“Peacefulness, self-control, austerity, purity, tolerance, honesty, wisdom, knowledge, and religiousness - these are the qualities by which the brahmanas work.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 18.42)
śamo damas tapaḥ śaucaṁ
kṣāntir ārjavam eva ca
jñānaṁ vijñānam āstikyaṁ
Friend-One: I think I’ve figured out who the biggest cheats in the world are.
Friend-Two: People who sell cars?
F1: Nope. They’re not even close to the top.
F1: At least you have some idea what you’re getting with them. Everyone knows that the person selling the car isn’t going to be totally honest with you.
F2: So the people at the top of your list are more dishonest?
F1: Absolutely. They don’t tell you there is a price going in. They appear innocent and saintly at the start. They guide you here and there. They tell you to do this and do that. Then when you’re about to leave, they demand money. If you give a little, they want more. If you refuse to give more, they tell you that what you’ve done thus far is a waste.
F2: Ah, you must be talking about the priests that you find in the temples in India and the like.
F1: Bingo. This is strong language, I know, but to me they seem like thugs. They do the greatest cheating and in the name of religion. Isn’t one of the qualities of a brahmana to be truthful?
F2: Yes, satyam is truthfulness. Arjavam means honesty. The qualities are described in the Bhagavad-gita.
F1: These guys are the most dishonest. Have you experienced what I’m talking about?
F2: Absolutely. You walk in this direction and there’s somebody giving you a garland. They don’t tell you how much it costs. They tell you to offer it to the deity. Then on the way out they demand some money. They will follow you out, like they are members of a gang.
F1: I can’t believe this goes on. I just assumed everyone would realize how ridiculous this is. Why would anyone go to these temples, then? This would turn off so many people to believing in God, which is so important.
F2: A lot of people can overlook it. They realize the situation. They come prepared, with enough money to offer. They don’t mind getting cursed at on the way out. It’s all part of the deal, in their eyes.
F1: Yeah, but it doesn’t sit well with me. At least be honest from the start. I’m not trying to cheat anyone. I have no desire to be stingy. I’m not a miser. Ask me nicely for a donation, that’s okay. Don’t sit there and tell me that everything’s ruined, that my worship will not matter, if I don’t give you enough money. That is extortion.
F2: I hear you. But listen, that’s just the way it is these days. His Divine Grace Shrila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura used to say that it is better to work a simple job like sweeping the streets than to show the deity of the Supreme Personality of Godhead for the purpose of making money.
F1: He must have known very well what goes on in these temples.
F2: I think this should give everyone more appreciation for the imperishable path of bhakti-yoga, devotional service. Shri Krishna advises that we always think of Him [Bhagavad-gita, 9.34]. He doesn’t say that you have to worship in a specific manner, especially when there is so much dishonesty going on.
F1: I don’t feel like going to these places ever again. I’d rather chant the maha-mantra at home: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare. I think giving these guys money is only encouraging their thuggery.
F2: Like I said, some people can look past it. The Supreme Lord is so merciful that He never insists on any specific mode of worship. You can create a pure environment at home to do the same worship. If you’re with like-minded people, then everything is fine. His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada put so much emphasis on the distribution of literature like the Bhagavad-gita and Shrimad Bhagavatam to save people from this cheating.
F1: Yeah, thank God for him.
F2: So there’s no excuses. Like you said, you can chant anywhere. You can think of Krishna anywhere. If you’re so inclined, you can create a pure atmosphere for others to gather together for worship. Many people have done that already. There are institutions that provide much better facility for advancing in the divine consciousness, where there is less of the cheating you’ve encountered.
F1: It still fumes me, I must say. I guess it also explains how devotion is more important than asking for this thing or that.
F2: Yeah. People will try to tell you that you won’t get the result if you don’t do things a certain way. Fine. They may be correct. But if your goal is to increase your consciousness of God, there is nothing lost from a little mistake here and there. If you think about it, how can there be?
F1: Right. Whatever happens, at least your consciousness of the Supreme Lord is increasing. You don’t need some cheater’s blessing for that. I’ve heard you describe so many people from the past who were always thinking of God. They didn’t specifically do this ritual or that.
F2: Even Krishna Himself rebelled. When He told Nanda Maharaja to skip the Indra-yajna one year, that was an act of defiance. Like the cheating priests you met, the king of heaven did not tell the people that if they skipped his worship one year they would get punished so severely that there wouldn’t be any traces of life left in Vrindavana. The people had faith in Krishna, in following the worship of Govardhana Hill that He prescribed. They were in danger only from the material nature, but Krishna gives all protection to the surrendered souls.
Than deity for purpose of money to keep,
Better if honestly the street to sweep.
Words from Bhaktisiddhanta came,
Knew of cheating done in Lord’s name.
Consciousness of God should grow,
Meaning to all paths of bhakti so.
Even Krishna once the rituals defied,
Govardhana worshipers on His arm relied.