“Prahlada Maharaja continued: My dear friends born of demoniac families, the happiness perceived with reference to the sense objects by contact with the body can be obtained in any form of life, according to one's past fruitive activities. Such happiness is automatically obtained without endeavor, just as we obtain distress.” (Shrimad Bhagavatam, 7.6.3)
“Oh, isn’t that cute? They must have learned that while they were in school. Or perhaps they were taught this by their elders. Their hearing is good, so they must have picked it up while listening to adults speaking about the meaning of life. This precocious child will likely grow up to be a scholar, someone very wise. His parents must be so proud of him.”
Mind you, the people observing the child who surprisingly speaks wisely won’t give much attention to his message. The child can speak the harshest language, condemning a society for ignorantly pursuing material enjoyment that has yet to provide them any happiness, but the elders won’t really listen. They won’t get angry with the child, either, as the child doesn’t know any better, right? When the same instruction is given by an adult, however, others will be offended. “How dare they speak to us that way? Who are they anyway? They should learn to be nicer. We are not all horrible people who need to be scolded in this way.” The truly wise man, who is known as a sadhu, delivers an uncompromising message in a swift way. They are honest; they will not lie to someone else’s detriment. We are indebted to them for this candidness.
Would a child ever offer the same instruction as a sadhu?
Many eons ago this is precisely what occurred. A five-year old boy, the son of a powerful king, would lecture to his classmates during recess. He wouldn’t repeat what was just heard in class from the teachers. That information was limited to ruling over a kingdom. The boys learned the four techniques of diplomacy, namely pacification, gift-giving, dividing and conquering, and using force. They learned what it takes to keep subjects happy and how to maintain your control as a leader.
The young Prahlada was taught something more valuable before he ever entered school. While he was still in the womb, his mother received instruction from Narada Muni, a wise man of the caliber mentioned previously. Narada did not sugarcoat his message. He has never done that in fact. Since time immemorial he has travelled the worlds to give the message of truth and light. That message can be summarized as follows: the meaning of life is to be devoted to the Supreme Personality of Godhead, who is full of a form that is knowledgeable, eternal and blissful. Any other use of the material body, whether in a human form or not, is a waste of time.
Prahlada remembered these divine instructions upon taking birth, and so when he heard materialism taught to him in school, he didn’t assign it much value. During recess he would teach his friends about the real meaning of life. It is extraordinary for this kind of information to come from the mouth of a child. The Christmas Holiday is especially important to children today, and there is a reason for this. The children get gifts during Christmas. So many movies are made to this effect, wherein Christmas for a specific child is saved when they are able to get a material gift that they particularly desired. A child has a limited vision, so they can’t foresee that they will get sick of their gifts very quickly. They don’t realize that in adulthood no material reward can provide everlasting happiness.
What to speak of children, even adults have a difficult time realizing this fact. Therefore adults take to gambling and intoxication, ways of forgetting the influence of time. Forgetfulness does nothing to change the reality, however. Only the truth will set you free, and as a young child Prahlada spoke the truth. The father, the king of the land, had a problem with Prahlada. Who would ever purposefully harm a child anyway? What can they do to implement their principles? They are powerless; they are dependent upon others for protection.
Prahlada’s honesty, especially when he was questioned about what he learned in school and what he thought was the most important thing in life, drove his father crazy. Unable to convince the boy otherwise, Hiranyakashipu, the father, tried to kill Prahlada in so many different ways. All the attempts failed. Finally, the person of whom Prahlada spoke arrived on the scene in a ferocious and strange form and killed Hiranyakashipu. The boy never wanted material rewards; just the ability to keep loving God, which included speaking of Him to others. The Supreme Lord granted the boy’s wish. This gift would be valuable not only to Prahlada but to countless future generations as well.
Indeed, the sadhus of modern times take the baton passed on by sadhus of the past like Prahlada. Sadhus are typically adults, though, so the general population may not take so kindly to their critical words. What are some examples of teachings that don’t sit well with others? If you think about it, since the sadhu is honest, pretty much all of their teachings will fly in the face of what is generally taught. The beginning truth is that the living entity in the material world is not their body. All of us are spirit on the inside, and so our body is not that important. It is like a temporary covering. Focusing on what to eat, where to travel, and what to wear is not very wise. Eating, sleeping, and dressing properly are important to remain functional, but they are not the all in all. I can eat the best food in the world and still not find happiness. Food is just food; it is only there to give me strength to maintain my life. Whether I eat broccoli or pizza shouldn’t matter at the end of the day.
The sadhu says that all living entities, not just me, are spirit souls, part of the impersonal force known as Brahman. I am Brahman and so are you. Your dog is Brahman and so is the cow. Ah, so this is where things get interesting. If the cow is Brahman, they are equal to the human beings in quality. Therefore it is not right to kill them en masse for food. The vegetables are also Brahman, and it is also true that all living entities survive off of other living entities. Nevertheless, killing a vegetable and killing a cow are not the same; otherwise meat-eaters would have no problem killing human beings for food. There is always discrimination. The vegetables are provided for the wiser human beings, who refrain from unnecessary violence. The vegetables, grains and milk are also food in the mode of goodness, which is what increases knowledge.
“If one offers Me with love and devotion a leaf, a flower, fruit, or water, I will accept it.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 9.26)
Knowledge in the mode of goodness does not relate to how to solve a mathematical equation or translate a language. Real knowledge is the ability to see the essential quality of all life forms and realize the changing of bodies that continues even into the afterlife through what is known as reincarnation. Real knowledge is what sadhus like Prahlada Maharaja speak of, and so it is very difficult for us to accept at the outset. Just hearing such knowledge offends us, for if we are not in the mode of goodness we will automatically not be as wise as those who are.
The uncompromising message of a sadhu, whose only excuse is honesty, is delivered not to ruffle feathers or to gain notoriety. If I care about someone I will instruct them. With a stranger I might not be so keen on providing them instruction, for I don’t know them very well. Since I don’t know them, I naturally don’t care for them as much as I do for my family members. Though it is only natural to feel this way, when in knowledge one realizes that all living entities are tied together through their link to the spiritual world. God is the Supreme Father, and all creatures are His children. We are all brothers and sisters. This extends also to the animals, who can be considered the younger siblings.
“Certainly all these words were spoken by you due to your kind-heartedness and affection for Me. I am very pleased with you, O Sita, for indeed one does not offer instructions and advice to another without caring for them.” (Lord Rama speaking to Sita Devi, Valmiki Ramayana, Aranya Kand, 10.20)
Lord Rama, an incarnation of the Supreme Lord, once remarked to His wife Sita that only someone who really has affection for someone else will offer them counsel. If our child does poorly in school, we will scold them and emphatically remind them why it’s important to do better. So many other children do poorly in school, but we’re not going around and telling them that they should improve. The sadhu is like the teacher of the classroom, and so they are interested in the welfare of all the students. Whether the students like them or not, the sadhu will give it to them straight, and for this they are to be commended.
In the modern age, the true sadhu is not one who simply accepts the garb of a mendicant and begs from door to door for food. The genuine sadhu is a devotee of the Supreme Lord, and so they will use whatever means are available to get the right message out. As religiousness has declined greatly, to the point that the mere mention of God invites scowls and frowns, the simplest and most effective method for reawakening the dormant God consciousness within all of us is the chanting of the holy names, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.” The honest devotee of the Lord practices this chanting themselves and teaches us how to make our chanting effective. Just like Prahlada Maharaja, they enthusiastically speak to us as their friend, wishing only the best for us.
Try to tell them other message is no use,
For the sadhu honesty their only excuse.
They will give it to us straight,
So that we’ll find enlightened state.
Like Prahlada who to his classmates spoke,
Despite ire of teachers and father provoked.
Due to their message delivery candid,
We can attain wisdom so splendid.
As their friend all others sadhus treat,
Their association thus never can be beat.