Or rather where my mouth is, as the saying goes. I just talked about how this world is perfect and we have absolutely nothing to complain about here, and here’s an opportunity to put this theory to practice.
I’ve just heard accusations against Mayapur devotees that they have been filling the dhama with ugra-karmic activities and ignoring simple living high thinking principle. In the past decade or so Mayapur has seen an explosion of private property development and it’s gone more or less unrestricted, turning once pristine rice fields into ugly modern dystopia, as some say.
To become a respectable member of the community you now have to own a flat, a fridge, an air-conditioner and a motorcycle. Some have 500cc bikes which seem like an overkill but I’m sure look very imposing, projecting the image that their owners must have be really blessed by Lord Chaitanya. Of course there also must be wives, internet, laptops, smartphones and tablets, too, to keep up with the Joneses and to show the world that spiritual life can also be very rewarding.
What to make of it? First of all there’s freehold issue – how can devotees buy and sell land in the Holy dhama? All treasures of the universe are not enough to buy even a speck of dust of Navadvipa, are we sure that devotees who “buy” houses there do not think themselves as real owners? What about the sellers, how do they dare to sell land that doesn’t belong to them? Are we sure that they maintain the proper mentality when handling such transactions? Is it okay for them to benefit materially from it? They make a lot of profits, not to mention the value of the land and buildings that developers hold in their name.
Srila Prabhupada was very clear about it (CC Antya.3.101):
We must always remember that a devotee’s life is one of vairāgya-vidyā, or renunciation and knowledge. Therefore all devotees are warned not to live unnecessarily luxurious lives at the cost of others. Gṛhasthas living within the jurisdiction of the temple must be especially careful not to imitate karmīs by acquiring opulent clothing, food and conveyances. As far as possible, these should be avoided. A member of the temple, whether gṛhastha, brahmacārī or sannyāsī, must practice a life of renunciation, following in the footsteps of Haridāsa Ṭhākura and the six Gosvāmīs. Otherwise, because māyā is very strong, at any time one may become a victim of māyā and fall down from spiritual life.
Devotees in question are not avoiding opulences but rather try to accumulate them at all cost. This is definitely not right. At first it might seem easy, if you got funds to invest, but eventually maintaining such a lifestyle will become a read drag. These things have a rather short lifespan, your shining bike will become old news in a couple of years, air-conditioners and fridges need to be replaced for better, more energy efficient models if not for any other reason. Electronic gadgetry becomes obsolete with an alarming speed, too, you need a new phone, tablet, and a notebook every two-three years. Then you’ll need to replace your furniture, which is not as sturdy these days as it was before. Plumbing and various fittings also do not last as long as they used to. Fresh coats of paint aren’t cheap either.
What seemed like a wise initial investment gradually turns into a life time commitment and slavery. It’s okay to maintain such lifestyle if you are plugged into a global economy but I wonder if Mayapur will be able to provide enough economic activity to sustain these grihasthas forever. Temple itself will always be a magnet for visitors and donations but if people think they would work for the temple and share in the profits one day they might face a big disappointment.
I believe they’ve compartmentalized temple income long time ago, every department must be responsible for its own finances, so people don’t really work for the temple anymore but rather for success of their own projects. This is a recipe for disaster.
Capitalism might be totally at ease with varnashrama dharma but it has no place in a temple. For now we might not see a problem with merging temple with communities in Mayapur but that is a delusion. Pretty soon devotees themselves will sense the difference between maintaining their own lives and selfless surrender that is expected from temple dwellers. They themselves will strive to put a barrier between their lives and temple ideals. Pretending to be Krihsna’s mouth will work only for so long, eventually they realize that they are leeching off and feeding themselves, not serving the Lord and the society.
So with so many reasonable objections to what’s going on, how can I apply paramahamsa vision here? How can I not notice the deviations? How can I see this situation as absolutely perfect?
Actually, I don’t have any problems with Mayapur situation at all. Yes, it’s unsightly, but all our existence here is unsightly. Mayapur “problems” are not any different from problems anywhere else in the world. Should I expect something totally different from Mayapur? Why? Material existence is the same everywhere, people will always need to eat, sleep, and mate, and they will always have something to defend.
Ultimately, it’s the Lord who maintains everyone in this universe and He is extremely partial to His devotees and to the residents of His own dhama, so if someone qualifies to be sheltered by the Lord, why should I protest that he is provided a relatively better care? Out of envy? That is not a valid reason.
Are these devotees abusing Lord’s mercy? Maybe, but, to be honest, I’m abusing my limited privileges, too, I shouldn’t be the one throwing stones at that glass house.
We can also be sure that devotees pursuing their materialistic aspirations in Mayapur will get purified of them sooner than those who remain in the West. Somehow or other they must get over their obsession with big bikes, why not do it in the most suitable place for this purification?
Are they getting carried away? Well, the Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away, the complete collapse of the world economy might not be as far away as we think and Mayapur’s bikes will probably the first ones to go down. For devotees who are ready for the next step the Lord doesn’t even have to wait for worldwide economic meltdown, He can strip anyone of any possessions in a minute, yet somehow He doesn’t, He lets His devotees to play with their toys for a little while longer, who am I to object? I’m not their guru and even if I was, they are in the hands of Lord Chaitanya now, why would a guru get in the way of Lord’s mercy to his disciples?
We should really learn to mind our own business and trust the Lord in having the best possible plan for everyone, including alleged deviants.