The law books known as the smṛtis mention five kinds of sin which everyone inevitably commits, no matter how unwillingly. They are as follows: (1) Sins committed by itching, (2) sins committed by rubbing, (3) sins committed by starting a fire, (4) sins committed by pouring water from a pot, and (5) sins committed by cleaning the house. Even if we do not commit any intentional sins, we have to commit the above five kinds of sin, without a shadow of doubt. Thus, it is our duty to accept the remnants of offerings made to Viṣṇu, to escape the reactions of all sinful actions committed unconsciously and unavoidably. Unfortunately, those who cook food not for offering to Viṣṇu, but only for satisfying their senses, have to undergo punishments for all the sins they have committed consciously or unconsciously, while discharging prescribed duties. For this reason, the worship of Viṣṇu still goes on in the households of the followers of sanātana-dharma, and especially in the households of the brāhmaṇas.
Therefore, those who are leaders of their respective countries and communities should first be sure to satisfy Viṣṇu, for their own benefit and for the benefit of those whom they profess to lead. All leaders should ponder how they can discharge their duties by satisfying the transcendental senses of Viṣṇu, for what the leaders do will be imitated by their followers. Therefore, the Personality of Godhead, Śrī Kṛṣṇa, advises Arjuna as follows: "What is done by the leader is followed by the ordinary man. Whatever the leader establishes as truth, the followers take to it unhesitatingly."
But alas, the time has already come when the leaders, whom ordinary men regard as beacons, are themselves mostly atheists at the bottom of their hearts and are against the principles laid down by Godhead. As such, what can they do for the satisfaction of the transcendental senses of Viṣṇu? And if they do not do everything for the satisfaction of the transcendental senses of Godhead, how can they expect to drag themselves or their followers from the mire of sins committed in the course of discharging prescribed duties? If the leaders do not recognize the existence of the all-powerful Viṣṇu, who is simultaneously both the supreme transcendental personality and the impersonal spirit existing everywhere, then what will ordinary men understand about Him? He is the supreme enjoyer of everything that be, and thus none of us, however great we may be, can be the enjoyer of the universe and its paraphernalia. Since our position is subordinate to that of the almighty Viṣṇu, the Supreme Godhead (Īśvara, the supreme controller), we can enjoy only what comes from Him as a token of His kindness. We must not enjoy anything that is not offered by Him. We should not make any extra effort to obtain anything which belongs to Him or others. That is the spirit of Vaiṣṇavism.
In the Īśopaniṣad this same spirit is described as follows: "Whatever we see existing throughout the universe is intrinsically the property of the supreme enjoyer, and one may enjoy a thing that is kindly given by Him, but one must never touch the property of others."
Therefore, civic and other popular leaders should center their activities upon Viṣṇu, and by this act of transcendental work, they will themselves be benefited and shall be able to do good for their respective followers. If these leaders, including preachers and heads of state, do not perform this act of Vaiṣṇavism—and instead place themselves artificially in the exalted position of Viṣṇu, the supreme enjoyer—then they may indeed enjoy temporary gain, adoration, and mundane fame, and may delude their unfortunate followers from the right path by a false display of renunciation. But such materialistic, godless leaders will never be able to do any good for the ignorant souls who follow them like a flock of sheep to the slaughterhouse. By such leadership the leader himself is temporarily benefited, but the followers are put into the worst position. The leaders incite them toward false, illusory gain and thus engage them in various acts of sin. In temporarily benefiting themselves, such leaders sacrifice the real interest of their followers and destroy the followers.
Such leaders do not know that their temporary gains will vanish along with the destruction of their temporary body. But the acts of commission and omission made by them during their lifetime of leadership will remain in the psychic encagement of mind, intelligence, and false egoism in a very subtle form, and the subtle psychic life will develop again in another suitable body, by the process of transmigration of the spirit soul, and thus put them in ordeals of different wheels of action and reaction by obliging them to transmigrate from one body to another for many, many years.
The people in general will follow what the leaders, without any transcendental knowledge, ask them to do. The leaders, therefore, must be aware of this fact for the benefit of all concerned. The leaders must know first of all how they can do good for their followers, by understanding the real method of karma-yoga, or work with transcendental results. If the physician is himself a diseased fellow, how can he endeavor to heal others? The physician must heal himself first, before treating the disease of the general public. To gratify the senses of the diseased fellow is not the business of a real physician. A good, qualified physician cannot indulge the patient by merely satisfying him, but must prescribe the real medicine, whether it satisfy the senses of the patient or not.
The leaders therefore must know that the real disease of the people in general is their aversion to serve the almighty Godhead, Viṣṇu. So if, instead of treating the people's inherent disease—atheism—the leaders simply show a superficial sympathy for the disease's symptoms, certainly there will be no benefit whatsoever for suffering humanity. The real remedy for this disease lies in partaking of the remnants of offerings made to Godhead; this is the ideal diet for the spiritual patient. And the medicines include hearing and chanting and remembering the glories of Godhead, worshiping the transcendental form of Godhead, offering Him transcendental service, accepting Him as one's supreme friend and, lastly, surrendering unto Him in all circumstances. The leaders should therefore arrange for this diet and these medicines—if they really want to dissipate the sufferings of humanity.
At the same time, it is pleasing to see that the veteran leader Mahatma Gandhi is trying his best to invent a method for bringing in a godly atmosphere all over the world. He is preaching restraint, toleration, moral principles, and so on. But it is not possible to reach the unlimited by any novel, invented method, which is always limited. The Personality of Godhead, Śrī Kṛṣṇa, has therefore said in the Bhagavad-gītā that after many births, learned sages eventually surrender unto Him, and that such a mahātmā who is able to connect everything that be to Vāsudeva (the plenary manifestation of Viṣṇu) is rarely to be seen. The purport is that mahātmās are everywhere, but the mahātmā who knows the real relationship between Godhead and the manifested world is very rare.
Such a mahātmā never tries to approach Godhead by any invented method, any inductive, ascending process. Rather, he accepts the standard, deductive, descending process—that is, the method that comes down directly from the Supreme Lord or through His bona fide representatives. By the ascending process, no one can reach the Lord, even by a long-term endeavor of many, many years. What is obtained by this ascending process, however, is imperfect, partial, impersonal knowledge, liable to be deviant from the Absolute Truth.
We can see such signs in the method of preaching espoused by Gandhijī. Although he chants the name of Rāma, he is not aware of the transcendental science of the name. He is a worshiper of the impersonal Godhead. That is to say, his Godhead or Viṣṇu is devoid of transcendental activities. His Godhead cannot eat, cannot see, and cannot hear; for impersonality means being without any of these sensory activities. When the empiric philosopher tries to approach the Absolute Truth, he can reach only as far as the impersonal feature of Godhead, without knowing anything about the Lord's transcendental pastimes. When the Absolute Truth is not credited with having any transcendental senses or sensory activities, certainly He is supposed impotent. An impotent Godhead, of course, cannot hear the prayers of His devotees, nor can He ameliorate the distress of the universe.
By the empiric process of philosophical research, one can possibly distinguish the metaphysical subjects from the physical objects; but unless such seekers of truth can reach the personal feature of the Absolute Truth, they gain only dry, impersonal knowledge of Him, without any actual transcendental profit. It is therefore necessary that leaders like Gandhi establish themselves on the transcendental footing of the personal feature of the Absolute Truth, known as Viṣṇu or the all-pervading Godhead, and arrange for His transcendental service by karma-yoga, so that they can do good for the people in general.