Ellie Simmonds recently won a gold medal at a swimming event. She had almost lost the race when she doubled her efforts and streaked ahead of the race leader in the very last length of the race. Similarly Richard Whitehead took gold in the 200 meters athletics final and broke his own record.
Why are these two special? Well, Ellie is disabled by dwarfism and Richard is a double above-the-amputee and the bend in his race is so difficult that previously he had snapped his blades no fewer than five times trying to turn at full speed. Both of these champions were competing in the recently conducted 2012 Summer Paralympics. With almost every event the world was astonished to see the courage, stamina and ingenuity of these participants. To see an archer using only his toes and mouth to shoot his arrows and hit his target or to see blind fencers taking part in the fencing event shows the triumph of sheer willpower over disabilities.
Indeed great spiritual teachers have compared the living entity with a severely disabled personsomeone who cannot see or walk. Every living entity in this material world is under the control of the three modes of material naturegoodness, passion and ignorance. These three modes control each and every aspect of the living entities’ existence and hence he cannot see what is beyond the purview of these modes. And since he does not develop a desire to go beyond the material world he is confined in this imprisonment; hence the comparison of a living entity with a blind and lame person. One great Vaisnava acarya prays: “Glory to the all-merciful Radha and Madana-Mohana! I am lame and ill-advised, yet They are my directors, and Their lotus feet are everything to me.”
Isn’t it a bit demeaning to call oneself “spiritually-disabled”? Isn’t it damaging to one’s self-esteem? Well, no. It is rather a fact of life. By nature’s own way the way in which man runs his own world involves a very complex array of activities. In every step there is perplexity. It is a fact that we need guidance, we need help, we need someone who is not perplexed. Such a person is the bona fide spiritual teacher or master. This world is compared to a forest fire that blazes without us knowing as to who started it. As Arjuna understood his disabled position at the beginning of the battle and surrendered to Lord Krishna, we should do the same. But spiritual life does not mean that even after someone has won the gold medal he still remains disabled. As the spiritual practitioner surmounts his disabilities by following the path given by the great spiritual teachers he is rewarded with a spiritual body which is eternal, full of knowledge and bliss.
mukam karoti vacalam
pangum langhayate girim
yat-krpa tam aham vande
“Salutations to Lord Krishna
The embodiment of supreme bliss,
By whose grace and compassion
The dumb become eloquent
And the lame scale mountains-
Him I salute!”