By His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedānta Swami Prabhupāda
ye vā mayīse krta-sauhrdārthā
na prīti-yuktā yāvad-arthāś ca loke
Those who are interested in reviving Krishna consciousness and increasing their love of Godhead do not like to do anything that is not related to Krishna. They are not interested in mingling with people who are busy maintaining their bodies, eating, sleeping mating and defending. They are not attached to their homes, although they may be householders. Nor are they attached to wives, children, friends or wealth. At the same time, they are not indifferent to the execution of their duties. Such people are interested in collecting only enough money to keep the body and soul together.
So the recommendation is that if you want to go back home, back to Godhead, you have to practice austerities, penance. That austerity and penance is according to the age, deśa (place), kāla (time), pātra (candidate). Not that… Just like in the common law also, if a grown-up man commits some theft, he is punished more. And if a child or a boy commits theft, he is not so much punished. So there is consideration of deśa, kāla, pātra.
In Kali-yuga people cannot undergo very severe austerities. That is impossible for them, because mandāh sumanda-matayo manda-bhāgyā hy upadrutāh [SB 1.1.10]. They are already very much suppressed and suffering because they are all unfortunate (manda-bhāgyā). Mostly people, they have no provision for eating either today or tomorrow. There is no sufficient grains. Formerly even in the villages you would see that a common man had very good stock of food grains and cows, dhanyena dhanavan, gavaya dhanavan. Formerly the standard of richness was considered how many morai, the bank, what is called? Where grain is stocked? Silo. So in India it is called morai, grain stock. And how many cows one has got in stock. Then he is rich man. Nowadays how much paper money he has got. Actually it has no value. Suppose you have got some papers. Each paper it is written there “one thousand dollars.” But if there is no grain, what will this one-thousand-dollars paper will do?
THEIR MONEY WAS THROWN IN THE STREET
It actually so happened in the last war in Germany. Their money was thrown in the street. Nobody cared to take it, because it had no exchange value. So long you can exchange the paper money, there is value. Otherwise it is paper only. But if you have got actual commodity—grains and cows—then you can eat in any circumstances. Never mind war is going on; you don’t care. You get sufficient food. What you will do with the paper money? So this paper currency is useless. If the things are going on nicely, it has value, but in times of crisis it has no value.
MAHATMA DOES NOT MEAN A DRESS
So here we are recommended to make association with mahat-sevā just to get liberation. And who is mahatma? That is being described. What is the symptom? In the śāstra we’ll find not that if one has got saffron cloth or big beard, then he is mahatma. No. There are other symptoms. Just like brahmana. In Kali-yuga, brahmana means one who is wearing a two-paisa thread, that’s all. But that is not brahmana. Brahmana means samo damo titiksha. These are the symptoms. Similarly, mahatma does not mean a dress. But people have taken advantage of this dress. In India still, although one may be poverty-stricken, if the person, simply by dressing in a saffron cloth goes to a village, he has no problem. Everyone will call him, invite him, give him shelter, give him food, “Sir, come here. Take prasada.” Everyone will invite. Poor people have taken advantage of it. Without any education, without any…, they take it for solving economic problems. Here also in Vrindavana you’ll find so many people have come here because there are many chatras. You can get free chapati, dahl. You’ll find in the morning so many wretched class. They have come to Vrindavana just for this bread and dahl. And they collect and they exchange. They purchase bidi.
So, in Kali-yuga, everything is being misused. But śāstra has given us direction who is brahmana, who is mahatma. So here one type of mahatma is described: mahāntas te sama-cittāh. They are equal. Brahma-bhūtah prasannātmā [Bg. 18.54]. Samah sarvesu bhūtesu. That is mahatma. He has realized, Brahman realized, so he has no discrimination, either man to man or man to animal… He’s kind to everyone. That is godly qualification.
So here we are recommended to make association with saintly personalities to get liberation.
[An excerpt from a lecture delivered on the Srimad-Bhagavatam 5.5.3 in Vrindavana on October 25, 1976]