The following is adapted from a class on Bhagavad-gītā 7.10 which I gave at Bhaktivedanta Manor on 20th March 2019:
bījaṁ māṁ sarva-bhūtānāṁ
viddhi pārtha sanātanam
buddhir buddhimatām asmi
tejas tejasvinām aham
“O son of Pṛthā, know that I am the original seed of all existences, the intelligence of the intelligent, and the prowess of all powerful men.”
Kṛṣṇa is the source of all intelligence and prowess, so those who are intelligent or powerful shouldn’t think that their intelligence or prowess belongs to them – it has been given by Kṛṣṇa, and He can take it away at any time. Understanding this fosters humility.
If our intelligence and prowess belong to Kṛṣṇa, then they should be used in the service of their rightful owner, otherwise we are simply thieves stealing from the Lord. Kṛṣṇa is known as the greatest of thieves, so He can easily take away the gifts He has given us if we misuse or abuse them. We can clearly see that in today’s society, most people use their intelligence and prowess to mislead, manipulate and exploit those who are less intelligent or less powerful.
In his Purport to this verse, Śrīla Prabhupāda says, “Kṛṣṇa is the source of everything. He is the root. As the root of a tree maintains the whole tree, Kṛṣṇa, being the original root of all things, maintains everything in this material manifestation.”
The whole of creation can be likened to a tree – Kṛṣṇa is the root of this tree, and the countless living entities are the leaves. By watering the root of a tree, all the leaves become nourished. In the same way, if we satisfy Kṛṣṇa by performing devotional service, each and every living entity will become satisfied as a result. This is the correct use of our intelligence and prowess.
Verses 12-15 of Chapter 15 of the Bhagavad-gītā describe Kṛṣṇa’s position as the maintainer of all things. The light and splendour of the sun, moon and fire come from Him, and we cannot survive without these things. Kṛṣṇa also sustains all the planets, including this one, and keeps them in orbit by His energy. Without Him, we can’t even eat, since He is the cause of digestion in the bodies of all living entities. Kṛṣṇa also explains that He is within everyone’s heart and is the source of remembrance, knowledge and forgetfulness.
The conclusion of the Vedic scriptures is that we should always remember Kṛṣṇa and never forget Him – understanding that Kṛṣṇa is the source of all these things helps us to remember Him throughout the day. We can remember Kṛṣṇa when we enjoy the sunlight or moonlight, when we use fire to heat up food, when we eat, and even when we simply remember things. For example, when I sat down to write my notes for this class, ideas just kept coming to me without any effort, and I thought to myself, “How is this happening?” Then I understood that it was Kṛṣṇa’s arrangement – being present in my heart, He was giving me the knowledge that I needed. So, in this way, I was able to remember Kṛṣṇa.
It’s also important to note that since Kṛṣṇa is the source of all intelligence and prowess, no one can be more intelligent or more powerful than Him. In his Purport to Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam 10.13.61, Śrīla Prabhupāda writes, “What is the extent of our intelligence in comparison to the vast expanse of water in the ocean? On my passage to America, how insignificant the ship was, like a matchbox in the midst of the ocean. Kṛṣṇa’s intelligence resembles the ocean, for one cannot imagine how vast it is. The best course, therefore, is to surrender to Kṛṣṇa. Don’t try to measure Kṛṣṇa.”
When Lord Brahmā became very proud of his intelligence and power, he tried to measure or test Kṛṣṇa by stealing the cowherd boys and calves, but Kṛṣṇa easily bewildered him by expanding Himself and taking on the forms of all the cowherd boys and calves. Similarly, when the inhabitants of Vṛndāvana stopped their worship of Indra and worshipped Govardhana Hill instead, Indra became angry and arrogantly tried to test the Lord. He used all his power to flood Vṛndāvana, but Kṛṣṇa protected everyone by lifting Govardhana Hill, which, at that time, was a huge mountain, with only the little finger of His left hand.
At the conclusion of these two pastimes, Brahmā and Indra were forced to take a very humble position and beg Kṛṣṇa for His forgiveness. We may become proud of our intelligence and power, but they are nothing compared to the intelligence and power of demigods like Brahmā and Indra, let alone that of Kṛṣṇa. We should therefore learn from their example and surrender to Kṛṣṇa with humility.
Without humility, we cannot make any progress in spiritual life. Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu therefore advises us, tṛṇād api sunīcena. “One should think himself to be lower than grass.” But what does it mean to be humbler than grass? When we step on long grass, it immediately comes back up afterwards – it doesn’t remain low. So, to be humbler than grass means to bow down or surrender to the Lord and His devotees and not get up again. We shouldn’t just act with false humility amongst devotees but behave arrogantly elsewhere.
Another personality who became excessively proud of his power was the demonic Hiraṇyakaśipu, who conquered the entire universe. He was so powerful that he could strike fear in the hearts of the demigods simply by raising his eyebrows. But every day during the Nṛsiṁha prayers we sing, tava kara-kamala-vare nakham adbhuta-śṛṅgaṁ dalita-hiraṇyakaśipu-tanu-bhṛṅgam. “Just as one can easily crush a wasp between one’s fingernails, the body of the wasp-like demon Hiraṇyakaśipu has been ripped apart by the wonderful pointed nails on Your beautiful lotus hands.”
Even though Hiraṇyakaśipu had become so powerful, the Lord, in His incarnation as Nṛsiṁhadeva, very easily defeated him. Towards the end of the battle, the Lord began to laugh at the demon’s attempts to defeat Him. Hiraṇyakaśipu, who became fearful of the Lord’s laughter, must’ve realised by this point that his opponent was far more powerful than he was. However, he still tried to fight back – the thought of surrendering to the superior power of the Lord did not even cross his mind, and thus he was destroyed.
Hiraṇyakaśipu had desired to kill his own son, Prahlāda, because the boy had become a great devotee of the Lord. But Prahlāda was fully surrendered to the Lord, so the Lord appeared Himself in order to protect His devotee.
This pastime teaches us that we should not avoid surrendering to Kṛṣṇa out of fear that we will become vulnerable. We can do very little to protect ourselves, but if we surrender to the Lord and depend on Him, we will have the protection of He who is the source of all power. So, humbly accepting our inferior position and surrendering to Kṛṣṇa is actually the most intelligent thing that we can do. In material life, surrender is considered to be a sign of weakness, but in spiritual life, surrender is a strength.