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The Greatest Welfare Work
Often people ask devotees a question, "You people are just chanting Hare Krishna all the time. Why don't you feed the poor? Why don't you treat the sick by building hospitals? At least that way you can serve people." Srila Prabhupada has mercifully given many examples and stories to illustrate how it is not enough to take care of the body; it is necessary to nourish the soul by genuine spiritual education and practices.
Once a lady got a beautiful pet parrot. She bought a golden cage for the parrot. Every day she would meticulously wipe and clean the cage. After a week when one of her friends visited her house, the lady proudly showed her the parrot in the golden cage. Her friend exclaimed, "My dear friend! You have spent so much time in cleaning the cage and making it more beautiful, but you have neglected to feed the parrot inside. See your parrot, its dying!" Similarly people in this age take so much care of the body by going to the gymnasium, by jogging, by wearing beautiful clothes, by providing all comforts to the body, but the body is only a temporary place of residence for the real personality, the soul just as the cage is for the parrot. Because they do not feed spiritual food to the soul, they are not able to become happy, despite all their efforts blissful spiritual life is.
Real welfare work is to realize one's spiritual identity, practice one's own spiritual duty and teach the same to others.Once a millionaire landlord was swimming in a river. Suddenly a strong current came and started carrying the wealthy man deep into the river. Seeing him drowning, the people on the bank started shouting, "Help! Help! Save this drowning man." Hearing the commotion, a well-built but poor young man came there. Seeing that the wealthy man was wearing a golden coat, the young man jumped into the river. He fought against the current, reached the wealthy man grabbed his golden coat and returned to the river bank. Meanwhile the wealthy man drowned to death. The young man showed the golden coat to the people, "See, somehow I saved the costly golden coat." Do you think people appreciated him? They chastised him, "You fool! If you had saved the wealthy man, he would have awarded you lakhs of rupees."
Just as we change our coat everyday, the soul changes its body after death. Thus the body is like a coat for the soul. Feeding food, supplying clothes, providing medicines etc may be good for the body, but they hardly benefit the soul. Doing these services for the body without providing for the needs of the soul is like saving the golden coat of the man while letting him drown.