Is There An Easy Way To Tell Who Is A Genuine Saintly Person

[Sita-Rama]“Anyone who loves Sita and Rama more than himself, Tulsi would gladly use the skin from his own body to make their shoes.” (Dohavali, 59)

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आपु आपने तें अधिक जेहि प्रिय सीताराम ।
तेहि के पग की पानही तुलसी तनु को चाम ॥

āpu āpane teṃ adhika jehi priya sītārāma ।
tehi ke paga kī pānahī tulasī tanu ko cāma ॥

“I know it is not the best practice to be scouring the web for such information, but sometimes I cannot help it. I am always shocked at the information I find. There was such volume at first that I thought for sure someone was making everything up.

“It seemed that one spiritual leader after another, within the bhakti-yoga tradition, had skeletons in their closet. They had done the most abominable things. I don’t even want to mention them, lest people be forced to contemplate the horrors that the victims went through.

“I am fortunate in that I am generally on the outside. I have no standing within the society. I remain on the periphery, where I observe from a distance. There was never a personal relationship, and so I never suffered a crisis of faith. I had not surrendered everything to these leaders, so there was nothing lost for me in learning of their character flaws.

“I didn’t really need to research this information, either. Digging up the dirt only supported my intuition. I could tell that there was something off with these people. Just an overall sense of arrogance. They give the aura of looking down at others. I still respect these leaders. I still appreciate the sacrifices they have made for helping others to find the light of devotional service.

“It’s just that I never viewed them to be infallible or on some super-elevated status. The thing is, many people did. Their faith was shattered, as a result of learning these indiscretions. In many cases, they were forced to choose another spiritual leader, from a limited list provided to them. These were the orders from the institution. Otherwise, the disciples would lose their standing in society. Their library card, so to speak, would be marked as expired.

“Any person with half a brain understands that you cannot force a relationship with a guru. It is a deeply personal matter. What I want to know is how to help others. Is there an easy way to tell who is a genuine spiritual leader and who is not? Is there a reference guide or a checklist that someone can quickly look over to make the determination?

“Otherwise, it seems that the same corruption will continue. Hearts will be broken. Temples will become empty. More and more people will be robbed of the bliss of connecting directly with the Supreme Personality of Godhead, which is the actual goal of life.”

One approach is to use the assessment method applied to parenting. To take care of someone new to the world is not easy. No matter how many books you read and how much instruction others give to you, no two children are alike.

This means that the experience of being a parent is always unique. It has challenges that never end. It is one difficulty after another. You are dealing with another independent living entity, after all. They cannot be forced to behave a certain way.

They can be given direction. They can be shown the way based on behavior. They can be given an example to follow, to take advantage of the truth known to the wise.

यद्यदाचरति श्रेष्ठस्तत्तदेवेतरो जनः ।
स यत्प्रमाणं कुरुते लोकस्तदनुवर्तते ॥

yad yad ācarati śreṣṭhas
tat tad evetaro janaḥ
sa yat pramāṇaṁ kurute
lokas tad anuvartate

“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)

A common way to judge a good parent is to see what exactly they want for their children. If they are interested in sacrificing to the level of wanting the children to exceed expectations in happiness and joy, then there is a loving relationship.

In essence, the “good” parent wants more for their children than they want for themselves. If the parent is highly acclaimed in a particular field, they will not be upset if their child surpasses them within that field. The parent will not be jealous. They will not be miserly in sharing the glory.

The extent of that love might touch the limit of willingness to sacrifice everything:

“If I lost everything today, I wouldn’t mind. As long as my child has everything. As long as they are happy. I want them to do better than me. I am proud of what I have accomplished. I worked hard. I sacrificed. I want my child to work even harder. I want them to do even better, because I know they can. That will give me the most happiness.”

In a similar manner, the elevated saintly person has plenty of accomplishments to their name. If they are prominent within the community, perhaps they have led large gatherings to glorify the Supreme Lord. They may have authored many books, opened many temples, and trained many followers in the disciplic succession, sampradaya.

Still, there is no jealousy. There is no miserliness. They want that others reach an even higher level. The saint does not think as highly of themselves as others do. They are humble in the true sense. They understand that the strength in man is due to Vishnu, and so any accomplishments have that same strength as the foundation.

श्री-प्रह्राद उवाच
न केवलं मे भवतश् च राजन्
स वै बलं बलिनां चापरेषाम्
परे ’वरे ’मी स्थिर-जङ्गमा ये
ब्रह्मादयो येन वशं प्रणीताः

śrī-prahrāda uvāca
na kevalaṁ me bhavataś ca rājan
sa vai balaṁ balināṁ cāpareṣām
pare ’vare ’mī sthira-jaṅgamā ye
brahmādayo yena vaśaṁ praṇītāḥ

“Prahlada Maharaja said: My dear King, the source of my strength, of which you are asking, is also the source of yours. Indeed, the original source of all kinds of strength is one. He is not only your strength or mine, but the only strength for everyone. Without Him, no one can get any strength. Whether moving or not moving, superior or inferior, everyone, including Lord Brahma, is controlled by the strength of the Supreme Personality of Godhead.” (Shrimad Bhagavatam, 7.8.7)

[Sita-Rama]You have wonderful testimony from saints like Goswami Tulsidas. Though he is famous for his poetry in praise of Sita-Rama, he has the utmost love for others. It makes him happiest to see others fully devoted to the Divine couple. He is willing to sacrifice his skin to be used as the shoes for such servants.

कृष्ण-नाम निरन्तर याङ्हार वदने
सेइ वैष्णव-श्रेष्ठ, भज ताङ्हार चरणे

kṛṣṇa-nāma nirantara yāṅhāra vadane
sei vaiṣṇava-śreṣṭha, bhaja tāṅhāra caraṇe

“A person who is always chanting the holy name of the Lord is to be considered a first-class Vaishnava, and your duty is to serve his lotus feet.” (Chaitanya Charitamrita, Madhya 16.72)

Then there is the direct clarification from Chaitanya Mahaprabhu. He considers the person who is always chanting the holy names to be a devotee. Such a devotee should always be served.

[Chaitanya Mahaprabhu]The mood is similar to that of the parent described above. They want the dependents to do well. They see no limitations in that endeavor; the growth-potential is as high as one can imagine. This is because everyone has that devotion inside of them. It is the dharma of the individual, and the genuine saintly person can help others return to that dharma.

In Closing:

So many gurus to fall,
Now as frauds to call.

Could tell from the start,
That from standards to depart.

Arrogance on display
But no one daring to say.

From desires the genuine to tell,
How for others wishing them well.

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