Whatever action a great man performs, common men follow. And whatever standards he sets by exemplary acts, all the world pursues

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Expressions researched:
"Leading men, whatever they do, ordinary men, they'll be followed" |"Those who are leaders, whatever they do, they perform, common men follow that" |"Whatever action a great man performs, common men follow. And whatever standards he sets by exemplary acts, all the world pursues" |"Whatever action is performed by a great man, common men follow in his footsteps. And whatever standards he sets by exemplary acts, all the world pursues" |"Whatever action is performed by a great man, common men follow" |"if the higher level class of men accepts something as truth, then the ordinary, common man follows that"

Bhagavad-gita As It Is

BG Chapters 1 - 6

Whatever action a great man performs, common men follow. And whatever standards he sets by exemplary acts, all the world pursues.
BG 3.21, Translation and Purport:

Whatever action a great man performs, common men follow. And whatever standards he sets by exemplary acts, all the world pursues.

People in general always require a leader who can teach the public by practical behavior. A leader cannot teach the public to stop smoking if he himself smokes. Lord Caitanya said that a teacher should behave properly before he begins teaching. One who teaches in that way is called ācārya, or the ideal teacher. Therefore, a teacher must follow the principles of śāstra (scripture) to teach the common man. The teacher cannot manufacture rules against the principles of revealed scriptures. The revealed scriptures, like Manu-saṁhitā and similar others, are considered the standard books to be followed by human society. Thus the leader's teaching should be based on the principles of such standard śāstras. One who desires to improve himself must follow the standard rules as they are practiced by the great teachers. The Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam also affirms that one should follow in the footsteps of great devotees, and that is the way of progress on the path of spiritual realization. The king or the executive head of a state, the father and the school teacher are all considered to be natural leaders of the innocent people in general. All such natural leaders have a great responsibility to their dependents; therefore they must be conversant with standard books of moral and spiritual codes.

Srimad-Bhagavatam

SB Canto 4

"Whatever action is performed by a great man, common men follow in his footsteps. And whatever standards he sets by exemplary acts, all the world pursues."
SB 4.19.36, Translation and Purport:

Just see how Indra, the King of heaven, was creating a disturbance in the midst of the sacrifice by stealing the sacrificial horse. These attractive sinful activities he has introduced will be carried out by the people in general.

As stated in Bhagavad-gītā (3.21):

yad yad ācarati śreṣṭhas
tad tad evetaro janaḥ
sa yat pramāṇaṁ kurute
lokas tad anuvartate

"Whatever action is performed by a great man, common men follow in his footsteps. And whatever standards he sets by exemplary acts, all the world pursues."

For his own sense gratification, King Indra thought to defeat Mahārāja Pṛthu in the performance of one hundred horse sacrifices. Consequently he stole the horse and hid himself amid so many irreligious personalities, taking on the false guise of a sannyāsī. Such activities are attractive to the people in general; therefore they are dangerous. Lord Brahmā thought that instead of allowing Indra to further introduce such irreligious systems, it would be better to stop the sacrifice. A similar stance was taken by Lord Buddha when people were overly engrossed in the animal sacrifices recommended by Vedic instructions. Lord Buddha had to introduce the religion of nonviolence by contradicting the Vedic sacrificial instructions. Actually, in the sacrifices the slaughtered animals were given a new life, but people without such powers were taking advantage of such Vedic rituals and unnecessarily killing poor animals. Therefore Lord Buddha had to deny the authority of the Vedas for the time being. One should not perform sacrifices that will induce reversed orders. It is better to stop such sacrifices.

As we have repeatedly explained, due to a lack of qualified brahminical priests in Kali-yuga, it is not possible to perform the ritualistic ceremonies recommended in the Vedas. Consequently the śāstras instruct us to perform the saṅkīrtana-yajña. By the saṅkīrtana sacrifice, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, in His form of Lord Caitanya, will be satisfied and worshiped. The entire purpose of performing sacrifices is to worship the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Viṣṇu. Lord Viṣṇu, or Lord Kṛṣṇa, is present in His form of Lord Caitanya; therefore people who are intelligent should try to satisfy Him by performing saṅkīrtana-yajña. This is the easiest way to satisfy Lord Viṣṇu in this age. People should take advantage of the injunctions in different śāstras concerning sacrifices in this age and not create unnecessary disturbances during the sinful age of Kali. In Kali-yuga men all over the world are very expert in opening slaughterhouses for killing animals, which they eat. If the old ritualistic ceremonies were observed, people would be encouraged to kill more and more animals. In Calcutta there are many butcher shops which keep a deity of the goddess Kālī, and animal-eaters think it proper to purchase animal flesh from such shops in hope that they are eating the remnants of food offered to goddess Kālī. They do not know that goddess Kālī never accepts nonvegetarian food because she is the chaste wife of Lord Śiva. Lord Śiva is also a great Vaiṣṇava and never eats nonvegetarian food, and the goddess Kālī accepts the remnants of food left by Lord Śiva. Therefore there is no possibility of her eating flesh or fish. Such offerings are accepted by the associates of goddess Kālī known as bhūtas, piśācas and Rākṣasas, and those who take the prasāda of goddess Kālī in the shape of flesh or fish are not actually taking the prasāda left by goddess Kālī, but the food left by the bhūtas and piśācas.

SB Canto 5

Whatever action is performed by a great man, common men follow.
SB 5.4.15, Translation and Purport:

Whatever action is performed by a great man, common men follow.

A similar verse is also found in Bhagavad-gītā (3.21). It is essential for human society to have a section of men perfectly trained as qualified brāhmaṇas according to the instructions of Vedic knowledge. Those below the brahminical qualification—administrators, merchants and workers—should take instructions from those ideal people who are considered to be intellectuals. In this way, everyone can be elevated to the highest transcendental position and be freed from material attachment. The material world is described by Lord Kṛṣṇa Himself as duḥkhālayam aśāśvatam (BG 8.15), a temporary place of misery. No one can stay here, even if he makes a compromise with misery. One has to give up this body and accept another, which may not even be a human body. As soon as one gets a material body, he becomes deha-bhṛt, or dehī. In other words, he is subjected to all the material conditions. The leaders of society must be so ideal that by following them one can be relieved from the clutches of material existence.

SB Canto 6

"Whatever action a great man performs, common men follow. And whatever standards he sets by exemplary acts, all the world pursues."
SB 6.17.9, Translation and Purport:

Śrīla Śukadeva Gosvāmī continued: My dear King, after hearing Citraketu's statement, Lord Śiva, the most powerful personality, whose knowledge is fathomless, simply smiled and remained silent, and all the members of the assembly followed the lord by not saying anything.

Citraketu's purpose in criticizing Lord Śiva is somewhat mysterious and cannot be understood by a common man. Śrīla Viśvanātha Cakravartī Ṭhākura, however, has made the following observations. Lord Śiva, being the most exalted Vaiṣṇava and one of the most powerful demigods, is able to do anything he desires. Although he was externally exhibiting the behavior of a common man and not following etiquette, such actions cannot diminish his exalted position. The difficulty is that a common man, seeing Lord Śiva's behavior, might follow his example. As stated in Bhagavad-gītā (3.21):

yad yad ācarati śreṣṭhas
tat tad evetaro janaḥ
sa yat pramāṇaṁ kurute
lokas tad anuvartate

"Whatever action a great man performs, common men follow. And whatever standards he sets by exemplary acts, all the world pursues." A common man might also criticize Lord Śiva, like Dakṣa, who suffered the consequences for his criticism. King Citraketu desired that Lord Śiva cease this external behavior so that others might be saved from criticizing him and thus becoming offenders. If one thinks that Viṣṇu, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, is the only perfect personality whereas the demigods, even such demigods as Lord Śiva, are inclined to improper social affairs, he is an offender. Considering all this, King Citraketu was somewhat harsh in his behavior with Lord Śiva.

Lord Śiva, who is always deep in knowledge, could understand Citraketu's purpose, and therefore he was not at all angry; rather, he simply smiled and remained silent. The members of the assembly surrounding Lord Śiva could also understand Citraketu's purpose. Consequently, following the behavior of Lord Śiva, they did not protest; instead, following their master, they remained silent. If the members of the assembly thought that Citraketu had blasphemed Lord Śiva, they would certainly have left at once, blocking their ears with their hands.

SB Canto 7

"Whatever action a great man performs, common men follow. And whatever standards he sets by exemplary acts, all the world pursues."
SB 7.10.23, Translation and Purport:

After performing the ritualistic ceremonies, take charge of your father's kingdom. Sit upon the throne and do not be disturbed by materialistic activities. Please keep your mind fixed upon Me. Without transgressing the injunctions of the Vedas, as a matter of formality you may perform your particular duties.

When one becomes a devotee, he no longer has any duty to the Vedic regulative principles. One has many duties to perform, but if one becomes fully devoted to the Lord, he no longer has any such obligations. As stated in Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam (11.5.41):

devarṣi-bhūtāpta-nṛṇāṁ pitṟṇāṁ
na kiṅkaro nāyam ṛṇī ca rājan
sarvātmanā yaḥ śaraṇaṁ śaraṇyaṁ
gato mukundaṁ parihṛtya kartam

One who has fully surrendered to the lotus feet of the Lord is no longer a debtor to his forefathers, the great sages, human society, the common man or any living entity.

The Supreme Personality of Godhead nonetheless advised Prahlāda Mahārāja to follow the regulative principles, for since he was going to be the king, others would follow his example. Thus Lord Nṛsiṁha-deva advised Prahlāda Mahārāja to engage in his political duties so that people would become the Lord's devotees.

yad yad ācarati śreṣṭhas
tad tad evetaro janaḥ
sa yat pramāṇaṁ kurute
lokas tad anuvartate

"Whatever action a great man performs, common men follow. And whatever standards he sets by exemplary acts, all the world pursues." (BG 3.21) One should not be attached to any materialistic activities, but a devotee may perform such activities as an example to show the common man that one should not deviate from the Vedic injunctions.

Sri Caitanya-caritamrta

CC Madhya-lila

CC Madhya 17.178, Translation and Purport:

"Whatever action a great man performs, common men follow. And whatever standards he sets by exemplary acts, all the world pursues."

This is a quotation from the Bhagavad-gītā (3.21).

Other Books by Srila Prabhupada

Renunciation Through Wisdom

"Whatever action a great man performs, common men follow. And whatever standards he sets by exemplary acts, all the world pursues." Because everyone follows their example, the leaders are required to carefully study the process of devotional service to Lord Viṣṇu. This is their duty.
Renunciation Through Wisdom 1.6:

It is impossible to be exempted from the adversities caused by mentally concocted beliefs. According to man-made laws, if one person murders another he is condemned to the gallows, but no action is taken against a man for killing animals. Such is not the law of providence. The law of God is such that it punishes the killers of both man and animals; both acts of murder are penalized. The atheists deny the existence of God because in this way they think they can commit sins unhindered. But all the revealed, authorized scriptures say that by killing innocent creatures, the householders commit many sins willingly or unwillingly while performing their normal daily activities. To get release from these sins, the householders are enjoined to perform certain sacrifices. Foremost of these is to eat and honor the remnants of food offered to Lord Viṣṇu. As for those selfish householders who cook food only for their own sensual pleasure and not for the service of Lord Viṣṇu, they have to suffer all the sinful reactions incurred while cooking and eating. This is the law of providence. Therefore, to get rid of these sins, the followers of the Vedic religion dedicate their household activities to Lord Viṣṇu's service.

The leaders of society are therefore advised to perform devotional service for Lord Viṣṇu's satisfaction—both for their own benefit and for the benefit of those they lead. As Lord Kṛṣṇa says to Śrī Arjuna in the Bhagavad-gītā (3.21), "Whatever action a great man performs, common men follow. And whatever standards he sets by exemplary acts, all the world pursues." Because everyone follows their example, the leaders are required to carefully study the process of devotional service to Lord Viṣṇu. This is their duty. Thus for the benefit of human society, there is a great need to construct universities that will impart knowledge of devotional service.

Alas! The times are such that those who are considered leaders and stalwarts of society are more viciously inimical to God than others. Therefore, what devotional service for Lord Viṣṇu's satisfaction can they perform? And if they cannot perform devotional service, then how will they gain release from their innumerable sins? If the stalwarts of society are not willing to declare that Lord Viṣṇu is the omnipresent Absolute Truth, and that He is all-pervasive due to His being both a person as well as formless, then what can the lesser men, the man on the street, understand about this esoteric subject matter? The Supreme Lord is the sole proprietor of everything. We cannot take the position of the enjoyer and proprietor of this material world. Whatever the Supreme Lord mercifully gives us as His remnants, that alone should we accept. We must never desire another's property. As the Īśopaniṣad states,

Everything animate or inanimate that is within the universe is controlled and owned by the Lord. One should therefore accept only those things necessary for himself, which are set aside as his quota, and one should not accept other things, knowing well to whom they belong."

Only when the leaders of society center all their activities on the Supreme Lord, Viṣṇu, will these activities bring good fortune and benediction to the leaders themselves, as well as to their followers. But if the leaders avoid performing their activities for Lord Viṣṇu and instead pose as Lord Viṣṇu themselves—taking worship, wealth, and praise from their followers and returning the same to them as remnants—then others might become attracted by their pretentious renunciation and thus follow their path to doom. But nothing further will be achieved. Such leaders uselessly excite their ignorant sycophants, inducing them to perform many sinful activities. In this way such selfish leaders bring about their followers' doom simply to increase their own distinction, adoration, and wealth. Unfortunately, the leaders do not know that these miniscule portions of distinction, adoration, and wealth will be burned to ashes with their death. But the sinful methods used to acquire these temporary material advantages will beget results, which will then very subtly mix with their subtle body, namely mind, intelligence, and false ego. And these results will later become the seeds of further sinful activities, which will entangle the soul in the cycle of karmic reactions birth after birth, forcing him go through many different species of life.

Lectures

Srimad-Bhagavatam Lectures

If the higher level class of men accepts something as truth, then the ordinary, common man follows that.
Lecture on SB 5.5.1 -- Johannesburg, October 20, 1975:

Ṛṣabhadeva was a king, and He had one hundred sons. Of all of them, the eldest was Mahārāja Bharata, under whose name India is called Bhāratavarṣa since the time of Mahārāja Bharata. So the instruction was being discussed amongst the royal family members. Formerly all Vedic instructions were discussed amongst the very topmost class of men. Yad yad ācarati śreṣṭhas lokas tad anuvartate (BG 3.21). That is the instruction in the Bhagavad-gītā. If the higher level class of men accepts something as truth, then the ordinary, common man follows that.

So the problem of life is discussed here by Ṛṣabhadeva. He says, "My dear boys," nāyaṁ deha deha-bhājāṁ nṛloke kaṣṭān kāmān arhate viḍ-bhujāṁ ye (SB 5.5.1). Ayam. Ayam means "this," this body, this human form of body. It is also a body, and the dog's body is also a body, material body. It is also made of blood and bone and urine and stool and so many other things. The dog's body is also made the same ingredients. But what is the difference between dog's body and this human body? He advises, ayam deha: "This human form of body..." Deha-bhājāṁ nṛloke. And where this body is obtained? It is obtained in the human society. This intelligent brain and good form of body, it is to be found in the human society. In the human society you will find from this body, big, big professors, big, big philosophers, scientists, mathematicians and..., they are coming, not from the dog society. That is not possible. Therefore it should be properly utilized. Nāyam deho deha-bhājāṁ nṛloke. Nṛloke means in human society. So how it should be utilized? He says, kaṣṭān kāmān arhate, arhate viḍ-bhujāṁ ye. Kaṣṭān. Kaṣṭān means very, very hard labor, kaṣṭān. And kāmān means necessities of life we require. The necessities of this body, that is required. We want to eat something, we must have a shelter to live, Bhāgavata.-bhaya, and we must defend from the enemies or from the attack of other living beings. Kaṣṭān kāmān. So we require all these things, but not very hard labor, working day and night. That is for the lower animal. Kaṣṭān kāmān na arhate viḍ bhujāṁ ye. As the animal is working very hard day and night for meeting their necessities of life, the human form of life is not meant for that purpose. This is the basic principle of instruction.

"Those who are leaders, whatever they do, they perform, common men follow that." Therefore they must be very perfect. Common men follow the leaders. If the leaders are themselves imperfect, then what will be the position of the common men?
Lecture on SB 7.5.31 -- Mauritius, October 4, 1975:

"Everything belongs to God." Īśāvāsyam idaṁ sarvam. That is Kṛṣṇa consciousness. People should be free to move in Kṛṣṇa consciousness. Everything, actually it belongs to Kṛṣṇa. But we have got restriction because we see "This is America, this is India, this is..." So they have been described here as andhā yathāndhair upanīyamānāḥ: "These leaders are themselves blind, and they are leading other blind men." General public, they are blind, and the leaders are also blind. Andhā yathāndhair upanīyamānāḥ (SB 7.5.31). Why they are blind? Now, because they do not know what is the aim of life. Na te viduḥ. Na te viduḥ svārtha-gatim. Everyone is self-interested. That's very good. You are self-interested; I am self-interested. So that is... But you do not know what is your self-interest. Therefore you are blind. That is described here, that "These blind leaders, they do not know." They are especially mentioned, andhā yathāndhair upanīyamānāḥ. The leaders, they lead others. So, yad yad ācarati śreṣṭha tat tad evetaro janaḥ (BG 3.21). Leaders are responsible because yad yad ācarati śreṣṭha: "Those who are leaders, whatever they do, they perform, common men follow that." Therefore they must be very perfect. Common men follow the leaders. If the leaders are themselves imperfect, then what will be the position of the common men?

So here it is said that because the leaders, they do not know what is the aim of life, what is the goal of life, therefore common men, people in general, they are being misguided. They are being misguided. Suppose a blind man leads some other blind men. What will be the result? Both of them will meet danger. That is the result because... "Why? They are doing very nicely, with great cautiousness." No. But they do not know that they are bound up by the laws of nature. Te 'pīśa-tantryā uru-dāmni baddhāḥ. They cannot divert their attention or deviate from the laws of nature. That is not possible. So they are under the laws of nature. They do not now why the laws of nature acting in a different way, against their will. Suppose I do not wish to die. Why laws of nature enforcing, forcing me to die? Nobody wants to die. So you cannot surpass the laws of nature. Therefore Kṛṣṇa presents in the Bhagavad-gītā that "You are trying to solve the problems of life, but here are the real problems of life: janma-mṛtyu-jarā vyādhi-duḥkha-doṣānudarśanam (BG 13.9)." The real problem is that there is death, there is birth, there is old age and there is disease. This is real problem. That problem is due to this material body. Therefore our real problem is that we have got this material body, but we have no sense that "Within this material body I am the spirit soul, living. So how to get out of this material body and again revive our spiritual body?" Spiritual body is already there. How to become free from the bondage of this material body and become free again in spiritual life, that is real problem of life. That they do not. Who knows? Bring any big, big leaders. Ask him that "Do you know what is the problem of life?" They do not know. Therefore it is said, na te viduḥ svārtha-gatiṁ hi viṣṇum (SB 7.5.31).

Conversations and Morning Walks

1973 Conversations and Morning Walks

Leading men, whatever they do, ordinary men, they'll be followed.
Room Conversation with Lord Brockway -- July 23, 1973, London:

Lord Brockway: I've listened, and I think I understand. And one has to think about it.

Prabhupāda: So my only appeal is that those who are leading men... Yad yad ācarati śreṣṭhaḥ... Find this verse.

yad yad ācarati śreṣṭhas
tat tad evetaro janaḥ
sa yat pramāṇaṁ kurute
lokas tad anuvartate
(BG 3.21)

Leading men, whatever they do, ordinary men, they'll be followed. Find out.

Pradyumna: "Whatever action is performed by a great man, common men follow in his footsteps, and whatever standards he sets by exemplary acts, all the world pursues."

Prabhupāda: Yes. So therefore we are trying to make men like you interested. (Prabhupāda laughs)

Lord Brockway: Yes. Yes and no. I've lived in public life for sixty years. I've been in Parliament. I'm now in the House of Lords. But I don't regard myself as a great man in any sense at all.

Prabhupāda: No, no. Of course, there are degrees, but...

Lord Brockway: And I've never wanted to be in a gov...

Prabhupāda: No great man wants to become great. But because he's great, God helps him to become great.

Lord Brockway: Yes. Well, what I was saying is I've never wanted to be in a government. I've never wanted to have power. I've had certain ideals that I wanted to serve, and just prepared to serve them.

Prabhupāda: Yes.

Correspondence

1975 Correspondence

Whatever action is performed by a great man, common men follow in his footsteps. And whatever standards he sets by exemplary acts, all the world pursues.
Letter to Sri Raj Kapoor -- Vrindaban 26 August, 1975:

So after ten years of struggle, in 1965 I went to USA, and by the grace of Krishna it has become successful all over Europe, America, Canada, and Australia. As it is stated in the Bhagavad-gita; yad yad acarati sresthas, tad tad evetaro janah, sa yat paramanam kurute, lokas tad anuvartate (BG 3.21). "Whatever action is performed by a great man, common men follow in his footsteps. And whatever standards he sets by exemplary acts, all the world pursues.". Your donation to this movement and your becoming the Patron Member is a very great thing, and it will ensure others who will also follow in your footsteps. So I am very much grateful to you.

1976 Correspondence

Letter to Dr. Dave -- Vrindaban 1 October, 1976:

I am in due receipt of your kind letter dated 28th September, 1976 and noted the contents with care. I am very much pleased that such a highly qualified person as you desire to join our movement. We require many such persons as you to make our movement successful.

yad yad acarati sresthas
tad tad evetaro janah
sa yat pramanam kurute
lokas tad anuvartate
(BG 3.21)

"Whatever action is performed by a great man, common men follow in his footsteps. And whatever standards he sets by exemplary acts, all the world pursues." (Bhagavad-gita, 3.21)

It is the Vedic system that after 50 years of life one has to take to Vanaprastha, then take to Sannyasa.

It will be a great pleasure to meet you again, and if possible please join us as soon as possible.