“The value of a moment’s association with a devotee of the Lord cannot even be compared to the attainment of heavenly planets or liberation from matter, and what to speak of worldly benedictions in the form of material prosperity, which is for those who are meant for death.” (Shrimad Bhagavatam, 1.18.13)
न स्वर्गं नापुनर्-भवम्
मर्त्यानां किम् उताशिषः
na svargaṁ nāpunar-bhavam
martyānāṁ kim utāśiṣaḥ
“I regret to inform you that I have come upon a realization about the world around me. It gives me no pleasure to reveal the following, but it must be said. It relates to practically every prominent person around, spanning every walk of life, every age group, and every area of influence.
“To set the table for the comparison, consider the inner workings of professional wrestling. There is more to the presentation than basic skill. You need strength and agility, for sure. The business requires jumping from perches, agreeing to be thrown in this direction and that, picking up other adult human beings, hitting and being struck with metal objects like chairs and guitars, and so forth.
“At the heart of the process is the character. The individual wrestler must develop some sort of gimmick to use when entertaining the paying public. There is the general breakdown of good guys and bad guys, or faces and heels, as they are known in the industry.
“Within those designations there is endless room for development. One person might claim to be patriotic. Another gimmick is to be an enemy to the state, someone who spits at the crowd and tells them how stupid they are. There is the possibility of tandem operations, where the characters play off each other.
“I bring this up because I think the majority of the prominent leaders in this world are nothing more than professional wrestlers with their gimmicks. That rock band pretending to fight the power, to stand up for the disavowed, the ignored, the disenfranchised – they are nothing more than characters trying to earn money.
“The politicians are the most obvious example. They line up in their political parties like they are being cast for a dramatic production. Not every person can play the lead; some have to be the villain. These roles alternate as if on schedule.
“I think the same is true in religious circles. It saddens me to say this, but those great sannyasis you see, travelling the world and speaking on Vedic literature – I think it is all a gimmick. My assessment is based on the recent world events, where it seems the Almighty has focused a bright light on the entire population. This allows those with discernment to see who exactly is genuine and who is not.
“How are we supposed to succeed in spiritual life when even the leaders are frauds? They obviously put on the dress as a way to gain notoriety. Instead of working for a living, they get others to pay for everything. In return, they simply sit on an elevated seat and tell the adoring audience how worthless they are, that they need to be more engaged in worship of God.”
As explained in Bhagavad-gita, the appeal towards genuine connection with the Divine is based on the individual and their comprehension. It should not be based on fear, blind following, or unintelligent imitation of behavior.
इति ते ज्ञानम् आख्यातं
गुह्याद् गुह्यतरं मया
यथेच्छसि तथा कुरु
iti te jñānam ākhyātaṁ
guhyād guhyataraṁ mayā
yathecchasi tathā kuru
“Thus I have explained to you the most confidential of all knowledge. Deliberate on this fully, and then do what you wish to do.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 18.63)
There will be cheaters in every occupation. There will be those who game the system, who look to take advantage of the innocent and trusting, to further their self-interest. That interest might only be rooted in the senses, to enjoy as much as possible, thinking that either death will not occur or there won’t be any consequences in the afterlife.
As far as discerning who is a pretender and who is not, we can judge by the results. Implement some of the recommended principles. See if the recommendations benefit the affected individual. Or is the sacrifice only enriching the elevated person or institution. Is the teacher’s instruction for my benefit or for helping their own standing?
The genuine spiritual master will put the interests of the disciples ahead of their own. We see examples of this in the interactions between Narada Muni and some of his more well-known converts. Narada travels the three worlds singing the glories of Narayana, which is one name for the Supreme Personality of Godhead.
Narada runs into people from time to time, and in only a brief interaction he is able to transform their lives, from despair and hopelessness to joy and renewing enthusiasm. Narada receives no compensation for these consultations. By rule, he is not allowed to linger around the area, to receive constant praise from the disciples he has reformed.
That famed guru essentially splits the scene. He leaves for somewhere else, after his work is done. But that work is so valuable that the people affected have a new lease on life. They are able to accomplish amazing things, after but a moment’s worth of interaction.
In every department the same,
Really just playing a game.
A gimmick in order to get ahead,
The followers into darkness led.
Cheated but elsewhere can be found,
The genuine who connected through sound.
Like Narada glories of Narayana praising,
Disciples in a few moments raising.