“One who is not disturbed in spite of the threefold miseries, who is not elated when there is happiness, and who is free from attachment, fear and anger, is called a sage of steady mind.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 2.56)
Friend1: Approach a tattva-darshi.
Friend2: English, please.
Friend1: Consult someone who has seen the truth.
Friend2: Isn’t that relative? What kind of truth? That two plus two equals four? Everyone knows that.
Friend1: The Absolute Truth. That which is beyond duality.
Friend2: What is the benefit of approaching such a person?
Friend1: They help you to similarly see the truth.
Friend2: In what manner should the approach be made?
Friend1: Not in a challenging spirit, that’s for sure.
Friend2: Why not?
Friend1: Because that’s not how we learn things. The students in first grade don’t sit there and challenge what the teacher has to say about math and spelling. If they did, they wouldn’t learn anything.
Friend2: Blind faith is better, then?
Friend1: Inquire submissively. Bring doubts out in the open. Don’t keep them for yourself. The idea is to be genuine in seeking clarity. Also, render service submissively.
Friend2: Why should there be service?
Friend1: Please the tattva-darshi. Earn their favor. Serving is a way to realize different truths practically, to shed the false ego.
Friend2: Sounds great. Where do we find such a person?
Friend1: Hey, that’s not fair. I was going to ask that.
Friend2: About where to find them?
Friend1: More specifically, how to tell who is realized and who isn’t?
Friend2: It can be difficult.
Friend1: Is it based on recommendations? Is it through perceived stature exhibited in speaking and teaching? Is it living renounced, without meaningful possessions?
Friend2: The thing is, you can find cheaters among each of those groups.
Friend1: Exactly. That’s why I wanted to ask. A person can be formally renounced from objects but still strongly be attached to fame and stature. Just because an entire community follows like sheep doesn’t mean that their leader is bona fide. Sometimes the best speakers are also terrific cheaters. They know how to talk their way into fulfilling material desires.
Friend1: Okay, so how do we recognize the bona fide truth-seers?
Friend2: Well, there has to be faith extended in the beginning. If we are in ignorance, automatically we have defective vision. We come to the table with vishesha, or distinctions, in sight, while the tattva-darshi sees oneness.
Friend1: In that everyone is God?
Friend2: Part and parcel of God. Oneness in the sense that a singular spiritual energy runs through the entire creation.
“That knowledge by which one undivided spiritual nature is seen in all existences, undivided in the divided, is knowledge in the mode of goodness.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 18.20)
Friend1: I see, no pun intended. How do we get beyond faith and gain certainty?
Friend2: There’s always the risk of following a cheater. The king Pratapabhanu got fooled by a former rival. The guy was living in exile, looking like a mendicant. The king mistook him for a sage and followed advice that had malice behind it. The result was a curse on the king to become a dreaded Rakshasa in the next life.
Friend1: And that Rakshasa was Ravana, right?
Friend2: Yes. That is one of the causes of his birth.
Friend1: Okay, I like that example. There was an ashrama. There was a renounced person. They spoke as if they knew what they were doing, but they were trying to cheat the entire time. How do we safeguard against that?
Friend2: Arjuna asks essentially the same question in the Bhagavad-gita. Shri Krishna is the teacher in that case, and so He is the final word on all issues. Krishna is the tattva that the realized soul sees. He is the Absolute Truth in the personal form.
Friend1: What was Krishna’s response?
Friend2: He listed a series of qualities and attributes. Being free from kama, which is desire for sense gratification. Not getting too high on gain, nor becoming saddened at loss. Taking full pleasure from the self. Things like that.
Friend1: Kind of a difficult thing to tell from external appearance.
Friend2: His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada explains that this is the reason the guru and disciple typically study each other for months. Both sides should be confident. The teacher wants to see that the student is sincere. The student wants to see that the teacher is indeed free of material desires.
Friend1: That makes sense.
Friend2: And listen, the tattva-darshi doesn’t have to be in the renounced order. Look at Prahlada Maharaja. He didn’t even have the chance to formally worship. His circumstances were such that the father, who was also the king, would not tolerate devotional service. Prahlada essentially had to take pleasure from within, from remembering God and understanding His all-pervasiveness through the feature of Supersoul.
Friend1: He was also steady in gain and loss.
Friend2: Steady as a rock. He didn’t take offense at the father’s unspeakable acts of violence. Prahlada was happy through the good times and the bad. This is because he was truly realized. Such people are rare to find, but they exist. Sometimes their impact is so significant that they leave a mark that remains long after they have left the mortal world. It seems as if they have never left, that you can still approach them to this day.
Still with some influence to this day,
Realized souls special in that way.
Like Prahlada from long time back,
Steady each against deadly attack.
Not influenced by loss or gain,
Loving atheist father the same.
Only with bhakti and God concerned,
Endearingly favor of Krishna earned.