“Lord Chaitanya remained a householder only until His twenty-fourth year had passed. Then He entered the renounced order and remained manifest in this material world until His forty-eighth year. Therefore shesha-lila, or the final portion of His activities, lasted twenty-four years.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Chaitanya Charitamrita, Adi 3.34 Purport)
Friend1: I have got an interesting one for you today. Probably something you have not come across before.
Friend1: Let’s say I have this friend. I know that such verbiage typically implies that I am talking about myself, that I am only referencing a friend in order to spare some personal embarrassment, but work with me here.
Friend2: Sure. Your “friend” is the one with the problem; not you. I get it.
Friend1: This friend really likes a certain author.
Friend2: Are we talking books here or something else?
Friend1: Let’s say it’s a columnist. The author publishes a weekly column of some length. My friend looks forward to the new publication every week. They consume the entire thing in one sitting. They find the articles to be both informative and entertaining.
Friend2: That’s nice. I guess the work of the author is fulfilled, then. They have fans.
Friend2: As an interesting aside, I have heard that in the past there was an intense rivalry between the print journalists and the television journalists.
Friend1: Why is that?
Friend2: Because television provides such great exposure, especially at the personal level. These print guys had been working so hard, were respected in their field, but the tv guys were making way more money.
Friend1: I see.
Friend2: The rivalry subsided once the print journalists started appearing on television.
Friend1: Makes sense. Okay, so this author has a similar story. They gain popularity through printed word, or in this case the digital publication. They eventually start showing up on television as a contributor.
Friend2: That’s great.
Friend1: Here is where things get interesting. My friend sees this author on television for the first time.
Friend2: Let me guess. They are surprised at what the person looks like. Sort of like listening to a radio host for years and years and then finally matching a face with the voice.
Friend1: My friend is more than surprised. They cannot believe that the person they respected so much was this young.
Friend2: Oh, I get it. They pictured someone much older.
Friend1: Yes, and so the author is actually younger than my friend, or at least around the same age.
Friend2: Anything wrong with that?
Friend1: Nothing except that my friend no longer respects the author.
Friend2: You’re kidding?
Friend1: The interest is totally gone.
Friend2: They don’t read the weekly column anymore?
Friend2: All because they saw what the person looks like?
Friend2: That makes no sense. The content is the same. Why would you care about the source?
Friend1: Hey, I’m not arguing with you here. I am raising an issue that is certainly not isolated to my friend.
Friend2: You think other people are like this?
Friend1: I know they are. Is there a lesson to be learned? What information can the spiritual leader gather from this issue?
Friend2: What do you mean?
Friend1: How do they maintain a sense of integrity and respect? How can they be sure that others will take them seriously?
Friend2: I don’t know, man. If someone abandons you just because they see that you are too young to be respected, what is there that can be done? You can’t change how old you are.
Friend1: There have to be some mechanisms which increase the level of respectability of the presenter?
Friend2: In the Vedic tradition there is the institution known as sannyasa. Though it is generally prohibited in the present age of degradation known as Kali, you will still find some people within that order.
Friend1: You mean they take sannyasa anyway?
Friend2: In more than just spirit. Basically, you are able to identify someone in that order by how they look.
Friend1: Sort of like a priest with the kind of outfit they have on.
Friend2: Exactly. Anyway, a genuine sannyasi usually brings integrity to the table. They have gravitas.
Friend2: Because of what they have given up. It is supposed to be a lifetime vow of celibacy, of never having intimate connection with women again. No more working for a living. You have to beg to eat, and then only accepting a small amount each day. No retirement fund to generate interest to pay your bills.
Friend1: That is pretty serious.
Friend2: Which perhaps gives a way to guard against the issue you raised. For instance, Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu took sannyasa at the age of twenty-four. Normally, who would want to listen to or follow such a person?
Friend1: Right, because what can they really know about life, having not lived for that long, in comparison to an older person?
Friend2: Yet the sannyasi of the same age, provided there is the expectation of remaining true to the vows, commands great respect. Their message tends to be taken more seriously, and with Lord Chaitanya the message was everything. He wanted everyone to chant the names of Hari.
Friend1: To be saved in the sense of preventing future rebirth.
Friend2: It is difficult to be lectured to by someone younger than yourself. This is why it is ideal to accept the wisdom at a young age, from an authority figure, but circumstances are not necessarily ideal in this period of time. There is the saying that we should accept gold even if it comes from a filthy place.
Friend1: Because at least you have found gold. You pick it up, dust it off, and everything is like new.
Friend2: So if a young person happens to provide us the most valuable information, it should not be rejected. They are an empowered through connection in the line of disciplic succession. They are teaching what Shri Krishna has taught, and Krishna is the oldest person, or adi-purusha.
Notable writer respected,
But much older than expected.
So that when in person to see,
Total loss of respect from me.
Sad, often is the case,
Sannyasa the chance to erase.
Like Chaitanya opportunity to create,
Since renunciation carrying weight.