“For sense enjoyment one can act in any capacity of the social order, but if one follows the rules and regulations of his particular status, he can make gradual progress in purifying his existence. But he who makes a show of being a yogi, while actually searching for the objects of sense gratification, must be called the greatest cheater, even though he sometimes speaks of philosophy.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Bhagavad-gita, 3.6 Purport)
All saints have a past. All sinners have a future. Thus don’t be too quick to judge someone. Be a little forgiving. To err is human, after all. The Vedas say that there are four general defects in man. I have the tendency to commit mistakes; hence being error-prone. I am easily illusioned; everything is not always as it seems. I have imperfect senses; I can’t see and hear everything. I also cheat; I know that outcomes are not entirely in my hands.
At the same time, they say that the child is the father of man. One day the student will become the teacher. When teaching, the principles are valid independently; they don’t require outside support for understanding. For instance, don’t drink and drive. Intoxication doesn’t mix with the attention required for operating a motor vehicle.
What about hypocrisy? Likely the most vocal teachers of the principle were once violators themselves. I made so many mistakes in the past, so I want others to avoid them if they can. I must be hypocritical to some degree.
Bhakti-yoga is translated as “devotional service.” Another term with the same meaning is bhagavata-dharma. It is the soul’s essential characteristic to serve. That service, dharma, should be to bhagavata, the one who is complete in all fortunes.
Though it is difficult to be truthful and honest in a material existence, the practice of bhakti-yoga should be free of hypocrisy. I should at least try to be truthful to my vows, satya-vrata, and also determined in them, dridha-vrata.
1. Helps to strengthen the message
One aspect to bhakti-yoga is kirtanam. Generally this means “chanting,” but it can also refer to “describing.” Krishna-katha is endless. These are discourses about the Supreme Lord, who is all-attractive. Synonymous terms are Hari-katha and Rama-katha. Goswami Tulsidas says that there are millions of verses describing the glories of Rama, God who is full of transcendental pleasure.
Kirtanam is strengthened by adherence to regulative principles. Again, we can look to the example of drinking and driving. If someone tells me to avoid it but at the same time does what they preach against on a regular basis, the message is hurt a little bit. My attack against their character could be classified as ad hominem, which is actually a fallacy of argument.
Still, there is no denying that the message takes a hit when the person delivering it is hypocritical. The message of a life dedicated to Divine love is the most important, so it is a great shame if others are dissuaded from following that path due to hypocrisy from the teacher.
2. Helps to strengthen personal conviction
No meat eating. No gambling. No intoxication. No illicit sex. The people who taught bhakti-yoga put great emphasis on these restrictions, collectively known as the four regulative principles. I’ve had the reasoning explained to me at length. By following these principles, I will gradually acquire compassion, austerity, cleanliness, and honesty. Who wouldn’t want to be like that?
Still, unless I follow and see for myself, I will never truly understand the purpose. In this sense avoiding hypocrisy helps to strengthen my conviction. The four regulative principles are restrictive, while the recommendation to always chant the holy names is on the positive side. Only if I regularly chant myself will I understand the benefit. Otherwise, I will remain like a crow, trying to pick holes in the argument simply for the reason that I am afraid to make the commitment myself.
3. Good to be honest when serving the Absolute Truth
They say honesty is the best policy, but sometimes it gets you in trouble. Do not tell your wife that the dress makes her look fat. Do not tell your boss what you really think of him. Do not tell the madman wielding an axe where to find the person they are looking for.
As there is duality in this material world, no one condition or principle is absolute. The lone exception is bhakti, which is dedicated to someone often described as the Absolute Truth. This world is like a dream, where there is an experience that feels real, with real emotions. But eventually everything is annihilated. The one truth is the Supreme Lord, who is above maya, or illusion.
We are also sparks of that truth, and so when reconnecting with the Divine, honesty goes a long way. It helps to maintain the link, which is known as yoga. If I am honest with the Absolute Truth, then I will get the full benefit of His mercy, which is already available to everyone.
When of renunciation making a show,
That yogi as pretender to know.
Better hypocritical not to be,
For others best example to see.
Conviction in principles to strengthen,
Effect of message dissemination lengthen.
Supreme Lord as Absolute Truth is known,
Better when to Him honesty is shown.
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