“Without understanding the intricacies of Krishna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, and without knowing His uncommon spiritual opulences, the innocent cowherd boys and men of Vrindavana began to discuss the wonderful activities of Krishna which surpass the activities of all men.” (Krishna, The Supreme Personality of Godhead, Vol 1, Ch 26)
The people of Vrindavana were good. They never bothered anyone. They did not commit sin. They were not interested in hoarding possessions, defeating the competition, exploiting earth’s resources, or making others feel less important. Each person had their assigned duty, which they accepted from proper authority figures. Each person did their duty to the best of their ability. The rest they placed in God’s hands. Indeed, it was this surrender to God that made their work easier to do. It’s what made their consciousness pure. Instead of being harmed by what others may call blind faith or willful ignorance, the people were benefitted tremendously. They were good people by all accounts.
What is a good person? Is it someone who is particularly skilled? Is it someone who is wealthy? Is it someone who does things that I ask of them?
A good person would be someone who is beneficial to all. The local business may be good for the employees, the customers, and the community at large, but it is not necessarily good to the competitor. It is not good to the person who wants another type of product purchased. The person who is good to all businesses would be considered superior. The person who benefits every single person, regardless of their interest, would have to be considered the best.
This brings us to the definition of a saint. A saintly character does not want anything for themselves. If they did, then others could chip away at their exalted status. If a saint was primarily interested in eating very nicely, then others would criticize them. “Oh, look, they’re only nice to people so that they can fill their belly. They aren’t really trying to help anyone.” If a saint was primarily interested in earning money, others would attack them for their gains. “Oh, look at how much money they have. They get all this praise for the work they do, but in the end they’re just looking to score financially. They are no different than the street vendor, except the vendor on the street is more honest. At least others can identify them for who they are.”
The saint with the highest stature in traditional Vedic culture is a sannyasi. This is their occupation, as a saint can be found in any class or nation. The sannyasi is materially renounced. They don’t have a home. We can think of sannyasa as like voluntarily becoming homeless. And by the way, the sannyasi cannot accumulate anything. They are not allowed to. They beg for their food, but they should not take more than a day’s worth. They are not to stock up for the future. Thus hoarding is prevented. They are also not supposed to go begging in a place known to be charitable. In this way they beg only to maintain their existence, and if the mercy of others is not forthcoming, it is taken as a sign from above that more austerity is required.
Austerity may be a key feature of the preferred occupation, but there is more to being a saint than just being free of material desires. It is the association of the saint that is beneficial. Their association helps any person, regardless of their interest. The person who wants money is benefitted by knowing the saint. So is the person who doesn’t want money, i.e. the person desiring renunciation. The person seeking knowledge of higher truths is also benefitted, as is the person who is already knowledgeable and looking for a purpose to their actions.
Tying everything together is the saint’s devotion to God. This is what makes their association beneficial to everyone. We can look to the people of Vrindavana during an ancient time period to see an example. They hardly had anything, but what they did have was love for God. That was all they needed. Anyone who associated with them would be immersed in the devotional culture as well. The merchants were honest, the brahmanas dedicated to God, the kings dutiful in their protection of the citizens, and the servants always enthusiastic to help everyone else out.
The people of Vrindavana heard from the Vedas regularly. They knew that there was a Supreme Personality of Godhead. They may not have known that He was living in their town as the darling child of mother Yashoda and Nanda Maharaja, but their devotion was there all the same. From their example, we see that there is no harm in believing in God. What is wrong with thinking that a supreme controller is in charge of everything? What is the harm in believing in different destinations for the afterlife based on how one acts in the present life?
The alternative is exploitation. If you don’t believe in a higher power, you must assign the same status to a mortal human being. Since all of us are mortal, it means that anyone is eligible to be worshiped in this fashion; hence the feverish competition. The problem is that no one is all-powerful. No human being is perfect. The devotion and faith reposed in such a figure, who tries to assume the post of God on earth, is not fruitful. It creates a perpetual condition of fear, for the law of the jungle is what prevails in a godless society.
The innocent people of Vrindavana believed in God and that was enough to keep them happy. They didn’t have to drink alcohol because Shri Krishna was always with them. When He wasn’t in sight, He played in the field known as the mind. Through His names chanted in ecstasy, He danced on the tongue. Since Krishna was all-attractive, everyone was always in the company of greatness. They didn’t have to look any further than Krishna for their happiness.
And from that devotion the people had all good qualities. They were charitable, knowledgeable, controlled in their eating and sleeping, and equally disposed towards all. These qualities didn’t come to them accidentally. They arrived from the devotion to Krishna, who is the Supreme Personality of Godhead, the detail behind the abstract conception of God.
The people of Vrindavana believed that a hill was deserving of worship after being informed by Krishna. They did not question the validity of the inaugural Govardhana Puja. They put all their faith in Krishna, and in acting on that faith they were always protected. In any other kind of faith, there is always danger. Faith in science brings the danger of the uncertain future. Faith in members of the opposite sex brings the danger of scorn and rejection. Faith in the pursuit of knowledge brings the danger of a life spent in useless mental speculation. Faith in Krishna, however, is bona fide and it brings the best results, as was seen in Vrindavana some five thousand years ago.
Faith in God they always had,
With Krishna they were glad.
Because this they understood,
Association towards all was good.
When devotion in Him lacking,
In fierce competition others attacking.
Believe in God, what is the harm?
In Vrindavana’s people find goodness and charm.