Business and Pleasure

By Srila Jiva Goswami dasa

Hare Krsna Hare Krsna Krsna Krsna Hare Hare Hare Rama Hare Rama Rama Rama Hare Hare!

Generally, my course on the town run took me from Moundsville to Wheeling and then back through Bethlehem to State Route 88, or the other way, from Wheeling to Moundsville with a return up State Route 250. Sometimes the plan was a little different, as on certain days when I’d go to United Dairy, in Martins Ferry, and sometimes, the plan was very different as it was when I was sent out to retrieve a van Sankirtan Devotees had forgotten needed oil.

Mainly your correspondent performed locally, here in our Ohio Valley. Most purchases were made with a stamp we had crafted. The stamp reproduced the signature of “Arthur Villa” (Kuladri Prabhu, the Temple President). I’d have a list of items, I’d procure them, with the aforementioned stamp, call Madhava Ghosh to see if there were updates on the Town Run, and move on to my next stop.

Not every merchant honored our stamp, though most did. For those who did not accept the New Vrindabana stamp, Dulal Prabhu, the Community Treasurer, issued appropriate New Vrindabana checks to take along. Stamp or check however, one thing all merchants had in common was the fact that New Vrindabana enjoyed tax exempt status.

Tax exempt or not, either way, I did not actually care. I loved the Service. Certainly I’d have carried out that opportunity if New Vrindabana were tax exempt or not.

And so I went on my merry way, Moundsville to Wheeling, Wheeling to Moundsville, with the occasional off route jaunt. It was like heaven to me.

There were many churches I noticed on the town run. I marveled at the signs they had upon their lawns which advertised meat eater’s dinners, gambler’s bingo and other such fund raising activities. Of course the signs didn’t really say, “Meat Eater,” or “Gambler,” but that is how I saw them. It felt safe and good to be affiliated with such a community as New Vrindabana, where the Four Regulative Principles were the standard by which we all tried to live, and the Ten Commandments were not a list of convenience, to be twisted and turned according to our sense desire of the moment.

One day I learned that New Vrindabana was being challenged by local groups with regard to our tax exempt status. At issue was the fact that admission was charged at the Palace of Gold. If we were doing business, the complaint said, we were not entitled to the tax exemption granted to religious organizations. They were saying, in effect, “You can’t charge money and be a church at the same time.”

Dear Reader, you and I know that anyone who declared themselves to be without funds, but expressed a desire to partake at the Simply Wonderful Restaurant, the Palace Restaurant, or the Palace itself, was and is always most welcome. We were distributing Prabhupada’s Books, and sumptuous Prasadama, and we were grateful for the opportunity. The money we might charge was incidental, and never used for personal diversion.

In fact, standard Palace Policy was that if a potential tour taker was from this local area, admission was free.

I have declared that I did not personally care if our status was tax exempt or not. Either way, I’d just do the Service. When it came out that certain religious agencies were challenging our tax exempt status, recalling the various church lawn signs I saw practically every day, I did care. It was the old double standard.

Underneath, it seemed to me, was the notion that the Hare Krsna Movement does not represent an actual religion.

With permission, I took my camera on a few town runs and got pictures of some of the various colorful money raising signs so prominent on many a church lawn.

Bhakteen Sandy perused the local papers and clipped many ads she saw there which spoke of pot luck suppers, XXX (meat) dinners, Bingo and the like. Of course these endeavors were for the purpose of garnering funds. Of course these churches were enjoying tax exempt status.

The difference between us and them, to me, was like the difference between gold and pewter. Not only were these other institutions raising money while enjoying tax exempt status, they were doing so by means which were by Krsna Conscious Lights, illicit.

I turned in my materials with a report. The call to strip New Vrindabana of tax exempt status was immediately withdrawn, and an outreach “what do we have in common” philosophy was taken up and enacted.

Those events sparkle in my memory here years later. Thank you for allowing me to share them with you.

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