A rich landlord had a flattering servant, a “yes man” who was always most deferential to his master only because he desired reward.
The master asked the servant one day, “What is your opinion of potatos?”
The servant was hesitant in his reply. “Oh, my dear sir, I suppose I’ve never thought about potatos much, really. But it would be most edifying for me to hear your opinion of potatos.”
The landlord said, “Well, as far as I have experienced, the potato is the most delicious of all the vegetables one can get at the market.”
But even before the words had left the landlord’s mouth, his yes man was already praising potatos to the sky: “Oh yes, yes my lord, it’s true, potatos are the best, the absolute best vege- table in the marketplace. Really delicious! Excellently delicious, pleasantly delicious, highly tasteful and dainty. It is said:’ “this round potato–boil it in rice, boil it in water, fry it in ghee, mix it in curry, put it in soup or salad, or make a pickle from it, or serve it with sauce, or make it into kofta– whatever recipe you may choose, this round potato is om- nipresent.’ Is there any other vegetable comparable to it? None whatsoever. The potato is second to none–unparalleled!”
The landlord then observed, “What you say is all very well, but as much as we might like them, potatos do tax our health if we eat them too often. It’s a rather passionate kind of vege- table.”
“Oh yes, yes, yes, how true, how true”, the servant spoke up immediately. “It is really a passionately passionate vegetable. Causes the body to heat up, it does, excessively passionate. Very difficult to cool it down. Oh, and what health problems it will cause if we’re not careful. Flatulence, cholera, diarrhoea, diabetes, phthisis–all these spring from that round potato!”
The landlord put another question to the servant. “Tell me, what do you think about eggplant?”
The servant folded his hands humbly and replied, “My lord, I was just thinking of asking you the same question. Let me hear your opinion first, please. How is the eggplant?”
“Well, I have nothing bad to say at all about it. The eggplant is a nice vegetable, as far as I know.”
“Oh, that’s true, true, true! So true! Even if you just look at it, you see immediately that the eggplant is the most beautiful of vegetables. And it makes a complete meal! If we get two pieces of fried eggplant on our plate, what else do we need? It tastes better than butter. If a man had nothing at all in his pantry except one eggplant, he’d still be considered by others as well off! You can roast it, fry it, cook it in curry, make a chutney out of it–whatever way you like, eggplant proves itself extraordinary among vegetables. And among the different kinds of eggplants, the laaphaa eggplant stands out as supreme. It is an excellent creation of the Supreme Lord.”
The landlord then added, “All that may be true enough, but eggplants are not very nutritious.”
“Phew!” exclaimed the yes man. “And that’s why it is called vegun, because ve (no) gun (quality), it has no qualification at all as nourishment. Simply like cow dung, like cow dung–even cow dung has some potential value, but vegun, that eggplant has no value whatsoever. It is troublesome, most troublesome! It makes the mouth itch worse than wild turnip or esculant root! Not only that, eggplant brings bad luck! That’s why it should be roasted before serving.”
The landlord retorted, “I see you are a very strange fellow. When I say, ‘potato is good’, you elaborate, ‘potato is very good.’ And when I say, ‘potato is bad’, you plead that it is very, very bad. When I say, ‘eggplant is good’, you glorify it to the heavens. But if I then say, ‘eggplant is bad’, you reject it from the category of foodstuffs. Don’t you posses any personal integrity?”
Bowing and scraping, the servant replied with this torrent of deference: “Oh my lord! Please have mercy and condone my offenses. Now I’ll speak the truth. Lord, I am not the servant of a potato. I am not the servant of an eggplant. I am your servant! So whatever you say, I must say likewise. A potato will not provide me with an earning, and an eggplant will not give me work that I may have a purpose to my life. I am only your servant, so your your voice should be my voice.”
This story illustrates the attitude of a class of pseudo- religionists called the syncretists. Syncretists are imper- sonalists who adhere to no particular devotional practice or philosophy. They are ready to pay lip service to the tenets of any and all religions should it suit their purposes of garnering acclaim in society. They can hop, skip and jump from mouthing the teachings of Caitanya Mahaprabhu to Sankaracarya, Kapila, Mahavir, Kumarila Bhatta, etc. And they will finally conclude that “all taught the same truth.” It makes no difference to the syncretist that one doctrine is atheistic and another is theistic.
It makes no difference that Krsna has declared that all dharmas are to be rejected by His devotee. The syncretist, like the landlord’s yes man, performs the most amazing verbal acro- batics in order to show himself a pious follower of all the world’s scriptures and teachers. But his real purpose, like the yes man, is to simply insure his material prosperity through flattery.