Arati Changes in ISKCON

January 29, 2014 in Srivas Thakur Dasa, Yasoda nandana Dasa by KHD

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FROM ARATIS TO BOLLYWOOD TUNES!

Arati Changes in ISKCON 
BY:    SRIVAS THAKUR DASA
Sampradaya Sun
Jun 01, INDIA (SUN) —
It was interesting to read Locanananda prabhu’s article, “Kirtana Guidelines“, about the changes in kirtan in ISKCON. Often times when we go to visit ISKCON temples in India, I am just amazed how devotees sing the Hare Krishna Maha Mantra in all different Bollywood Hindi tunes – so much so that instead of remembering Krishna, we are remembering the Hindi songs of yesteryear before we came to Krishna consciousness.
Apart from kirtan tunes, book changes and a whole lot of other changes since 1977, let’s now add a new change—that is in the way arati is performed in ISKCON temples. At present, pujaris seek the permission of their gurus on the altar and then go to offer it to Radha Krishna, Gaur Nitai, then to the Guru parampara, and then to Srila Prabhupada and their respective guru.
This was not the system taught by Srila Prabhupada, and represents a whole concoction made cleverly after 1977. 
Srila Prabhupada taught us how to offer aratis. We are to offer aratis first to Srila Prabhupada and then all the way up to Gaur Nitai and Radha Krishna. Srila Prabhupada emphatically warned us not to make changes after his physical disappearance, but we have boldly made all the changes disregarding His Divine Grace, and are on the threshold to make more changes.
Here are citations from Srila Prabhupada’s letters and lectures, showing what he taught:
Letter to Tamal Krsna, Los Angeles, 15 May 1970:
“So Krsna when He is with His brother and sister, He is Jagannatha, and when He is with His village girl-friends that is Radha-Krsna with Gopis. So Whomever you worship, it is the same, but if you like to worship Jagannanth you can continue it and it is as good as worshiping Radha-Krsna. Krsna has so many forms, and which ever form you worship it is all the same, but you should worship that form which you like most. Regarding the means of worship, our Vaisnava process is first offer respects to the Spiritual Master, then Lord Caitanya, and then Lord Krsna. Vyasa is the Spiritual Master, therefore the Spiritual Master is the representative of Vyasa. Therefore the Spiritual Master’s seat is called “Vyasasana.”
Letter to Himavati, Los Angeles, 1 April 1970:
“Regarding taking Lord Jagannatha to your next center, that will not be very good because you already do not have enough devotees to engage in Arcana. Unless there is a Deity worshipper available, we may worship Panca-tattva and Guru. That can be done by all initiated students whether they are once or twice initiated. Before an altar with pictures of Lord Caitanya, Pancatattva and Acaryas, everyone can offer Aratrik and Bhoga.
Yes, it is nice that you are worshiping Lord Caitanya along with Radha Krsna. That is alright. Lord Caitanya should be placed to the right side of Krsna. There is nothing special for His worship, but you may continue as you are doing now. The order of worshiping is first Spiritual Master, and then Lord Caitanya, then Radha Krsna (as in the mantras or Bunde aham prayer).
Your confidence to do whatever you are instructed by the Spiritual Master is very encouraging. Yes, this is the method of the Vedic injunction, staunch faith in Spiritual Master and Krsna makes one perfect in spiritual understanding.”
Lecture on Srimad-Bhagavatam 6.1.10, Los Angeles, Jun 23, 1975:
“Therefore our first duty is to worship Caitanya Mahaprabhu. We keep the Deity. In the first we offer our obeisances to Caitanya Mahaprabhu along with His associate, and then, Guru-Gauranga, then we offer Radha-Krishna or Jagannatha.”
Lecture on Srimad-Bhagavatam 1.2.2, London, Aug 10, 1971:
“We begin from our first disciplic succession. Vande ‘ham sri-guroh sri-yuta-pada-kamalam sri-gurun vaishnavamsh cha. Vande ‘ham sri-guroh sri-yuta-pada-kamalam. “I offer my respectful obeisances unto the lotus feet of my guru, spiritual master.” Vande ‘ham sri-guroh sri-yuta-pada-kamalam sri-gurun vaishnavamsh cha. And then, his guru, his guru, his guru, they’re all Vaishnavas. Vande ‘ham sri-guroh sri-yuta-pada-kamalam sri-gurun vaishnavamsh cha. Sri-rupam. Then we offer respect to Sri Rupa Gosvami. Rupa Gosvami. Vande rupa-sanatanau raghu-yugau sri-jiva-gopalakau. All the Gosvamis, six Gosvamins. Vande rupa-sanatana… Sagraja. Sa agraja. Agraja means elder brother. Sanatana Gosvami was the elder brother of Rupa Gosvami, and Rupa Gosvami accepted him as his spiritual master. Sri-rupam sagrajatam saha-gana-raghunathanvitam. Associated by Raghunatha. There are two Raghunathas: Raghunatha dasa Gosvami and Raghunatha Bhatta Gosvami. Sa-jivam, with Jiva Gosvami. This is the process. Vande ‘ham sri-guroh sri-yuta-pada-kamalam sri-gurun vaishnavamsh cha sri-rupam sagrajatam saha-gana-raghunathanvitam tam sa-jivam. Then we go to Chaitanya Mahaprabhu’s status: sadvaitam savadhutam. That is also… First of all, Advaita Gosañi, then Nityananda Mahaprabhu, Prabhu. Mahaprabhu is applicable only to Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu. Others, all prabhus. Ekale ishvara krishna ara saba bhritya [Chaitanya-charitamrita Adi 5.142]. Krishna, and He has got innumerable servants. Krishna is Mahaprabhu, and all others, they are prabhus. And the spiritual master who has got many prabhus to abide by his order, he is addressed as Prabhupada. This is the system. So sadvaitam savadhutam parijana-sahitam krishna-chaitanya-devam. After offering all these obeisances to Gosvamis, to guru, and Advaita, Nityananda, then you come to Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu. Then Sri Radha. Not Krishna directly. Sri-radha-krishna-padan saha-gana-lalita-sri-vishakhanvitamsh cha. Radha-Krishna means they are always associated by the gopis, of whom Lalita-Vishakha are the chief out of the ashta-sakhis. So this is the parampara system.”
Lecture on Srimad-Bhagavatam 1.2.4, Rome, May 28, 1974:
“This is the parampara system. As you get knowledge, step by step… Krishna is the original spiritual master, and then from Krishna, Lord Brahma learned the Vedic knowledge. Tene brahma hrida adi-kavaye [Srimad-Bhagavatam 1.1.1]. In the Bhagavata it is said that “Wherefrom Brahma got his knowledge?” Because whenever we want to get knowledge, we must approach a superior person to get knowledge. Tad-vijñanartham sa gurum eva abhigacchet [Mundaka Upanishad 1.2.12]. Guru means superior. So who was the superior person when Brahma got knowledge? Because there was no other creature. He is the first creature. Therefore it is said, “The superior person was Krishna, but He was not present.” We see, Krishna was present before Arjuna, but nobody was present before Brahma. Therefore it is said, tene brahma hrida adi-kavaye, hrida: “through the heart.” Because Krishna is situated in everyone’s heart. Actually, He is the spiritual master, chaitya-guru. So in order to help us, He comes out as physical spiritual master. And therefore sakshad-dharitvena sama… Spiritual master is representative of Krishna. Krishna sends some sincere devotee to act on His behalf, and therefore he is spiritual master…
So this is the parampara system. As you receive knowledge step by step… Narayana, Krishna, instructed Vyasadeva. Brahma, Brahma instructed Narada. Narada instructed Vyasadeva. Vyasadeva instructed his disciple Madhvacarya. In this way we have to go through also, in the same way.. First of all, offer respect to the spiritual master, as he has done to Shukadeva Gosvami. Tam vyasa-sunum upayami gurum muninam. So then his spiritual master, then his spiritual master, then his spiritual master, then his spiritual master. Just like you have got the pictures. First of all, your spiritual master, then his spiritual master, then his spiritual master, his spiritual master, his spiritual master – ultimately Krishna.. This is the process. Don’t try to approach Krishna directly, jump over. That is useless. As you receive knowledge through the steps, parampara system, similarly, we should approach Krishna through these steps.”
Caitanya-Bhagavata Madhya Kanda, Ch 20, Text 6-9:
TEXT: “At that time Murari Gupta came there and offered obeisances at the lotus feet of the Lord. The greatly effulgent Murari Gupta next offered obeisances to Nityananda and then stood before Them. The Lord was very pleased with Murari, so He spoke to him without duplicity, “O Murari, what you have just done is not proper. You have transgressed etiquette while offering obeisances.
PURPORT: Murari Gupta offered obeisances first to Lord Gaurasundara and then to Lord Nityananda Prabhu. Objecting to the sequence of Murari Gupta’s obeisances, Mahaprabhu told him, “You have a misconception regarding Baladeva’s senior position and My own junior position. Especially since you are a devotee of Sri Balarama. The conclusion is that if the Supreme Lord is worshipped without first worshiping Sri Guru and Jagad Guru, the proper sequence is broken.” In common language there is a saying: ghoda dingaiya ghasa khaite nai-”One should not jump over the horse to eat the grass.” Without the mercy of Sri Guru, no one is qualified to serve the Supreme Lord.”
Now, so many years later, we see that ISKCON centers have changed the process of deity worship, adopting the sequence that is practiced in Gaudiya Math temples. This is not all ISKCON temples. Apparently ISKCON in Los Angeles is still offering in the order beginning with Srila Prabhupada on up through the parampara to Lord Chaitanya and then to Sri Sri Rukmini Dvarakadisa. Lately one Gaura Keshava das claims credit for ISKCON’s change in deity worship. He’s a disciple of Srila Prabhupada, and supposedly ISKCON GBCs and gurus have recognized his knowledge of shastra, and have called on him to help counter rittvik propaganda and also to perform ghost-busting yajñas for ghostly-haunted gurus, among other duties. We recently received this email, dated 29 March 2009, in which Gaura Kesava mentions his role in ISKCON’s switcheroo:
“…do we follow Srila Prabhupada’s personal example or the sastra that he gave us???
My contention is that we must follow the sastra that he has given us, and we must not imitate his personal example when it does not technically follow sastra.
So the system of arotik in all Gaudiya Vaisnava temples is to first pay obeisance to the guru and take his permission for worhshiping Lord Krsna. Then worship Krsna first and then Radha then Mahaprabhu and the guru parampara in descending (senior to junior) order, lastly the arotik items are to be offered to the assembled devotees. In ISKCON Srila Prabhupada instituted another order offering the items to the guru first. In this case the item cannot technically be offered afterwards to the Lord having first been enjoyed by the guru. This is technically not correct. Therefore we must in this case follow sastra and adapt our worship method to the one followed by all Vaisnava sampradayas. The doctrine or principle of worshiping the guru first is correct but the technicality of HOW that is to be done is incorrect.
By the way this system is followed in most temples in Europe where I standardized the deity worship in the 1980’s. It is not followed in some temples like LA because some Prabhupada disciples find it difficult to accept and they have no experience of the correct technical details as practiced in India.
sincerely
Gaura Keshava das
This is wrong. The guru does not “enjoy” the item for himself. We offer to him, because he is the via medium. The entire parampara is the via medium, transparent window to Sri Krishna. We cannot go before Krishna face to face and hand over directly to Him whatever it is we are trying to offer Him. We offer to the spiritual master, who passes it on to his spiritual master, who in turn passes it to his, and so on, all the way back up through the line of disciplic succession to Sri Krishna. If the spiritual master is a liberated person – and this is the verdict of shastra – then he is always situated in the mode of service, not enjoyment; he is free from desire for personal sense gratification or enjoyment, thinking only how to please his spiritual master and the Supreme Lord.
Moreover, we are confident that Srila Prabhupada has not contradicted shastra. His scholarship was unparalleled – throughout his books and lectures and conversations he freely cited passages from so many different sources – the Upanishads, Puranas, Vedanta Sutras, Srimad-Bhagavatam, Bhagavad-gita, Brahma-samhita, Chaitanya-charitamrita, Chaitanya Bhagavata, the writings of the Six Gosvamis – all of which were known and familiar to him. So to suggest that he did not know what was in shastra is ridiculous and impudent. And then too, we have to bear in mind what Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati has said:
“Thakur Bhaktivinode” by His Divine Grace Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakur:
“What are the Scriptures? They are nothing but the record by the pure devotees of the Divine Message appearing on the lips of the pure devotees. The Message conveyed by the devotees is the same in all ages. The words of the devotees are ever identical with the Scriptures. Any meaning of the Scriptures that belittles the function of the devotee who is the original communicant of the Divine Message contradicts its own claim to be heard. Those who think that the Sanskrit language in its lexicographical sense is the language of the Divinity are as deluded as those who hold that the Divine Message is communicable through any other spoken dialects. All languages simultaneously express and hide the Absolute. The mundane face of all languages hides the Truth. The Transcendental face of all sound expresses nothing but the Absolute. The pure devotee is the speaker of the Transcendental language. The Transcendental Sound makes His appearance on the lips of His pure devotee.”
We confess that we are not familiar with the shastra which Gaura Keshava thinks Srila Prabhupada has contradicted or has not followed. But we are familiar with Srila Prabhupada’s warning that the disciple should not think himself smarter than the spiritual master, that he should remain a fool before him. We wonder if Gaura Keshava is not fallen into the category of the smarta-brahmanas, those who are attached to the rules and regulations and flowery language of the Vedas but miss the principle of humble obedience and service to the pure devotee.
Morning Walk, Mayapur, Apr 8, 1975:
“A disciple is always in deficiency before his spiritual master. Just like Chaitanya Mahaprabhu says, guru more murkha dekhi karila shashana [Chaitanya-charitamrita Adi 7.71]: “My spiritual master saw Me a fool number one. Therefore he has chastised Me.” So disciple should be always ready to be chastised. He should not think that he has become perfect. That is perfection. So long he thinks that he is not perfect – he’s to be chastised – then he’s perfect. And as soon as he thinks that he has become perfect, he’s nonsense immediately, nonsense number one. [Break] …always to be chastised by the spiritual master for perfection. And if he thinks that now he has become perfect, then he’s a foolish. Chaitanya Mahaprabhu said, guru more murkha dekhi: “My spiritual master saw Me a fool number one.” Was He fool number one? He’s God Himself. But that is the position. He should remain always a fool number one, ready to be chastised. Then he’s perfect.”
A disciple’s position is to simply accept Srila Prabhupada’s instructions and teachings as the yardstick for everything, and reject anything and anyone who does not agree with what Srila Prabhupada has spoken. If Gaura Keshava does not accept the absolute authority of Srila Prabhupada, but only that of shastras, then we have to conclude that he presumes to be more intelligent and more knowledgeable than Srila Prabhupada. We are not going to follow such a person, for where he’s going is not where Srila Prabhupada is. As for ISKCON GBCs who have implemented Gaura Keshava’s recommendations, either they have not read Srila Prabhupada’s books and letters or heard his lectures, or they do not have faith in them.
But then, we have to remember that all this talk of changing the deity worship took place around the time when Bhavananda was outed for having homosexual relations. Naturally the question came up whether his disciples should offer first to him or to Krishna and then to him, and it was decided (by ISKCON GBC) that he should not be offered bhoga, but only prasadam, for his own good. Later Bhavananda was demoted from guru status, but the policy remained for the other ISKCON gurus, just to keep them “safe”.

It is about time ISKCON devotees read Srila Prabhupada’s instructions carefully and do what His Divine Grace has instructed. If we are at all wondering why we are not making advancement, it is because we are disregarding the instructions and concocting our own. It is about time we throw the concoctions out of our temples, together with the djembe and Hindi tunes

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