FAQ's

 

Brahmana threads/ Gayatri mantra

 

·         Some devotees wear the Deities maha-prasada brahmana threads around their wrists. Is this ok?

Aksayananda: [break] ...thread from the deity, the old sacred thread, and they tie it on their wrist. They tie it here.

Prabhupada: Who?

Aksayananda: Some of the devotees have started to do that now.

Prabhupada: Why?

Aksayananda: I don’t know. It’s just like wearing beads. The sacred thread from the deity, after replacing, they take the old one and they wear it here.

Prabhupada: Who has told them?

Aksayananda: I don’t know.

Prabhupada: Then why...

Aksayananda: Well, I told one boy to stop it, and because I couldn’t quote any authority, he keeps wearing...

Prabhupada: No, no, there is no author.... Where is his authority?

Aksayananda: Yes.

Prabhupada: This nonsense should be stopped.

Aksayananda: Yes, I thought it was wrong. That’s why I mentioned it. I wanted to make sure.

Prabhupada: Stop this.

Aksayananda: Okay. Sure.

Hari-sauri: I think their idea is that because it’s prasadam, it’s from the deity, that they’re able to wear it.

Prabhupada: That is another concoction. The sacred thread is not used like that, in the hand.

Morning Walk -- April 7, 1976, Vrndavana

 

Cleanliness

 

·         If there is no one else to worship the deities can women worship or cook for the Deities in their period of contamination.

According to the smarta vidhi, women cannot touch deity during menstrual period but the goswami viddhi allows. But it is better not to do it. One thing is that the seva can never be stopped for any reason. This also for the cooking.

Letter, 13 August, 1974

 

Dressing

 

·         Is it all right to show Srimati Radharani’s feet?

Your first question, shall Srimati Radharani's feet be showing, the answer is no, they should never be seen. Krsna's feet, however, should be showing.

Letter, 4 January, 1973

 

5. You can continue not showing Srimati Radharani's feet.

Letter, 9 October, 1974

 

There is another incident where Srila Prabhupada saw that Radharani’s feet were showing but did not say anything. It maybe that this is related only to this particular circumstance.

·         Can the Deities be dressed without shirts?

In your Western countries Lord Caitanya should be entirely covered, He should not appear bare-chested.

Letter, 4 January, 1973

 

Generally, there are four kinds of garments on the body of Krsna: His shirt, turban, belt and wearing garments.

Krsna’s Apparel and Garlands NoD 41: Fraternal Devotion

 

In your country, the deity should not go without shirt.

Letter, 28 May, 1975

 

·         Does Radharani wear tilaka?

Cintamani: Thank you. Krsna wears tilaka like we do? Srila Prabhupada?

Prabhupada: Yes. Radharani only red spot.

Room Conversations -- April 22, 1972, Japan

 

Tilaka can mean one of two things. One is urdhva-punòra which means Vaisnava tilaka with the upward going lines and also it can mean decorations on the face. Srimati Radharani does not wear urdhva-punòra tilaka but sometimes She does have Her face painted with gopi-dots etc.

 

“The tilaka of good fortune is on Her beautiful broad forehead. Her various loving affairs are a gem, and Her heart is the locket.

Madhya 8.176

 

As far as we understand the statement in this verse refers to face decorations.

She was feeling ashamed and was absorbed in thought, and Krsna took the opportunity to mark Her breasts with different kinds of tilaka.

Nectar of Devotion Ch. 23 - Dhira-lalita

 

·         What about the Deities hair, how long should it be?

Cintamani: I made hair. But I don’t know how long it should be.

Prabhupada: That you can see Krsna’s picture.

Cintamani: Picture of Krsna? Is His hair curly?

Prabhupada: Yes. Curling, (indistinct) black.

Cintamani: Is this too long?

Prabhupada: Too long. This is also too long.

Cintamani: Too long. How long should it be?

Prabhupada: It should not come below, Radharani, the waist.

Cintamani: Oh. And Krsna’s?

Prabhupada: And Krsna’s should be up to the neck.

Room Conversations -- April 22, 1972, Japan

 

·         Can Sri Sri Gaura-Nitai wear turbans?

Gaura-Nitai may wear turbans.

Letter, 28 May, 1975

 

In Denver Srila Prabhupada was asked whether he preferred crowns or turbans, Srila Prabhupada said he preferred crowns.

·         Can items prepared by non-devotees be offered to the Deities?

Nothing should be offered to Krishna unless it is prepared by the devotees themselves.

Letter, 28 May, 1975

 

·         Can Lord Caitanya wear a peacock feather?

This question is regularly asked on the deity worship conference; actually it is probably one of the most asked questions.

Jananivasa prabhu, head pujari in Mayapur asked this question of Srila Prabhupada. His reply, “Why not He is Krsna.” Also there is video footage of Srila Prabhupada offering arati on the installation day of the deities of Gaura-Nitai in Melbourne. The deities are wearing very large peacock plumes. One may think Srila Prabhupada overlooked this, but from speaking to Kurma prabhu, who did the puja on that day, Srila Prabhupada was sitting right next to the deities the whole time and oversaw every small detail of the worship.

In London Srila Prabhupada told Malati Mataji that Lord Caitanya should always wear a peacock feather.

·         Can anyone else wear a peacock feather?

Srila Prabhupada was asked by Narottamananda prabhu, who was the first head pujari in our Vrndavana temple, if Srimati Radharani could wear a peacock feather, he replied yes but not always.

Among the well-wisher friends, Manòalibhadra and Balabhadra are the chiefs. Manòalibhadra is described as follows. His complexion is yellowish, and his dress is very attractive. He always carries a stick of various colors. He wears a peacock feather on his head and always looks very beautiful.

NoD 41: Fraternal Devotion

 

There are pictures of Srila Prabhupada wearing a jacket that has peacock feathers on the drawstring for the hood of the jacket.

 

 

Ekadasi Questions

 

·         Do Lord Caitanya and the spiritual master take grains on Ekadasi?

Prabhupada: Oh yes. But not guru. Ekadasi observed by jiva-tattva, not by Visnu-tattva. We are fasting for clearing our material disease, but Radha-Krsna, Caitanya Mahaprabhu... Caitanya Mahaprabhu also may not be offered grains because He is playing the part of a devotee. Only Radha-Krsna, Jagannatha can be offered grains. Otherwise, Guru-Gauraìga, no. And the prasadam should not be taken by anyone. It should be kept for next day.

Room Conversations -- April 22, 1972, Japan

 

1. Carob, 2. Corn syrup, 3. Sesame seeds

There seems to be some controversy here about the carob and corn syrup and also someone heard “no” on the sesame seeds, but wonders why that is. I would be very grateful and indebted to you if you would be so kind as to give some insights on these items for Ekadasi.

Although carob is called a carob “bean”, it grows on a big tree and is not a legume like conventional beans. It looks and grows like a tamarind pod and as far as I can tell, it’s the fruit of the tree just like tamarind is. Therefore my answer to the carob question is it’s ok for Ekadasi. Same with vanilla “bean”, as far as I am concerned. My opinion only.

Now to confuse things, it appears that we don’t eat legumes on Ekadasi. Why is that confusing? Well, peanuts are a legume, and we (not all Vaisnavas though) eat them. (Srila Prabhupada certainly did). So it’s a tricky one, and nobody has ever been able to explain to me about the Vedic calculation of the botanical categories.

I never use corn syrup and I’ve never had to decide on that one. I do recall a similar question on the cooking conference some time back where it was concluded that it is also ok, but I can’t produce the evidence.

Some Gaudiya Vaisnavas don’t eat sesame seeds on Ekadasi. Srila Prabhupada DID eat them sometimes on Ekadasi, according to one recipe in Yamuna’s first cookbook. Full time residents of Mayapur and others like Jayapataka Swami don’t use them on Ekadasi, along with mustard seeds and other items that local Gaudiyas don’t eat, just to avoid any criticism or problems with local prasadam distribution. I eat them on Ekadasi.

Yes, I have always concluded, “if in doubt, miss it out”. The only downside will be simple prasadam, but at least there won’t be that nagging doubt that you have broken your Ekadasi, or worse still, the one hundred devotees’ Ekadasi fast, since you just cooked for them.

Kurma dasa.

 

A devotee here wanted me to ask about these two items for Ekadasi:

1. Millet & 2. Quinoa

 

Millet is definitely a no-no for ekadasi. Quinoa is definitely a yes-yes!

 

Don't have any sastric references, but botanically speaking quinoa seed is not a grain. It's the fruit of an herb plant, but it is treated as a grain in cooking (e.g. used to make flour). Its botanical name is Chenopodium quinoa. There is a picture of the plant at http://waltonfeed.com/quinoa.html

Kurma dasa

 

 

Mantras

 

·         In the mantra we chant for Tulasi in the morning is it Visnu or Krsna?

Srila Prabhupada said in a letter to Govinda dasi:

I am giving you herewith three mantras for Tulasi Devi as follows:

vrindaai tulasi devyai priyaai kesavasya ca

visnubhaktiprade devi satyavatyai namo namah

This is offering obeisances, bowing down (pancanga pranam).

Letter, 7 April, 1970

 

Also it is noted that in the pranama mantras for the spiritual master we are chanting namah om visnupadaya offer obeisances to one who has taken shelter at the lotus feet of Lord Visnu.

 

Srila Prabhupada also says:

Visnu and Krsna, the same thing.

Bhagavad-gita 4.12 -- Bombay, April 1, 1974

 

·         Can non-brahmanas chant the mantras used in Deity worship?

The disciple receives the mantras used in deity worship when he receives pancaratrika diksa from the spiritual master. If one chants these mantras without receiving them in the authorized fashion, then as it is stated in the Padma Purana there will be no result of such chanting of mantras.

sampradaya-vihina ye

mantras te nisphala mataù

Unless you are initiated by a bona fide spiritual master in the disciplic succession, the mantra that you might have received is without any effect.

 

 

Attitudes

 

·         How can I maintain my enthusiasm in the service of the Deity and not become familiar with the Lord?

Without hearing, what he will do, nonsense? Sravanam kirtanam, this is our main business. Sravanam. If you don’t hear, what you will do? You will do simply sense gratification. That’s all.

So this is difficulty, that we are not very much interested in hearing. And that is the main business. Our bhakti begins: sravanam kirtanam visnoù. We have to hear and we have to speak. But if we are not interested in hearing and speak, then it will be the same öhakura-bari, simply formula. That’s all. And gradually it will be stopped. Unless there is life of sravanam kirtanam, these big, big buildings, temples, will become burden. So if we are, if we want to create burden for future, then we may give up this hearing and chanting and sleep very nicely. It will be burden. Galagraha. Not sri-vigraha, but galagraha. Galagraha. Sri-vigraha means worshipable deity. So if we give up this sravanam kirtanam visnoù, then it will be thought that “Our Guru Maharaja has given a burden in the neck, galagraha.” This is the danger. So we must be very much alert in sravanam kirtanam. Otherwise all this labor will be futile. This building will be only the nest, nest for the doves and the pigeons. That is the danger. That is being done. Nobody is interested. Such, such things...

Srimad-Bhagavatam 1.8.19 -- Mayapura, September 29, 1974

 

 

Practical Questions onf Deity Worship

 

·         Can the conch be blown on the altar?

The conch is considered to be transcendental; therefore it is not a problem to blow on the altar.

But this conchshell is kept in the deity room because it’s accepted as pure by the Vedas.

Conversation with Prof. Kotovsky -- June 22, 1971, Moscow

 

Svarupa Damodara: One thing I wanted to ask was about the arati, in offering arati, now we blow the conchshell, but, ah, coming out the pujari from the altar, outside, when the pujari blows the conchshell, he does this, especially in Atlanta, and I think in other temples also I have seen, the pujari comes out of the...

Rupanuga: Yes, he comes on this side of the altar and blows the conchshell. Is that all right? It should be behind the curtain or in front of the curtain?

Prabhupada: Behind the curtain?

Rupanuga: He should blow it behind.

Svarupa Damodara: No, what he does is, the pujari comes out while the other devotees are there, behind the curtain, and then blows the conchshell.

Prabhupada: To make the sound audible? But there is no harm.

Svarupa Damodara: Inside. But this disturbs something to the whole scene, because he has to remove the chain and cross it and then...

Prabhupada: No, no. Why? There is no need. No need of crossing the chain.

Svarupa Damodara: But it can be done inside then?

Prabhupada: Why not? It can be done.

Room Conversation with Scientists -- July 8, 1976, Washington, D.C.

 

·         I have a Laksmi conch. How do I worship it, How should it be put on the altar?

Regarding conch shells on the altar: Left-turning conch shells are not necessarily Laksmi conch shells, which are extremely rare. Even if a genuine Laksmi conch shell is present, one need not offer it any special worship, especially in temples where Radha-Krsna deities are worshiped. Worship of Srimati Radharani—the source of Laksmi—includes Laksmi worship. Most left-turning conch shells available today are what are known as “Lightning Whelks” which, although not strictly the conches meant to be used in worship, are recognized as legitimate substitutes for standard conches in many temples in India, at least for the purpose of bathing the deity. There is no need, however, to put such “conch shells” on the altar.

PP 2.3: The Main Worship

 

But also there is no harm keeping on the altar. As the conch is used to worship the Lord it can be consider as one of the Lord’s associates. In more elaborate puja the conch is worshiped before beginning the main puja.

The conch shells as you have described may be kept on the altar as decoration, but they must be kept clean.  Everything on the altar must always be clean.

Letter, 18 November, 1973

 

·         What types of cloth can I wear for doing Deity seva?

There are three types of cloth you can wear while engaging in the service of the deity, silk, jute and cotton. This also applies in the kitchen or other services related to the deity. Outside of the altar one may also wear woolen jumpers etc.

If you only wear the cloth on the altar then cotton remains clean for one day, jute for three or four days, and silk for one week.

·         How to observe tulasi salagrama vivaha?

As far as we understand this is not a Gauòiya Vaisnava festival.