On every other street corner in India, it seems one sees beggars who claim to be sadhus, renunciates. Are they just parasites and exploiters, or are they really authentic holy men?
Everything that can also be helpful can be harmful. For every authentic coin, there is a false coin that can be interpreted as authentic. But it cannot be avoided. If it is understood then the likelihood can be lessened, but it can never be absolutely avoided. The only way to avoid it is to throw away the authentic coin also. If the authentic is to exist, the false will follow inevitably because it is easier to be false, it is not so arduous.
To really be a sadhu is the most arduous adventure possible. It is the greatest demand and challenge to the human mind. But to be one of the so-called sadhus that you see all over India is not a demand, not a challenge. Once a country has seen people like Krishna, Buddha, and Mahavira, the image is exploited. To me, the exploitation shows that the authentic has existed. The false coin only shows that there has been an authentic coin. The false is accepted because people have known the authentic – the false can masquerade as the authentic. But the moment the authentic is lost, the false will disappear as well. Then you cannot be exploited.
If there was no such thing as an authentic sadhu, then the falsehood could not continue to exist. But one of the contradictions of life is that everything exists in opposition, in relation, to something else. Even a false sadhu has appeared because the masses have known the authentic and the longing for the authentic lingers.
Then how can one tell if a sadhu is authentic or not?
There is no need. If someone becomes a sadhu, it is his own private affair. There is no need to pay any attention to him. Whether he is fake or authentic is his affair. His belief is a private affair, his being a sadhu is a private thing. Once it becomes public there will always be fakes, there will always be false people who will exploit. If someone is a poet it is his own affair, if someone is a dancer it is his own affair, if someone is a sadhu it is his own affair. He should not be worshipped – not even if he is authentic. If the authentic is worshipped, then the false will follow automatically and there will be those who exploit the phenomenon.
The need to recognize who is an authentic sadhu arises only when you want to worship someone. If you want to worship, then you have to know whether the person is authentic or false. But if you are not going to worship, there is no need to question whether the person is authentic. He may be, he may not be. It is his affair.