Idol Worship in “Iskcon”

April 14, 2021 in Articles by Laksman dasa

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Idol Worship in “Iskcon”

by Narasimha das

“Intermingling the spiritual with the material causes one to look on transcendence as material and the mundane as spiritual. This is all due to a poor fund of knowledge.” (Cc. Madhya 16.72, Purport)

We have seen pictures that show a vyasasana in an Iskcon temple room. On this vyasasana is mounted a large picture of an “iskcon guru,” and it appears there is a ritvik initiation ceremony going on–but without Srila Prabhupada. Apparently the iskcon gbc accepts ritvik initiations if Srila Prabhupada is not recognized as the diksha-guru. These photos and various Iskcon altars show that the GBC is promoting idolatry in Iskcon.

Idol worship is condemned in every scripture. Idolatry is defined as the unauthorized worship or adoration of a material object or person as if it (or he) were super potent, super cognizant, fully divine, and capable of reciprocating with all devotional offerings. Srila Prabhupada and our previous acharyas teach that those who think Krishna’s archa-vigraha manifestation is simply a statue or prop to be used for money collection are atheists and idol worshippers. Those who think bona fide Deity worship and the Holy Names of Krishna are material or similar to the names and worship of demigods are considered atheists (psandis). Similarly, those who teach that the Vedic puranas like Srimad-Bhagavatam, which describe Krishna and His pastimes, are mythological, are atheists, although they sometimes pose as Vaishnavas.

“If one tries to mingle the worship of yogamaya with mahamaya, considering them one and the same, he does not really show high intelligence.” (Cc. Madhya 8.90, Purport)

One reason idolatry is sinful is because simple persons who are pious and naturally inclined to offer worship to the Supreme Lord often become diverted from authorized devotional service to the Lord’s Deity form and become bewildered instead by showy displays of idolatrous rituals based on concocted traditions. Sometimes, in imitation of Deity worship, tribesmen, fallen dvijas, misguided sudras, and others offer incense, flowers, fruits, ghee lamps, cooked foods, and other items to pictures or idols of minor devatas, yaksas, raksasas, bogus “avatars,”bogus “gurus,”and even political leaders.All such unauthorized ritual is farcical.

“Presently people are so fallen that they cannot distinguish between a liberated soul and a conditioned soul.” (Srimad-Bhagavatam 4.18.5, Purport)

Archana-marga and sri guru-puja are completely different from idol worship because both the Deity and Sri Guru are fully divine, omniscient, omnipotent, and fully capable of reciprocating all devotional offerings. Such worship has been going on since time immemorial and is authorized in the Vedic scriptures and by all Vedic acharyas. Sometimes great Vaishnavas or nitya-siddha parishadas of the Supreme Lord are worshiped in the same manner as Lord Krishna Himself, either as a painting, picture, or murti made of earth, stone, or wood.

If a devotee follows the rules of archana-marga with devotion, the representational form of the Supreme Lord or great Vaishnava becomes identical with the divine personality Himself, who accepts all sincere offerings and prayers and speaks to advanced worshipers. In true Vedic culture, even Lord Brahma and Lord Shiva are generally not worshiped on the same level as the Supreme Lord and His nitya-siddha parisada. Demigod worship, as described in the karma-kanda sections of the Vedas, is meant for less intelligent materialist—not Vaishnavas. In this age most demigod worship is done whimsically and without reference to Lord Vishnu, and is thus the same as idol worship.

Authorized worship of the Supreme Lord and His empowered devotees, one the other hand, is true spiritual action. It is not a mere “festival of flowers”, a Hindu custom, demigod worship, or an ecclesiastical ritual. Rather, it is the essence of pure spiritual activity, “the character of the living force in immortality”. Archana-marga, particularly the pancaratriki-vidhi enunciated by our param guru, Sri Narada Muni, is sanatana-dharma. Sanatana-dharma means activity that is eternal, common to all living beings, and directly enunciated by the Supreme Lord Himself or His empowered expansions such as Narada Muni, Asita, Vyasadeva, the Six Goswamis, Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura, Srila Bhaktiisiddhanta, or Srila Prabhupada.

Srila Prabhupada introduced the full practice of sri guru-puja as described in the revealed scriptures and by great acharyas like Srila Visvanatha Chakravarti Thakura. For the benefit of us fallen souls of Kali Yuga, Srila Prabhupada instituted elaborate guru-puja in His temples, in public, and all over the world. He has made all necessary arrangements to remain fully available for everyone through His books, His murtis, His mission, His institutions, and His representatives. This is His causeless mercy. He made it as easy as possible for conditioned souls of this age to approach Him and accept Him as spiritual master. By His mercy, He has prescribed an easy minimum sadhana to help guarantee anyone’s return home, back to Godhead. Only an empowered maha-bhagavata can offer this supreme boon to everyone in the world on behalf of Lord Krishna and Lord Chaitanya.

“The Lord empowers a special devotee to teach people their constitutional position.” (Cc. Madhya 19.114, Purport)

Without being empowered by the direct potency of Lord Krishna to fulfill His desire, and without being specifically favored by the Lord, no human being can become spiritual master for the whole word… Only an empowered personality can distribute the holy name of the Lord and enjoin all fallen souls to worship Krishna. By distributing the holy name of the Lord, He cleanses the hearts of the most fallen people; therefore, He extinguishes the blazing fire of the material world. Not only that, He broadcasts the shining brightness of Krishna’s effulgence throughout the world… Such a person is… guru or spiritual master for the entire world, a devotee of the topmost platform, the maha-bhagavata stage.” (Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura’s prediction, Cited in Cc., Madhya 25.9, Purport.)

When imperfect preachers imitate Srila Prabhupada by allowing their followers to offer worship to their own pictures or put their pictures on the altar with nitya-siddha acharyas, such a farce is an offense. Such concocted rituals are never authorized and should never be allowed in Srila Prabhupada’s temples. It betrays a paucity of real knowledge on the part of the upstart “guru” and his followers.

“But if everyone simply imitates your exalted status, there will be only a contradictory result. As long as this pretense continues, there will only be utter failure.” (From Vaisistya-Astaka, a poem by Srila Prabhupada, 1961)

“However, one should not imitate the behavior of an advanced devotee or mahā-bhāgavata without being self-realized, for by such imitation one will eventually become degraded.” (Nectar of Instruction, Text 5, Purport.)

Srila Prabhupada, of course, is perfect and always fully present in His vani, His murti, His worshiped picture,andHismission. By Srila Prabhupada’s divine grace, devotees also have access to mercy and guidance from our great nitya-siddha param gurus: Their songs, Their stories, Their examples, Their pranams, Their prayers, Their murtis, Their pictures, Their poems, Their books, Their instructions.We have all this association, sadhu-sanga of the highest level,in Srila Prabhupada’s books and mission.Why should Srila Prabhupada’s followers believe they need a voted-in or self-appointed upstart “guru”? The reason is ignorance. The reason is their “poor fund of knowledge” and gbc campaigns of deliberate misinformation, envy, and deceit.

Regarding our eternally living gurus, Srila Prabhupada comments as follows: “As Narottama dasa Thakura has sung, tandera carana-sevi-bhakta-sane vasa. One’s aim of life should be to serve the acharyas. Acharya upasanam. So, our ahcarya in the Gaudiya Vaisnava Sampradaya, the sri-rupa sanatana bhatta-raghunatha, sri-jiva gopala-bhatta dasa-raghunatha, the Six Gosvamins, and if we associate with them…this book, Nectar of Devotion, Bhakti-rasamrta-sindhu, if you read regularly, try to understand, this means you are associating with Srila Rupa Gosvami directly. And if you act accordingly, then you are serving their lotus feet. Tandera carana-sevi-bhakta-sane vasa.

It is a great credit to many second-generation disciples of Srila Prabhupada that they have seen through the gbc’s acidic smoke screens and–in spite of the politics and chaos generated by these misguided clerics–have accepted Srila Prabhupada as their eternal diksha-guru.

Responding to the same question repeated twice–“Who will be your successor?”–Srila Prabhupada replied, “My success is always there. Yes. Just like the sun is there always. It may come before your vision or not–the sun is there. But if you are fortunate, you come before the sun… The sun is open to everyone.” (Interview, Mexico City, 1975.)

“These initiations–I have deputed my disciples. Is it clear or not?” (Conversation, Oct. 18, 1977, Vrindaban.)

Additional References:

“The spiritual master is not a question of [‘living’ or ‘dead’] … The spiritual master is eternal. The spiritual master is eternal…” (Lecture, Seattle, Oct. 2,1968.)

“Although the physical body in not present, the vibration should be accepted as the presence of the spiritual master. Vibration–what we have heard from the spiritual master–that is ‘living’.” (Lecture, January 13, 1969, LA, CA.)

“When one has attained the topmost position of maha-bhagavata, He is to be accepted as guru and worshiped exactly like Hari, the Personality of Godhead. Only such a person is eligible to occupy the post of guru.” (Chaitanya-charitamirta, Madhya 24.330, Purport, citing Padma Purana.)

“Srila Jiva Goswami advised that one not accept a spiritual master in terms of hereditary or customary social and ecclesiastical conventions. One should simply try to find a genuinely qualified spiritual master for actual advancement in spiritual understanding.” (Cc., Adi 1.35, Purport)

“As soon as a foolish disciple tries to overtake his spiritual master and becomes ambitious to occupy his post, he immediately falls down.” (Srimad-Bhagavatam 5.12.14, Purport.) 

“And as soon as he learns that Guru Maharaja is dead, ‘Now I am so advanced that I can kill my guru and I become guru’… then he is finished.” (Conversation, August 16, 1976, Bombay)

“Intermingling the spiritual with the material causes one to look on transcendence as material and the mundane as spiritual. This is all due to a poor fund of knowledge.” (Cc. Madhya 16.72, Purport)

“In my books the philosophy of Krishna consciousness is explained fully, so if there is anything which you do not understand, then you simply have to read again and again. By this process your spiritual life will develop.” (Letter, November 22, 1974)

“Therefore, a disciple should be careful to accept an uttama-adhikari as spiritual master.” (Nectar of Instruction, Text 5, Purport)