Kṛṣṇa-bhajana is to Be Performed Without Cheating
A godbrother of mine from Bangladesh, named Manorañjana dāsa (later known as Madhumaṅgala dāsa after accepting initiation) was by nature very simple and down-to-earth. He had purchased some land in Kṛṣṇa nagara, and also owned a shop nearby. Once, when I visited him there in Kṛṣṇa nagara, he himself cooked and offered me prāsada, being very pleased to see me. I observed that he had no decent clothes, and so I offered him a new piece of cloth from my bag. Although he was not inclined to accept it, I forcibly gave it to him.
After conversing with him for some time, I came to realize that although he owned a shop and quite a bit of land in Kṛṣṇa nagara, his simple and naïve nature kept him in a pitiful condition; otherwise there was no reason for him to be in such a destitute state. I eventually learned that his servant deceitfully took advantage of his simplicity. Although the servant always externally appeared to be engaged in hard work, he was causing Madhumaṅgala Prabhu great loss by cheating him. Not only was he stealing goods, but he also had the shop transferred to his own name.
I then tried my best to help Madhumaṅgala Prabhu recover from these circumstances in whatever way was feasible, and thus his situation became somewhat improved. He therefore developed a deep trust in me, and later transferred his land into my name. When I asked him why he had done so, he replied, “My brother, being desirous to acquire this land, continuously disturbs me about giving it to him, and he will not let me live peacefully. I have therefore transferred it to your name. Now I can live the rest of my life in peace, without fear of any disturbance from my brother regarding this matter. I do not care whether my brother takes, keeps or sells the land after my death.”
Madhumaṅgala Prabhu left his body only a few days after transferring the land into my name, and consequently he never advised me as to what he wanted done with the land. After his passing, his brother came to me and said, “Mahārāja, I wish to stay in Kṛṣṇa nagara. Because this land belonged to my late brother, I am now its rightful owner. Kindly transfer this land to my name.”
Doing as he asked, I gave him ownership of that land. When the residents of the maṭha came to know of this, a few of them inquired from me in a surprised manner, “Mahārāja! Madhumaṅgala Prabhu gave you ownership of his land. Why have you transferred it to his brother’s name? Because his brother is a materialistic person, he will use this property for his sense gratification. Would it not have been better for you to sell the land and use the proceeds in the service of the maṭha? Doing this would have brought spiritual welfare for Madhumaṅgala Prabhu.”
I replied, “Will I gain any spiritual welfare by serving the maṭha through such inappropriate means? Has cheating been recommended in any scripture as a limb of bhakti? How is it possible for Śrī Kṛṣṇa— the master of the six-fold opulences and Śrī Rādharāṇī, who is sarva-lakṣmī-mayī (the source of all good fortune and opulence) and worshipful even by the goddess of fortune—to experience scarcity of any sort, so that something must be unfairly obtained for His service?
“Śrī Madhumaṅgala Prabhu did not advise me to engage his property in the service of the maṭha. He transferred it to my name solely for safekeeping, to avoid any future complications or conflicts while he was alive; he did not outrightly donate the land to me. Should I have become governed by or attached to his material asset simply because he unexpectedly left his body without clarifying his desires for the property?”
Accepting objects according to one’s qualification
I continued, “There is no problem in using an object for service if someone intentionally donates it for the service of the maṭha, śrī guru, Vaiṣṇavas and Bhagavān. But I have not been taught to consider somebody else’s property to be my own and then use it in the service of the Supreme Lord.
“While imparting instructions to Śrīla Sanātana Gosvāmī, Śrīman Mahāprabhu gave a very important teaching:
eta saba chāḓi’ āra varṇāśrama dharma
akiñcana haĩyā laya kṛṣṇaika-śaraṇa
Śrī Caitanya-caritāmṛta (Madhya-līla 22.93)
By relinquishing all these things [bad association and kutīnātī, or duplicity] as well as attachment to the principles of varṇāśrama-dharma, one should surrender onto the lotus feet of Śrī Kṛṣṇa, understanding that he has no other shelter or means.
“We cannot attain spiritual welfare without giving up attachment to our worldly perception of gain and loss. I do not consider myself to have gained such a qualification that I may act as I please; I am bound to follow the rules and regulations mentioned in the scriptures. Although qualified individuals may be able to use forcibly acquired objects in the service of the Lord, I am unqualified to do so. If someone engages in an endeavor unbefitting of his qualification, he must later bear the consequences.”
Use in service only what is given willingly
A godsister of mine, Nandarāṇī devī dāsī, once wanted to transfer her house into my name. I declined her offer and suggested that she can instead transfer the ownership of her house into the name of our maṭha. She replied that she was not inclined to donate it to the maṭha, and wished to transfer it into my name alone. I told her, “Mātā-jī, it would be inappropriate for me to accept the ownership of your house in donation, because I am not qualified to do so. And because you do not willingly wish to donate it for the service of the maṭha, my heart does not allow me to accept it now with the intention to later use it in the maṭha’s service by selling it. This, too, would be inappropriate.”
Another time, a lady staying close to our Kolkata maṭha made me the nominee for all her fixed deposits, bank accounts and other financial affairs. After she left her body, her son frequently came to the maṭha to inquire about my whereabouts, but I was away at that time. When I returned to Kolkata, I used part of the lady’s money to arrange for the performance of her śrāddha ceremony, which included a wonderful feast for the Vaiṣṇavas, and I invited all her relatives, as per her desire. After the completion of the ceremony, I gave the remaining money to her son.
Many people who observed that ceremony later told me they too wanted to keep their money with me, so that I could arrange a wonderful śrāddha ceremony after their deaths. They told me, “One’s own children cannot perform a ceremony as ideal as this one.” It is not that I neglected to use her money for the service of śrī guru and Vaiṣṇavas; I surely did use it for such a cause, but I did so purely according to her own wishes. As she did not give any further instructions for the use of the remaining money, I returned the balance to her son. I saw no need to risk spoiling my spiritual welfare by becoming attached to her money.
Accepting objects for ourselves carries consequences
Once, a female devotee from Jagadhārī brought blankets for all the devotees in the maṭha. She distributed one type of blanket to everyone, but brought a different, more expensive blanket especially for me. I told her, “Mātā-jī, I will only accept such a blanket if you are giving it to me so that I may engage it in the service of the maṭha. If you say that it is for my personal use, then I am not in a position to accept it; I am not capable of accepting such an expensive blanket for my own use.”
Hearing this, she did not force me to accept the blanket. Later, one brahmacārī approached her and said, “Since you brought this blanket with the intention of donating it, you may give it to me.” The lady then gave it to the brahmacārī, and though I do not know what events transpired afterward, I observed that he permanently left the maṭha just a few days after accepting it.
Depend only on Bhagavān
The message is that instead of becoming dependent on the people of this world or on our own ability to acquire things by cheating others, we should always remain dependent only on Bhagavān and His dearest devotees, keeping in mind the instructions of our previous ācāryas, as wonderfully summarized by Śrīla Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura:
nijera poṣaṇa, kabhu nā bhāvibô,
rahibô bhāvera bhare
I shall never think about my own maintenance; rather, I shall remain absorbed in bhāva.
śrī-kṛṣṇa-bhajane, anukūla ĵāhā,
tāhe ha’bô anurāgī
bhajanera ĵāhā, pratikūla tāhā,
Kalyāṇa-Kalpataru, (Ucchvāsa 2.6.3, 4)
I shall become attached only to that which is favorable to bhajana of Śrī Kṛṣṇa. I shall firmly reject whatever is unfavorable for bhajana.
jīvana-nirvāhe āne udvega nā dibe
para-upakāre nija-sukha pāsaribe
In the course of leading your life, do not give anxiety to anyone else. For the benefit of others, forget your own comforts.
Considering everything to be the divine arrangement of Śrī Kṛṣṇa and His devotees, one should respectfully accept one’s present situation, remain highly content, and lovingly engage in kṛṣṇa-bhakti. By engaging ourselves in this manner, we will acquire the mercy of the Lord and His devotees, and thus attain our topmost goal.