Continuing on the theme of pay and if we should be paid for service and if so how much, there is as always a lot of gray area and the argument is divided into two camps; those who feel that there is a necessity for devotees to be paid and it does not detract from or diminishes the quality of service, and those who feel strongly that if devotees are getting paid to work in the temple or center, then this cannot in any way be counted as service.
We see in many spiritual organizations that this issue over pay has been addressed in a variety of ways, from those who work and support their ministry service to those who are supported by the local congregation or spiritual organization they are part of.
It reminded me of one minister who worked as a plumber during the week, lived very humbly, and in the evenings and weekends was fully engaged in church activities leading and taking many of them, including the maintenance of the church buildings.
I recall a conversation we had and a letter he had received from the church authorities stating the minimum that should be provided by him from the local congregation, the list wasn’t long: a simple house, a simple call along with a small allowance to support his family. He read this with a large hearty laugh; it was after all a poor community with mass unemployment. His realization was that if he asked or demanded all on the list he would be much better off than most of his congregation and it would for many become a hinderance and a bit like Job would be open to ridicule “you only do this because of all you get.”
What impressed me was the simple fact that he remained practical, not focused on his own needs but of that of those he serves.
My thoughts moved to what a list would look like in terms of temple/centre devotees; what would we include as a necessity, a requirement for devotional life, and allowing them to focus on service without worry.
Here is my humble list for what it’s worth:
Temple room for obvious reasons; all temple/center devotees should have access at all times and should be kept warm for both deities and devotees (I have been in temples were several layers were needed to keep warm and you could write with your breath).
Accommodation should be provided for all who serve full time in the temple, should be owned by the temple, and of a high but humble standard
Prasadam, balanced and nutritional
Netbook/laptop with vedabase and internet access (including e-mail). This makes study and research much easier for devotees, as more communicate via IT this will make reaching out to people and keeping in touch easier.
Mobile phone for similar reasons: to keep in touch with congregation members and those that are interested in making progress or find out about devotional life (in my early days one devotee sent me the most amazing texts and kept me very much motivated and focused); also one of security.
Pool car/vans which are well maintained and fuel allowance to get to programs, towns and cities for book distribution.
Personal allowance for those small things.
My feeling is that if there is a clear guideline and rational as to what temple/center devotees get would in some ways help to pacify those who choose to ridicule.
But as the minister showed, we have to be sensitive and adjust to time, place, and circumstances.
But then if we see those who serve in the temple owning several large houses and taking what appears to be a disproportional high wage, when a majority who attend the centers every week cannot afford such opulence, then some ridicule should be expected I guess; even though we truly do not know the full reasons why.