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Sunday, June 11, 2006

Stealing in the name of the Lord

“Stealing from the karmīs engages them in devotional service” is an abominable apasiddhānta which isn’t supported by śāstra and logic. A gift consciously and voluntarily given with love and devotion – only that engages the ‘karmīs’ in devotional service! Stealing by a ‘devotee’ is rather a sin for which the devotee will have to suffer reactions, period. In Caitanya Caritāmṛta we find the story of Gopīnāth Paṭṭanāyaka, who was corrupt and stole royal revenue. Due to his family ties with Rāmānanda Rāya, Kāśī Miśra got him [quite literally] off the hook with the king, which could be seen as proxy protection by Mahāprabhu, but only just. Still Mahāprabhu said that he should not steal. In Caitanya Caritāmṛta, Antya 9.88-92, Kāśī Miśra quotes Mahāprabhu to Mahārāja Pratāpa-rudra:

‘Gopīnāth lost control over his senses and misappropriates the king’s revenues for that. The king’s property is more sacred even than the property of a Brahmin, and this great sinner has stolen it for his own enjoyment. He should be punished by the king – that is the verdict of the śāstra. The king is very lenient and pious that he does not punish him. He does not pay his revenue to the king and now he is being punished he is crying out to Me for help – who can tolerate this?”

Later, when Gopīnāth got amnesty, everyone was relieved, but Mahāprabhu reiterated:

“You must follow this order of Mine – Do not misappropriate the king’s wealth. If anything is left after paying dues to the king then spend it on religious affairs. If you are corrupt you will perish in this life and the next.” (CC Antya 9.142-144)

There is nothing ‘transcendental to mundane morality’ in stealing by a Vaiṣṇava, as Śrīla Raghunātha Dās Gosvāmī warns in Manaḥ Śikṣā, verse 2 – na dharmaṁ nādharmaṁ – “Do not perform mundane virtue, but also no mundane sins!” Crime in devotional service is not ‘transcendental’, rather it is an offence to the chanting of the holy name called nāmno balād yasya hi pāpa buddhiḥ: “Sinning on strength of the holy name” thinking that the sin will be obliterated by chanting the holy name after, or even during the crime.

When I returned from the 1983 Ratha-Yatra Festival in Puri, I told Sādhu Bābā that the Orissa Railway Police took boys and men that were riding without ticket off the train and beat them up. Bābā said: “Very well – and when they are finished they can send them to me and I will beat them up again!” Bābā also forbade his merchant disciples to cheat in the marketplace.

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