“One who cannot deliver his dependents from the path of repeated birth and death should never become a spiritual master, a father, a husband, a mother or a worshipable demigod.” (Shrimad Bhagavatam, 5.5.18)
गुरुर् न स स्यात् स्व-जनो न स स्यात्
पिता न स स्याज् जननी न सा स्यात्
दैवं न तत् स्यान् न पतिश् च स स्यान्
न मोचयेद् यः समुपेत-मृत्युम्
gurur na sa syāt sva-jano na sa syāt
pitā na sa syāj jananī na sā syāt
daivaṁ na tat syān na patiś ca sa syān
na mocayed yaḥ samupeta-mṛtyum
When coming across the verse in Bhagavata Purana, it is natural for a person in a position of authority to look inside. A moment of reflection, to be honest in how well they have lived up to the awesome responsibility.
After all, the statement is rather clear. Do not become a father, a mother, a spiritual master, a king, or basically anyone in a position of authority, who leads by example, unless you can deliver your dependents. Deliver in this sense refers to release from the cycle of birth and death.
That new child entering the world is a miracle. Out of nowhere they appear. On the spot, though with a visible cause of the union of the mother and father, no one knows where the individual was previously. The billions of years of known world history. The time prior to marriage and union with the spouse. Just where was this person? What were they doing? Were they even alive?
No use in attempting to trace out the definitive history. The opportunity is now. Break the cycle of birth and death. Make this appearance in the land of duality the last. Provide a roadmap for success, which though difficult, is not impossible.
A parent may feel that they are not up to the task. They fall short in so many areas of decency and good qualities. Perhaps they are not the teaching type. They are not good at instructing others, since they learned so much through experience and assimilating second and third-hand knowledge, such as by reading books.
In the simplest case, the person in authority can behave in a pious manner. Without ever uttering a word of instruction, without intentionally guiding the dependent along a specific path, they accomplish the goal assigned them by shastra.
1. Not smoking
“I can’t believe I would ask this of my father as a child, but I distinctly remember it. Perhaps I saw others engaging in the behavior. My father was the odd person out. He was in the medical profession, so maybe that was the excuse. At the same time, I had no idea the habit was unhealthy.
“I would constantly ask him why he doesn’t smoke. Why is he different from the others? He would offer the explanation that he tried smoking one time but that it burned his stomach. That never made much sense to me, but who was I to argue? I didn’t know any better. Anyway, because of his influence I never indulged in smoking.”
2. Not eating meat
“He never told me what to eat and what not to eat. He never interfered. Whatever I liked, he would give me. He would go out of his way to find food to satisfy my cravings. I didn’t realize until much later that such behavior is not common. It was an indication of his amazing love for me, which would garner criticism from others.
“When I became an adult, it was much easier to give up eating meat. My father never ate it; at least from what I saw. He seemed to be just fine. He was as happy as the next guy. He was healthy enough. He was not lacking anything in nutrition. Why not do the same?”
3. Maintaining a routine in spiritual life
“He would shower at a specific time each day. For a child growing up, bathing on a regular basis is not easy. It is a chore that requires constant reminders from the parents. It is an item to be bargained, along with cleaning the room. For instance, I promise to take a shower today if you will leave me alone tomorrow.
“Well, right after showering, my father would approach the small altar area we had set up in one of the bedrooms. He would light a few incense sticks, wave them in front of pictures of Divine figures, and recite a few prayers. I really knew nothing about the process, but I started to imitate. It made me feel so good, even though I didn’t know the purpose.”
4. Chanting the holy names
“My father would regularly chant the holy names. It was called the maha-mantra: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare. He took us on a few weekend trips to a remote area that focused on this kind of lifestyle. Chanting the holy names, vegetarian eating, and simple living. I distinctly remember there was no television, and I was not happy about it.
“Well, later on in life I found a similar taste for the chanting. I thought that I had stumbled upon the tradition myself, only later to be reminded that I had already been exposed to the lifestyle through my childhood memories. My father was the catalyst, even though he never explained any of what he was doing. He spent not a second on instruction, but the lessons would last a lifetime.”
Memory forever to live,
Through life lessons to give.
Though not a word of instruction,
Or made elaborate production.
By father’s devotion to see,
Making impact on me.
From sinful behavior away,
Subtly guided on dharma’s way.
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