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Who is a Sadhu?

The symptoms of a sadhu are that he is tolerant, merciful and friendly to all living entities. He has no enemies, he is peaceful, he abides by the scriptures, and all his characteristics are sublime. A sadhu is a devotee of the Lord. His concern, therefore, is to enlighten people in devotional service; that is his mercy. He knows that without devotional service, human life is spoiled. A devotee travels all over the country, from door to door, preaching, “Be Kṛṣṇa conscious, become a devotee of Lord Kṛṣṇa. Don’t spoil your life in simply fulfilling your animal propensities. Human life is meant for self-realization, or Kṛṣṇa consciousness.” These are the preachings of a sadhu. He is not satisfied with his own liberation. He always thinks about others. He is the most compassionate personality toward all fallen souls. One of his qualifications, therefore, is karunika, great mercy to the fallen souls. While engaged in preaching work, he has to meet with so many opposing elements, and therefore the sadhu has to be very tolerant. Someone may ill-treat him because the conditioned souls are not prepared to receive the transcendental knowledge of devotional service. They don’t like it; that is their disease. The sadhu has the thankless task of impressing upon them the importance of devotional service. Sometimes devotees are personally attacked with violence. Lord Jesus Christ was crucified, Haridasa Thakura was caned in twenty-two marketplaces, and Lord Caitanya’s principal assistant, Nityananda, was violently attacked by Jagai and Madhai. But still they were tolerant because their mission was to deliver fallen souls. A sadhu is merciful because he is the well-wisher of all living entities. He is not only a well-wisher of human society, but a well-wisher of animal society as well. The word sarva-dehinam refers to all living entities who have accepted material bodies. Not only does the human being have a material body, but other living entities as well. The devotee of the Lord is merciful to everyone-cats, dogs, trees, etc. He treats all living entities in such a way that they can ultimately get salvation from this material entanglement. Sivananda Sena, one of the disciples of Lord Caitanya, gave liberation to a dog by treating the dog transcendentally. There are many instances where a dog got salvation by association with a sadhu, because a sadhu engages in the highest philanthropic activities for the benediction of all living entities. Yet although a sadhu is not inimical toward anyone, the world is so ungrateful that even a sadhu has many enemies.

Source: A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada (2007 edition), “Teachings of Lord Kapila, The Son of Devahuti”, Page 135

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