A Hollywood “super-couple” breaks up. Monetary negotiations, the division of property and even the division of children take place. It is a blatant display of intolerance, egoism and unfaithfulness, yet their fan following only increases.

A singer is found dead of drug overdose. He becomes a bigger cult phenomenon. An actor runs over two people while speeding in a drunken stupor. People continue to love him.

Unfortunately, this kind of celebrity worship has become a norm today. Driven by media-generated hype, society tends to idolize men and women belonging to certain professions. These people are steeped in sense gratification and are so covered by the illusory energy of the Lord that from a spiritual perspective, they often represent everything that a human being should not be.

This situation got me thinking about real heroes. The word hero has its origin in ancient Greek. It refers to characters who, in the face of danger and adversity or from a position of weakness, display courage and the will for self-sacrifice. In general, heroes are people with high moral integrity who, literally, teach morality to the general public through their own personal example.

What is true Morality?

Morality is defined as the ability to distinguish between right and wrong. Srila Prabhupada states that Bhagavad-gita is the supreme instruction in morality. He gives a simple definition: morality means surrender to Krishna, or God. (Bg. 18.78) This is because one can gain an understanding of true right and wrong only by following the instructions of the Supreme Lord. God is the all-powerful creator, controller and the cause of all causes. He defines what is right and what is wrong. By completely obeying His will, a person becomes truly moral, and by setting a practical example of morality, he becomes a true hero. Such a person understands that he is not the controller, but is simply an instrument of the Divine. His dealings with everyone are free of false ego and false identification with matter. All his duties are done as an offering to Krishna. He offers the results of his actions to God and attains real perfection. All virtues manifest automatically in such a person. He is adorned with the qualities of determination and equanimity.

Scriptures talk about Dhruva Maharaja, who pleased Lord Narayana, at the tender age of five, by these very qualities. We have queen Draupadi, who was so compassionate, she forgave the murderer of her own sons. We know of Prahlada Maharaja, the epitome of tolerance, and Ambarisa Maharaja who achieved true sense control by engaging all his senses in service of the Lord. More recently, Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura was famous throughout Bengal as an honest, righteous, and a fair judge.

Fallible Heroes of Today

Innumerable such real heroes have walked planet earth. Society needs them so that the general public can learn how to lead a meaningful life. Innocent people look up to leaders and strive to become like them. Real heroes would inspire people to practice the science of God Consciousness, develop positive qualities, and achieve perfection.

Sadly, the influence of Kali-yuga corrupts all things of quality. Contrast Yudhisthira Maharaja, who could find no man worse than him, with today’s “heroes” who blatantly engage in public self-glorification. When a pigeon was being chased by an eagle, it sought shelter of King Sibi, who agreed to cut off his own flesh to feed the eagle and protect it. Contrast him with today’s “heroes” who are not content even after taking the flesh of the weak and the helpless. Contrast Arjun, who saw even the heavenly damsel Urvashi as his own mother, with today’s “heroes” who engage in numerous illicit affairs even with their maids. King Bharat ruled the entire planet earth in Satya-yuga but gave up all his opulences for self-realization. Contrast him with today’s “heroes” who cling on to their power and fame long after their  prime.

    In this situation, one turns with a grateful heart to Srila Prabhupada, a real hero of Kali-yuga. Not only did he give us the knowledge and understanding of spiritual wisdom, but also showed us the path to become heroes ourselves. Because of his mercy, the Krishna conscious movement now has numerous heroes who are guiding lights to society in this dark age. By following these right heroes one can eventually attain the ultimate hero Lord Sri Krishna.