Receiving guests at the Temple
Quotes from Radhanath Swami
1) From letters
“The culmination of all our preaching efforts is when a sincere soul experiences his or her spiritual home when they visit our temple. I cannot overestimate the great importance the service, which you have accepted as a guest receptionist. I am most indebted to you for taking this service so seriously. Any person who ever visits our temple should feel so personally welcomed that they feel they have made a true friend. A devotee who genuinely is concerned with their spiritual lives. The beauty of the temple may attract people to come, but it is the hospitality of devotees, which will attract them to sincerely hear the divine message of Srila Prabhupada.” (Dated 16th July, 1998)
“For many years I dreamt of having a first class Guest Reception Department. You are so kindly fulfilling that dream. Each and every congregational devotee, guest and temple devotee should be lovingly greeted with sweet words, folded palms, literature, caranamrita and prasadam. Make them feel that they have finally arrived in their eternal home at the lotus feet of Krishna. Your goal should be to treat people so nicely that they will come back again and again. To those who wish to hear, offer them a sitting place, and graciously discuss Hari-Katha. To those who wish only Darshan, graciously encourage them to receive causeless mercy of the Lord. When possible, take names and offer them to our database. Offer services to those who are sincere according to their spiritual needs. The overall spirit of our temple should be established by this wonderful service.” (Dated 15th May, 1999)
“Thank you very much for your sincere service. We should not be attached to the results but rather we should be attached to pleasing Lord Krishna and the devotees by our honest efforts. May Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu bless your devotional
service.”(Dated 14th Oct, 1999)
Guest is considered to be someone who is sent by Krishna. When guests come to our temple, Sri Radha Gopinath Temple, its Prabhupada’s temple and every single devotee who has faith in Prabhupada. We are the caretakers of this temple. Not only the department of Guest Reception but everyone, everyone should be eager and anxious to receive any guest that comes to the temple in such a way that they feel Prabhupada’s love for Krishna. No one should walk in these doors without feeling Prabhupada’s love for Krishna and Prabhupada’s love for them. And how will they feel that? Through us, through how we treat them, through how we speak to them, through how we respect and honor them. We are the vessels, we are all representatives. They are coming to Radha Gopinath’s personal guests. As Srila Prabhupada’s guests into their house. And we are the servants. If a rich person has a guest and the butler or maid or the servant of the house mistreats them, they will be cast away. So it is everyone’s duty. Any guest that comes, from India, from abroad should give them, whether we have lot or little, that is not important. It is the spirit of affection, spirit of respect, the spirit of servitude. (Lect. dated 12.1.03, SB: 4.21.4)
Actually in our temple, Sri Sri Radha Gopinath temple, We should try to adopt the spirit. We should know that this is Radharani and Sri Gopinath’s home. This is the home of Lord Nityanand Prabhu, Lord Gauranga Mahaprabhu. Srila Prabhupada is the caretaker, he is teaching us how to take care of their home. We have been quoting Srila Prabhupada’s instructions. So anyone who comes through these doors of this temple, we should know they are special guests caring to visit the Supreme Personality of Godhead and it is expected of us to give them such hospitality, without discrimination, what their material status in society may be. They should be given affectionate loving words. They should feel wonderful. Srila Prabhupada explains this principle is so important. When a guest comes to the house of a king, he gives them royal treatment, but even if you are very poor, if you give that person a little straw mat, a little water and affectionate words, you will completely satisfy him, or her. So this must be established, when people come they should be welcomes with affectionate words. They should be given a nice explanation of the Deities. They should be given some nice Krishna Prasadam. They should feel by the by the love and behavior of the devotees towards them that they have entered into Vaikuntha, the spiritual world. S owe should try to establish this principle, as far as possible. And not only for guests but even for devotees, the residents who live here, even congregational devotees when they come they are also like guests. We should feel like that, we should try to welcome them with great affection, make feel very happy, comfortable, give them love of Vaishnava and this type of exchange will bring about the real presence of Krishna. Because Krishna is revealed through the loving exchanges of devotees, through this process He is pleased to make His presence known to the world. (Lect. dated 5.9.95, SB: 1.13.9, #767)
II) Personal Instructions
“Treat every guest as a special friend of Sri Sri Radha Gopinath.”
“Everyone should love you.”
(This means when guests come to our temple, they should feel free to express their feelings. They should feel that they are meeting a real friend. They should develop very god relationships. It is not that only when they come to the temple they open their hearts, but when they go back, they should be calling by phone to us and we should also be calling to them.)
Try to maintain Vaikuntha atmosphere in the temple.”
(What is Vaikuntha atmosphere? It is spiritual world, which is free from anxiety. So when guests come to our temple they should not feel any anxiety. Therefore resident devotees should be expert in making them comfortable by sweet words, by some prasadam, taking care of their basic needs. The Temple-hall and the whole surrounding should be neat and clean. Everything should be kept at proper places. There should not be dirty things lying here and there.
In Vaikuntha, the mood of the devotees is to become the servant of the servant and put the Lord in the center. This mod should be reflected through one’s words, behavior and dealings with other devotees, between the departments. When the guess see devotees quarreling or having conflicts with each other, they carry these impressions with them & they remain in their minds throughout their lives. (First impression is the last impression). They will never forget. Therefore every resident should be extremely careful in the presence of newcomers, although he or she may not be directly engaged into this service.
Srila Prabhupada also said that his temples are in Vaikuntha, so it is the duty of everyone to create that Vaikuntha atmosphere in the temple.)
“Better one moon than thousands of stars”
(This means that one should not be hankering to make everyone devotee, but to understand each person & guide them according to their level. Quality is important than quantity. Also one should be attached to the results of one’s service.)
III)Question asked by H.G. Krishnanaam Prabhu to H.H. Radhanath Swami Maharaj
H.G. Krishnanaam Prabhu: Maharaj you mentioned about serving devotees. Sometimes we find that we would like to serve devotees but somehow the resources that are available with us is not adequate to serve them. The resources that we have we.., when we try to use them for serving devotees, we find that actually since we are not able to serve them it becomes a disservice to them. So in that case what should one do?
His Holiness Radhanath Swami Maharaj: The 1st thing you should do is give an example so I have a clear understanding of your question
H.G. Krishnanaam Prabhu: Let us say that some devotees want to stay at our house but the place that is there or the facilities that are there in the house is not adequate to service all the devotees. But the situation sometimes is that somehow the devotees because of either a festival in the temple or some other necessity there is, the devotees need to be accommodated. But since the facilities are not adequate we find that we feel that actually providing them accommodation is actually becoming a disservice. So in such a situation should we accommodate the devotees even in those conditions or should we accommodate fewer devotees. This is just an example Maharaj can be extended to other things also.
His Holiness Radhanath Swami Maharaj: Krishna Consciousness everything should be done in a very personal way. What I would recommend that you consider is – what is best for the persons. If there is another accommodation available, where those people can be treated much nicer and more comfortable, then you should arrange for them to go there. If there is no other accommodation, and they will just be crowded in the Mataji’s ashram or the brahmachari ashram which for many people is very difficult, even your house not upto the standard you would like may be far more comfortable than what that would be or then any other alternative. So if it is within your means to accommodate them, it may be second-class by your standards but every other alternative of everywhere else is third or fourth class then you are doing on behalf of Radha Gopinath congregation you are doing the best that can be possibly be offered to him under the circumstances. If you can somehow or other make it of a higher quality of course that is better. So our consciousness should be according to the means that we have. We should try to do the best possible service we can to make the devotees the most happy, comfortable and situated in Krishna Consciousness. If it is not too difficult for you to accommodate an over crowded people you should simply like this – think will they be more happy overcrowded in my house or somewhere else.
Rather than only thinking – Am I doing the best that could be done. We should be thinking – Are they getting the best they could possibly get. And you should just try your best. And generally devotees, it is the spirit of hospitality that they appreciate more than spacious facilities. When People come from other places they are not expecting so much materially. But when they are treated with respect and with love, and they see their hosts are very attentively trying to please them and help them even though they have very little, devotees are overwhelmed by that. They are very very happy. So it is that spirit to please that is the most important part of hospitality. Facilities are secondary. Does that answer your question?
Hare Krishna !!!