Original article posted on http://www.dandavats.com on August 11th 2006
ABOUT THE OFFENSIVE RUDENESS AND PRESUMPTOUSNESS OF POSITIVELY DENYING TO OFFER ALL ARTICLES FIRST TO SRILA PRABHUPADA ON THE TEMPLE VYASASANA.
2006.2. Improved Version 2014.2
The author of this article has noticed that there sometimes arises a doubt about the propriety of offering all articles such as ghee lamp, water, flowers and perfume first and directly to Srila Prabhupada seated on the temple room Vyasasana. This article aims to help eradicate such doubts. It was originally written as a proposal to the 2006 Mayapur AGM of the Governing Body Commission of ISKCON and has now been amended and improved. The proposal was not adopted at the time.
Among other explanations, Collins English dictionary 4th Australian Edition page 1344 gives for “rude” the following. 1) insulting or uncivil; discourteous; impolite 2) lacking refinement, coarse or uncouth 3) vulgar or obscene etc. etc…
and page 1225 for “presumption”: …2) bold or insolent behaviour or manners
“Presume” is given as 1) to take (something) for granted. 2) to take upon oneself (to do something) without warrant or permission; dare
PANCARATRA PRADIPA DIRECTIONS
The Pancaratra Pradipa compiled by the GBC Deity Worship Research Group and published by ISKCON GBC Press in 1994 states on page 192, triple asterisk:
“In ISKCON temples the lamp is brought first to Srila Prabhupada, the Founder-Acarya of ISKCON, as he is the Vaishnava-srestha, the leader of the assembled Vaishnavas. After being held briefly for Srila Prabhupada to touch the fire (it should not be waved in circles, as in the arati), the lamp should be taken among the assembled Vaishnavas, in order of seniority. The person offering the prasada lamp for touching should be sensitive to the seniority of the assembled devotees; the assembled devotees, however, should not be overly sensitive if missed when the lamp is offered. The lamp is not meant to show respect or honor to us, but rather we are meant to offer respect to the lamp as the Lord’s prasada by touching the fire to our foreheads with both hands.”
Because Pancaratra Pradipa is compiled by the GBC Deity Worship Research Group and because it is published by ISKCON GBC PRESS, we shall assume in our discussion that the content of the book is fully endorsed by the Governing Body Commission of ISKCON and consequently fully authoritative. It is regrettable however, that considering its importance and relevance, this particular matter is given as a footnote only and is not given more exposure in the book. However the basic and bona fide direction is given here and the formulation is very nice.
In some ISKCON temples the offensive procedure is unfortunately institutionalized. That is to say that after leaving the altar all articles are offered directly to the second most senior Vaishnava in the temple room, thus effectively ignoring the presence of the senior most Vaishnava, His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, the Founder-Acarya of ISKCON, Institutor of the BBT, Founder of BTG magazine in 1944 and translator and commentator of Bhagavad-Gita As It Is, seated on the temple room Vyasasana.
By accepting the article, the second most senior Vaishnava, be he / she a Governing Body Commissioner, a sannyasi, an ISKCON Guru, a temple president or whoever he / she may be, wittingly or unwittingly usurps the position of the most senior Vaishnava, creating thus an intolerable situation due to the pre-eminent position of the Founder-Acarya for the life of the ISKCON movement. Under the circumstances Srila Prabhupada may ask the question: “Who is the Founder-Acarya of ISKCON, him / her or Me?” just as he asked His Grace Dhananjaya Das in Rome, 1974 about His Grace Madhusevita Das: ”Is he preaching or am I preaching?” (Madhusevita Vyasapuja offering 2014).
We should carefully note in this respect that it is not because offensiveness to the Founder-Acarya of ISKCON or otherwise is institutionalized, that it looses its devotionally counterproductive nature. On the contrary, the negative reactions incurred thereby are increased exponentially because of the pre-eminent role ISKCON is expected to play in the spiritual welfare of this planet and consequently the increasing number of people who are thus being misled and thereby suffer the contrary reactions. The same line of reasoning applies indeed to any type of ISKCON misleading now or in the future. I therefore propose herewith to institutionalize the offenceless way, as enjoined in the Pancaratra Pradipa, for all ISKCON temples throughout the world. For the more progressive temples this resolution will entail no changes at all. The others will simply be asked to make appropriate changes and thus catch up.
We beg to remind those who argue that their temple circumstances are not really suited for this ritual that our kind and staunch Srila Prabhupada underwent extreme difficulties, such as the fury of the ocean, the several heart attacks, the lack of support etc. etc… all at the grand age of seventy years, in crossing the oceans on the Jaladuta steamer just for the purpose to come and save us from the ocean of material existence. We shall therefore humbly request them, to please, in this instance also, show gratitude – the main theme of the 2005 international Vyasa Puja book, according to His Grace Dravida Prabhu – and to not hesitate to ply or cause to ply through an ocean of devotees in order to first and directly present the articles to our Founder-Acarya, Srila Prabhupada, seated on the temple Vyasasana. In the process, it will not be inappropriate for the article carrier to offer obeisances twice to His Divine Grace. “As soon as one sees guru, immediately he must offer obeisances. Beginning, end. When he comes to see guru he must offer obeisances, and when he leaves that place he must offer obeisances. And in the in-between, coming and going, he should learn from the guru Vedic understanding. This is the principle of living in gurukula.” 760414SB.Mumbai
If we were to ask representatives of the offensive party the following question: “Would you agree to first offer the articles to Srila Prabhupada, if He were physically and personally sitting on the Vyasasana?” We can imagine that the response would be something like: ”O yes, of course, if Srila Prabhupada were actually seated on the Vyasasana, if He were physically present among us how could we neglect Him?”
The actual fact is that Srila Prabhupada is personally present among us right now. Srila Prabhupada is actually sitting on the temple vyasasana and he reciprocates with us as we deal with Him. On the one extreme, it is not impossible for Srila Prabhupada to just leave the Vyasasana and temple room for good. Vaishnavism is an eminently personal philosophy and praxis. It is neither impersonal, void nor disrespectful.
3rd stanza of Mahaprabhu’s Sri Siksastakam.
trinad api sunicena, taror api sahishnuna
amanina manadena, kirtaniya sada hari
“One should chant the Holy Name of the Lord in a humble state of mind, thinking oneself lower than the straw in the street; one should be more tolerant than a tree, devoid of all sense of false prestige, AND READY TO OFFER ALL RESPECT TO OTHERS. In such a state of mind one can chant the Holy Name of the Lord constantly.”
Therefore we have no alternative but to charge that those who advocate, as well as those who tolerate the offensive way, do not fully and seriously realize or accept the spiritual identity of the person Srila Prabhupada and His murti or picture representation. In other words, their vision is materially tinged, which after all is not such an amazing thing. But we must also see that we progress at a steady pace on the path of devotional service and remain open to positive and progressive changes. In the material world a picture or statue of a person is different from the person represented. In the spiritual realm the opposite is true. The picture, the statue and the person are all transcendentally one and are invested with the same spiritual potencies.
It may also be said that this type of offensive behaviour is still a surviving relic of the same immature and thought-wanting mentality of the early ISKCON Guru days, when it was considered by some that by simple imitation of the superficial aspects of the behaviour of the Founder-Acarya an equal Guru status would automatically be achieved.
FAILING TO OFFER THE ARTICLES REPRESENTS SIMPLY A DRY RITUALISTIC INTERPRETATION OF THINGS AND AN OFFENSIVE ONE AS WELL.
THE ARTICLES MAY AND SHOULD BE OFFERED TO SRILA PRABHUPADA ON THE ALTAR. BUT TO ACTIVELY BEGRUDGE THE OFFERING OF THE ARTICLES TO SRILA PRABHUPADA ON THE TEMPLE VYASASANA FOR A SECOND TIME IS A SYMPTOM AS WELL AS AN OPEN EXPRESSION OF SUBTLE ENVY – THE ALL-PERVADING MATERIAL DISEASE – TOWARDS BOTH THE FOUNDER-ACARYA OF ISKCON AND THE SUPREME PERSONALITY OF GODHEAD HIMSELF, WHICH HE REPRESENTS DIRECTLY. Clearly, envy of the Supreme Personality of Godhead or His representatives is a stumbling block on the path of self-realization as Sri Krishna expresses positively in Bhagavad-Gita As It Is 9.1:
“The Supreme Personality of Godhead said: My dear Arjuna, because you are never envious of Me, I shall impart to you this most confidential knowledge and realization, knowing which you shall be relieved of the miseries of material existence.”
THE BOTTOM LINE IS THAT ONE CANNOT IGNORE THE PRESENCE OF SRILA PRABHUPADA IN THE TEMPLE ROOM AND THE ARTICLES OUGHT TO BE OFFERED TO HIM AGAIN.
In conclusion, please let me quote SB 11.17.27:
acaryam mam vijaniyan
One should know the Acarya as Myself and never disrespect him in any way. One should not envy him, thinking him an ordinary man, for he is the representative of all the demigods.
Jaya om Vishnupada Paramahamsa Parivrajakacaraya astottara-sata Sri Srimad A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Srila Prabhupada ki jaya!!!
Begging to remain yours in divine service,
Yadavendra das (ACBSP)
November 30 2014
Canberra ACT, Australia.