Don't Judge a Book By Its Cover
Posted November 27, 2008
This seems like such common sense, but I was shocked to find out that the attitude still prevails in some places and some people, that one's external presentation reveals one's level of devotion.
Only Krishna can see all our daily activities, hear all our daily prayers, understand our heart's motivation for that which we do and say, and knows our sincerity and feelings of devotion for Him.
One can wear tilaka and dhoti/sari each day, but be mean to others. On the other hand, one can work outside of the temple and be conscious of Krishna. One might even have a duty to live and work outside of the temple because in the Bhagavad Gita Krishna instructs us to act according to our nature, and to do our work in consciousness of Him.
One might not go to the temple program, but might be chanting and hearing at home, or may be out sharing Krishna consciousness with others.
We just have to be really careful before we judge another person's level of devotion based on external things like the clothes they wear, whether or not they are initiated, (real initiation takes place within the heart and can happen before, after, or during the fire sacrifice), whether they live at or regularly attend temple programs, and whether they work a "karmi" job or not. That expression "karmi" job seems like a misnomer even, because if one is working for Krishna, giving Him the fruits of one's labor, and working in consciousness of Him, that job is not a karmi job but an honest act of sacrifice and devotion for the Lord.
Besides, if we all stay in a closed world, how will we be able to preach and relate with or understand/have genuine compassion for other people? If we stay closed, fearing the outside world, we will just continue to live in the fantasy that we are the only saved people and are super spiritually advanced while everyone else is a karmi. In reality, Krishna is in everyone's hearts, and a genuinely spiritually advanced person can see Krishna everywhere, knows how to relate to different people and avoid bad association even while interacting with the outside world, and can see good in everyone, and see everyone as guru - we can learn something from every person, place, and situation if we are willing to try. Even if we are not very spiritually advanced but live and work in the world, this is still a recommended path for gradual renunciation and advancement, rather than abrupt artificial renunciation with internal repression. Of course it is within some people's natures to live a very simple life in the temple ashram, but those whose nature is to work, attend school, etc should not be viewed as lesser devotees or even worse "blooped" devotees, for they still may be working in consciousness of Krishna.
I feel in general, we need to become a little more broad minded, and try to understand that Krishna can reveal Himself at any time and place to a person based on their heartfelt desires and sincerity of purpose, not just based on the clothes they wear or the rituals they follow.
I find it very hurtful actually when devotees look down upon other devotees based on external things, without taking time to understand the other person's heart.