“O son of Kuru, when there is an increase in the mode of ignorance madness, illusion, inertia and darkness are manifested.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 14.13)
Friend1: You notice that so many of these famous people struggle with life?
Friend2: Before or after success?
Friend1: Mostly during and after. I’m specifically referring to drug addiction. There were two notable baseball players from the 1980s. They were so good it was ridiculous. One was a pitcher, the other a hitter.
Friend2: They played for the Mets, right?
Friend1: Yup. Today everyone looks back and wonders what happened. They were on track to becoming the greatest ever.
Friend2: Drugs and alcohol; will take any person down.
Friend1: There was still some good to come from it. I notice that those who survive such amazing falls try to help others avoid the same mistakes. They speak publicly. They go to troubled areas and give warnings.
Friend2: It’s only natural. Good parents behave this way with their children. If I’ve made a mistake that cost me dearly, it’s likely too late to correct it now. The only solace is hopefully preventing others from making the same mistake.
Friend1: And you would call this the descending process of knowledge?
Friend2: Very good. Absolutely. Great segue into spiritual life. That is the whole point of descending knowledge. Take information from others who have experienced and known themselves. Save so much time. Live peacefully as a result. Be a little afraid of the dark side of life. Don’t think that you’ll be the exception and somehow get a different result. Shri Krishna describes it as the mode of darkness. It’s a way of living and one of the symptoms is darkness, i.e. ignorance.
Friend1: Here is a question. It’s pretty common to get instruction from those who have fallen. Their struggles were visible. They were in the public eye. What about those who have risen? Can we learn from them?
Friend2: Umm, you seriously have to ask that? I’m sure you’ve seen the many books authored by the successful. They give tips on how to make it big in business and investing.
Friend1: Okay, but that’s only materially. I’m talking about elevation in terms of consciousness.
Friend2: That’s what Vedic literature is for; that is the entire focus. It’s the realizations and instructions from the most elevated people. It starts with Shri Krishna Himself, who is Achyuta. He never falls down. He is so kind that He provides a roadmap for every kind of person to succeed.
Friend1: What do you mean by “kind”? The instruction is not the same for everyone?
Friend2: How can it be? Do you teach calculus to a first grade math student? People have different gunas, or material qualities. Not everyone is ready for advancing to the last stage immediately. That is why the Vedas are compared to a tree that has many branches. Each represents a different department of knowledge.
Friend1: Is that why we have the four regulative principles? The saints of the past indulged in these activities and realized how harmful they are?
Friend2: Perhaps, but not necessarily. Maybe they didn’t need to experience firsthand. The information was passed on through the ages. You can tell from observing, as well. I’ve never jumped off a bridge, but I can tell you that it’s not a good idea.
Friend1: Because others have done it.
Friend2: Precisely. The saints have risen to the top, and some of them are so kind that they come back down to earth a little.
Friend1: What do you mean? And how is that an act of kindness?
Friend2: In the topmost position a person sees only devotees everywhere. There is no reason to teach, correct, chastise, praise, or what have you. It’s the topmost vision; noticing the spiritual equality of all beings.
Friend1: Okay, and why isn’t that a good thing?
Friend2: It’s great at the personal level, but how is anyone going to learn? You see me as an equal; fine, but I require instruction. Tell me what I’m doing wrong. Tell me what I need to correct.
Friend1: And by coming down to earth, as you say, the saint can provide that instruction.
Friend2: Right. They make distinctions again. They distinguish between devotee and non-devotee. The experience from having risen to the top is still there, however. That doesn’t go away. So we are able to learn just as much.
Friend1: What do these saints say?
Friend2: Avoid meat eating, gambling, intoxication and illicit sex; the four regulative principles that you mentioned previously.
Friend1: And chant the holy names: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.
Friend2: There you go. If you need some more convincing, read books like the Bhagavad-gita and Shrimad Bhagavatam. These works will help you convince others, too.
Friend1: Convince isn’t the best word here, because it’s not like bringing people into a cult.
Friend2: Persuade. Correct. Basically, the same thing the people who have fallen teach, but with a much wider range of applicability, aiming for a higher goal.
Not required to fall down,
Since wisdom accepting sound.
From guru parampara descending,
So that towards Divine ascending.
Like the successful but wider range,
How to proper behavior to change.
Quickly, so that time not to waste,
In this life experience a higher taste.