By Sita-pati das
On the subject of “devotee maintenance”, we have to continue to forge ahead with creating a proper social structure in ISKCON. We need to “redefine the classic concept of devotee maintenance”. We all need to start giving charity to brahmanas as a matter of duty.
One should never think that they are “maintaining” a brahmana.
The brahmanas are born of the head of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, and are the representatives in human form of Lord Visnu. Through the mouth of the brahmana the Lord eats, and speaks.
Therefore by feeding the brahmana (including giving him money with which to purchase food), one feeds the Supreme Lord. But it is not that the Lord ‘”needs our dhal and chapatis”, rather we are afforded the opportunity to make an offering out of love, or out of duty.
Charity should be given to a brahmana at the proper time and place, in the proper way, and with the proper consciousness. We do not maintain the brahmana. The Supreme Lord maintains us all - nityo nityanam, cetanas cetananam / eko bahunam yo vidadhati kaman, and the brahmana is His representative.
Brahmanas have six activities - studying scripture and teaching scripture, worshiping the Deity and teaching others to worship the Deity, accepting charity on behalf of the Supreme Lord and redistributing in charity.
The members of society should be trained and encouraged to offer charity to the brahmana for their own welfare. The Lord gains nothing from our sacrifice - He is the proprietor of everything - but we loosen our attachment to the false sense of ownership and misconception of the nature of this world by surrendering our so-called possessions to Him.
Because the income of a brahmana is decoupled from his activities, he is free to speak the truth without duress or bias. This is a such a valuable commodity in society that its worth cannot be overestimated. A brahmana speaks only the truth. Brahmanas adjudicate in disputes, give advice, and bring the qualities of clarity and honesty to the social body.
The brahmana is detached from the things that he is given. He understands that he must maintain the body that he is responsible for, as a service. Otherwise he is not an accumulator of wealth. Whatever is surplus to the requirements of his maintenance he will redistribute.
Now think about this: brahmanas represent something on the order of 5% of human society.
If the other 95% of human society gives 10% of their wealth to them, suddenly the brahmanas become some of the wealthiest people in the society. Because they are detached from the wealth and redistribute it as a duty, they are uniquely situated to give to those in need. It is said that brahmana must redistribute whatever he cannot use on the same day that he receives it. Therefore a perfect system of wealth redistribution and social welfare is created.
Krishna’s system for human civilization is perfect. Remember: you do not maintain a brahmana - it is your duty and a privilege to give him something in charity.
What’s a practical action step? Think long and hard about the brahminical qualities and activities (guna and karma), take advice from senior members in your community, and identify and give charity to a brahmana. Without attachment to the results. Do it for your own purification. The rest will follow.