“Yashah, fame, should be according to Lord Chaitanya, who said that a man is famous when he is known as a great devotee. That is real fame.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Bhagavad-gita, 10.4-5 Purport)
Friend1: Do you ever do things in order to get people to like you?
Friend2: What do you mean?
Friend1: You know, like hold a door open, give a compliment, work hard to accomplish something – do you ever do these things for the sake of receiving compliments from others?
Friend2: I think everyone does to some extent. It’s only natural.
Friend1: Yeah, that’s what I realized. I know that I shouldn’t have that motivation going in, but somehow I do find myself thinking about how great I am after someone compliments me. It’s almost like a drug; the feeling is so good.
Friend2: Who actually goes through life wanting to be infamous? Unless you’re a heel in professional wrestling, you’re not really trying to get people to dislike you.
Friend1: If you think about it, though, the whole thing is kind of fake. The compliments you’re getting are based on something you’ve done for someone. What if you don’t do those things going forward? You’re suddenly a bad person?
Friend2: Exactly. All fame works this way. If you’re able to satisfy somebody else’s senses, they will like you. To them, you are no different than pizza or ice cream. When one day you stop satisfying their senses, they will move on.
Friend1: It can all change so fast, too.
Friend2: Right. I was telling this to someone the other day. Take any famous person. It doesn’t have to be in a particular area. They can be a movie star, an athlete, a writer, a politician, or a religious leader. No matter how adored they are right now, they are all just an internet video away from being hated for the rest of their lives.
Friend1: What do you mean?
Friend2: If they screw up momentarily and someone captures it on video, it’s over. If you only hear of the transgression, then perhaps after a while the infamy will go away. But with a video, the images are there to stay. If you make a big enough mistake on camera, your life is ruined.
Friend1: Sadly, that is the case. Makes you think twice about adoring someone you don’t even know. Makes you reflect on whether fame is worth it and whether it actually means anything.
Friend2: You know Lord Chaitanya’s take on fame, right?
Friend1: That you shouldn’t seek it?
Friend2: Well, yeah, that too. He inaugurated the sankirtana movement, the congregational chanting of the holy names of God in this age of Kali. His teachings were focused on bhakti-yoga, or devotional service. Pure bhakti is unmotivated and uninterrupted. This means that if you love God at the highest level, you’re not seeking anything for yourself.
Friend1: That makes sense. You really shouldn’t worship God for any other reason.
Friend2: With regards to fame, Lord Chaitanya says that real fame is when you are known as a devotee of God. That is something worth being recognized for.
Friend1: Doesn’t that take away from the purity of it? If you’re seeking recognition for your work, isn’t your devotion tainted?
Friend2: That’s true, but the beneficiary in bhakti-yoga is so kind that He will make you famous even if you don’t want it. And that fame will be worth having. Think of Hanuman and Prahlada.
Friend1: Prahlada became famous at such a young age. No one can really say anything bad about him. Hanuman’s reputation is spotless too. It doesn’t seem to me that either of them wanted to be revered in this way, but I guess you’re right.
Friend2: And just see what results from their fame. So many others get valuable instruction. Prahlada’s teachings found in the Shrimad Bhagavatam apply to any person living in any time period. Hanuman will melt your heart. The combination of courage, kindness, humility, ability, and perseverance have never existed before in one person. Both individuals are known for one thing: devotion to God. You can’t mistake their life’s work for any other purpose.
Friend1: Their fame came automatically. So you’re saying that if you take up devotional service, you will become famous?
Friend2: It’s not guaranteed, but if you’re going to be famous, you might as well have it relate to your relationship with God. This way even if you slip up accidentally, your work won’t be ruined. If you’re working to become known, when you do something bad your work gets nullified in a sense. If you’re working to connect with God, then whether you become known or not does not matter in the end. You’re not an internet video away from ruining your life. The Supreme Lord takes care of you. He says so in the Bhagavad-gita [Bg. 9.30].
Though fame to you now belongs,
Know in an instant it can be gone.
One mistake on video captured,
By it forever be tortured.
Better if as devotee to be known,
Protected by God, one of His own.
To come whether you want it or not,
Like what Prahlada and Hanuman got.