Where do religious social workers like Mother Terersa fall in the Gita’s yoga ladder?
Transcription by– Keshavgopal Das & Ambuj Gupta
Question: Social workers like Mother Terersa where do they fall in the Bhagavad Gita hierarchy?
Answer: There are two levels at this. If we read the writings of Mother Terersa she does seem to have a lot of devotion for Jesus and that devotion express itself as compassion. So then if we consider it that way we could say that it could fall in
adveṣṭā sarva-bhūtānāṁ maitraḥ karuṇa eva ca
That is the level of exalted devotion. But then we also see that Mother Terersa never explicitly criticized Hinduism but she never appreciated Hinduism also. We don’t find even a single statements of her where she appreciates the Vedic understanding of the absolute truth. Her agenda was more like a covered conversion work. She does seem to have lot of devotion to Jesus.
We see that Prabhupada even called Jesus as our guru. In general, I would say that Prabhupada classified Christian saints in the category of bhaktas only. Prabhupada talks of St. Francis where he said that you treat various animals like brothers and sisters. So Prabhupada was very appreciative of that and Prabhupada say this is a great devotee. At least they may not have the clear conception of absolute truth but generally most Christian saints don’t have a impersonal conception of the absolute truth. Their understanding of the absolute truth is as a person but they will not understand who that person is clearly.
Basically social workers can be put at three levels in the Bhagavad Gita.
One is the devotees maitrah karunaiva cha, devotees can do also that kind of social welfare work, in the sense that we see Rantideva and Shibi, they are devotees but they are also caring for the material needs of the citizens because that is their responsibility as a king.
Second is we have Krishna talking about impersonalist who are sarva bhutah hite ratah, He talks about that in twelfth chapter and also in the fifth chapter.
labhante brahma-nirvāṇam ṛṣayaḥ kṣīṇa-kalmaṣāḥ
So these are impersonal seekers but they also try to be equipoise and they try to do good to others. Their sarva bhutah hite ratah is because they are meant to see all living beings equally.
Third would be that when Krishna talks about in 12.11, He says tataḥ kuru yatātmavān, if you cannot work for Me then you at least sacrifice the fruits of your work. There Prabhupada says that one can sacrifice the fruits for some good cause. That can also be referred to people who are doing some kind of social work. But off course that may not necessarily refer to people who are dedicated social workers, that can also be referred to people who just give charity.
But either way depending on the conception of the absolute truth social workers can fall either as devotees doing compassionate work, impersonalists doing compassionate work or people who are at the material level of consciousness who are trying to be selfless.
But apart from these three categories there is the fourth category of people who try to portray social service as a superior substitute for devotional service. That is people who say मानव सेवा ही माधव सेवा है. So they blaspheme devotional service and try to replace devotional service with social service. Although they do social service because their conception of absolute truth is so wrong, so they will fall in the category of 9.11- 9.12,
avajānanti māṁ mūḍhā (BG 9.11) moghāśā mogha-karmāṇo (BG 9.12)
But overall those who have some understanding of absolute truth which may not be clear or personal they will fall in the positive category. If the understanding of the absolute truth is about Krishna then we can say that adveṣṭā sarva-bhūtānāṁ but otherwise at least it will fall in the level of 12.11-12.12 where they are working selflessly to rise towards the absolute truth. Thank you.