One would accept nectar even from poison and gold even from a filthy place. One should accept knowledge even from a low-born person, and a good wife even if she comes from a low family.
One should be able to extract the essence from everything. The situations and persons we encounter throughout our life are hardly ever perfect; we cannot expect faultlessness in the material world which is “duùkhälayamaçäçvatam”(a temporaryplace full of misery)by definition. Still, an intelligent person will take advantage of any opportunity for gaining wealth or knowledge without falling prey to prejudices. For example, one should be smart enough to take good advice even when it comes from a low class person. Why disregarding words of wisdom just to gratify our sense of prestige and superiority? Good advice is good advice and wisdom is wisdom no matter the source. Often this understanding alone sets apart successful people from losers.
Life presents countless opportunities to learn valuable lessons. But one should be willing to be taught, that is, one should admit at the onset of the learning process that he does not have perfect knowledge. Simple as it sounds it is not an easy task. Admitting imperfection takes humility and courage. Once this is accepted, there are ample opportunities for progress, both spiritual and material. Just as the honeybee takes nectar from all flowers, big and small, an intelligent human being should take the essence from all possible sources.
In the Srimad Bhagavatam, renowned as the ripened fruit of all Vedic literatures, there is a fascinating example of such an intelligent person, an ancient sage who attained perfection by taking lessons from not less than 24 Gurus: earth, air, sky, water, fire, moon, sun, sea, moth, honeybee, elephant, deer, fish, prostitute, etc.
From the earth he learned that a sober person, even when harassed by other living beings, should understand that his aggressors are acting helplessly under the control of God, and thus he should never be distracted from progress on his own path.
From the mountain he learned to devote all his efforts to the service of others and to make the welfare of others the sole reason for his existence.
From the wind he learned that although a self-realized soul may live in various material bodies while in this world, experiencing their various qualities and functions, he is never entangled, just as the wind which carries various aromas does not actually mix with them.
From the moon he learned that the various phases of one’s material life, beginning with birth and culminating in death, are all properties of the body and do not affect the soul, just as the apparent waxing and waning of the moon does not affect the moon itself. Such changes are enforced by the imperceptible movements of time.
The lesson taken from the sun was that just as the sun evaporates large quantities of water by its potent rays and later returns the water to the earth in the form of rain, similarly, a saintly person accepts all types of material objects with his material senses, and at the appropriate time, when the proper person has approached him to request them, he returns such material objects. Thus, both in accepting and giving up the objects of the senses, he is not entangled.
The sage observed that during the rainy season the swollen rivers rush into the ocean, and during the dry summer the rivers, now shallow, severely reduce their supply of water; yet the ocean does not swell up during the rainy season, nor does it dry up in the hot summer. In the same way, one sometimes will receive by providence great material opulence, and sometimes he will find himself materially destitute. However, an intelligent person does not rejoice in a flourishing condition, nor is he morose when poverty-stricken.
From the moth the sage learned that one who has failed to control his senses immediately feels attraction upon seeing a woman’s form, which is created by the illusory energy of the Supreme Lord. Indeed, when the woman speaks with enticing words, smiles coquettishly and moves her body sensuously, his mind is immediately captured, and thus he falls blindly into the darkness of material existence, just as the moth, maddened by the fire, rushes blindly into its flames. A foolish person with no intelligent discrimination is immediately aroused at the sight of a lusty woman beautifully decorated with golden ornaments, fine clothing and other cosmetic features. Being eager for sense gratification, such a fool loses all intelligence and is destroyed just like the moth who rushes into the blazing fire.
Just as a fish, incited by the desire to enjoy his tongue, is fatally trapped on the fisherman’s hook, similarly, a foolish person is bewildered by the extremely disturbing urges of the tongue and thus is ruined.
The sage accepted his material body as yet another Guru because it taughthim detachment. Being subject to creation and destruction, the material body always comes to a painful end. Thus, although using his body to acquire knowledge, he always remembered that it will ultimately be consumed by others, and remaining detached, he moved about this world.
The ancient sage mentioned on the pages of Srimad Bhagavatam teaches us that since everything is created by God, an intelligent person should see everything in relation with Him. Only with this understanding one will be able to extract the essence from everything. The essence of all things is God’s presence in them as it is stated by God himself in the Bhagavad-gita:
O conqueror of wealth, there is no truth superior to Me. Everything rests upon Me, as pearls are strung on a thread. I am the taste of water, the light of the sun and the moon, the syllable oà in the Vedic mantras; I am the sound in ether and ability in man. I am the original fragrance of the earth, and I am the heat in fire. I am the life of all that lives, and I am the penances of all ascetics. O son of Påthä, know that I am the original seed of all existences, the intelligence of the intelligent, and the prowess of all powerful men. I am the strength of the strong, devoid of passion and desire. I am sex life which is not contrary to religious principles. Know that all opulent, beautiful and glorious creations spring from but a spark of My splendor. (БГ 7.7-12)