Do godmen who live in luxury represent God?
Not usually. However, what defines God’s authentic representatives is not the presence or absence of luxury, but the presence of devotion and dedication to God.
Those devoted to God are not attached to material things, but neither are they averse to them. Their defining characteristic is not poverty, but unceasing devotion to God. The Bhagavad-gita (9.14) states that they constantly speak about God and tirelessly strive to serve him. They lead lives of devotional discipline wherein they wake up early in the morning to engage in spiritual practices (sadhana) daily and diligently. From the time of waking till the time of sleeping, they fill every moment of their day with service to God. and service to all of his children.
Those who are truly devoted to God don’t need worldly things for enjoyment. The Srimad Bhagavatam (11.2.42 – bhakti pareshanubhava viraktir anyatra ca) indicates that bhakti has an internal symptom and an external symptom. The internal symptom is that bhakti enables us to experience God (para + isha + anubhava: experience of the transcendental Lord). This experience is so fulfilling that it leads to the external symptom of detachment from all pleasures that are not connected with God (viraktir anyatra ca). The primary among such worldly pleasures are meat-eating, gambling, intoxication and illicit sex. Actually, abstaining from these indulgences is preliminary to authentic spiritual life. Yeh to sirf entry pass hai13 If those supposedly representing God indulge in these pleasures, then we can infer that their own connection with God is tenuous and so their capacity to connect us with God is questionable. Aachaara nahi hain, to prachaar ka kya phayda?14
Their devotion to God is also reflected in their dealings with others, as the Srimad Bhagavatam (3.25.21) states: “The saintly people are tolerant, merciful and friendly to all living entities. They have no enemies; they are peaceful; they abide by the scriptures; and all their characteristics are sublime.” They don’t look down upon others, but see everyone as children of God and strive to make them happy by re-connecting them with God.
Because they find fulfilment in their devotion to God, they don’t need anything for their own material enjoyment. Yet they don’t reject everything worldly – especially those worldly things that can be used in the service of God. As they want to share God’s message in our modern world, they may use modern facilities like cars and cell phones. These are not luxuries, but functional necessities. They don’t need these things for themselves; they are satisfied in their own connection with God. They use these things just to connect us with God more effectively.
As God is the Supreme Being, he deserves the best of everything including residences. That’s why traditionally his temple would be the biggest building in the city, bigger even than the king’s palace.
13 This is actually the entry level qualification.
14 When there is no practice, what is the use of precept? To keep this tradition alive, authentic spiritual teachers may build magnificent temples, but those temples are not for themselves; they are to glorify God and to attract people to visit the temple and receive God’s blessings. Even when spiritual teachers live in grand temples, their purpose is not to enjoy the comforts but to share God’s message with those who visit the temple. They are equally content living under a tree.
Simplicity for themselves, opulence for the Lord – that characterizes their use of material things.
Thus, those who represent God are characterized by continuous service to God, eagerness to benefit others by connecting them with God and use of only those worldly things that are useful to serve God.