Or Thieves' Den?
By PARAMHANSA YOGANANDA
Steps Toward the Attaining of the Consciousness
Which was in Christ Jesus
And when he was come near, he beheld the city, and wept over it, Saying, If thou hadst known, even thou, at last in this thy day, the things which belong unto thy peace! but now they are hid from thine eyes. For the days shall come upon thee, that thine enemies shall cast a trench about thee, and compass thee round, and keep thee in on every side, And shall lay thee even with the ground, and thy children within thee; and they shall not leave in thee one stone upon another; because thou knewest not the time of thy visitation. -Luke 19:41-44.
"0 Jerusalem, I weep for you! If you only knew at the present time all the political, social and divine peace which you are enjoying due to my presence! But you fail to see this great opportunity the Divine Father is giving you to acquire everlasting peace. The day will arrive, 0 people of Jerusalem, when the wisdom of you and your children will be shrouded beneath the soil of ignorance and the edifice of order and harmony will disintegrate into stony rubble because you neither know nor appreciate this visitation of the Divine-as expressed in me-which was ordained for your benefit and upliftment."
So Jesus expressed the sorrowful compassion which he felt during his triumphant entry into Jerusalem. He did not speak egotistically, but impersonally glorified the great God which he felt within himself, and grieved that the people of Jerusalem did not realize the importance of this divine manifestation. He sorrowed because these people who were endowed with intelligence and free will were foolish and blind enough not to appreciate the unlimited divine power within him and thus become liberated in huge numbers. As he watched them Jesus realized, and prophesied, that because of this lack of spiritual appreciation the people of Jerusalem in the future would be pestered by war, famine, and increasing spiritual ignorance.
And when he was come into Jerusalem, all the city was moved, saying, Who is this? And the multitude said, This is Jesus the prophet of Nazareth of Galilee.
And Jesus went into the temple of God, and cast out all them that sold and bought in the temple, and overthrew the tables of the moneychangers, and the seats of them that sold doves.
And said unto them, It is written, My house shall be called the house of prayer; but ye have made it a den of thieves.-Matthew 21:10-13.
All prophets agree that any temple dedicated to worship of the one God - in any of His forms should be a house of meditation and communion, and not a place where, by organized graft, unscrupulous vendors and materialistic priests make it their sole object to exploit the pilgrims and worshippers.
When Jesus rebuked them by saying, "The scriptures declare that my temple shall be a house of God communion, but you have made it a center for robbing people by priestcraft, and by the selling of unnecessary commodities!" he did not mean that it is sinful for church members to give voluntary offerings, or to buy religious literature to help the church.
When the proceeds from the sale of God-awakening literature are used for furthering the divine cause it is religiously justifiable, and it is all right to take a voluntary offering if that is used for the maintenance of the house of God where people can come for communion and prayer. But it should always be remembered that the church proper must be a place entirely dedicated to awakening in man the consciousness of God, and all kinds of material activity must be avoided there as much as possible.
Jesus meant that the church should not be a place for "moneychangers and salesmen of doves and pigeons"-that is, a place where the emphasis is upon the sale of amulets, souvenirs and all manner of superstition- inspired "aids" to help the worshipper obtain God's grace. Today all the leading religions of the world have some temples whose custodians deserve a rebuke such as that delivered by Jesus. Nor should any temple be a place where the priest (minister, custodian, etc.) day and night thinks of exploiting the worshippers through fear or flattery, and never strives to inspire them with the Divine Presence by communing with God within himself first.
In India, the pilgrims visiting a temple put their voluntary donations in a collection box, or place their offerings on the altar. In real temples, where the presence of God is devotedly courted, no money is solicited within the place of worship. If people conduct any sort of business in God's temple, they leave there business vibrations which disturb the thoughts of true devotees. That is why in the house of prayer there must be no contradictory vibrations, no clashing of material and spiritual thoughts.
A house of God must be neither a place for worshipping the personality of His earthly representative, nor just a convenient spot for listening to intellectual or emotional sermons, nor a comfortable place to enjoy good music without centering one's thoughts upon God.
The Lord's house, and whatever is done there, must have one purpose - direct individual communion with God. Otherwise, it is changed into a den where thieves of materialism and wrong vibrations hold supreme sway.
In the hermitages of India, where great Masters live, there is very little of that form of preaching in which the Master does most of the thinking for the disciples-as it is done in the Western churches. Instead, in the oriental hermitages, the Master and the disciple often sit together and discuss spiritual principles. And together, or individually, through the techniques of concentration and meditation they try to commune with God.
Western churches will profit spiritually when they are no longer places which seek to attract congregations by new and unusual Sunday sermons-places for intellectual or emotional entertainment -but have become temples where leaders and members in unison can commune with Christ consciousness and Cosmic Consciousness.
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