If the temple atmosphere is conflict-filled, should we practice bhakti at home?
Transcribed by: Keshavgopal Das
Question: If the temple atmosphere is conflict-filled, should we practice bhakti at home?
Answer: We live in the material world and due to materialistic tendencies of devotees a conflicting situation can arise within a temple community. Specifics and degree can vary from temple to temple. No community in this world is perfect, so conflicts are bound to happen. If we are waiting to find some perfect community then we may have to wait till eternity. Even if we are able to find a perfect community, we will not be allowed inside the community since we are not perfect also. We have to see what works for us and decide.
In general, for our spiritual practices, to get the energy to practice spiritual lives, we need to see what our needs are. Generally, people come to temple for three reasons (i) cultural (ii) social (iii) educational.
To some extent, educational needs – hear discourses, understand philosophy – can be met outside the temple also. Due to internet these days, there is lot of educational content available outside the temple also.
The cultural needs like taking darshan of the Deities, experience the spiritual atmosphere of the temple etc. can to some extent may be filled outside temple also. We may have to see how best we can serve these needs. For example, we can choose to come to the temple on a weekday for taking darshan. Or, set up a temple at our home.
As far as social need is concerned, we do have a need for devotee association, and we do need to work out how to manage this if we decide to not go to temple. If we become alienated with devotee community, then practically we do not have any social life. Since bhakti values are different from the mainstream society, we cannot fulfil our need for socializing outside the devotee community. Therefore, we need to have some community. Within broader devotee community, there are few devotees who are prominent, if we cannot get along with them, then it makes our life difficult. Now, I am not discussing here why such a situation arose or whose fault it is. That is a separate issue. People are people. Sometimes we get along with some people, sometimes not. We have to find out where can we get the devotee association. One way is to find a group of devotees who are also feeling similar. You can arrange to connect with such groups and try to discreetly meet outside the temple for getting the nourishment. You may not want to publicize for such meeting. The temple should not feel that you are creating a separate group which is a threat to them. However, you can get your spiritual nourishment with such a group.
ISKCON is a voluntary organization and ISKCON temples are inspirational places, and not legislative places. Generally, the best way to have association is to create association. You can start your own program in your community. Such a step will not only create association for you but also make you exemplary. Even in a community there are phases where things may not work for you. These phases may stay for some time, but then may phase out. If you keep the purpose of serving Krishna foremost in your consciousness, then Krishna will guide you.
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