How does Lord Jagannatha reciprocate in Puri when the temple priests are so rude?
From: Patitapaban Palo
We know that Lord reciprocates only when there is pure love . But we find in Jagannath Puri that the priests are very rude and doesn’t behave well, which signifies that they are not true devotees. But still Lord reciprocates there, the mahaprasad is cooked by mother Laxmi and as we have heard many unbelievable things happened there due to Lord’s reciprocation, How and Why??
Answer: firstly the reciprocations that have happened in Jagganath Puri are few and have happened with selected devotees, it is not that every priest over there is a pure devotee and is having some intimate pastimes with the lord. We should not have that naive idea. Certainly there are great souls among those devotees, among those priests and the lord will reciprocate with them. So because it is the abode of the lord, Bhakti Vinoda Thakura explains that there is a sort of layer of maya which covers the dham, so that it is not perceivable to those with material mind sets.
So just as we might feel that Jagganath Puri is filled with priests who are rude and are may be always aggressively asking for donations, similarly it may seem in Vrindavan that to name places like Lohi bazaar, the people who are there are extremely materialistic. Now some of them may not be born in Vrindavan at all, some of them may just have come from other places to there place but even if they were born in Vrindavan, you know that doesn’t necessarily mean that everyone of them is a pure devotee, that too in anyway be allowed in a holy dham indicate some kind of fortune but its one thing to get a fortune, its quite another thing to use the fortune.
So Bhakti Vinoda Thakura explains that in holy places like navadweep and Vrindavan and similarly in Jagganath Puri there is this thin layer of maya (this maya is not maha maya, it is yoga maya) covers the place so that it is inaccessible to the people over there. Now how is the covering of maya work, it works at one level directly through our minds so that we focus primarily on the material things over there and we over see or neglect the devotional aspect of the place but another is that it can influence even the people who are there who are not in adequate devotional consciousness and through them also that illusion can be perpetrated. So therefore at one level we see that the stories that of extraordinary _________that are there are true. They have happened and they can happen even now with special souls but that doesn’t mean that every single person over there is special. So how do we know who is special and who is not special, we cannot know. That’s why it’s best for us to offer respect to everyone but offering respect doesn’t mean that we let ourselves be _________ by them. So even if we are in Vrindavan and if something cost us small amount and somebody charging us very big amount, that doesn’t mean that we have to pay it for that or somebody is asking for a disproportionate donation, we don’t have to pay that. As _______ necessarily we can discreetly, at the same time respectfully move away from that situation. Now this is from one perspective looking at it. Another perspective would be a more historical perspective is that, on over the centuries the brahminical culture in India has become increasingly lost and distorted because of the variety of factors and one of the unfortunate factors which has caused the decline standards of priesthood especially in post independence India was the land ceilings act. So traditionally the priests, the Brahmins they would all live in the temples doing full time service to the deities in various ways and then they would not bother about going about to earn a living. So in the traditional vedic culture the brahmanas would be given charity by the kings and it was considered a matter of honour and matter of privilege to be able to give charity to brahmanas. At the same time since charity in and of itself was not a reliable source of livelihood, so it was arranged that there were certain priests who were committed to serving certain temples, then certain land which could be used for farming and cow protection especially farming was given in the name of the deities and then there were workers who would work on that land and the grains that would come from there, the grains would be offered to the deities and the grains would be used by the priests and the workers would also get some salary whatever is appropriate for there work on the field. So in this way the Brahmins would have a steady source of income without having to go out to earn a living. Of course all the land would be officially in the name of the deities and even now according to Indian law the deities can own land but the deities are considered to be minors like a minor child and the administrators of the temple are considered to be like the regions, the caretakers of the child of the land that actually belongs to the child. So that is allowed even now and that is certainly allowed in the past when India was much more in harmony with Vedic culture.
So in the 1970’s the Indian government decided to put a land ceilings act by which people would not be allowed to have more than a particular upper limit of land. So it was true that there many landlords who were having huge quantities of land and they were exploiting the labourers and they were making them work very hard. So as a attempt to reform the exploitative feudal system that was there that was fine but in this land ceilings act, the Indian government included even the temples and ironically it did not include the churches or the mosques because these were considered to be minority religious institutions. So here we have example of a reverse discrimination against the majority, it is pseudo secularism, but the result of this was, the thousands of priests in India who were for generation after generation serving the deities and suddenly they had no source of livelihood and the land which was the source of their livelihood was handed over to the labourers and they were completely dispossessed and many of these people then they started going into employment, they were intelligent people, they got into ias, some of them went to America and gradually those people who remained over decades, they have become more and more financially unstable. So this is not specific to Jagganath temple, this is something which has happened in all temples in India and most of the temple priests would generally be householders.
So if a person devoted to god is a brahmachari or a sanyasi that person doesn’t have to worry about maintaining a family and that’s why even for such a person also some source of basic maintenance of the bodily necessities is required but then they may not be need for a salary but for a person who is a householder there has to be a proper source of income which is there and that is not there, it creates a great crisis. So I know a number of priests in South Indian temples who love to serve the deities but they get a ______amount of lakshmi the government is, many of the temples have become run by government of _________trusts which actually take the donations and they use the donations which the worshippers who come to the temple have given us donation for their deities and that is used by the government and the government has some perverted religious fund allocation system by which that money, only a small portion of it is used for the temple maintenance, the temple renovation, the emoluments for the temple workers and much of it goes to the government in corruption and some of it is legally recycled for constructing mosques and churches because they have put all religious funds in one sort of bracket and they use that for various causes, so of course this is outrageous but it is something which is happening and happening quite badly and it is well documented by statistics.
So relevant to add is _____ the point is that the temple priests rarely have a reliable source of steady and sufficient income and naturally because of this they have three options, one is that just leave the priesthood and strike out some career somewhere else, which is what many have done so another is that they take an additional job and also try to squeeze in this priestly work in the spare time but that’s not possible so other people those who don’t want or cant want to take up a parallel job along with the priesthood they often become aggressive donation seekers while doing the priesthood also and although certainly at one level the root behaviour of the priest is very unbecoming, at the same time we need to see them not just as perpetrators of that rude behavior we have to see them as victims of a rude system, a system that has a so so economic political system that has rudely disrupted the order that had been set up for centuries and centuries.
So in the temple started by Srila Prabhupada, he arranged things in a such a way that the temples would have a priestly order who would not necessarily be always responsible for collecting donations and overall there is no, at least in most of the ISKCON temples there is no this kind of aggressive soliciting for donations. In some places donations are entirely voluntary for those who want to give, in some places there may be some solicity but it is never as aggressive because Srila Prabhupada created a system by which the temples could be sustained, there is book distribution, there is life membership, there are various other, I think ______ is gift stall and other things and because the deities are also well served, the visitors are also taken care of well, people give donations happily. So the point is we cant blame these priests without looking at the whole system and just changing one priest is itself not enough.
I personally know that there are many priests who are themselves very simple and pure and they actually regret the kind of system that is there, the visitors of the temple are so aggressively accosted but they themselves are helpless because at one level they don’t have the administrative power to change anything, they cant discipline the priests and another level it is not just a matter of disciplining the priests, it is also a matter of arranging for their proper financial sustenance. So it will require a proper whole scale revamping positive thing to happen and we hope and pray that _____ thing will happen in future but even if this thing is not happening we understand that Lord Jagganath is still present there and Lord Jagganath is still reciprocating because it is his abode, it is his abode.
We see that because of some narrow minded ideas, during Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu’s times, those who had born in Muslim families or had been converted to Islam like the first category was Haridas Thakur, and the second was Rupa and Sanatan Goswamis. They were not allowed entry to Jagganath temple and Lord Chaitanya, he did not appreciate this but he did not disrupt the system also. Everyday he would take darshan of Jagganath and he would personally bring the prasad of Jagganath to Haridas Thakur and Rupa and Sanatan Goswamis who were staying normally in Siddha Bakui, it is a little distance away from Jagganath’s temple. So although this system was undesirable and actually not in accordance with the _______ Vedic principle of exalting Bhakti above who is in rituals but still Chaitanya Mahaprabhu did not aggressively disrupt it, that was deference to local tradition. So as devotees following in the footsteps of Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, we also need to show deference to local tradition, Srila Prabhupada tried to engage with the Jagganath authorities at a official level to get them to make some changes like for example allowing devotees to entering the temples even if they had not been born in Hindu families but that was not very successful, anyway the point is that we need to show deference to the local tradition and the local tradition has in one sense become aggressive soliciting of donations and similar other behaviours that come up as rude. So we can’t and we shouldn’t condemn that directly but at the same time we understand why that is happening and we do needful so that we can protect ourselves from it and we understand that all this is just a covering of Maya (Yoga Maya) to delude those are in illusion but beyond all this transcendentally Lord Jagganath is there and he will reciprocate with us also and he is reciprocating with those who are pure hearted at a particular level. That particular level may not be apparent to all of us at all times and we need exalted devotees who will reveal that level to us by their exalted vision.
So it is not that every single story that we hear about Jagganath is in reciprocation necessarily has to be happening with every single devotee over there. It is happening with those who are advanced and qualified. So one naïve extreme ______ bit that everybody and everything that is happening over there is transcendental. Certainly everything that is happening over there is under the special vision of the Lord and it can help us to move in the _________direction much more than what will happen to us in the material world. Certainly say being if we are aggressively accosted and we are forcibly pushed to give a donation to a Jagganath Priest and on the other hand if a thief comes and steals money from our pocket when we are in a bus in Mumbai the two at external level are same, we have lost some money but it is a big difference. What is happened in the Lord’s abode is indirectly, even if you have not given it directly to Lord Jagganath and even it has been given little __________ but still, actually speaking it is going to benefit us much much more than any mundane loss of money. So it can have a transcendental effect on us if we have a transcendental consciousness in that direction but at the same time just because the Lord can orchestrate something to be transcendental that does not necessarily mean that in and of itself it is desirable or it is commendable. These things happening are not commendable or desirable but somehow they are happening and the Lord is allowing it.
So we accept that and at the same time we understand from the scriptures what are the proper devotional activities and we can try to find out those devotees who are actually engaged in shastrically recommended and exalted devotional activities and take their association. That’s why especially when we go to holy places we should also go in the association of devotees who can help us see the transcendental aspect of those holy places. So one aspect is to see everything as transcendental and see everyone there is a pure devotee which is not necessarily true and other is have a skeptical vision and see that because a significant number of people seem to be rude, that means actually everything is mundane and rude over there and that there is no trial limit of transcendence over there at all. The balance vision would be what we will get in the association of devotees, there are certainly some who are pure and exalted and there are others who are victims of a system that has left them financially shelter less and as a consequence they are behaving in appropriate ways. So with this informed sort of vision and why this is happening ultimately this is happening under the yoga maya and if we focus on this then we will lose out the opportunity to perceive and relish Lord Jagganath’s mercy that is available over there. This is how we can get a balanced understanding when we see such things. Thank You.