“O best among the Bharatas [Arjuna], four kinds of pious men render devotional service unto Me—the distressed, the desirer of wealth, the inquisitive, and he who is searching for knowledge of the Absolute.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 7.16)
Friend1: I’ve got a Ravana angle for you today.
Friend2: Okay. Ran into someone with ten heads and twenty arms?
Friend1: Very funny. This one is about following advice.
Friend2: Oh, like people set in their ways have a difficult time being convinced of contravening paths? Ravana is the classic case of that, as the younger brother Vibhishana tried his best.
Friend1: The obvious lesson to extract is that Ravana should have listened to Vibhishana. Return Sita to Rama. Correct the horrible wrong before reaping the consequences.
Friend2: Something like returning stolen property to the store that you took it from.
Friend1: In those cases you still stole. You will get some punishment; most likely. In the case of Ravana there would have been total forgiveness.
Friend2: For sure. People have been sinning for such a long time. If Rama were an angry God, there would be plenty to be upset over. Sin at the root level is forgetting Him. That’s what leads to doing things the wrong way. Remember God and you are back on the pious path.
Friend1: Remember Him properly. Not remember Him while blowing up a building or killing innocent people.
Friend2: That goes without saying. There must be some authority to the spiritual practice. That is why the spiritual master is so important. He is a vital piece to the puzzle. Without him you’re trying to fit these different pieces together, but they won’t go.
Friend1: And jamming them together, sawing one of the oblong shapes to transform it, won’t work.
Friend1: The thing that people might forget with Ravana is that he did actually listen to someone once. It was when he wanted to implement the plan for stealing in the first place.
Friend1: The trusted advisor, he warned the king of Lanka not to take on Rama in battle directly. I think he was opposed to the plan altogether, but when Ravana insisted and appeared to be threatening lethal punishment, Maricha decided to come up with something different.
Friend2: Use trickery. Approach the group’s hermitage in disguise. Lure Rama and His younger brother Lakshmana away with a ruse, which was Maricha in the false form of a deer.
Friend1: That got me to thinking. It is difficult for people to take up bhakti-yoga. There are many reasons, but at the root is the desire to cling to material life. Better to chase after fame, name, power, money, etc. than surrender unto the Almighty in earnest.
Friend2: That is maya at work. The illusion that I will somehow be happy without the association of the Divine.
Friend1: Just as Ravana wouldn’t listen to wise counsel, people remain obstinate. But when it came to satisfying his senses, to indulging the kama, or lust, for another woman, Ravana was all ears.
Friend2: All twenty of them.
Friend1: Why not use the same approach when teaching people about the science of self-realization?
Friend2: What do you mean?
Friend1: Just lie. Tell them that by chanting the holy names you will become rich. Tell them that every desire will be satisfied through following the four regulative principles and attending a worship ceremony in the temple on a regular basis.
Friend2: I mean there are hints at what you are saying in teachings from the saints, but the meaning is different.
“Subsisting on fruits and milk, chant Shri Rama’s holy name for six months. Tulsidas says that by following this formula all auspiciousness and every perfection will arrive in the palm of your hand.” (Dohavali, 5)
It’s not lying though. I’m surprised you would even come up with such a plan, one of blatant dishonesty.
Friend1: You know it’s a good idea, so you’re thinking of how to appropriately compliment me.
Friend2: For starters, people can see through the lie rather quickly. They just have to examine the lives of a small sample size of Krishna devotees. They will figure out pretty soon that they are not rich. They didn’t become immensely wealthy as a result of bhakti-yoga.
Friend1: No problem. Just say that the time has yet to arrive. Pretty soon they will be swimming in it.
Friend2: Secondly, desiring wealth is one of the reasons people approach God anyway. The group is listed among four in a verse from the Bhagavad-gita.
Friend1: That is people approaching on their own. They are still making the approach. Just see, there is some benefit. Why not help people along? Why not give them the initial push by telling them that Bhagavan will make them wealthy?
Friend2: There is already demigod worship for that. It is already a kind of lie.
Friend1: What do you mean?
Friend2: There is the promise of good fortune by worshiping this deva or that, but there is fine print. You will get rich, for the time being. The end will be death, and the money won’t follow you to the next life. It is a temporary solution.
Friend1: I know, but with Krishna it is permanent. If they go to Him there is some benefit.
Friend2: I’m telling you, people will see through the ruse. They know deep down that Vishnu is someone different. He is not your standard order supplier. He can give anything to anyone, but He applies discrimination. No reason to sully the reputation of His representatives by making false promises. Better to enter and end with the truth, that you will get something way more valuable than wealth, that the benefits of His association alone will bring happiness for lifetime after lifetime. Every perfection will come, and you won’t want to use them for sense gratification, ever.
Since important bhakti to try,
Why not at first a little lie?
Such as promise money to bring,
When holy names to sing.
Then a large crowd to gather,
Better than boring lecture rather.
But truth best from start to end,
That devotion into much higher life to send.