“Arjuna said: What are the symptoms of one whose consciousness is thus merged in Transcendence? How does he speak, and what is his language? How does he sit, and how does he walk?” (Bhagavad-gita, 2.54)
Friend1: So many cheating sadhus out there.
Friend2: You mean officially renounced saintly people?
Friend1: Yes, but I know what you’re implying. That will be the topic of the discussion today.
Friend1: I think this is one of the reasons sannyasa is forbidden in the age of Kali, the present time period, noted for the increase in quarrel and hypocrisy.
Friend2: Think about it. In certain parts of the world you put on a specific outfit and immediately people give you respect. They give you enough money in charity that you’ll never have to work again. You can live like a king.
Friend1: If people question your realization of the self, the soul within, you tell them that it’s a personal experience. You tell everyone that you are God. Everyone else can become the same way if they follow you.
Friend2: There you go. That’s exactly what happens.
Friend1: And I know that some people take sannyasa anyway. It’s a risk, but there is a purpose. It is to help propagate the real message, Divine love. To strike down the cheaters, to give people something genuine to both have faith in and gain confidence from, saints like Ramanuja, Madhva and Chaitanya took to the renounced order.
Friend2: And aren’t we so much better off because of that sacrifice? Imagine where we’d be today.
Friend1: I know. Here’s the question, though. Obviously, a real sadhu is determined by their gunas, qualities. It’s the old saying of not judging a book by its cover.
Friend2: Right. It’s only common sense, but sometimes we need to be reminded.
Friend1: I think Arjuna even makes a query into the qualities to look for, in the Bhagavad-gita.
Friend2: That was for the benefit of future generations. Again, it shouldn’t be difficult to think of the qualities. A sadhu should be even-minded. They should not get angry very easily. They should look at everyone with compassion. They should have no attachments, except to loving service to God, who is a person. They should be equal in happiness and distress. They should take peace from within; stuff like that.
Friend1: What you are saying is that the gunas are more important than the external dress. The question is why the dress exists in the first place.
Friend2: You mean why not skip the formality? Why have an official name for the renounced order? Why have the term “sadhu”?
Friend1: Don’t have to go that far; stay with the outfit. The saffron colored robe, the mark on the forehead, the shaved head. What is the purpose if these things can be used to cheat people?
Friend2: There is a twofold benefit. For starters, if a genuine sadhu accepts such a garb, they immediately stand out from others. The public eye is on them. This extra attention helps the sadhu to stay on the pious path.
Friend1: Sort of like if no one is looking, it’s easier to do bad things. No one will know.
Friend2: Something like that. The second benefit is helping others to identify a saintly person. There are some bad police officers. The uniform doesn’t mean that a person is necessarily good at protecting against rogues and thieves. Yet the uniform still has value. It helps to identify the police officer, to distinguish them from others.
Friend1: Doctors, too. In a hospital the doctor stands out. You know they can help you more than anyone else there can.
Friend2: The tilaka mark can immediately remind someone of the lotus feet of the Supreme Personality of Godhead. The string of tulasi beads around the neck is very auspicious. The clean-shaven head helps to maintain simplicity in lifestyle. I know what you are saying, and they are valid points. The dress is not everything, but it can be very helpful. Like the saints we mentioned previously, they were identified in such a way. They made such a huge sacrifice, and they held to the principles of the order. One moon can brighten an entire forest, which is otherwise dark.
Sadhu maybe cheater on the inside,
More important which qualities reside.
Since dress possible to deceive,
Used for food in belly to receive.
Still benefit from dress and outfit to assume,
True seekers found a holy man to presume.
Like Chaitanya and others sacrifice making,
For consciousness of entire world awaking.