Chapter 11: The Symptoms of a Sādhu
The symptoms of a sādhu are that he is tolerant, merciful and friendly to all living entities. He has no enemies, he is peaceful, he abides by the scriptures, and all his characteristics are sublime.
A sādhu, as described above, is a devotee of the Lord. His concern, therefore, is to enlighten people in devotional service; that is his mercy. He knows that without devotional service, human life is spoiled. A devotee travels all over the country, from door to door, preaching, “Be Kṛṣṇa conscious. Be a devotee of Lord Kṛṣṇa. Don’t spoil your life in simply fulﬁlling your animal propensities. Human life is meant for self-realization, or Kṛṣṇa consciousness.” These are the preachings of a sādhu. He is not satisﬁed with his own liberation. He always thinks about others. He is the most compassionate personality toward all fallen souls. One of his qualiﬁcations, therefore, is kāruṇika, great mercy to the fallen souls. While engaged in preaching work, he has to meet with so many opposing elements, and therefore the sādhu has to be very tolerant. Someone may ill-treat him because the conditioned souls are not prepared to receive the transcendental knowledge of devotional service. They don’t like it; that is their disease. The sādhu has the thankless task of impressing upon them the importance of devotional service. Sometimes devotees are personally attacked with violence. Lord Jesus Christ was cruciﬁed, Haridāsa Ṭhākura was caned in twenty-two marketplaces, and Lord Caitanya’s principal assistant, Nityānanda, was violently attacked by Jagāi and Mādhāi. But still they were tolerant because their mission was to deliver fallen souls. A sādhu is merciful because he is the well-wisher of all living entities. He is not only a well-wisher of human society, but a well-wisher of animal society as well. The word sarva-dehinām refers to all living entities who have accepted material bodies. Not only does the human being have a material body, but other living entities have one as well. The devotee of the Lord is merciful to everyone – cats, dogs, trees, etc. He treats all living entities in such a way that they can ultimately get salvation from this material entanglement. Śivānanda Sena, one of the disciples of Lord Caitanya, gave liberation to a dog by treating the dog transcendentally. There are many instances where a dog got salvation by association with a sādhu, because a sādhu engages in the highest philanthropic activities for the benediction of all living entities. Yet although a sādhu is not inimical toward anyone, the world is so ungrateful that even a sādhu has many enemies.
What is the difference between an enemy and a friend? It is a difference in behavior. A sādhu behaves with all conditioned souls for their ultimate relief from material entanglement. Therefore, no one can be more friendly than a sādhu in relieving a conditioned soul. A sādhu is calm, and he quietly and peacefully follows the principles of scripture. A sādhu is also one who follows the principles of scripture and at the same time is a devotee of the Lord. One who actually follows the principles of scripture must be a devotee of God because all the śāstras instruct us to obey the orders of the Personality of Godhead. A sādhu, therefore, is a follower of the scriptural injunctions and a devotee of the Lord. All good characteristics are prominent in a devotee, and he develops all the good qualities of the demigods, whereas a nondevotee, even though academically qualiﬁed, has no good qualiﬁcations or good characteristics according to the standard of transcendental realization.
There are 8,400,000 life forms according to the Padma Purāṇa, and the ātmā is the same in all of them. The sādhu can understand this, as Bhagavad-gītā (5.18) indicates:
brāhmaṇe gavi hastini
śuni caiva śva-pāke ca
“The humble sage, by virtue of true knowledge, sees with equal vision a learned and gentle brāhmaṇa, a cow, an elephant, a dog and a dog-eater [outcaste].”
It is not that a brāhmaṇa is the same as a dog, but that the brāhmaṇa is a spirit soul, and the dog is also a spirit soul. We are conditioned according to our different bodies, which are given by superior forces. Yamarāja offers the living entity a body according to his karma. Karmaṇā daiva-netreṇa. We have already discussed the point that bodies are awarded according to one’s qualiﬁcations. If we acquire the qualities of a brāhmaṇa and work as a brāhmaṇa, we become a brāhmaṇa. If we act as a dog and do the work of a dog, we become a dog. Nor should one think that simply because one is born as a brāhmaṇa, one is automatically a brāhmaṇa. There are characteristics mentioned in Bhagavad-gītā by which one can tell to which caste one belongs. Śrīdhara Svāmī has also noted that birth is not everything. One has to acquire the qualities. Whatever body we may have, our position is temporary. We cannot remain in any position indeﬁnitely. We may think that at present we are Americans and are very happy, and that’s all right. We may chalk out our plans for continued happiness, but nature will not allow us to stay indeﬁnitely. As soon as nature calls, we die and give up our post. Then we have to take the post of a dog, a cat, a demigod, a human being or whatever. We are now given a most exalted life form, that of a human being, but if we do not act accordingly, we have to take a lower body. This is karmaṇā daiva-netreṇa.
We should therefore be very careful in this human form that our aim is to become devotees of Lord Kṛṣṇa. That is the path of liberation. Previously, great personalities in India used to go to the forest in order to meditate to stop the repetition of birth and death. That is the highest occupation for man, and actually every man is meant for that. Unless we conquer repeated birth and death, we simply waste our lives like animals – eating, sleeping, defending and mating. People in this age especially cannot distinguish between animal life and human life. They think the difference is that animals sleep in the street and human beings sleep in nice apartments. However, the śāstras do not deﬁne civilization in this way. Whether one sleeps in the street or in an apartment, the activity is the same. A dog may eat out of a garbage can, and a human being may eat on a golden plate, but this does not mean that they are engaged in different activities. In either case, both the dog and the man are taking food into their bodies. A dog may have sex in the street, and a human being may have sex in a very nice bed in a secluded place, but that does not change the activity. People are thinking that advancement of civilization means improving eating, sleeping, mating and defending, but actually these activities have nothing to do with civilization. They simply tighten our bondage to material life.
Human life is meant for yajña, sacriﬁce for the satisfaction of the Supreme Person. We may perfect our activities, but our success lies in satisfying Kṛṣṇa by our talents. Presently we may be attached to material activity, but we should transfer that attachment to a sādhu. Then our lives will be successful. Presently we are attached to money, women, nice houses, country, society, friends, family and so forth. This attachment is called arjaraṁ pāśam. The word pāśu means “rope.” When we are bound with a rope, we are helpless, and now we are bound by the guṇas, or the three modes of material nature. The word guṇa also means “rope.” We cannot free ourselves, for we are conditioned. We cannot move freely without the sanction of the supreme authority. It is generally said that not a blade of grass moves without God’s sanction. Similarly, we cannot do anything without the supervision of a superior authority.
It is not that God has to take personal supervision of this. Parāsya śaktir vividhaiva śrūyate . . . na tasya kāryaṁ karaṇaṁ ca vidyate: in the Śvetāśvatara Upaniṣad (6.8), it is thus stated that the Supreme Lord does not have to act personally. He has many agents to perform everything for Him. We are so controlled that we are not even free to blink our eyes. We may be moving our hands very freely, but at any moment they can be immediately paralyzed. Presently I am claiming, “This is my hand.” But what is this? The hand could be paralyzed immediately. This is conditioned life, and how can we improve it? Our business is to become liberated from all this conditioning. How is this possible? Sa eva sādhuṣu kṛto mokṣa-dvāram apāvṛtam (Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam 3.25.20). We have to turn our attachment from material things to a sādhu. ‘Sādhu-saṅga’, ‘sādhu-saṅga’ — sarva-śāstre kaya: this is the advice of Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu. All śāstras advise us to associate with a sādhu. Even Cāṇakya Paṇḍita, the great politician, recommended: tyaja durjana-saṁsargaṁ bhaja sādhu-samāgamam. One Vaiṣṇava householder asked Caitanya Mahāprabhu what the duty of a householder is, and Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu immediately replied, asat-saṅga-tyāga — ei vaiṣṇava-ācāra: “Don’t associate with nondevotees, but search out a sādhu.” (Caitanya-caritāmṛta, Madhya 22.87)
At the present moment it is very difﬁcult to avoid the company of asādhus, those who are not sādhus. It is very difﬁcult to ﬁnd a sādhu for association. We have therefore started this Kṛṣṇa consciousness movement to create an association of sādhus so that people may take advantage and become liberated. There is no other purpose for this society.
Kṛṣṇa states in Bhagavad-gītā (6.47) that the ﬁrst-class sādhu is one who is always thinking of Him. This process is not very difﬁcult. We should always think of Kṛṣṇa, but how is this possible? We think of our business, our dog, our family, our lovable object and so many other things. We have to think of something; without thinking, we cannot remain. We simply have to divert our thoughts to Kṛṣṇa. It is the sādhu’s business to teach this, and one can learn this in the association of a sādhu. Actually a sādhu will not teach anything else. Ādau śraddhā tataḥ sādhu-saṅgaḥ (Bhakti-rasāmṛta-sindhu 1.4.15). This is the way to make spiritual advancement. One has to associate with a sādhu. Often the sādhu’s task is a thankless one, but he has to be tolerant. Despite all the trouble a sādhu may encounter, he is very merciful upon fallen conditioned souls. He sees that people are suffering due to a lack of Kṛṣṇa consciousness, and because he is always thinking of the welfare of others, he is suhṛt. Other people are always envious, but the sādhu is always thinking how to save others from the clutches of māyā. A sādhu is kind not only to human beings but to cats, dogs, trees, plants and insects; he will hesitate even to kill one mosquito. He does not simply think, “I shall just take care of my brother.” He looks on all living beings as his brothers because Kṛṣṇa says that He is the father of all living entities.
Because a sādhu lives in this way, he does not create enemies. If there are enemies, they become enemies out of their own character, not out of any provocation on the part of a sādhu. A sādhu simply teaches, “My dear human being, my dear friend, just surrender to Kṛṣṇa.” Enemies arise due to man’s envious nature. Cāṇakya Paṇḍita says that there are two envious animals – serpents and men. Although you may be faultless, either may kill you. Of the two, Cāṇakya Paṇḍita says that the envious man is more dangerous because a serpent can be subdued by chanting a mantra or by some herbs, but an envious man cannot be so subdued. In Kali-yuga, practically everyone is envious, but we have to tolerate this.
Envious people create many impediments to the Kṛṣṇa consciousness movement, but we have to tolerate them. There is no alternative. One must be peaceful and depend on Kṛṣṇa in all circumstances. These are the ornaments of a sādhu. We should ﬁnd a sādhu and associate with him. Then our path of liberation will be open.
In the next verse, Lord Kapila further explains the activities of a sādhu.
mayy ananyena bhāvena
bhaktiṁ kurvanti ye dṛḍhām
Such a sādhu engages in staunch devotional service to the Lord without deviation. For the sake of the Lord he renounces all other connections, such as family relationships and friendly acquaintances within the world.
A person in the renounced order of life, a sannyāsī, is also called a sādhu because he renounces everything – his home, his comfort, his friends, his relatives and his duties to friends and to family. He renounces everything for the sake of the Supreme Personality of Godhead. A sannyāsī is generally in the renounced order of life, but his renunciation will be successful only when his energy is employed in the service of the Lord with great austerity. It is said here, therefore, bhaktiṁ kurvanti ye dṛḍhām. A person who seriously engages in the service of the Lord and is in the renounced order of life is a sādhu. A sādhu is one who has given up all responsibility to society, family and worldly humanitarianism, simply for the service of the Lord. As soon as he takes his birth in the world, a person has many responsibilities and obligations to the public, demigods, great sages, general living beings, parents, forefathers and many others. When he gives up these obligations for the service of the Supreme Lord, he is not punished for his renunciation. But if for sense gratiﬁcation a person renounces these obligations, he is punished by the law of nature.
Kṛṣṇa and all the śāstras say that our only obligation is to the Supreme Personality of Godhead. If we take to His service, we are no longer obliged to anyone. We are free. How is this possible? By almighty God’s power. A man may be condemned to death, but if a president or a king excuses him, he is saved. Kṛṣṇa’s ﬁnal instruction in Bhagavad-gītā is to surrender everything to Him. We can sacriﬁce our life, wealth and intelligence, and this is called yajña. Everyone has some intelligence, and everyone uses his intelligence in one way or another. Generally people use their intelligence in trying to gratify their senses, but even an ant can do this. We should try to gratify not our senses but Kṛṣṇa’s senses. Then we become perfect.
We have to learn this puriﬁcatory process from a sādhu. Inasmuch as we try to gratify our senses, we become attached to the material world. We may render service to the sādhu or to Kṛṣṇa. The sādhu is the representative of Kṛṣṇa. He will never say, “Serve me,” but will say, “Serve Kṛṣṇa.” Therefore we have to approach Kṛṣṇa through the sādhu. This is conﬁrmed by the Vaiṣṇava ācārya Narottama dāsa Ṭhākura: chāḍiyā vaiṣṇava-sevā nistāra peyeche kebā. We cannot directly approach Kṛṣṇa; we have to go through the transparent via media, Kṛṣṇa’s representatives.
Those who are after material concessions go to different demigods. They take something from Śiva, Durgā, Kālī, Gaṇeśa, Sūrya and whomever. However, it was the goddess Pārvatī who asked Lord Śiva, “What is the best type of worship?” Lord Śiva advised, ārādhanānāṁ sarveṣāṁ viṣṇor ārādhanaṁ param (Padma Purāṇa). “My dear Pārvatī, of all kinds of worship, worship of Lord Viṣṇu is the best.” Then he added: tasmāt parataraṁ devi tadīyānāṁ samarcanam. “And even better than the worship of Lord Viṣṇu is the worship of a Vaiṣṇava, a devotee.”
Spiritual life begins with the association of a devotee, a sādhu. One cannot progress an inch without the mercy of a sādhu. Prahlāda Mahārāja has also indicated this:
naiṣāṁ matis tāvad urukramāṅghriṁ
spṛśaty anarthāpagamo yad-arthaḥ
niṣkiñcanānāṁ na vṛṇīta yāvat
“Unless they smear upon their bodies the dust of the lotus feet of a Vaiṣṇava completely freed from material contamination, persons very much inclined toward materialistic life cannot be attached to the lotus feet of the Lord, who is gloriﬁed for His uncommon activities. Only by becoming Kṛṣṇa conscious and taking shelter at the lotus feet of the Lord in this way can one be freed from material contamination.” (Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam 7.5.32) Hiraṇyakaśipu asked Prahlāda Mahārāja, “My dear son Prahlāda, how have you become so advanced in Kṛṣṇa consciousness?” Although Hiraṇyakaśipu was a demon, he was nonetheless inquisitive. Prahlāda Mahārāja replied, “My dear father, O best of the asuras, one can receive Kṛṣṇa consciousness only from the instructions of a guru. One cannot attain it simply by speculating. Ordinary men do not know that their ultimate destination is to return to Viṣṇu.” In the material world, people are always hoping for something. They hope against hope, yet their hopes will never be fulﬁlled. People are trying to become happy by adjusting the external energy, but they do not know that happiness cannot be achieved without approaching God. People are thinking, “I must ﬁrst of all see to my own interest.” That’s all right, but what is that interest? That they do not know. People are thinking that by adjusting the material energy they will be happy, and everyone is trying this individually, collectively or nationally. In any case, it is not possible. People will ultimately be frustrated. Why attempt a process that will ultimately meet with frustration? It is therefore said: adānta-gobhir viśatāṁ tamisraṁ punaḥ punaś carvita-carvaṇānām (Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam 7.5.30). People are being bafﬂed in so many ways because they cannot control their senses. Their only possibility of rescue is Kṛṣṇa. Therefore in this verse it is said: mayy ananyena bhāvena bhaktiṁ kurvanti ye dṛḍhām.
Prahlāda Mahārāja simply thought of Kṛṣṇa. Because of this, he had to undergo a great deal of trouble given by his father. Material nature will not give us freedom very easily. If we become strong enough to try to capture the lotus feet of Kṛṣṇa, māyā will try to keep us under her clutches. However, if one gives up everything for Kṛṣṇa’s sake, māyā can have no effect. The most excellent example of this is the gopīs. They gave up everything – family, prestige and honor – just to follow Kṛṣṇa. That is the highest perfection, but that is not possible for ordinary living entities. We should, however, follow the Gosvāmīs in their determination to worship Kṛṣṇa.
Sanātana Gosvāmī was an important minister in the government of Hussain Shah, but he gave up everything to follow Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu. He adopted the life of a mendicant and lived under a different tree every night. One may ask, “After giving up material enjoyment, how can one live?” The Gosvāmīs lived by dipping into the ocean of the transcendental loving affairs between Kṛṣṇa and the gopīs. Since that was their asset, they could live very peacefully. We cannot simply give up everything. We will become mad if we try to give up everything without having staunch faith in Kṛṣṇa. Yet if we ﬁnd Kṛṣṇa’s association, we can easily give up our opulent positions – our family, business and everything. However, that requires sādhu-saṅga, association with a sādhu, a devotee. When we associate with a devotee, the day will eventually come when we can give up everything and become liberated persons, ﬁt to return home, back to Godhead.
Presently we are attached to material enjoyment, and Kṛṣṇa even gives us a chance to gratify our senses. He lets us enjoy ourselves to the fullest extent because we have come to this material world to enjoy sense gratiﬁcation. However, this is called māyā, illusion. It is not really enjoyment, but simply struggle. When one realizes that he is simply struggling life after life, that there is actually no real enjoyment in the material world, one becomes a devotee of Kṛṣṇa. That realization requires knowledge, and that knowledge can be acquired by association with a sādhu, a devotee.
Freedom from this struggle with material existence is further explained by Lord Kapila in the next verse.
mad-āśrayāḥ kathā mṛṣṭāḥ
śṛṇvanti kathayanti ca
tapanti vividhās tāpā
Engaged constantly in chanting and hearing about Me, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, the sādhus do not suffer from material miseries because they are always ﬁlled with thoughts of My pastimes and activities.
There are multifarious miseries in material existence – those pertaining to the body and the mind, those imposed by other living entities and those imposed by natural disturbances. But a sādhu is not disturbed by such miserable conditions because his mind is always ﬁlled with Kṛṣṇa consciousness, and thus he does not like to talk about anything but the activities of the Lord. Mahārāja Ambarīṣa did not speak of anything but the pastimes of the Lord. Vacāṁsi vaikuṇṭha-guṇānuvarṇane. He engaged his words only in gloriﬁcation of the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Ordinary conditioned souls, being forgetful of the activities of the Lord, are always full of anxieties and material tribulations. On the other hand, since the devotees always engage in the topics of the Lord, they are forgetful of the miseries of material existence. Thus they differ from other living entities, who are simply suffering.
There is no one in the world materially engaged who can boldly say, “I am not suffering.” I challenge anyone to say this. Everyone in the material world is suffering in some way or another. If not, why are so many drugs being advertised? On the television they are always advertising tranquilizers and pain killers, and in America and in other Western countries they are so advanced that there are dozens of tablets for various pains. Therefore there must be some suffering. Actually, anyone who has a material body has to accept suffering. There are three types of suffering in the material world: ādhyātmika, ādhibhautika and ādhidaivika. Ādhyātmika refers to the body and mind. Today I have a headache or some pain in my back, or my mind is not very quiet. These are sufferings called ādhyātmika. There are other forms of suffering called ādhibhautika, which are sufferings imposed by other living entities. Apart from this, there are sufferings called ādhidaivika, over which we have no control whatsoever. These are caused by the demigods or acts of nature, and include famine, pestilence, ﬂood, excessive heat or excessive cold, earthquakes, ﬁre and so on. Nonetheless, we are thinking that we are very happy within this material world, although in addition to these threefold miseries there is also birth, old age, disease and death. So where is our happiness? Because we are under the spell of māyā, we are thinking that our position is very secure. We are thinking, “Let us enjoy life,” but what kind of enjoyment is this?
Obviously we have to tolerate suffering. One of the characteristics of a sādhu is tolerance. Everyone is tolerant to a degree, but a sādhu’s tolerance and an ordinary man’s tolerance are different. This is because a sādhu knows that he is not the body. According to a Bengali Vaiṣṇava song: deha-smṛti nāhi yāra saṁsāra-bandhana kāhāṅ tāra.
If we properly understand that we are not the body, although we may suffer, we will not feel the suffering as acutely. For instance, if one thinks, “This is my car,” and is very attached to it, he suffers more when it is wrecked than a person who thinks, “It can be repaired, or I can leave it.” It is a question of mental absorption. Because he is more like an animal, a materialist suffers more. The devotee, on the other hand, takes Kṛṣṇa’s advice in Bhagavad-gītā (2.14):
mātrā-sparśās tu kaunteya
tāṁs titikṣasva bhārata
“O son of Kuntī, the nonpermanent appearance of happiness and distress and their disappearance in due course are like the appearance and disappearance of winter and summer seasons. They arise from sense perception, O scion of Bharata, and one must learn to tolerate them without being disturbed.”
In summer we suffer, and in winter we suffer. In the summer, ﬁre brings suffering, and in the winter the same ﬁre is pleasing. Similarly, in the winter, water is suffering, but in the summer it is pleasing. The water and the ﬁre are the same, but sometimes they are pleasing, sometimes they are not. This is due to the touch of the skin. We all have some “skin disease,” which is the body, and therefore we are suffering. Because we have become such rascals, we are thinking, “I am this body.” According to the Āyur-vedic system, the body is composed of three material elements: kapha-pitta-vāyu. The more we are in the bodily conception, the more we suffer.
Presently so many “ism’s” are being developed according to the bodily conception – nationalism, communism, socialism, communalism and so on. In Calcutta during the 1947 Hindu-Muslim riots, there was more suffering because everyone was thinking, “I am a Hindu” or “I am a Muslim.” But, if one is advanced in Kṛṣṇa consciousness, he will not ﬁght according to such conceptions. A Kṛṣṇa conscious person knows that he is neither Hindu nor Muslim but the eternal servant of Kṛṣṇa. Because people are being educated to become more body conscious, their sufferings are increasing. If we reduce the bodily conception, suffering will also be reduced. Those who are Kṛṣṇa conscious, who are always thinking of Kṛṣṇa within their minds and within their hearts, are not suffering as much because they know that whatever they might suffer is due to Kṛṣṇa’s desire. Therefore they welcome suffering. For instance, when Kṛṣṇa was leaving, Queen Kuntī said, “My dear Kṛṣṇa, when we were in a dangerous situation, You were always present as our friend and adviser. Now we are well situated with our kingdom, and now You are leaving for Dvārakā. This is not good. It is better that we again suffer so that we can always remember You.” Thus the devotee sometimes welcomes suffering as an opportunity to remember Kṛṣṇa constantly. When a devotee suffers, he thinks, “This is due to my past misdeeds. Actually I should be suffering a great deal, but due to Kṛṣṇa’s grace I am suffering just a little. After all, suffering and enjoyment are in the mind.” In this way, a devotee is not greatly affected by suffering, and this is the difference between a devotee and a nondevotee.
Prahlāda Mahārāja, a ﬁve-year-old boy, had to undergo a great deal of suffering at the hands of his father, who was torturing him for being a devotee. The boy was trampled by elephants, thrown from a mountain, placed in burning oil and thrown into a snake pit, yet he was silent during this whole ordeal. Similarly, Haridāsa Ṭhākura, a Muhammadan by birth, was a very great devotee and was always chanting Hare Kṛṣṇa. That was his only fault. However, the Muslim Kazi called him forth and said, “You are a Muhammadan, born in a great Muhammadan family, yet you are chanting this Hindu Hare Kṛṣṇa mantra. What is this?” Haridāsa Ṭhākura mildly replied, “My dear sir, there are many Hindus who have become Muhammadans. Suppose I have become a Hindu? What is wrong with this?” The Kazi became very angry and ordered Haridāsa Ṭhākura to be whipped in twenty-two bazaars. This essentially meant that he was to be beaten to death, but because he was such a great devotee he did not actually feel the pain. Although a devotee may sometimes have to suffer, he tolerates the suffering. At the same time, he is very kind to conditioned souls and tries to elevate them to Kṛṣṇa consciousness. This is one of the primary features of a devotee’s life. People are always putting a sādhu into difﬁculties, but he does not give up his job, which is to spread Kṛṣṇa consciousness so that others may become happy. It was Prahlāda Mahārāja who said: “My Lord, I am not suffering, for I know the art of being happy.” How is this? “Simply by hearing about You and chanting about You I am happy.” This is the business of a devotee – hearing and chanting about the Lord. This is śravaṇaṁ kīrtanaṁ viṣṇoḥ smaraṇam. Now this śravaṇaṁ kīrtanam is taking place all over the world through the Kṛṣṇa consciousness movement.
Even in ordinary life it is possible for the mind to be absorbed in such a way that even a surgical operation may not disturb a man. Years ago, when Stalin had to undergo a surgical operation, he refused the use of chloroform. If this is possible even in an ordinary materialistic life, then what to speak of spiritual life? One’s mind should always be absorbed in Kṛṣṇa consciousness, in thinking of Kṛṣṇa. It is Kṛṣṇa’s injunction, “Always think of Me.” The European and American youths in the Kṛṣṇa consciousness movement have been accustomed to many bad habits since birth, but now they have given these up. Many people think that it is impossible to live without illicit sex, intoxication, meat-eating and gambling. One famous Marquis told one of my Godbrothers, “Please make me a brāhmaṇa.” My Godbrother said, “Yes, it is not a very difﬁcult thing. Simply give up these bad habits – intoxication, illicit sex, meat-eating and gambling. Then you can become a brāhmaṇa.” The Marquis then said, “Impossible! This is our life.” Actually we have seen that in Western countries older men cannot give up these habits, and because of this they are suffering, yet many young boys and girls have given them up, and there is no suffering. This is due to Kṛṣṇa consciousness.
This process is open to everyone. Everyone has heard of the Bhagavad-gītā. We can attain perfection simply by following the instructions given in this book. It is not necessary to abandon our responsibilities. Mahārāja Ambarīṣa was a great emperor administering to his kingdom, yet at the same time he spoke only of Kṛṣṇa. Caitanya Mahāprabhu requested that His devotees only talk about Kṛṣṇa. If we simply talk about Kṛṣṇa and hear about Him, the stage will come when we will no longer suffer. This is called ānanda-mayo ’bhyāsāt in the Vedānta-sūtra. The living entity and Kṛṣṇa are both ānanda-maya, transcendentally blissful. On that platform, there is no possibility of material suffering. It is not a question of displaying some magical feats. The greatest magic is freedom from suffering, and this is the freedom of a devotee. When we feel pleasure from hearing about Kṛṣṇa and talking about Him, we should know that we are making progress on the path of perfection. At that time, material suffering will not be felt at all. This is the practical effect of rendering devotional service, which Lord Kapila is pointing out to His mother.
ta ete sādhavaḥ sādhvi
saṅgas teṣv atha te prārthyaḥ
saṅga-doṣa-harā hi te
O My mother, O virtuous lady, these are the qualities of great devotees who are free from all attachment. You must seek attachment to such holy men, for this counteracts the pernicious effects of material attachment.
Kapila Muni herein advises His mother, Devahūti, that if she wants to be free from material attachment, she should increase her attachment for the sādhus, or devotees who are completely freed from all material attachment. In Bhagavad-gītā (15.5) it is stated, nirmāna-mohā jita-saṅga-doṣāḥ. This refers to one who is completely freed from the puffed up condition of material possessiveness. A person may be materially very rich or respectable, but if he at all wants to transfer himself to the spiritual kingdom, back home, back to Godhead, he has to be freed from material possessiveness because that is a false position.
The word moha used here means the false understanding that one is rich or poor. In this material world, the conception that one is very rich or very poor – or any such consciousness in connection with material existence – is false, because this body itself is temporary. A pure soul who is prepared to be freed from this material entanglement must ﬁrst be free from the association of the three modes of nature. Our consciousness at the present moment is polluted because of association with the three modes of nature; therefore in Bhagavad-gītā the same principle is stated. It is advised, jita-saṅga-doṣāḥ: one should be freed from the contaminated association of the three modes. Here also, in the Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam, this is conﬁrmed: a pure devotee, who is preparing to transfer himself to the spiritual kingdom, is also freed from the association of the three modes. We have to seek the association of such devotees. For this reason we have begun the International Society for Krishna Consciousness. There are many mercantile and scientiﬁc associations in human society established to develop a particular type of education or consciousness, but there is no association which helps one to get free from all material association. If anyone wishes to become free from this material contamination, he has to seek the association of devotees, wherein Kṛṣṇa consciousness is exclusively cultured.
Because a devotee is freed from all contaminated material association, he is not affected by the miseries of material existence, even though he appears to be in the material world. How is it possible? A cat carries her kittens in her mouth, and when she kills a rat, she also carries the booty in her mouth. Thus both are carried in the mouth of the cat, but they are in different conditions. The kitten feels comfort in the mouth of the mother, whereas when the rat is carried in the mouth of the cat, the rat feels the blows of death. Similarly, those who are sādhus, or devotees engaged in the transcendental service of the Lord, do not feel the contamination of material miseries, whereas those who are not devotees in Kṛṣṇa consciousness actually feel the miseries of material existence. One should therefore give up the association of materialistic persons and seek the association of those engaged in Kṛṣṇa consciousness. By such association one will be beneﬁted by spiritual advancement. By their words and instructions, one will be able to cut off his attachment to material existence.
In this Kali-yuga, the present age, the dangerous modes of rajo-guṇa and tamo-guṇa, passion and ignorance, are especially prominent. Practically everyone in this age is contaminated by lusty desire, greed and ignorance. It is said in the śāstras that in this age of Kali, sattva-guṇa, the mode of goodness, is practically nonexistent.
The fourteenth chapter of Bhagavad-gītā nicely explains how one can free oneself of contamination by the material modes. Now Kapiladeva advises, “Mother, if you want to get rid of the contamination of material nature, you should associate with a sādhu.” Attachment to the material modes brings about our bondage. If we want to be free from this bondage, we have to transfer our attachment to a sādhu.
Actually everyone is attached to something. No one can say that he is free from attachment. The Māyāvāda and Buddhist philosophies tell us to become detached, but this in itself is not possible. A child is attached to playing in so many ways, but gradually his attachments should be transferred to reading and going to school to acquire an education. It is a question not of stopping attachment but of transferring it. If one simply tries to put an end to attachment, he will become mad. Something must be given in the place of attachment. For instance, we tell our disciples to stop eating meat, but how is this meat-eating stopped? In the place of meat, we are supplying kacaurīs, rasagullā and many other palatable things. In this way, detachment is possible. First of all, nullify the inferior attachment, and then supply a better attachment. There is no question of forcing a living entity. This must be done gradually. A child may have some attachment, but by the system of replacing attachment, his attachment is overturned. Similarly, our consciousness has somehow or other become contaminated. Now it has to be puriﬁed. Then Kṛṣṇa consciousness will automatically arise and awaken.
Kṛṣṇa consciousness is our original consciousness, but somehow or other it has become covered by material attachment. The question is how to give up material attachment and become attached to Kṛṣṇa. The process is sādhu-saṅga, association with a sādhu. We have many attachments in this material world, but we cannot make these attachments void. We simply have to purify them. Some say that if the eye is diseased, it should be plucked out, but that is not treatment. Treatment is removing the disease. Somehow or other there is a cataract, and if the cataract is removed, one’s eyesight will be revived. We have many desires, but we have to divert these desires to Kṛṣṇa’s service. For instance, we may be very attached to making money; therefore Kṛṣṇa says, “Yes, go ahead and conduct your business. There is no harm. Simply give Me the results.” As stated in Bhagavad-gītā (9.27):
yat karoṣi yad aśnāsi
yaj juhoṣi dadāsi yat
yat tapasyasi kaunteya
tat kuruṣva mad-arpaṇam
“O son of Kuntī, all that you do, all that you eat, all that you offer and give away, as well as all austerities that you may perform, should be done as an offering unto Me.”
This is the beginning of bhakti-yoga. If we conduct business and earn money, we should spend it for Kṛṣṇa. This is a form of bhakti. Another vivid example is Arjuna, who was a ﬁghter. By ﬁghting, he became a devotee. He did not become a devotee by chanting Hare Kṛṣṇa but by ﬁghting in the Battle of Kurukṣetra. Kṛṣṇa advised him to ﬁght, but because Arjuna was a Vaiṣṇava, in the beginning he was unwilling. A Vaiṣṇava does not like to kill anything, but if Kṛṣṇa orders him, he must ﬁght. He does not ﬁght out of his own will, because a Vaiṣṇava’s natural instinct is not to do harm to anyone. However, when a Vaiṣṇava knows that Kṛṣṇa wants a particular thing done, he does not care for his own considerations. In any case, everyone has some particular type of duty, an occupation. If we perform our occupation in the worship of Kṛṣṇa, our life will be perfect. This is also the instruction given in Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam (1.2.13):
ataḥ pumbhir dvija-śreṣṭhā
“O best of the twice-born, it is therefore concluded that the highest perfection one can achieve by discharging the duties prescribed for one’s own occupation according to caste divisions and orders of life is to please the Personality of Godhead.”
Formerly, the varṇāśrama-dharma was prominent, and everyone had a particular duty according to his position in society. Now the occupational duties have expanded, but it doesn’t matter whether one is an engineer, a doctor or whatever. Simply try to serve Kṛṣṇa by the results of work. That is bhakti. It is not the philosophy of this Kṛṣṇa consciousness movement to disengage people from their activities. One should engage in his occupation, but one should never forget Kṛṣṇa. Kṛṣṇa advises us to always become Kṛṣṇa conscious, and we should always think that we are acting for Kṛṣṇa. Of course, we should work by the order of Kṛṣṇa or His representative, not whimsically. If we perform some nonsensical action and think, “I am doing this for Kṛṣṇa,” that will not be accepted. The work must be veriﬁed by Kṛṣṇa’s acceptance or by the acceptance of Kṛṣṇa’s representative. Arjuna did not ﬁght without Kṛṣṇa’s order; therefore we must receive our orders also. We may say, “I cannot ﬁnd Kṛṣṇa. How can I follow His order?” It is the role of the sādhu to impart Kṛṣṇa’s orders. Since Kṛṣṇa’s representative is the sādhu, Kapiladeva advises His mother to associate with sādhus.
We have described the symptoms of a sādhu, and we have stated that a sādhu should be accepted by his characteristics. It is not that we accept anyone who comes along and says, “I am a sādhu.” The characteristics of a sādhu have to be present. Similarly, it is not that anyone is accepted who comes along and says, “I am an incarnation of God.” There are characteristics of God given in the śāstras. Sādhu-saṅga, association with a sādhu, is very essential in Kṛṣṇa consciousness. People are suffering due to contamination by tamo-guṇa and rajo-guṇa. The sādhu teaches one how to remain purely in sattva-guṇa by truthfulness, cleanliness, mind control, sense control, simplicity, tolerance, and full faith and knowledge. These are some of the characteristics of sattva-guṇa.
Instead of thinking, “Unless I have a drink, I will go mad,” one should think, “Unless I associate with a sādhu, I will go mad.” When we can think in this way, we will become liberated. Caitanya Mahāprabhu has stated that He wants every village in the entire world to be a center for Kṛṣṇa consciousness so that people can take advantage of sādhus and in turn become sādhus. This is the mission of this Kṛṣṇa consciousness movement. We simply have to voluntarily undergo some penance in the beginning. It may be a little painful in the beginning to refrain from illicit sex, intoxication, meat-eating and gambling, but one has to be tolerant. To be cured of a disease, we may have to agree to undergo some surgical operation. Although the operation may be very painful, we have to tolerate it. This is called titikṣavaḥ. At the same time, we have to be kāruṇikāḥ – that is, we have to take compassion upon fallen souls by going from town to town to enlighten others in Kṛṣṇa consciousness. This is a sādhu’s duty. Those who are preachers are superior to those who go to the Himalayas to meditate. It is good to go to the Himalayas to meditate for one’s personal beneﬁt, but those who undergo many difﬁculties in order to preach are superior. They are actually ﬁghting for Kṛṣṇa’s sake, and they are certainly more compassionate. Those sādhus who leave Vṛndāvana to go ﬁght in the world, to spread Kṛṣṇa consciousness, are superior sādhus. This is the opinion of Kṛṣṇa in Bhagavad-gītā (18.68–69):
ya idaṁ paramaṁ guhyaṁ
bhaktiṁ mayi parāṁ kṛtvā
mām evaiṣyaty asaṁśayaḥ
na ca tasmān manuṣyeṣu
kaścin me priya-kṛttamaḥ
bhavitā na ca me tasmād
anyaḥ priya-taro bhuvi
“For one who explains the supreme secret to the devotees, devotional service is guaranteed, and at the end he will come back to Me. There is no servant in this world more dear to Me than he, nor will there ever be one more dear.”
If we want to be quickly recognized by Kṛṣṇa, we should become preachers. This is also the message of Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu. It is not that one should remain in India; rather, one should travel all over the world to preach Kṛṣṇa consciousness. The sādhu is suhṛt; he is the well-wisher of everyone. This does not mean that he is a well-wisher for an Indian nationalist or whatever. No, he is a well-wisher even of cats and dogs. A devotee even wishes to beneﬁt cats and dogs by giving them prasāda. Once, when devotees from Bengal were going to see Caitanya Mahāprabhu, a dog began to follow them, and the leader of the party, Śivānanda Sena, was giving prasāda to the dog. When they had to cross a river, the boatman would not take the dog, but Śivānanda Sena paid him more money and said, “Please take this dog. He is a Vaiṣṇava, for he has joined our company. How can we leave him behind?” Caitanya Mahāprabhu Himself actually threw some of His food to the dog, and in this way the dog attained Vaikuṇṭha.
Not only is a sādhu everyone’s well-wisher, but he is not an enemy of anyone. He is also śānta, peaceful. These are the preliminary characteristics of a sādhu. He is also attached to no one but Kṛṣṇa. Mayy ananyena bhāvena. These are the external and internal symptoms of a devotee. A devotee also respects the demigods because he knows their position in relation to Kṛṣṇa. In Brahma-saṁhitā (5.44), the goddess Durgā is worshiped as the external energy, or potency, of Kṛṣṇa.
chāyeva yasya bhuvanāni bibharti durgā
icchānurūpam api yasya ca ceṣṭate sā
govindam ādi-puruṣaṁ tam ahaṁ bhajāmi
“The external potency, māyā, who is of the nature of the shadow of the cit, spiritual, potency, is worshiped by all people as Durgā, the creating, preserving and destroying agency of this mundane world. I adore the primeval Lord Govinda, in accordance with whose will Durgā conducts herself.”
The goddess Durgā is so powerful that she can create, maintain and annihilate. However, she cannot act independent of Kṛṣṇa. She is like a shadow of Kṛṣṇa. A sādhu knows that prakṛti, nature, is working under Kṛṣṇa’s direction. Similarly, a policeman knows that he is not working independently but under government orders. This knowledge is required in order that the policeman, who has some power, will not think that he has become God. No, God is not so cheap. God has multienergies, and one of these energies is Durgā. It is not that she is all and all, for there are many millions of Durgās, just as there are many millions of Śivas and millions of universes. Although there are millions of demigods, God is one. It is not that there are a million Gods. Of course, God can expand in millions of forms, but that is different. A devotee offers respects to the demigods as the assistants of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, not as the supreme power. One who does not know God as He is considers the demigods to be supreme. Such people are less intelligent. A devotee offers respects to the demigods, but he knows that the Supreme Lord is Kṛṣṇa. Kṛṣṇas tu bhagavān svayam. Actually a sādhu, a Vaiṣṇava, offers respects to everyone, and he is ready to give up relatives and everything else for Kṛṣṇa’s sake. A sādhu simply takes pleasure in hearing about Kṛṣṇa and talking about Him.
There are many pastimes enacted by Kṛṣṇa. He ﬁghts and kills demons, and He performs His pastimes with the gopīs. He plays as a cowherd boy in Vṛndāvana and as King of Dvārakā. There are many books about Kṛṣṇa, kṛṣṇa-kathā, and this Kṛṣṇa consciousness movement has already published many of them. Apart from Bhagavad-gītā, which is spoken by Kṛṣṇa, we can read these other books. In this way, one can learn the art of becoming a sādhu. Simply by hearing about Kṛṣṇa and speaking about Him, we will be immediately relieved from the suffering of this material condition.
As stated in this verse:
ta ete sādhavaḥ sādhvi
These symptoms are visible when one no longer has material attachment. A sādhu does not think himself Hindu, Muslim, Christian, American, Indian or whatever. A sādhu simply thinks, “I am the servant of Kṛṣṇa.” Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu has said, “I am not a brāhmaṇa, kṣatriya, vaiśya, śūdra, brahmacārī or whatever. I am simply the servant of the servant of the servant of Kṛṣṇa.” One need only learn this process in order to render the best service to humanity.