“Instruct everyone to follow the orders of Lord Shri Krishna as they are given in the Bhagavad-gita and Shrimad-Bhagavatam. In this way become a spiritual master and try to liberate everyone in this land.” (Lord Chaitanya, Chaitanya Charitamrita, Madhya 7.128)
Friend1: The four regulative principles.
Friend2: Do you know where they come from?
Friend1: Shastra? No gambling. No meat eating. No illicit sex. No intoxication.
Friend2: There are qualities associated with each restriction. Those qualities make up the foundation of religious life, what separates the human beings from the animals.
Friend1: What are those qualities?
Friend2: Honesty, compassion, cleanliness and austerity.
Friend1: Have you ever been to initiation ceremonies, where the people have to recite these principles in front of their guru?
Friend2: I have.
Friend1: You notice how they always tense up and forget one or a few?
Friend2: I do. They must be so nervous. I remember one time I joked with someone that they better not forget the four. Sure enough, the next day they could only name three. It’s kind of nice, I must say.
Friend1: Why is that?
Friend2: It shows how seriously they take the process. It’s such a big step for them that they get nervous.
Friend1: So here is where I was going with this. Obviously, most people don’t follow these regulations.
Friend2: For sure. Even people initiated into the bhakti tradition have trouble maintaining their vows.
Friend1: And we know the teachers likely went against those regulations at some point in the past, before they became gurus.
Friend1: So let me ask you this. Is there embarrassment in having to be hypocritical?
Friend2: What do you mean? How are they being hypocritical?
Friend1: You’re lecturing people on avoiding certain things. You have indulged in those in the past. How is that not hypocritical? It’s like, “Do as I say, not as I do.”
Friend2: I hear you. I never really thought about this before.
Friend1: Well, think about it now.
Friend2: You know that every parent in history has been hypocritical, then?
Friend2: Think about it. You tell your kids not to lie, to do their homework on time, to respect their elders. Parents know these things because they were taught by their own parents and elders during youth.
Friend1: Drugs and alcohol; that’s also an issue.
Friend2: Right. If I get drunk all the time, who am I to lecture my children about the dangers of alcohol? Nevertheless, the instruction is still valid. There is no embarrassment because the right path is acknowledged.
Friend1: If the guru is not following these regulations, aren’t they disqualified from teaching?
Friend2: They are trying their best. Obviously, the spiritual master should be of the highest character. People make mistakes. This is addressed in the Bhagavad-gita. The sadhu eventually corrects themselves, so even if they’ve done abominable things there is hope going forward.
“Even if one commits the most abominable actions, if he is engaged in devotional service, he is to be considered saintly because he is properly situated.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 9.30)
Friend1: Oh right. I remember that verse.
Friend2: Material life is a struggle. Everyone has trouble. If we learn the right path from someone who is at least trying to stay on it themselves, then we should consider that a great fortune.
Friend1: At the same time, I don’t think that verse from the Bhagavad-gita is giving blanket amnesty for intentionally violating the regulative principles.
Friend2: You’re absolutely right about that. Sincerity is what counts. Are you really trying? If so, then you should instruct others. As Chaitanya Mahaprabhu says, just talk about Krishna and His teachings to the people you meet. On His order you can become a guru.
Since in past intoxicants to take,
Now to children a hypocrite to make?
What about with regulations to live,
And advice to aspirants to give?
Forgiven when sincerity there,
Of shortcomings Krishna aware.
All saints a past, to the future keep an eye,
On Chaitanya’s order to be guru just try.