“In the paramahamsa stage one conquers the desire for sleep, food and sense gratification. One remains a humble, meek mendicant engaged in the service of the Lord day and night. Madhavendra Puri had attained this paramahamsa stage.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Chaitanya Charitamrita, Madhya 4.123 Purport)
Friend1: If we think about the saints of the Vedic tradition, they seem to be praised for one thing.
Friend2: Really? If you read about their lives I’m sure you would find many aspects that are worthy of study, honor, plaudits and emulation.
Friend1: I acknowledge that, but everything centers around a specific feature.
Friend2: Are you trying to create your own version of the verse from the Bhagavad-gita, where Krishna talks about pearls on a string?
“O conqueror of wealth [Arjuna], there is no Truth superior to Me. Everything rests upon Me, as pearls are strung on a thread.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 7.7)
Friend1: I wasn’t, but that is a good comparison.
Friend2: What is that feature?
Friend1: These saints were completely attached to the Supreme Lord. You can start with Narada Muni.
Friend2: The traveler of the three worlds.
Friend1: He is known for repeating the holy name of Narayana, carrying his vina, and helping others to enter into the same occupation.
Friend2: Sometimes that unsolicited advice is not appreciated. The recipients always benefit, but the relatives might not be so happy.
Friend1: As in the case of Daksha, when Narada liberated his sons.
Friend1: You start with Narada, but go down the list and the same attribute is found. One person left their wife and family after having so much attachment to them. They realized the folly of their ways, that devotion to God the person was being suppressed. Another person worshiped the deity in the temple so much that God began talking to them through that supposedly material form.
Friend2: Appearing to them in a dream, even, like with Madhavendra Puri.
Friend1: Another example of a renounced person, completely attached to Krishna.
Friend2: Proving that the archa-vigraha, the worshipable form, is not material. In fact, there are so many such encounters both documented in literature and passed on in aural tradition.
Friend1: Sakshi-gopala is one of the more famous interactions.
Friend2: Shri Krishna as the witness. The deity walking behind the brahmana who was cheated by others.
Friend1: You have saints who lived in caves. Some slept under trees. They barely ate anything. They just did bhajana all the time. Worship in the outward manner. More than just internal meditation, they lived bhakti in a way that others could see and benefit.
Friend2: Okay, so what is the point? Are you threatened by their behavior? Are you upset that these people are considered saints?
Friend1: I’m considering the perspective of the outsider. Would they not take the attachment to be the same?
Friend2: What do you mean?
Friend1: In essence, what is so special about being attached to Krishna? One person is attached to their dog. Another to their children. This person to their spouse. We don’t have books written about that. There is nothing extraordinary about feeling strong attachment to someone.
Friend2: You know the answer to this.
Friend1: Living the renounced way of life, barely eating and sleeping, only to chant the holy names: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare. Why should that earn you any distinction over others who have similar attachments?
Friend2: The key word is “similar.” Those attachments bear resemblance, but are of a different nature. You are raising an issue, but in fact you are indirectly offering further praise to the bhakti practice. Indeed, so many aspects appear similar. Yet the results are completely different. Peace of mind. Equanimity. Lack of discrimination in treatment. The spiritual vision, applying to all living beings. Lack of fear over the future. The inherent understanding of the way the world works, with the guaranteed changes to occur. You don’t get any such benefits from attachment to the material.
Friend1: Then there is no similarity.
Friend2: There is the appearance of similarity, but studying further provides a proper understanding. As Krishna indeed says in the Bhagavad-gita, everything rests on Him. This means that if you are attached to Him, you acquire every quality necessary for meeting the ultimate objective of life.
Not many possessions to keep,
At night barely to sleep.
Only when offered to eat,
Otherwise in meditation’s seat.
Worshiping Krishna to whom attached,
To material and senses detached.
Though to others similar appearing,
Exclusively liberation’s path clearing.