“The value of a moment’s association with a devotee of the Lord cannot even be compared to the attainment of heavenly planets or liberation from matter, and what to speak of worldly benedictions in the form of material prosperity, which is for those who are meant for death.” (Shrimad Bhagavatam, 1.18.13)
न स्वर्गं नापुनर्-भवम्
मर्त्यानां किम् उताशिषः
na svargaṁ nāpunar-bhavam
martyānāṁ kim utāśiṣaḥ
Friend1: I must say, at this point I am practically fuming.
Friend2: Why is that?
Friend1: The situation of the world.
Friend2: In relation to the disease and the associated effects?
Friend1: Right now we are well beyond the impact of the disease. We reached absurdity a while back and have flown past. In terms of television programming, that shark was jumped many weeks ago.
Friend2: I take it you don’t think the reaction has been warranted.
Friend1: Absolutely not. Disease is serious. His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada nicely revealed that to me. The four miseries of an existence.
Friend2: Birth, old age, disease and death.
Friend1: Which is so eye-opening. Who would ever consider birth to be a misery? But it most certainly is. We cannot avoid old age. Seriously, there is nothing we can do about it.
Friend2: One of the influences of time.
Friend1: No one wants to talk about death, but I thought for sure that the world understood both the presence and the impact of disease. They are acting today like no one was ever diseased prior to the current year.
Friend2: They seemed shocked that people carry disease, as well.
Friend1: Asymptomatically. It’s considered a “case” now. Are you kidding me? We have so many diseases already within us; I mean that is common sense. I guess that is why I am so fumed. I didn’t realize so many people lacked common sense.
Friend2: What can you do? There are so many factors working together to create this craziness.
Friend1: I think what really set me off is hearing from people living in temples, people who distribute the timeless wisdom of Bhagavad-gita professionally, so to speak.
Friend2: You mean they are itinerant preachers?
Friend1: Or at least they conduct their services in public. They invite others.
Friend2: What have they been saying?
Friend1: Oh, they are more than happy with the present situation. They love not having to meet with people. They wish this could continue even longer.
Friend2: There is some truth to that, no? Isolation forcing reprioritization. More time to focus. Why would you be upset?
Friend1: For many reasons. Number one, if you are living in a temple and happy that people are barred from entry, then why should I give you money? Why is your house of worship any different from mine, then? I and others work for a living. No one gives us donations. I could live-stream my worship ceremonies on a daily basis. Would that make me eligible for massive donations?
Friend2: I see.
Friend1: More importantly, these are supposed to be saintly people. They are supposed to be an ocean of mercy. How can they be happy that there is forced denial of sadhu-sanga? I have actually read shastra. I am well-aware of the countless mentions of the benefit of receiving the dust of the lotus feet of a devotee.
Friend2: A moment’s association with a Vaishnava can turn your life around forever, and for the better.
Friend1: How are we supposed to receive that association now? I know my fellow man is not perfect, but I truly enjoyed chanting the holy names together with them: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare. I don’t care about the risks.
Friend2: Which are always there. You were just as much at risk a year ago, two years ago, ten years ago, and so on.
Friend1: It is such an insult to the Supreme Personality of Godhead, too. As if He didn’t realize the presence of disease? The acharyas were so ignorant that they didn’t realize wearing a mask suddenly protects you from disease? This is absurd. In every condition sadhu-sanga is beneficial. There are no exceptions. There is no mention in Hari-bhakti-vilasa that a person should wear a mask while worshiping the deity, and that book is as thorough as you can get with the rules.
Friend2: Yes, and you have that story of Sanatana Gosvami not wanting Chaitanya Mahaprabhu to touch him, due to the skin disease. Mahaprabhu rightly said that the Vaishnava’s body now belongs to Krishna. We understand this in the same way as honoring prasadam.
Friend1: Which is food sanctified by being offered to the Supreme Lord. This is sanatana-dharma 101. I am quite frustrated. What are we supposed to do? These demoniac leaders are winning. They have always despised genuine religion, and now they have found a way to stamp it out. All with the public’s approval. Totally pathetic, if you ask me.
Friend2: The acharyas always foresee the dangers that we never thought of. They create mechanisms so that sadhu-sanga can continue. We can always worship, even in these troubled times. Remember, the sages during the Treta Yuga went to the Dandaka forest to find relief, to be free of distractions. Even there they were attacked.
Friend1: By the man-eating night-rangers from Lanka. It wasn’t until Shri Rama arrived that they found some relief.
Friend2: So keep the same Shri Rama close by. Stay connected to the saintly leaders of the past, who have maintained their presence through recorded instruction. We can and will get through this. There is danger at every moment in this world, but to the surrendered souls the vast ocean of suffering shrinks dramatically in size.
Demons their true nature showing,
When sages to Dandaka forest going.
That not even there to find peace,
From attacks desperate for relief.
That only when Shri Rama to arrive,
And away the Rakshasas to drive.
Same with today’s perilous state,
Worship alone and for protection await.