Whatever a great person or a Shreshta Purusha (leader) does, his example is followed by others (Bhagavad Gita 3.21). For instance, if you admire someone in the field of sports, music, theatre or spirituality, there is a tendency to imitate the behaviour of that person. You follow the standards, values, ideals and conduct upheld by him/her. Whatever a great person or leader does, people will imitate him. Therefore, it is the crucial responsibility of a leader to live an exemplary life.
Practice what You Preach
Once, a determined lady travelled a long way with her son to the ashrama of a Mahatma. She requested him, “Please advise my son not to indulge in sweets as he has a medical condition”. The Mahatma asked them to revisit him after a month.
On returning after the elapsed time, the Mahatma looked at the boy and advised, “Don’t eat so many sweets. It is bad for your health. Be moderate.”
The lady was taken aback. “But why”, she asked, “Did you not say this a month earlier?”
The Mahatma replied “At that time, I could not have said it. I too was eating a lot of sweets. First, I myself had to give them up, only then could I counsel him”.
Each One is a Leader
In society, every person is a leader to someone else. I may be looking up to some person for guidance or advice, but there is also somebody who holds me in high esteem and looks to me for direction. In a family where there is a five- year old and a three-year old, the three-year old looks up to the five-year old. Consecutively, the five-year old may look up to a cousin or a neighbour.
At home, the head of the family is a leader to other family members – they consider him to be a source of strength and wisdom; in an organization, the members look up to its head for guidance and inspiration. So each one of us has the responsibility of setting an example by the values we uphold, by our conduct and speech. We have to first live the values that we want others to follow, be it our children, neighbours, friends or co-workers.
Bhagavan – the Ultimate Example
Sri Krishna cites His own example. He tells Arjuna that though He has no duties to perform and nothing to achieve, yet He tirelessly engages in action. Moreover, if He did not ever remain engaged in action, with alertness and vigilance, other people would follow His example. The Lord has nothing to lose by not engaging in karma or anything to gain by performing action.
You must have seen and experienced in your life that if a child misbehaves, people ask ‘Who are your parents? Is this what they taught you?’ If disciples do not work properly, they ask ‘Who is your Guru?’ Even the Guru is not spared.
If the present generation does not take care of peace, prosperity and happiness, the next generation will hold us responsible. Is it not so? A leader or a great person must ensure that the followers are upholding the rules of right conduct; if they misbehave, the leader is held responsible.
Similarly, Sri Krishna states that the people are His responsibility. He says, ‘I cannot let them perish. I have to engage in karma to guide and bring them on to the righteous path’. Whenever Bhagavan uses the word ‘I’ in the immediate context, it means Shreshta Purusha.
If you see Shri Krishna as the Lord of the universe, you know that the Lord functions through all the laws and forces of Nature; if He takes time off – even for a few seconds – all the worlds will perish. So, whether you regard Shri Krishna as Ishvara or Shreshta Purusha, He knows He has responsibilities to fulfil and always fulfils them.
The Author is the Head of Chinmaya Mission Worldwide.