“Engage your mind always in thinking of Me, offer obeisances and worship Me. Being completely absorbed in Me, surely you will come to Me.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 9.34)
मन्-मना भव मद्-भक्तो
मद्-याजी मां नमस्कुरु
माम् एवैष्यसि युक्त्वैवम्
man-manā bhava mad-bhakto
mad-yājī māṁ namaskuru
mām evaiṣyasi yuktvaivam
Friend1: You have so many protestations to organized religion that it is difficult to cover all of the reasons.
Friend2: You mean it’s not wise to label every person with an objection as an atheist?
Friend1: Perfect! That’s exactly what I mean to say. There are legitimate concerns. Something doesn’t sit right with them about the culture, the way of life, so they reject it.
Friend2: Completely understandable. If you see lies, contradictions, deceit, envy, pride, greed and other undesirable qualities in the most dedicated followers, you will begin to question the legitimacy of the path itself.
Friend1: The one I came across recently goes something like this:
“I don’t need a room full of people to be religious. I believe in God just as much as you do. You are no better than me simply because you make a show of it. I am always talking to the man upstairs. We are in constant communication. I don’t need to prove anything to you.”
Friend2: Sounds reasonable to me.
Friend1: Okay, but what is the counterargument? Why are there rooms full of people to begin with? Why the emphasis on attending a house of worship?
Friend2: It should never be a strict requirement. It is something like meeting with a group of like-minded people, such as a club or association. For example, the popularity of personal computers in America grew exponentially because of user groups. Individuals bought computers, played around with them, came up with new ideas and inventions, and then shared with others having the same interest.
Friend1: Right. Nothing wrong with that. Some would say that is a good thing.
Friend2: Yet you could have someone outside of that association be just as much of a computer enthusiast. They may not openly share their discoveries with others, but they are engaged in a similar activity.
Friend1: Well, you would understand why someone would feel pressured. They see everyone else going to a house of worship as a kind of formality. A way to safeguard against ridicule and guilt. No one will bother them since they have perfect attendance.
Friend2: In Bhagavad-gita, Shri Krishna says to always think of Him and offer worship to Him. Plain and simple. There is no stipulation on time and place. He does not say to only visit a temple and then worship there exclusively. He does not say that you need the approval of your neighbors and peers in order to approach Him.
Friend1: I see.
Friend2: The potent elixir that is the maha-mantra survives and thrives even in isolation: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare. Keep in mind that for many people making such a show is actually dangerous. Where they live the bhakti culture would be strongly rejected. There is no option to associate with like-minded people; at least not in person.
Friend1: I am thinking of Shrila Haridasa Thakura.
Friend2: Yes, that is an extreme case. Lethal punishment inflicted by the government for not following the traditions determined at the time of birth. The connection was so strong, Haridasa had Krishna so much in his corner, that nothing could be done to stop the devotion. Such a dedicated person continues to inspire us, to show that you don’t necessarily have to give in to societal pressures in order to be accepted, in order to be successful in this most valuable form of life.
To place of worship to proceed,
For perfect attendance a need?
In order for pious to be considered,
And at the end to be delivered?
Krishna the formula giving,
That conscious of Him living.
No stipulation on time or place,
Success on His assessment to base.