Can grihasthas who want to preach make preaching as their source of livelihood?
Transcription by– Keshavgopal Das & Ambuj Gupta
Question: Can devotees who want to preach have preaching as also source of livelihood?
Answer: In principle the understanding of the acharyas is that one should make a business out of the Bhagavatam. That means one does not do Bhagavat katha to earn money. That is the broad principle. Now what does it mean in practice that will vary. For example we can say that if there are bramcharis and sanyasis, they are living primarily on preaching. They are not taking salary but still they also require some basic body necessities. So are they not using that? In that sense can we say they are making a business out of their preaching? No, because they are not taking a salary, just taking bodily facilities. During Prabhupada’s time also there were devotee temple presidents, who are grahasthas. They had the families and they were taking salaries from the temple. Prabhupada was not in principle against that. The whole idea is that when we don’t make a business out of Bhagavatam that primarily means that the commercial motive doesn’t dominate the devotional motive. Although some devotees may make it very rigid principle that one should not earn a living through teaching the Bahgavatam. But then what do we do if somebody wants to be a grahastha and also wants to preach? Are we going to permanently deprive their opportunity or demand that they earn their living elsewhere and also find time and resources for preaching? It’s going to be difficult. If we insist on that then significant number of potential preachers may be lost. Specifically it may vary. We cannot make a rigid rule against or for this. If some devotee goes into some remote village where no preaching going on and the devotee starts preaching over there and through that people start getting connected and people appreciate the devotee and they give some donations. Can the devotee accept the donation and use them? There is no absolute rule against that but the principle again is that one should not live opulently on the luxmi that is meant for Krishna. If one is interested in preaching then one will also live simply because the resources will be used for Krishna’s service. The specific logistics will need to be worked out according to time, place and circumstance. Some devotees who are very much interested in preaching sometimes can make a ten year or fifteen year plan to work, earn and save and then afterwards I’ll focus my energy on preaching. I’ll have my savings now which I’ll use for myself later life. That is also one way to do it. Another way to do it is to have some job as a consultant or something like that which doesn’t take too much time and also use adequate time for preaching. Another option is that if one is learned enough and one is dynamic enough then one focus entirely on preaching and has faith in Krishna that Krishna will provide. Now it is not that we can at institutional level interfere in that devotional principle. The devotional principle is that Krishna says: ananyas cintayanto mam ye janah paryupasate tesam nityabhiyuktanam yoga-ksemam vahamy aham 9.22 He says that those who perform My devotion I provide for them. We cannot mandate that just because somebody is grahastha Krishna will not provide for them. Krishna will provide for them but then there is a potential that one may start sliding into using the resources that people have given for Krishna for one’s own purposes. One’s own purposes is not in one’s own needs but one’s own material aggrandizement. So one has to be cautious. By talking with one’s devotee guides and by looking at the specific situation we are having we can find how best we can balance the spiritual aspiration to preach with the practical requirement of earning a living. It’s not absolute principle or it’s not a rigid practice that the two cannot be combined together. But by combing the purity of intention needs to be maintained. I would say that one has to take blessings of senior devotees and have some kind of monitoring so that one is protected. Prahalada maharaja says that my dear Lord I am a servitor, I am not a merchant. I am a servant not a merchant. We don’t want to become a merchant of Krishna bhakti in terms of doing business out of that but at the same time we have to live in a practical world. According to time, place and circumstance, if we focus primarily on the spiritual desire to preach and act on that desire in terms of using whatever opportunities we have to preach, Krishna will over a period of time show us the way by which how we can take care of our practical necessities and also fulfill that aspiration to preach. Thank you.