“One should go to a temple or church as a matter of duty, offer respect to the Supreme Personality of Godhead and offer flowers and eatables. Everyone thinks that there is no use in going to the temple just to worship God. But worship for economic benefit is not recommended in the scriptural injunction. One should go simply to offer respect to the Deity. That will place one in the mode of goodness.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Bhagavad-gita, 17.11 Purport)
Friend-One: You know I’ve been having a hard time lately.
Friend-Two: With what?
F1: I like bhakti-yoga. Trust me, I do. Though there’s so much going on in my life, I’m glad whenever I get the chance to remove myself from everything and focus on the Supreme Lord.
F2: That’s why it’s called Krishna consciousness. Your consciousness is what determines your mental disposition. You can be happy from fixing the consciousness alone.
F1: What I’m struggling with is getting others to join me. They throw every excuse in the book at me.
F2: Like that they’re too busy? They’ll go once things settle down?
F1: Yeah, that’s a pretty common one.
F2: They don’t see that things will never calm down. They are worried about something today. Okay, we’ll acknowledge that. But when that thing gets resolved, a new issue will emerge. And then another one will come after that.
F1: It never ends.
F1: One excuse I’m having trouble responding to is the need for going to temples. People tell me that you don’t need to go to these houses of worship. Attendance is not a way to determine if someone believes in God.
F2: Technically, what they’re saying is correct. The Supreme Lord is within and without. He is antaryami, or the all-pervading witness. The famous Prahlada Maharaja wasn’t known to visit temples in his youth.
F1: And he was perfectly Krishna conscious.
F2: Right. He worshiped while danger stared him straight in the face day after day. The boy had no one to help him. The father was antagonistic. The royal servants turned into goons who tried to kill Prahlada. Yet he was still able to concentrate so well that the Supreme Lord Himself finally arrived in the form of Narasimhadeva.
F1: So are you saying that this excuse given to me is legitimate?
F2: The question is, are they using this logic as an excuse for not practicing devotion? That’s what it sounds like to me. They think the worship that goes on in the temple is for getting stuff. Instead of worshiping, people can put in some hard work and get the same results.
F1: Exactly. I’m sure that’s what they’re thinking.
F2: Worship in the temple is supposed to be in the mode of goodness. In the Bhagavad-gita, Shri Krishna says that sacrifices conducted without expectation of reward are in the mode of goodness.
vidhi-diṣṭo ya ijyate
yaṣṭavyam eveti manaḥ
samādhāya sa sāttvikaḥ
“Of sacrifices, that sacrifice performed according to duty and to scriptural rules, and with no expectation of reward, is of the nature of goodness.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 17.11)
In one verse Krishna defeats their logic.
F1: How so?
F2: Even if you have everything materially, you should still go to the temple and offer your respects. It’s a purification thing. You’re supposed to worship God without wanting anything back. That is the meaning to bhakti-yoga. This attitude is the foundation. It’s what makes bhakti-yoga unique from all other kinds of religion.
F1: Wow, that’s good. You know, that makes sense if you think about it. If you’re already Krishna conscious, why wouldn’t you visit the temple anyway? What are you going to lose? Would Prahlada Maharaja advise us against going? There’s no way.
F2: The mind is like Hiranyakashipu, subtly attacking us with the weapons of doubt and desire. We can take strength from Prahlada and the words of Krishna. Worship in the mode of goodness gradually becomes pure goodness when there is love for the Supreme Lord.
F1: I could see another objection being raised.
F2: What’s that?
F1: Well, how many people in the temple actually worship in goodness? So many of these priests are working there as a way to earn money. It’s obvious that getting donations is their first concern.
F2: So you’re worried about corruption? There’s no doubt that exists. There’s a simple answer to that. Just do the worship at home then. Make a part of your home like a temple and worship on a regular schedule. Just as you don’t forget to go to work or finish your assignments for school, don’t forget to offer respects to the Supreme Lord.
F1: I like that. It takes care of the problem.
F2: Exactly. Since time immemorial man has been making excuses for not surrendering to the Supreme Lord. Bhakti is difficult to take up in earnest, but once you do it you’ll see that the benefits can’t be found anywhere else.
What benefit worship in temple to do?
God within all, even inside of you.
To avoid bhakti and obeisances paid,
Since forever by man excuses made.
Worship in goodness, not anything expecting,
With love for God devotional path accepting.
Then soon of impurities to be free,
And benefits like no other to see.