“One who knows the transcendental nature of My appearance and activities does not, upon leaving the body, take his birth again in this material world, but attains My eternal abode, O Arjuna.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 4.9)
जन्म कर्म च मे दिव्यम्
एवं यो वेत्ति तत्त्वतः
त्यक्त्वा देहं पुनर् जन्म
नैति माम् एति सो ऽर्जुन
janma karma ca me divyam
evaṁ yo vetti tattvataḥ
tyaktvā dehaṁ punar janma
naiti mām eti so ‘rjuna
Friend1: I am going to present to you a problem that occurs with me every now and then. I think it is important to bring up because my situation is not isolated.
Friend2: You mean this could happen to other people?
Friend1: I know that it does. It is the reason why I think it is an important topic to study more in-depth.
Friend1: Let me preface this by saying that I do not advertise myself as a great devotee. I am not trying to be “more religious than you,” though someone may get that impression; out of my control. The situation to which I am referring occurs when I have returned from a sat-sanga program.
Friend2: Explain what that is.
Friend1: Take the two words of Sanskrit origin. Sat is truth or people who are associated with the truth.
Friend2: What kind of truth?
Friend1: Absolute. The opposite is asat; the temporary. The recommendation is asat-tyaga and sat-sanga. Sanga is a meeting, an association. Sat-sanga in general conversation refers to a club or assembled gathering of people interested in spiritual life.
Friend2: And so you happen to go to these.
Friend1: I try to attend on a regular basis. Just from a single meeting I am energized for the rest of the week. When I return home or run into someone after the fact, they end up finding out where I was.
Friend2: I see what you mean by not wanting to advertise. You are not necessarily preaching to these people.
Friend1: And sometimes they get defensive. They feel the need to explain how religious they are. Many of them will say something to the effect of:
“Oh, that’s fine if you want to visit temples, but it’s not necessary. You have to realize from within. The Absolute Truth is everywhere. I am God and so are you. You have to see the oneness. Then you won’t feel compelled to make such visits. You can contemplate in any manner that you like.”
Friend2: There is a lot of truth to that, of course. God is within the deity at the temple. There is no doubt about this, as someone can confirm through consulting authorized sacred texts like Bhagavad-gita and Shrimad Bhagavatam. At the same time, He is never limited in choice of residence. He is not confined to a single place. He is just as much present outside of the temple as He is inside.
Friend1: I understand the philosophical basis to the truth, but these people are challenging me for no reason. I have a feeling they don’t contemplate the Absolute Truth at all. They are just making excuses. I think their view is kind of atheistic.
Friend2: Your inclination is likely correct. One thing to ask is that if they think that God is everywhere, why not in the temple, also? Why don’t they chant the holy names: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare?
Friend1: Exactly. They view bhakti as some kind of inferior process. It is beneath them to bow in front of a deity. They think that is reserved for less intelligent people.
Friend2: This is known as the last snare of maya. The illusory energy pervading this world first tricks me into associating with the temporary body and seeking satisfaction of the senses. After frustration in that endeavor, the last trick is to get me to think that I am God and that I have renounced the world.
Friend1: How do we handle these situations? Should we ask them to join us in worship?
Friend2: You can try, but I have a feeling that the real reason they avoid bhakti is because they know that God is a person. They don’t want to worship in the true sense. They are challengers; that is why they stay away. They don’t really believe in their oneness argument, because if they did they would behave differently.
Friend1: That is my feeling, as well.
Friend2: His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada warns to always be afraid of maya. She can strike at any moment, creating doubt over something that was previously understood properly. In addition, there is generally no harm in sat-sanga. Sacrifice a little time. Hear, dance, and eat some sanctified food. Giving up a little time yields an abundance of benefit in return.