“Since an advanced devotee carries Lord Vishnu within his heart, he is a moving temple and a moving Vishnu. An advanced devotee does not need to go to holy places, for wherever he stays is a holy place.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Chaitanya Charitamrita, Madhya, 20.57 Purport)
Friend1: You ever play this game before?
Friend2: What game?
Friend1: Deciding where to live.
Friend2: How is that a game? It’s a practical decision.
Friend1: I should be more specific. If you have the choice to live anywhere in the world, where would you go?
Friend2: Money is not an issue, I presume?
Friend1: Right. Forget about finding work. Pretend that you have enough money to live in any location. We don’t have to be specific about the type of dwelling. A simple apartment will do for this example.
Friend2: That is an interesting exercise. Have you come up with any answers?
Friend1: I am a fan of America, but I don’t like the cold.
Friend2: You could go to California, then. There are some places where it is basically the same climate throughout the year.
Friend1: That’s true, but it’s a little crowded there.
Friend2: Okay, you want some space?
Friend1: Yes. I was thinking about Arizona.
Friend2: It can get very hot there, and it’s dry most of the time, too.
Friend1: I think that is fine for me. I prefer to see the sun; every day if possible.
Friend2: You will certainly get a lot of sun there.
Friend1: What about holy places, though? I might want to live in Vrindavana or Jagannath Puri.
Friend2: Those are great places, as well.
Friend1: Is there any advice from shastra?
Friend2: For practicing devotional service, bhakti-yoga, living in a dhama is certainly beneficial. In addition to the auspiciousness associated with the place, there are the saintly people congregating. You could get sadhu-sanga without a problem.
Friend1: That is what I was considering.
Friend2: At the same time there is increased vulnerability to cheating, especially in modern times. A person just has to show up in these cities wearing a specific dress and they won’t have to work for a living. They can say a few words about Krishna, pick up donations, and then do whatever they want behind the scenes.
Friend1: It seems like there are a lot of such cheaters around today.
Friend2: There is also the instruction that a person shouldn’t be very eager to live in a holy place.
Friend1: Umm, doesn’t that contradict what you just said?
Friend2: Think about it, though. It has to be true. If living in a specific place were a requirement, then that would diminish the potency of bhakti-yoga.
Friend1: You mean that it should be able to flourish in any place, even one far away from direct association with Bhagavan, the Supreme Personality of Godhead?
Friend2: Exactly. A saintly person is considered a traveling tirtha, or place of pilgrimage. Teachers like His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada go one step further; they increase the influence through their recorded teachings, found in book form. Books like Bhagavad-gita As It Is and Krishna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead are like travelling tirthas, also.
Friend1: I see. How do I answer the question, though? If given the choice, where should I live?
Friend2: A personal decision. Find out where bhakti practice will flourish, at the individual level. It might be in a dhama; it might not. Wherever you can chant the holy names with faith, focus and attention, where your love for God will only increase, that should be where you live. When you are chanting regularly as such, your influence will inspire others, too.
In hypothetical situation to give,
To find ideal place to live.
Climate warm with sun,
Some with distractions none.
What about going to sacred place,
Where saintly people to grace?
Wherever bhakti practice to flourish,
Increased devotion to nourish.