“Even if you are considered to be the most sinful of all sinners, when you are situated in the boat of transcendental knowledge, you will be able to cross over the ocean of miseries.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 4.36)
अपि चेद् असि पापेभ्यः
api ced asi pāpebhyaḥ
Friend1: I think one of the more controversial topics from the Bhagavad-gita is this idea that a saintly person can still be transcendentally situated even if they have committed the most despicable acts.
Friend2: The reason it’s an issue is because someone could use that teaching as an excuse to commit crimes. Adharma on the strength of bhakti. That isn’t really devotion, though.
Friend1: Same thing I was thinking. You are chanting the holy names with a material purpose in mind. You were never saintly to begin with.
Friend2: The real meaning is that someone may accidentally slip up. It’s part of being fallible. The human birth has four principal defects. Committing mistakes is one of them. Nobody’s perfect. The idea is that you get a chance to square yourself. You can correct the situation.
Friend1: And someone on the outside shouldn’t be so judgmental. I think this is controversial because we have a difficult time discerning if someone is accidentally falling down or if they are bad to begin with and their misbehavior is a visible indication of that lack of purity.
Friend1: I bring this up because I think there is a related issue. Banning people from the temple.
Friend2: Which people and which temple?
Friend1: A house of worship. Where the Supreme Personality of Godhead lives as the chief resident, in His deity form.
Friend2: The archa-vigraha.
Friend1: Like the mailbox collecting letters and packages to be delivered to the appropriate address, the deity isn’t any ordinary statue. It is an authorized place for accepting prayers. It is a way for the person in illusion to understand transcendental features belonging to the Almighty. Otherwise, they may be prone towards Mayavada, which says that even God has association with maya [illusion].
Friend2: Deity worship is so important in this regard. God certainly lives outside of the temple, as well. Not a blade of grass moves without His sanction. The many universes are rooted in Him. The material and spiritual energies are sourced in Him. Yet the temple is a fully distinguished place to better focus on spiritual life. I spend the week forgetting about Bhagavan, but through a single meeting in a dedicated place, one familiar to me over time, I can remember Him again.
Friend1: And so people sometimes get banned from these places.
Friend2: By who?
Friend1: The temple president.
Friend2: Okay. What is the cause?
Friend1: That’s the thing. Most of the time there isn’t any good justification.
“Oh, I see you’ve been posting things online that are critical of our institution. You have disturbed the congregation, so now you are banned.”
Friend2: Are you serious with that? Just from something said online?
Friend2: They aren’t causing a disturbance when they visit the temple?
Friend1: No. It could be something else. The temple president is secretly conspiring to sell the temple. Millions of dollars going straight into their pocket. They promise a new temple will be built, but there are no concrete plans.
Friend2: There we go. The classic thief. They set up shop in a place built on the hard work of others and then suddenly think they own the place.
Friend1: If anyone within the congregation tries to stop the sale, they are subsequently banned from entering the temple.
Friend2: Oh, sure. Don’t let anyone be witness to the criminal activity.
Friend1: This is my problem with the whole thing. They hide behind the “Vaishnava-aparadha” accusation.
Friend2: That you are offending another person on the path of devotional service to Vishnu, which is one name for God the person?
Friend1: Not to mention that banning someone who wants to worship is offensive to the person being banned. The authorities are hurting someone else’s devotion. All because they can’t handle a little criticism. I know someone who was banned simply because they asked to see the monthly financial statement of the temple.
Friend2: Oh, wow. Yeah, thieves. What else can you say?
Friend1: What can be done?
Friend2: I don’t know. This is a difficult experience, birth in the material world. Working for a living is especially taxing. People are always looking for a way out. If you can set up shop in a temple and live off the work of others, you are set. Then it is difficult to give up, especially if others are wise to your scheme. Then you ban any critics to make sure that only your supporters are with you. They can share in the laziness.
Friend1: Really a horrible situation. What will happen to these people? Are they part of the saintly class that is forgiven even if they commit horrible acts?
Friend2: I don’t know. That is up to the Supreme Lord to determine. I would think crooks like these are not saintly to begin with. Maybe they get some pious credits for devotional acts in the past. If you look at Indra, the king of heaven, he has done some of the worst things imaginable. Shri Krishna forgives and leaves him in that high post.
Friend1: I guess that’s true. The vivid example is the first Govardhana Puja. Indra tried to kill so many innocent people. The thing is, he eventually came to his senses. He apologized.
Friend2: Right. You just have to hope that the modern-day offenders have their awakening at some point. No use dwelling on the subject. Just focus on your own efforts and try to learn from the mistakes of others. Try to avoid corruption and don’t offend innocent people who are always chanting the holy names: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.
Forgiven is the offender?
When in devotion a pretender.
Objections to power not hearing,
Temple of dissidents clearing.
When in this way to behave,
How by Krishna to be saved?
Hoping that one day made right,
For now keeping my bhakti in sight.