Be a friend with a saint

tyajadurjana-saàsargaàbhajasädhu-samägamam
kurupuëyamaho-rätraàsmaranityamanityatäm

Renounce the company of evil-minded persons, associate with saintly persons, perform pious deeds both day and night, and remember always the temporary nature of this material world.

All agree that human life is of utmost value because it offers us the opportunity to fulfill our natural desires for having excellent material facilities and refined relationships. The Vedic sages acknowledge these fundamental human needs. Therefore they define three (out of four) goals of life as religion, wealth, and sense enjoyment. The fourth and foremost goal, however, is identified as liberation from all suffering which inevitably accompanies material existence. This is the ultimate answer why human life is so precious; it is not because it offers an opportunity for material pleasures, but rather because it is the doorway to liberation from all suffering. Of course, cessation of all miseries does not mean the extinction of personal existence. According to the Vedas liberation means “sva-rüpeëa vyavasthitiù” – attaining one’s own constitutional position as eternal servant of God. It turns out that simply ending all pain is not the ultimate goal of human existence; rather it is experiencing the sweet taste of the loving reciprocation with God and His devotees.

In order to attain this sublime goal, one has to carefully choose his friends. He should reject the company of impious, evil-minded persons and seek the association of saints. To discriminate between these two groups is not a complicated task; the saintly persons are, first of all, extremely rare; they have devoted their time to realize the Absolute Truth and to work selflessly for the benefit of others. The evil-minded persons are in immense majority in our contemporary society. They work only to attain their selfish material goals and they don’t mind exploiting or destroying others in the process.

Another word for such a person is a psychopath. In his book “Rebel Without a Cause” Robert Lindner defines the psychopath as,

…a rebel, a religious disobeyer of prevailing codes and standards…a rebel without a cause, an agitator without a slogan, a revolutionary without a program; in other words, his rebelliousness is aimed to achieve goals satisfactory to him alone; he is incapable of exertions for the sake of others. All his efforts, under no matter what guise, represent investments designed to satisfy his immediate wishes and desires.

Although psychiatry does consider psychopaths mentally troubled, it reports that many psychopaths appear pleasant and intelligent; they often rise to high positions within business and politics – areas where they can manipulate others. Some descend into violent and cruel crimes. The unifying factor in all cases is that the psychopath lacks a moral compass. As forensic psychiatrist Ronald Markman writes, psychopaths

…are hedonistic, emotionally immature, selfish, impulsive, and devious. Their goals are often quite primitive, and usually are centered on power and pleasure. [They] tend to consider other people only as objects to be exploited, avoided, or neutralized.

Emotional immaturity, primitive goals, and the exploitation of people as objects, are undeniably prominent today, even in the highest circles. Therefore it is not surprising that another forensic psychiatrist, Dr. Robert D. Hare, believes that “our society is moving in the direction of permitting, reinforcing, and in some instances actually valuing some of the traits…symptomatic of psychopathy…traits such as impulsivity, irresponsibility, lack of remorse”.

Today the psychopath appears to be everywhere among us, and we must ask ourselves some important questions. Why is our fascination with psychopathy growing—in our movies, on television, in our mass market books and magazines? Why are more and more crimes of violence being committed by young people? …The public’s fascination with the smooth con artist and the cold-blooded killer, unbounded by the dictates of society and conscience, has never been stronger. (Dr. Robert D. Hare “Without Conscience—The Disturbing World of Psychopaths Among Us”)

The choice between befriending a psychopath and a saintly person should not be a difficult one for any sane man. By associating with wise men one can develop an important habit – to always remember the temporary nature of this material world. This does not mean that one is not involved with the world and does not perform their duties. It means that he is not overly attached to his material possessions and relations knowing that he can be separated from them at any time. Cultivating any type of material attachmentmeans to prepare one’s own suffering in future. On the other hand, developing spiritual attachment towards God or the saintly persons, brings only increasing happiness.

 

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