Imitation Vs Following

Sree Sree Guru Gaurangau Jayatah!

We should follow the teachings of the sadhu. We are not to place importance merely on external behavior. We must see the purpose for which sadhus are acting, for the service of Sri Krsna and the devotees. We should behave like the sadhu only when we understand the purpose of their behavior. We should follow, not imitate. What is the difference between following and imitation? This story may be given as an example.

There was once a peddler who maintained his family by selling caps. He would carry the caps on his head in a wicker basket. He would walk through the streets all day long selling these caps, taking his food along with him and eat along the way. He spent the day walking along the road, shouting, “Very nice caps for sale today! Price reduced! Take! Take! Take!” People would come and purchase his caps and he would thus maintain his family. But one day, even though he had spent the entire day shouting, he could not get any money. Not a single person had bought anything. Needless to say, he was very disappointed. Toward the afternoon, he became fatigued from so much walking. So, he sat under a big banyan tree. Being hungry, he ate the food that he had brought with him. After having eaten, he became drowsy and began to yawn. As he was so tired, he thought, “Let me lie down for some time.” He spread a chadar on the grass beneath the tree and lay down. He placed the wicker basket, filled with caps, by the side of his head. He also kept a cap on his head and fell asleep.

After some time, some monkeys came from nearby and climbed up into the banyan tree. From the top of the tree, they could see that someone was sleeping underneath, who had a cap on top of his head, and next to him was a wicker basket-full of caps! “Oh!” they thought. “Let us get those caps!” They descended the tree and, silently, they approached the basket. Each monkey took one cap and put it on his head. In this way, all the caps were emptied from the basket. The monkeys became very satisfied with themselves by having put the caps on their heads. They climbed back up the tree and started to jump about from one branch to another with great delight, shrieking, “Kak! Koo! Kak! Koo!”

Hearing the sound of the monkeys, the peddler woke up. He was surprised to see that it was now evening. He looked at his wicker basket and saw that it was empty. “What? Not a single cap was sold but the caps are all gone! Who took them?” He looked about and saw the monkeys with the caps. “Now I have eaten all the food and have none left. If I have no food to give the monkeys, they will not return the caps.” If you go to Vrndavana, there are many monkey-devotees there. Those monkeys will steal your spectacles. They will only return them if you give them some food. Now, this peddler realized that he had nothing to give the monkeys. “If they surround me, I shall be killed by them!” he thought.

He became enraged and shouted, “You have taken all that I have! Why have you not taken the cap on my own head? Here, you should take it!” He took his cap and threw it at them.
The monkeys saw this and, taking their own caps in their hands, threw them at the peddler below. Because the peddler had thrown his cap toward them, they also threw their caps toward him. Now their caps were on the ground and they were left with nothing. They do not know why one wears a cap. They simply imitate. Such imitation is not good. “How is the sadhu sleeping? He is sleeping like this, so I shall have to sleep like that. How is he sitting? I shall have to sit like that. How does the sadhu take his steps?” All this is imitation. You have to know the purpose. You will be able to follow by knowing the purpose.

— Srila Bhakti Ballabh Tirtha Goswami Maharaj

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