“Those miscreants who are grossly foolish, lowest among mankind, whose knowledge is stolen by illusion, and who partake of the atheistic nature of demons, do not surrender unto Me.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 7.15)
The decision to follow the righteous path in life is made so much easier by the visible behavior of those who follow any other path. As if they were trying to steer us in the right direction on purpose, their actions and demeanor prove that, at the very least, the path recommended by the saintly class of men fulfills a higher immediate destiny, with a calm disposition and a love for humanity engulfing the previously bitter and competitive living entity. From the noticeable dichotomy the sober thinking individual can take a further interest in the enlightened path and make steady progress in that most important endeavor.
The importance of the association of saints cannot be overemphasized. The famous Vaishnava poet Goswami Tulsidas prays in his Vinai Patrika to always have the association of the saintly class in whatever birth follows. According to Vedic information, depending on the type of consciousness one has at the time of death, their residence in the next life can be pretty much anywhere. Have a mind concentrated on money, you’ll take birth in circumstances where you can compete with your fellow man to deliver a good or service to the public for the intended result of a profit. While at the moment of quitting the body if you are focused on meeting the base demands of the senses, you’ll be granted birth in an animal species in the subsequent existence, wherein you’ll get to cater to the desires for eating, sleeping, defending and mating without impediment.
The saintly class can rescue any person, from any walk of life. Tulsidas points to the examples of Prahlada Maharaja, Valmiki, Jatayu, and a few others to remind the sincere listener of the power of good association. The saintly class has outward features which are definable. A person who doesn’t even know that someone is following the righteous path as a way of life can at least notice that a saint has a unique demeanor. They are kind, sweet, compassionate, instructive and knowledgeable. The most noticeable feature is their equal disposition towards all creatures.
Why would this feature stand out? How many people do you know that treat a stranger just as well as they treat a friend? How many people view the cat, the dog, the elephant, the learned sage and the dog-eater as being equal on a spiritual level? The visible variety in outward forms makes acquiring the equal vision of a saint very difficult. For starters, why would we treat something as wild as a tiger the same as a human baby? They have very different inclinations. A tiger will jump at the chance to kill you, while the infant human is the essence of innocence.
The saint isn’t a sentimentalist who irrationally follows gentleness under all circumstances. Rather, real kindness is defined by showing compassion upon creatures and knowing what will benefit them in the future. The tiger does not have the ability to accept sober instruction on the meaning of life. Though the tiger is a spirit soul at the core, because of the features it assumed at the time of birth, its potential for knowledge gathering is limited. The human being, on the other hand, can mature to the point that it can take instruction from others and be benefitted from those kind words of advice.
The saint proves to be beneficial in all circumstances. They may not always preach openly with their words, but they configure their actions to meet the situation at hand, finding a way to help others with their association. With Prahlada, the association of Narada while within the womb helped him to be devoted to God right from the time of birth. Valmiki was a highway robber who stole for a living, but through the association of Narada he was transformed into a staunch devotee whose heart was so pure that he could author the wonderful Ramayana, a poem which chronicles the life and pastimes of Lord Rama.
Birth after birth, the association of the saints is so valuable that it is equivalent to having God’s direct company. In one sense the saints are no different than God, for they chant His names all the time, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare”. They have the Lord on the mind all the time, so naturally that consciousness will influence their behavior. People who have the association of such a spiritually enriched person can only find benefits.
The saints also know the true meaning of advaita. The Sanskrit term means “non-dual”, so one who understands it knows that God pervades all of space. We say that God is not personally present in a particular area because of our limitations. The sun sets at night, but it does not disappear. The position of the earth has changed, and because our sense perceptions are limited, we are no longer able to see the sun. This lasts for only a brief period, until the next morning.
“O son of Kunti [Arjuna], I am the taste of water, the light of the sun and the moon, the syllable om in the Vedic mantras; I am the sound in ether and ability in man.” (Lord Krishna, Bg. 7.8)
With the Supreme Lord, His influence is felt in the nature at large. He is the taste of water, the sound in ether, and the original fragrance of the earth. The results of the actions of the individual are delivered by God in His unmanifest form, which pervades the space as Brahman and also lives locally within the heart of every creature as the Supersoul. The saints understand this presence, so at every second they are seeing the divine. More than just trying to get a glimpse of Him for a moment and then proclaiming life to be a success, the saints take the sight of God as fuel for their actions. They notice His presence everywhere and then use that vision to make every place a playing field for devotional activities; this is the true meaning to advaita.
But how do we know that the saints are correct? What if they just have good qualities but are actually following a bogus system of spirituality? Thankfully for us, the people who don’t follow the purported righteous path are full of bad qualities. Thieves, liars and cheats may outwardly claim to be religious, but based on their behavior we know that they have no understanding of advaita. Even if they should openly profess to follow spirituality, donning the garb of a saint, based on their miserable disposition, their utter hatred for humanity, and the lack of any positive influence they have on others, we know that their knowledge of the highest matters of spiritual life is lacking.
If you were to make an honest comparison between the saint and the atheist, you’d see that the saint is calm and peaceful, while the atheist is always in angst. They are never happy about their condition, even if they should have millions of dollars in the bank. They come up with their own philosophies for what the meaning of life should be. Perhaps they want to give money to the poor or open hospitals; thus essentially admitting that only some people are worthy of help. The fact that money doesn’t bring happiness to the rich person is overlooked, for the belief is that if the well-off aren’t doing so well mentally, it’s their fault. “They probably deserve it for having exploited others, preventing them from acquiring wealth.”
The concept of hating your country or community can only come through ignorance of the all-pervasiveness of spirit. Spirit is also glorious in its attributes. The Supreme Spirit is full of bliss, eternality and knowledge, and those features are inherited by His innumerable sparks that roam this and many other lands. If you hate your country, you’re essentially saying that you dislike your neighbors. The person who lives next to you is part of your country. The people you run into in the supermarket and restaurants are your community. If you have blanket hatred for them you are not very intelligent, for you know nothing about them.
“They believe that to gratify the senses unto the end of life is the prime necessity of human civilization. Thus there is no end to their anxiety. Being bound by hundreds and thousands of desires, by lust and anger, they secure money by illegal means for sense gratification.” (Lord Krishna, Bg. 16.11-12)
The atheist doctrine is to gratify the senses as much as possible before death comes, for the afterlife is considered just a mythical concept concocted by spiritualists who couldn’t deal with death. But the flaw with this logic is that the life of hedonism proves to be miserable. If more drinking and gambling were the answer to life’s problems, the entire world today would be filled with happy people. The society at large would embody good qualities, the fraternal spirit. We see that just the opposite is true, as with each foray into sense gratification, the senses become conditioned to temporary happiness. So the next time it will take more sense gratification to reach satiation. Then there is the competition factor. Others are also struggling to find that happiness, so you better get “yours” before someone else takes it from you.
Contrast this with the life of the saint. He lives peacefully, with very little, and stays in a neutral position mentally. He has high regard for every single creature. He doesn’t only pity the destitute human being for their materially impoverished condition. Rather, every living entity has the potential to acquire the divine qualities, to know and learn about God and use that knowledge to better their condition. Just looking at the two results, we see that the saints are superior. If we’re comparing the outcomes as a type of experiment, there is no question that the test case of atheism brings inferior results. Who would want to be miserable all day? Who would want to increase their hatred of humanity as they matured through life? Who would want to grow old and be stuck with boring activities that don’t take you any place meaningful?
The saint grants the benediction of God’s association through a variety of mediums. The holy name is the entry point and also the solid foundation for the spiritually enlivened soul. That name is the true wealth of the saints, who hold on to it for dear life. The example of the atheist and the dichotomy they create helps to clear up the right choice in life. The greatest skeptic of religion still is interested in meeting a beneficial end, a future condition that is positive. By taking the association of the saints and learning from their behavior, the immediate aftermath is a kinder, gentler and wiser person. The reward of God’s permanent association in the afterlife is the mature fruit that results from steady practice in bhakti-yoga, which only brings increased happiness with each passing day.
To have an existence should be pleasurable,
But without acknowledging God life miserable.
Atheist divine consciousness they live without,
Days then filled with misery, worry and doubt.
Saints, on the other hand, always at peace,
With equal vision, duality and anger cease.
Make an experiment, do a visible test,
Results will tell you which method is best.
With their behavior saints show what is right,
Bhakti under guidance to reach bliss’s height.