what we do because we seek a feeling of self-worth that will set us apart from those who follow a different code. Searching for honor, any way you slice it, is an inherently selfish act.
Sanatan Dharm teaches us this. It is not a bad thing to commit honorable deeds, and it most certainly is not good to live by an evil code. The great error comes from within our minds, from our firm belief that, at the end of the day, the way we are living is right and true, no matter what anyone else says. Maharajji compares humans to donkeys so often, in so many of his jokes, stories and speeches. It’s not without a grain of truth, though: we’re all stubborn about one thing or another, and very comfortably set in our ways.
Walking the path of devotion sets one’s feet firmly in honor. You are embarking on a journey that uncountable souls have travelled before, that is rooted in the idea of the Divine, that is strengthened with the power of Radha and Krishna. But our primary mode of thinking cannot be one of self-improvement. We have to embrace humility, not honor. What we are doing is not for ourselves, it is for Those whom we love. We cannot elevate ourselves from our pitiable condition, super-powers or not. Only on the path of love, walking with our hearts high but our ego low, can we hope for anything even close to real honor.