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Story: The Greatest Social Service


Given below is a true story that illustrates what is the topmost service that one can render to society, if one is interested in benefiting others: Once Srila Prabhupada visited the house of a wealthy businessman during his Pune trip. While having dinner, the businessman asked Srila Prabhupada a question, "Please do not mistake me, but why does ISKCON not feed the poor instead of just worshiping God?"


Srila Prabhupada replied with a story. "Suppose you go to the North to meet your close friend, the richest man of India, say Mr. Tata. You stay with him, eat with him, chat with him, relax with him and, after a couple of weeks, you return to Pune. And while going in your car in Pune one day, you happen to see the son of Tata wandering on the streets like a vagabond, totally drunk, with clothes tattered and hair disheveled. What will you do? You may just feel sorry for his plight and go away. Or you may give him a plate of food and go away; or you may take out a five hundred rupee note and offer it to him in donation.Or you may take him by your hand, put him in your car and take him home. You may let him take rest, get him bathed and offer him food. When he comes back to normalcy, you sit with him and tell him about the glories of his father Tata. Then he reveals the misunderstanding he had with his father. By suitably explaining to him, if you clarify his misconceptions, then he will again appreciate the love of his father and will want to return back to his father. And then, all you need to do is to call his father, "Mr. Tata, your son is very safe here with me. Please come and pick him up." And very soon there is a joyous reunion between son and father. In this way Tata's son goes back to Tata and lives happily thereafter."


Srila Prabhupada then explained the meaning of the story, "Similarly every living being is the son of Lord Krishna, who is the supremely wealthy person, being the husband of the goddess of fortune Lakshmidevi. But now because of his rebellious nature, he has left his Supreme Father and come to this world to enjoy separate from Him. Such a living being is now wandering in this world like a penniless beggar, suffering in innumerable ways. Giving food, clothing, shelter or even job does not free him from sinful propensity or greed. He therefore continues to suffer in the material world. On the other hand, if one explains to the suffering living entity the glory of his eternal father, Krishna and teaches him to chant the Holy Names, the Hare Krishna mahamantra, then by that devotional service he becomes purified and returns back home, back to Godhead to live happily forever with his eternal father, Lord Sri Krishna."


Now Srila Prabhupada asked his host, "You tell me, what is the greatest service - to give food, clothing, medicine etc or to take a lost son back to his millionaire father?" Immediately the businessman agreed, "A devotee who takes the living entity back home, back to Godhead is the greatest well wisher of everyone and is undoubtedly the greatest welfare worker."