“Whatever action is performed by a great man, common men follow in his footsteps. And whatever standards he sets by exemplary acts, all the world pursues.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 3.21)
Friend1: People follow what a great man does.
Friend2: They are a leader for a reason. They lead people.
Friend1: Therefore it is helpful if they are pious. Then they set a good example.
Friend2: In Hindi the saying is dekha dekhi. Copycatting. Imitating.
Friend1: This stresses the teaching that if a great man should somehow take up bhakti-yoga, devotional service, so many people automatically benefit.
Friend2: They will witness the example. “Oh, such and such person understands the difference between body and spirit. They are not simply after sense gratification. Rather than show off what kind of home they live in or how many automobiles they own, they display a genuine spirit of renunciation. The way of life is with a purpose. They want to serve God, who they claim to be a person.”
Friend1: I would think it is something like broadcasting the message on a radio signal as opposed to approaching so many people individually.
Friend2: In America they refer to the President having the bully pulpit. The idea is that the head of the executive branch is a co-equal member of the government. They are not any more powerful than the legislature.
Friend1: Which is the way the founders of the nation wanted it, to avoid tyranny.
Friend2: Yes, and so where the President really has influence is in their ability to reach people with a message. A senator can give a speech but not nearly as many people will listen as compared to when the President speaks.
Friend1: Okay, so obviously I am setting the table here. Shri Krishna is the object of worship. He is the person behind the curtain. He is the detail to the abstract.
Friend2: God the person. Distinguishable features. Greatness that can be understood to a degree, but not fully. Features that cannot be measured, Adhokshaja, but still perceived, saguna.
Friend1: He is the greatest of persons. This means that the most people know of the example He sets.
Friend2: For sure. There are countless books describing Him. This makes sense since the glories of God are endless. There is no final word, precisely because more continues to be written about Him.
Friend1: Alright, so couldn’t we say that there is danger in following some of Krishna’s acts?
Friend2: Well, there is a reference in the Nectar of Devotion where Uddhava praises Krishna for showing proper etiquette. Despite controlling the controllers of the universe, Krishna takes orders from Ugrasena, the father of His uncle Kamsa. Despite owning the three worlds, the Supreme Lord begs a little land from the ocean. Despite being the most intelligent person, He consults the cousin and advisor Uddhava on matters of governance and foreign affairs.
Friend1: Yes, that is during the period of adulthood. It is a good example to set, for sure. I know that Krishna is the ideal husband with each queen in Dvaraka, as well. He performs prescribed duties on a daily basis. He arises early to chant the gayatri mantra. He gives in charity. He receives guests properly.
Friend2: Then? What is the issue?
Friend1: You know what I am talking about. It’s the stuff that takes place in Vrindavana, during childhood.
Friend2: You mean stealing butter from the neighbors? That is endearing behavior, and with a child there is no sin associated. You couldn’t influence a child to steal in that way anyway. The nature automatically kicks in. Naughtiness is either there or not.
Friend1: Come on, you are well aware of what I am referencing.
Friend2: How He lifted Govardhana Hill to save the people from devastating rain? I agree that we shouldn’t imitate that, but there is no issue. No one I know is capable of lifting a massive hill and holding it aloft for seven straight days.
Friend1: The dealings with the gopis, the cowherd women. Krishna meets with them in the middle of the night. These are intimate dealings so I don’t want to describe further.
Friend2: Right, but there are sufficient warnings provided. It is inherently understood to not try this at home, so to speak.
Friend1: Okay, but Krishna is the greatest leader. The world follows the example He sets.
Friend2: But He is not setting an example here. There is a reason the descriptions are found in the tenth canto of the Shrimad Bhagavatam. Spend a significant amount of time, nine cantos in fact, to understand the position of the Supreme Lord. Learn the different elements of nature, how they operate with time, how the living entity becomes subject to the influence of the shadow copy of the spiritual world, how God creates, how He maintains, how He appears in His creation, etc. Need I go on?
Friend1: No, I understand what you are saying. The problem is so many people don’t take the time. They head straight to the tenth canto and read those descriptions. Even easier is to just look at a painting. See Krishna dancing with young girls and get the wrong idea.
Friend2: That is the fault of the present age of Kali. We are in degraded conditions today, no doubt. That is why certain works of Vedic literature were never openly discussed with people. There were requirements for entry into a temple. This was to prevent misunderstanding. If you are driven by the senses, and thus intoxicated by the influence of illusion, you will not be able to properly understand God. It takes purification. That is why there is an entire discipline of study. It may take many lifetimes even. Then you will come to understand that even the dancing with the gopis is exemplary. It is Krishna showing how much He loves His pure devotees and how no restriction or prohibition in the material world can affect Him.
Great leader responsibility to take,
That with actions example to make.
So when in bhakti path benefits abound,
To many coming the transcendental sound.
But what about Krishna in the night,
With girls dancing under moon’s light?
Provided only after much explanation,
Understood only after sober deliberation.