Earlier this week there were weird reports coming from India about the ruling party there opposing construction of ISKCON temple in Purī. I mean news articles like this, which is batshit crazy. It’s a rich story, thought, with context and background and prediction and what not.
First of all, they are talking about us building another Jagannātha temple there, which isn’t the case at all. I don’t think our leaders would even do such a thing, for a million of reasons, and there’s a story clarifying the situation here. It might not be enough to correct the public perception, however.
Yesterday I said that the internet is basically garbage and it’s stories like this that prove to me over and over again that it is indeed so. Maybe these publications also print actual newspapers but they also strive to make themselves visible online. That’s where people get their news these days, that’s where publishers can build readership and engage their customers, that’s why they are putting up all kinds of click-bait, provocative stories. They want people respond emotionally and come back for the same rush of adrenaline again and again. It’s not about news, it’s about hooking people up and milking google for advertising money.
Elsewhere I read about a four year old study of Facebook users and it found that prejudiced people tend to hang out together and deepen their biases. Facebook is helping them by feeding them the stories it knows they would like and so they slowly built their own communities that become completely disconnected from reality and drifting farther and farther away from mainstream views. These people just can’t help themselves, they take shelter in in their addiction to news and public comment and they need to feed their cravings.
Another aspect of this story is the proposed temple itself. I don’t know anything about it beyond what I saw on the internet but I seriously doubt that anyone in ISKCON would even contemplate to build a rival Jagannātha temple there. Are they going to have a rival Ratha-yātrā? We are followers of Rūpa and Sanatana Gosvāmīs who were not allowed to go inside the temple. We are followers of Haridāsa Ṭhākura who wasn’t allowed in either. Śrīla Prabhupāda didn’t go inside in solidarity with his disciples, too. We have a long tradition in this regard and accepted our fate in the early days of our movement. Building our own Jagannātha temple there to spite the original would be an unimaginably bad taste, we are not that crazy. Yet.
Also, look at who campaigns against this non-existing plan to build a second Jagannātha temple – the Śaṅkarācārya’s Maṭha in Purī. Afaik, they have always opposed ISKCON devotees being allowed inside even though Odisha’s King is generally in favor of letting us in. The King is not the king of the temple, however, his opinion doesn’t matter much when it comes to religious matters. I’m not saying they should lift the ban on non-Hindus being allowed to enter but Purī advaitins are clearly taking it too far. Spouting the same kind of venom and being cited along with headless politicians is not an image becoming to supposed jñāna yogis. Don’t they have better things to contemplate than nonfactual stories and blaming people for something they didn’t do? How much spiritual advancement could be there for those engaged in this politicking?
Having said that, I wouldn’t put it past our devotees to mention the possibility of installing a Jagannātha deity in our new temple. I don’t think it would be a unique deity in Purī, it’s not like the Lord refuses to manifest Himself in any other image in his dhāma. Only perverted minds would construe this as rivalry with the original and it shouldn’t be an issue but there are people out there who love gossiping and blowing things our of proportion, minds and tongues are hard to control in Kali Yuga. It’s sad to see that this disease affected what I supposed were strict advaitins there. I’m not trying to condemn then but I’ve spent quite a few posts arguing that there’s no true spirituality left outside our tradition, everybody else gets gradually swallowed by Kali.
And then there’s this prediction that one day Russians would come and steal Lord Jagannātha from Purī temple and take Him away. I’ve heard many references to it but only one “complete” theory of what is expected to happen. I suppose people there are instinctively afraid of any threats of this nature even if they might not have a clear understanding of how it could be even possible.
The prediction as I heard it is probably only a recent variation on the original and it says that one day Russians would come into the temple, take the deity away, put Him on the train, but fail to leave the state. The train would be stopped not far from Purī and the deity would be either returned or find a new temple to stay there, I don’t remember exactly, so Russian plan would be only half successful.
I don’t know what to make of it. Russia is thousands and thousands kilometers away from Purī and Hare Kṛṣṇas are not particularly welcome to build temples there. They still haven’t got one in Moscow and only a couple of years ago there was a story on Dandavats that they had just opened the very first Rādhā-Kṛṣṇa temple in the whole of the country. Having the facilities to host the original Jagannātha, who is very big, btw, and serve Him His favorite food sixty four times a day in Russia is unthinkable.
Besides, Lord Jagannātha’s residence is a political matter, it’s not just a random Indian deity. It’s impossible to imagine a situation where foreigners, even as generally friendly to India as Russians, would be allowed to overrun one of the most popular temples in the whole country. It would signal a complete breakdown of law and order and complete disintegration of Indian society. If that ever happens then residence of Lord Jagannātha wouldn’t be the priority for anyone but His dedicated servants, who have all the right, nay even a duty to prepare for all contingencies. If their protocol calls for sabotaging a train if that ever happens then so be it. Perhaps, Russians would be taking Lord Jagannātha to Māyāpur, that is possible once we get TOVP and supporting infrastructure, but it’s all super speculative.
At the end of the day, anything can happen in the material world, especially if we look at longer time frames, not the next year or the next decade. Whatever happens, however, is absolutely always under control of the Lord. No Russians can take Him away without His permission and no Indians can lose Him without offending Him in some way or another. Still, Russians might make plans, Indian politicians might make plans, advaitins might stir the pot, but it’s Lord’s servants duty to look after His welfare at all times. They have this service and it’s the purpose of their lives, they have to do it even if sometimes imperfectly and with offenses, it’s not an excuse for them to stop caring. We cannot condemn them for doing their jobs however crazy it might appear. They have their purpose in life, what’s ours? I hope it’s not walking around and telling everyone how superior we are.