Question: What is the purpose of temples?
Radhanath Swami: A temple is a place where people are in a selfless spirit of compassion and love, and are truly worshipping God and surrendering their hearts to him. A temple is a place that transforms your life, by illuminating you and bringing you to higher states of consciousness and higher states of living.
Temples are not just places where you give donations, see the deities and say a prayer. It’s pious to go to a temple and give a donation and walk away. That’s nice, but you will not get enlightened by that. Temples have always been established by acaryas as spiritual, educational institutions.
We have so many educational institutions. My Guru Maharaj, Srila Prabhupada, went to MIT, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, in Boston. He said, “You have thousands of courses in your syllabus but there’s not a single course in this whole college that’s teaching people who they are and what the ultimate aim of life is. In all of these great tools that they are learning in MIT, they are only really as valuable as the ideals and intentions of a person’s utilization of them.” The most dangerous people in the world are not the uneducated peasants, but the people with big educations but filthy, dirty hearts filled with envy, pride and hatred.They are the greatest dangers to the world. Academic knowledge are facilities, they are tools. The more powerful the tool, the more they could either do benefit or harm depending on whose hand it’s in.
So the purpose of religious buildings is to educate people to be first-class human beings, people who can actually be examples of integrity and spiritual principle. When you go to that type of temple, church or mosque or gurdwara, if we go to that place, where we are actually getting that higher consciousness, then our life becomes very deep and substantial.
It is described that the mercy of Krishna is like the Sun. The Sun does not discriminate, whether you are from this family or that family, this nationality or that nationality. The Sun rises for our benefit, giving itself to everyone. But if you hide in a cave that is your own misfortune. And those representing the Lord, they are like mirrors of the Sun of Krishna’s mercy. They are reflecting the divine mercy of the Lord in all directions to anyone who is simply accepting it.
And what is the problem in this world? The problem is that such great souls are so rare to find. Everyone is pursuing their own petty, selfish ambitions in life. They are missing the whole point of human civilization, which is to act as a servant of God for the welfare of all living beings. And you should know, until you accept that principle in your life, you will never find real happiness. The more you take the less you have. The more you give the more you have. This is the spiritual principle. Of course, if you have nothing, what have you to give. So therefore a devotee is very serious about their own spiritual practice. The great devotees of the Lord do not want to practice sadhana or Bhakti-yoga for their own spiritual advancement. They will be very attentive in their execution of devotional service so that they can make spiritual advancement. But the reason why is because the more advancement they make, the more they can give to others. They do not want to take anything for themselves. – Radhanath Swami
Nanda maharaj had 9 lakh cows and Yashoda mayi had selected special cows which gave the best quality fragrant milk. She would churn butter from the yogurt made from the milk of these cows and feed her darling son Krishna.
On the day of Diwali, she woke up early in the morning and personally began to make butter for Krishna. As she was churning, she was singing the beautiful pastimes of her beloved son. She was perspiring because of the hard work and because of her affection for Gopal, milk was flowing from her breast.
Little Krishna was sleeping in the next room. He came to mother Yashoda and held her churning rod since He wanted her to feed Him. As mother Yashoda was feeding little Gopal, the milk that she had left for heating on the stove began to boil over. The milk was thinking, “Mother Yashoda’s love for Krishna is unlimited and Krishna can go on drinking her milk then what is the use of my existence.” Thinking like this, the milk began to boil over and fall off in the fire. Seeing this mother Yashoda kept Krishna aside and immediately rushed to put the pot off the stove. When the milk saw mother Yashoda approaching it jumped back into the pot.
Krishna became transcendentally angry. He picked up a stone and broke the pot of yogurt. He went into the next room, climbed on a wooden grinding mortar and began distributing the butter to the monkeys. It is explained that the Lord wanted to reciprocate with the services rendered by the monkeys in His pastimes as Lord Rama.
Meanwhile Yashoda mayi came back and saw the broken pot. Knowing well that Gopal had done it, she took a stick in her hand and followed the little buttery foot prints of Gopal. When the monkeys saw mother Yashoda approaching, they jumped off in fear and started running. Little Gopal jumped off the grinding mortar and began to run. As she was running her hair loosened and flowers decorating her were falling at her feet. The flowers were thinking ‘who is this Yashoda? The power of her love has conquered the supreme Lord Sri Krishna.’ They wanted to take shelter at her lotus feet.
Ultimately Yashoda mayi caught Krishna and started to chastise Him. He was crying and repeatedly requesting mother Yashoda to put the stick down. Yashoda mayi said, “You are the king of butter thieves.” And Krishna said,“You are calling Me the king of thieves. Well I definitely didn’t get it from My father’s side, I must have got it from your side.”
Krishna was afraid of His mother. This is the power of the love of Vrindavan. Krishna was not pretending to be afraid, it was not a show.
Finally mother Yashoda put the stick down and decided to tie Gopal up, so that He doesn’t do more mischief. She took a beautiful silken rope to tie Krishna. However every time mother Yashoda tried, the rope was two fingers too short. She tied over 150 feet of rope still she could not tie Him up. Then all the elderly gopis work Lord Krishna agreed to be bound.
Commenting on the rope being two fingers too short, Srila Vishwanath Chakravarti Thakur says that one of the fingers represents a sincere devotee’s heartfelt endeavor to serve, to perform sadhana, to remain pure and to please Krishna. And the second finger represents Krishna’s causeless mercy. When both these aspects are present in a devotee’s life, Krishna agrees to be bound by the love of that devotee.
– Radhanath Swami
Every living being is inherently seeking pleasure and the only true pleasure of the heart is the pleasure of love. This is something that universally everyone has in common. Everyone is seeking the pleasure of love. And the origin of that experience is the soul’s love for God. When we forget our love for God we seek that experience in so many directions but never completely satisfied. But when our propensity for love is once again reposed in the supreme object of all love, the all attractive Lord of all living beings, then we find true fulfillment and eternal joy.
Its not that we have to change our life but we have to change our consciousness to a consciousness that connects us to God through devotion in whatever we do. The greatest problem in the world is pollution within the ecology of our hearts – to clean that ecology, to free ourselves from the pollutants of lust, envy, greed, pride, illusion and anger. That is absolutely necessary. Because if we are not solving the problem within our own heart, we are going to be part of the problem within this world. So the universal principle of all spiritual paths is to clean the heart by chanting God’s names, by offering prayer and by utilizing our talents in a spirit of devotion. In that way we clean our own hearts and we can clean the spiritual ecology of the world. – Radhanath Swami
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