Monday Morning Greetings 2022 #32 – On Reputation

August 8th, 2022

Should a Vaiṣṇava be concerned with their reputation? Raghunātha dāsa Gosvāmī, the lineage’s foremost authority on prema, doesn’t seem to think so:


“O Mind! How can the highest and purest prema ever touch my heart while desire for prestige dances there like a shameless dog-eating outcaste woman?” (Manaḥ-śikṣā, v. 7)


On the other hand, however, there are references that seem to say the opposite:


“Whenever there was anything that might touch or taint the character of the Lord, Dāmodara Paṇḍita would immediately point it out, not even considering the exalted position of the Lord.”[1] (Cc. Madhya-līlā 12.25, Purport)


So, is reputation something that a Vaiṣṇava shuns, or is it something they should be concerned with? Well, first one must be clear what reputation is.


Reputation is a society’s belief or opinion of one’s character, competence, and productivity. A good reputation is therefore arguably one’s most valuable commodity because the widespread belief of one’s good qualities invokes trust, which is an essential element in attaining one’s goals.


It is therefore not wrong for a spiritual person to be concerned with their reputation to the extent that it facilitates the execution of their dharma or responsibilities, whether those responsibilities are within their service, business, management or educational occupation, or even related to the development of a meaningful relationship within their ashram as a student, family member, or renunciate. However, to seek reputation simply to enhance prestige ultimately to enjoy and control the world is shunned, for it simply increases the ego and mires one in the bodily concept of life.


Reputation is especially important for one in authority, especially as a teacher or guide. Faith is the precursor of knowledge. A marred reputation by careless behavior or failure to sufficiently revise one’s own field of study or competence impedes trust in one and therefore one’s ability to educate or enlighten others by one’s precept and example.


For these reasons, even if we sincerely do not seek prestige, our reputation is still important. We should note, however, that it is not to be obtained cheaply, but it is something generally earned after years of hard work developing competency, living up to one’s principles, and proving one’s trust in relationships.


A special challenge, therefore, is to not fall prey to the allure of artificially increasing one’s reputation. It is just too easy today to game the reputation system through the internet to claim undeserved moral virtue by joining or leading the bandwagon online against something or someone without doing the hard work of being genuinely productive and caring. Certainly, we should be compassionate and fight for justice, but if our motive is not pure and we haven’t unrooted the “evil” in ourselves, which seems too often the case, such reputation will mostly be among people like ourself and not real or lasting.


So, should a Vaiṣṇava care about his reputation? The simple answer: a Vaiṣṇava should never seek respect and should offer all respect to others, but should also, as a representative of guru and Krishna, certainly be concerned with being respectable.


And those are my thoughts “On Reputation”.



[1] Although Dāmodara Paṇḍita’s criticism of his guru was considered impudent, his concern was valid.


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