~ Jagad Guru Chris Butler (Siddhaswarupananda Paramahamsa)

Saintliness depends upon svarupa-laksana

"External designations (such as the four social and religious orders of brahmana, ksatriya, vaisya, sudra and brahmacari, grhastha, vanaprastha and sannyasi) are not the symptoms of a sadhu. The scriptures expound that the quality of complete surrender to Lord Krsna is the hallmark of a sadhu, and he alone can chant Krsna's name purely.

"O Lord Caitanya, through Raghunatha dasa Gosvami's example You have taught everyone about how to become a proper grhastha Vaisnava. Srila Raghunatha dasa Gosvami appeared not in the brahmana caste but in the inferior kayastha caste in a village called Saptagram. Your instruction to him was that he should not become impatient and act crazily by whimsically leaving home, but return to his household life and remain there. Liberation is gradually attained by following an orderly process; there is no need to prematurely pretend that one is detached and renounced just to impress people. Renunciation has to take-place within the heart. Wearing the dress of renunciate when the senses are still uncontrolled is called monkey renunciation or markata-vairagya. The householder should fulfil his duties in a regulated manner and practice detachment by cultivating firm faith and deep attachment for Krsna within, while conducting normal external social dealings with the people in general. Very quickly Lord Krsna will personally liberate him.

Symptoms of a renounced sadhu

"When You saw that Srila Raghunatha dasa Gosvami had at last left his household and embraced a renunciant's life, Your instructions to him on the proper path of renunciation were wonderful. You taught that one should not engage in, nor give audience to, frivolous materialistic conversations. The wearing of fine clothes and the tasting of delicacies must be rejected. Being always ready to offer respect to others, demanding no respect for oneself, one should constantly chant the holy name. One should render intimate service to Sri Radha and Krsna in the mood of the residents of Vraja.

Same basic quality in householder and renunciant

"The svarupa-laksana or principal symptom (i.e. surrender to Lord Krsna) must prevail in a sadhu regardless of his varna and asrama. The tathasta-laksana or marginal symptoms will certainly vary according to the varnas and asramas. Undeviating surrender to Lord Krsna is the svarupa-laksana of devotional service.

"Whoever possesses this quality will soon find that the other marginal symptoms have come to him unfailingly. But if perchance the marginal symptoms have not reached full maturity in a surrendered sadhu, and instead some serious discrepancies in character are visible in him, then he is still to be respected as a sadhu or saintly soul. This is the verdict of the scriptures, as expressed in Lord Krsna's own words in the Bhagavad-gita. A profound philosophical truth is revealed by this verse, and we are aware of it only due to Your mercy.

It is offensive to criticize a sadhu for past sins

"When one has developed a real taste for chanting, then a single utterance of the holy name can eradicate all previous sins. Some vestiges of sinful reaction may still remain in a particular individual, but these also are gradually removed by the process of chanting. As these last traces of sin disappear, he emerges a pure devotee. Of course, the lingering traces of sin are seen by the common man as sins; but if a saintly person is criticized because of the traces of almost extirpated sin in his character, that is a grievous offense. If criticism is made against a sadhu for sins committed prior to his surrendering to Krsna, that is likewise another serious offense; such a fault finder surely invites the wrath of Lord Krsna.

Symptoms of a sadhu in a few words

"One who has fully surrendered to Lord Krsna will naturally only chant Lord Krsna's name, thus such a person is entitled to be called a sadhu by the Lord's grace. Only a devotee of Lord Krsna is eligible to be respected as a sadhu, and none other. If anyone else proclaims himself a sadhu, he is but a charlatan and a braggart. One who humbly says he is a poor soul surrendered to Lord Krsna, who constantly chants Krsna's name, is a real sadhu. He, considering himself lower than a blade of grass and more tolerant than a tree, offers all respects to others without expecting any for himself. The holy name of Krsna grants such a sadhu divine love of Godhead.