Will Krishna be more pleased if we feed the hungry than offer opulent bhoga to the Deities?
Transcribed by: Keshavgopal Das
Question: Will Krishna be more pleased if we feed a poor person rather than provide elaborate bhogas to the Deities?
Answer: Creating dichotomies like this is often a way of emotional manipulation. George Bush when he wanted to declare war against the Arabian world, he said, “Those who are not against terror, are for terror.” There were many peoples who had concerns, they wanted to oppose terror, but they had concerns whether war was the best thing to deal with terror. Therefore, creating sharp dichotomies can often be a way of manipulating people into accepting a specific alternative.
Therefore, when we say should we feed a poor person, or offer food to the deities, no sensible person will agree that we should offer bhoga to deities. The obvious response would be feeding a poor person is better. However, let us analyse this question and check if there are other alternatives also. Quite often in many temples, charity is also given. Many temples traditionally have free distribution of food in thousands. The food is offered to the deities, then free food is offered to the poor people also. Therefore, it is not correct to say that either offer food to the deities or offer to poor. Food offered to deities can also reach to the poor.
Practically speaking how many peoples are there who would give charity to deities but not give charity to the poor. Those people who give charity to the deities they may otherwise not give charity to poor also. If we want to draw a choice like that, we could draw a choice amongst so many other things. When NASA wanted to send a space mission to the moon, they were criticised for spending which could be used to feed so many poor people. Recently scientists have made a large heads-on collider which they use to detect Higgs boson, a subatomic particle. The amount of money they have spent on it is astronomical. In the fifty days of IPL Cricket, the amount of money that is spent is enough to feed the hungry people of India for one full year. Why do we not draw a contrast over in such cases?
Rather than drawing a contrast of giving food either to deities or to the poor, we should see the act of offering food to the deities, as part of devotional culture which purifies people’s heart, makes them less greedy and more charitable. If people become more charitable than they will also give food to the poor people out of compassion.
Most temples would offer vegetarian food to the Lord. Following this culture, people who would offer food to the Lord will also become vegetarian. If more people become vegetarian, more of the land will be available for growing food for human consumption rather than for livestock which is slaughtered for meat. Statistics show that eight to sixteen people can be fed on a given amount of land which is used for feeding one non-vegetarian person. Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) has said that all starvation in the world can be eliminated if land is used for growing food for humans rather than the animals.
Once we look at the whole picture, we can conclude that “offering food to the deity vs. offering food to the poor” is a false dichotomy.
In ISKCON also, we have “Food for Life” food distribution program where the food is distributed to millions of peoples.
Krishna is more pleased by the consciousness of our heart. Now days, atheists have also become very aggressive. One of the food relief organisation’s slogan is: “God sends calamities we send relief.” Such organizations are doing activities of compassion but with Godless consciousness. Will such activities please God? No. It is our selfless consciousness of spiritual service that will please him more. With this consciousness if somebody does deity worship, Krishna will be pleased by that. If somebody does social service (by offering food to hungry), Krishna will also be pleased by that.
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