Vaishnava Etiquette By His Holiness Bhakti Caru Swami

Vaishnava Etiquette By His Holiness Bhakti Caru Swami

International Society For Krishna Consciousness  (ISKCON)

Transcription & Compiling : Gauranga Premananda Dasa & Anupama Krishna Dasa

Editing : Hemavati Radhika Dasi

Introductory Lecture   3

Becoming a Vaishnava Devotee of Krishna   13

Basic Principles of Vaishnava Behavior  15

More on the Behavior of a Vaishnava  17

Vaishnava Behavior is Inspiring for everyone   20

Etiquette within Relationships   21

Treating Women as Mothers  24

Vaishnava Aparadha  29

Dressing like a Vaishnava   31

Correcting Others  33

Etiquette in Management   36

Temple Room Etiquette    39

Serving Guests and Life Members     40

Serving and Honoring Prasad    42

Kirtan Etiquette    45

Etiquette in Public      46

Etiquette in Holy Places      48

Indian Brahmanas, Mayavadis, and other Sampradayas     49

Vaishnava Etiquette Introduction:

1. Lord Caitanya speaking to Srila Sanatana Goswami: Read this passage from Caitanya-Caritamrita, as given by Bhakti Charu Maharaja from page 1 to page 3.

The greatest problem in spiritual life is Vaishnava aparadha or aparadha generally. So Vaishnava etiquette means how to avoid that. Bhakti Charu Maharaja says “the whole Vaishnava etiquette or the whole Vaishnava culture is founded on this principle.”

2. It is known as sadacara — eternal standard of activities.

3. Lord Caitanya tells Srila Sanatana Goswami that etiquette is the ornament of the devotee. Story of Srila Sanatana Goswami going to visit Lord Caitanya by the route by the beach instead of past the temple because he was worried about contaminating the pujaris. Then Lord Caitanya told him:

“My dear Sanatana, although you are the deliverer of the entire universe and although even the demigods and great saints are purified by touching you, it is the characteristic of a devotee to observe and protect the Vaishnava etiquette. Maintenance of the Vaishnava etiquette is the ornament of a devotee.

“If one transgresses the laws of etiquette, people make fun of him, and thus he is vanquished in both this world and the next.

“By observing the etiquette, you have satisfied My mind. Who else but you could show this example?”

4. Srila Sanatana Goswami says: “Since nothing can be successful without “sadachar” or etiquette, every action should be performed with proper etiquette.”  We must act according to proper etiquette.  The heart of a saintly person is free from contamination.  The way a saintly person acts is known as proper etiquette.  A way a saintly person acts is known as “sadacara.”

1. See the list of basic etiquettes in Bhakti Charu Maharaja’s book, pages 5-8.

2. Back to Lord Caitanya speaking to Srila Sanatana Goswami. He says that maintenance of the etiquette is the ornament of a Vaishnava. We can imagine a rich man without any money. One can be decorated according to his means. If one is rich one can have fine clothes etc, but if one is poor one will not be able to display anything. So similarly, the more one is situated as a Vaishnava the more one will be decorated in that way.

3. Accepting the identity of a Vaishnava necessitates a certain standard of behavior or etiquette. Vaishnava etiquette facilitates Krsna consciousness. It provides the criteria — the protocol — by which a devotee can act properly in every situation. In the Bhagavad-Gita (6.24 purport), quoting from verse 3 of the Upadesamrta, Srila Prabhupada roughly paraphrases one of the items favorable for development of devotional service as, “by engaging completely in activities of goodness.”  Practicing Vaishnava etiquette means always acting in the mode of goodness, which is a stepping-stone to the transcendental plane. The mode of goodness is conducive to self-realization, whereas ignorance and passion are not. Therefore, how one applies the principles of Vaishnava etiquette reflects whether a devotee is Krsna conscious or not: i.e., is he humble? Conscientious? Well-mannered? Disciplined? Cultured?  Sensitive? Someone who is actually a devotee will be known by how much he displays the good qualities.

See p. 11 for some further basic etiquettes re cleanliness

1. Preaching accompanied with Vaishnava etiquette: We have to push forward this movement, and we may get caught up in the activities of pushing, and forget about Vaishnava etiquette. However, there is an exchange between Srila Sanatana Goswami and Haridas Thakura in which Srila Sanatana Goswami praises Haridas: (Cc Antya 4.102-3)

apane acara keha na kare pracara pracara karena keha na karena acara

“Some behave very well but do not preach the cult of Krishna consciousness, whereas others preach but do not behave properly.”

acara pracara namera karaha dui karya tumi sarva guru tumi jagatera arya

“You simultaneously perform both activities in relation to the Holy Name by your personal behavior and by your preaching. Therefore you are the most advanced devotee in the world.”

2. Basics must always be stressed: The basic activities are listed by Srila Rupa Goswami in Nectar of Instruction (see BCS’s transcript). Bhakti Charu Maharaja says: “Practicing Vaishnava etiquette means always acting in the mode of goodness, which is a stepping-stone to the transcendental plane. The mode of goodness is conducive to self-realization, whereas ignorance and passion are not. Therefore, how one applies the principles of Vaishnava etiquette reflects whether a devotee is Krishna conscious or not: i.e., is he humble? Conscientious? Well-mannered? Disciplined? cultured? Sensitive? Someone who is actually a devotee will be known by how much he displays the good qualities.”

3. One major component in Vaishnava etiquette, humility: One of the main parts of Vaishnava etiquette is humility. It is considered so important that Lord Krishna lists it as the first part of knowledge in Bhagavad-Gita (amanitvam). Some quotes from Srila Prabhupada: To Patita Uddharan (12/12/74) “So we all have to cooperate amongst ourselves, otherwise what will people think if we ourselves fight with one another? A devotee is always ideal in behavior.” SP Letter to Gargamuni 2/5/69 “Your humble repentance is just like a Vaishnava student, so I thank you very much for this humbleness. Lord Chaitanya taught us to be humbler that the grass on the street and more tolerant that the tree. So these symptoms are Vaishnava symptoms.” *** SP Letter to Dindayal 2/2/70 “Krishna is so very merciful to those who are very humble in their attitude engaged in service of the Lord. Lord Chaitanya advised, therefore, one should be humbler than the straw and more tolerant than the tree and thus be seriously engaged in glorifying the Lord. This world is very awful. Anyone is ready to create some disturbance; especially they are very much apt to disturb Krishna Consciousness persons because that is the way of demoniac life. So, in order to protect us from all dangerous elements, we have to chant the Hare Krishna Mantra regularly being humbler than the straw and more tolerant than the tree. Then Krishna, Who is Dina-Dayal, will bestow His Mercy upon us.” *** SP Letter to 8/18/70 Upendra “You are good for everything but your attitude to remain good for nothing is very nice. A Vaishnava is always humble and meek, and he is never puffed-up, even he has got the highest qualities of demigods.”

4. Vaishnava behavior is inspiring (see Bhakti Charu Maharaja P.11)

5. Vaishnava etiquette within relationships: See verse in transcript p.17. Read through list on p.14. Talk about use of term prabhu, transcript p.15 to serve the spiritual master includes serving his disciples. Read some of the quotes from letters on p.15-16.

6. Vaishnava etiquette in regard to dealing between sexes. See transcript p.19

7. Dangers of Vaishnava etiquette. Transcript p.21. Particularly the list of 4 things we should not blaspheme a Vaishnava for — p.21. Above that, verse saying how we should greet Vaishnavas.

8. Dressing like a Vaishnava. See transcript p. 22. Sections: 1. General. 2. Srila Prabhupada’s own standard. 3. Muslim story. 4. Srila Prabhupada’s appreciation of Satsvarupa and Rupanuga wearing tilaka to work.

9. Correcting others is very sensitive, see p. 23

Introductory Class Lecture given by His Holiness Bhakti Caru Swami

I’d like to welcome you all to our classes on Vaishnava Etiquette. Thank you for coming. I’ll begin by reading some quotes from Caitanya Caritamrta, the instructions of Caitanya Mahaprabhu to Sanatana Goswami, on sadacara–the activities of a Vaishnava.

Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu instructed Sanatana Gosvami to write “Vaishnava Smrti”

(Hari Bhakti Vilasa) in CC. Madhya Lila 24.324-344: Folding his hands, Sanatana Gosvami said, “My Lord, You ordered me to write a directory about the activities of Vaishnavas. I am a most lowborn person. I have no knowledge of good behavior. How is it possible for me to write authorized directions about Vaishnava activities?” Sanatana Gosvami then requested the Lord, “Please personally tell me how I can write this difficult book about Vaishnava behavior. Please manifest yourself in my heart. If you would please manifest yourself within my heart and personally direct me in writing this book, then, although I am lowborn, I may hope to be able to write it. You can do this because you are the Supreme Personality of Godhead Yourself and whatever you direct is perfect.”

Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu replied, “Whatever you want to do you will be able to do correctly by Lord Krishna’s favor. He will manifest the real purport. Because you asked me for a synopsis, please hear these few indications. In the beginning one must take shelter of a bona fide spiritual master. In your book there should be the characteristics of the bona fide guru and the bona fide disciple. Then, before accepting a spiritual master, one can be assured of the spiritual master’s position. Similarly, the spiritual master can also be assured of the disciple’s position. The Supreme Personality of Godhead, Krishna, should be described as the worshipable object, and you should consider the (bija) mantra for the worship of Krishna, Rama, or any other expansion of the Supreme Personality of Godhead.

“You should discuss the qualifications necessary for receiving a mantra, the perfection of the mantra, the purification of the mantra, initiation, morning duties, remembrance of the Supreme Lord, cleanliness, and washing the mouth and other parts of the body. In the morning, one should regularly brush his teeth, take his bath, and offer prayers to the Lord and offer obeisances to the spiritual master. One should render service to the spiritual master and paint one’s body in twelve places with urdhva pundra [tilaka]. One should stamp the holy names of the Lord on his body, or one should stamp the symbols of the Lord, such as the disc and club.

“After this, you should describe how one should decorate his body with gopicandana, wear neck beads, collect tulasi leaves from the tulasi tree, cleanse his cloth and the altar, cleanse one’s own house or apartment and go to the temple and ring the bell just to draw the attention of Lord Krishna.”Also describe the Deity worship, wherein one should offer food to Krishna at least five times daily. One should in due time place Krishna on a bed. You should also describe the process for offering arati and the worship of the Lord according to the list of five, sixteen or fifty ingredients.

“The characteristics of the Deities should be discussed as well as the characteristics of the salagrama sila. One should also discuss visiting the Deities in the temple and touring holy places like Vrindavana, Mathura, and Dvaraka.

“You should glorify the Holy Name and carefully give up offenses when chanting the Holy Name. One should know the symptoms of a Vaishnava. One must give up or nullify all kinds of seva-aparadha, offenses in Deity worship.

“The items of worship, such as water, conchshell, flowers, incense and lamp should be described. You should also mention chanting softly, offering prayers, circumambulating, and offering obeisances. All these should be carefully studied.

“Other items to be considered are the method of performing purascarana (purification), taking Krishna-prasada, giving up unoffered food and not blaspheming the Lord’s devotees.”

This is also a very important point that devotees should remember. A Vaishnava is not supposed to take anything that has not been offered to Krishna. We should be very careful about that. Because I have seen practically all over the world we are developing a tendency to eat things that are not offered. The only consideration has become if the food is vegetarian. But we are supposed to only take Krishna prasada.

Try to avoid it as much as possible. When you are traveling or if you are on sankirtana, then it is different. But still try to offer everything to Krishna before you take it.

“One should know the symptoms of a devotee and how to associate with devotees. One should know how to satisfy the devotee by rendering services, and one should know how to give up the association of non devotees. One should also regularly hear the recitation of Srimad-Bhagavatam.”

We can see how Prabhupäda actually implemented all of these instructions of Sanatana Gosvami in our Society.

“You should describe the ritualistic duties of every day, and you should describe the fortnightly duties – especially observing Ekadasi fast, which comes every fortnight.”

Now here also it’s an important thing to consider, like we generally think that just by not taking grains we are observing Ekadasi. But actually when we talk about observing Ekadasi, it actually means fasting. And fasting means not taking anything. Fasting does not necessarily mean just fasting from grains. In the beginning of course, devotees may just abstain from grains on Ekadasi day. But as one makes advancement, one should try to fast completely. Also as it has been described that one may also stay awake for twenty four hours. Stay up during the day and the night.

When I give class on observing Ekadasi, devotees often raise the point that Prabhupäda never really instructed us to observe Ekadasi in this way. But actually in the Nectar of Devotion Prabhupäda says that devotees may stay awake the whole night singing the glories of the Lord fasting. So Prabhupäda actually did instruct us to stay up all night as well. It’s actually not a very difficult thing.

“You should recommend the avoidance of mixed Ekadasi and the performance of pure Ekadasi.”

Perhaps you’ve noticed that sometimes we don’t fast on the Ekadasi but we fast on the Dvadasi. The reason we do this is that the Ekadasi is mixed. That is, dasami enters into Ekadasi. When the tenth day overlaps the eleventh day it is to be mixed or penetrated. And one does not fast on that Ekadasi but instead fasts on the next day which is Dvadasi, the twelfth day. And it has been described that fasting on a Maha-Dvadasi is a thousand times more potent then fasting on an Ekadasi.

“You should also describe the fault in not observing this. One should be very careful as far as these items are concerned. If one is not careful, one will be negligent in executing devotional service.

“Whatever you say about Vaishnava behavior, the establishment of Vaishnava temples and Deities and everything else should be supported by evidence from the Puranas.

“You should give general and specific descriptions of the behavior and activities of a Vaishnava. You should outline things that are to be done and things that are not to be done. All this should be described as regulations and etiquettes.”

Here are some other Quotes from Srila Prabhupada on etiquette:

“All the inhabitants of Vrindavana are Vaishnavas. They are all-auspicious because somehow or other they always chant the holy name of Krishna.” CC Adi 5.232 Purport

So here we also must understand one thing that all of the devotees in ISKCON are Vaishnavas because somehow or other they are chanting the holy name. Prabhupada is giving the qualification of a Vaishnava. One should consider all of the inhabitants of Vrindavan Vaishnavas. Why? Because somehow or other they chant the holy name of the Lord. So what to talk of the devotees of ISKCON, we should be very respectful of all of the devotees knowing well that they are all Vaishnavas.

The biggest hindrance to our spiritual progress is Vaishnava aparad. It’s actually a very dangerous offense. We must be very careful about committing Vaishnava aparad.

“Even though some of them do not strictly follow the rules and regulations of devotional service, on the whole they are devotees of Krishna and chant His name directly or indirectly.”

This is a very important instruction. Actually the whole Vaishnava etiquette or the whole Vaishnava culture is founded on this principle.

CC Adi 7.50 Purport “A Vaishnava should be tolerant like a tree and submissive like grass.”

“Nevertheless the author of this instruction, Caitanya Mahaprabhu, did not tolerate the misbehavior of Jagai and Madhai. When they harassed Nityananda Prabhu, He immediately became angry and wanted to kill them. One should be very meek and humble in his personal transactions, but if there is blasphemy against one’s guru or another Vaishnava, one should be angry as fire. One should not tolerate blasphemy against a Vaishnava but should immediately take one of three actions. If someone blasphemes a Vaishnava, one should stop him with higher arguments and higher reason. If one is not expert enough to do this he should give up his life on the spot, and if he cannot do this, he must go away. But we should never listen to blasphemy against a Vaishnava.”

Although Vaishnavas are very humble and tolerant, that is not weakness. Vaishnavas are not weak. Vaishnavas are as hard as a thunderbolt. If it is necessary they can become as violent as a lion rose petal and he’s as hard as a thunderbolt. A Vaishnava is not only soft, but if necessary he can become hard. That shows that Vaishnavas are not weaklings. Vaishnavas are very, very powerful. Both physically and spiritually. Actually it is the spiritual power that endows them with the physical power.

Vaishnavas should not be disrespectful to anyone. One should always be respectful to others but should not demand respect for himself. “amanina manadena”

A Vaishnava is adosa darsi. A Vaishnava never sees other’s faults. Of course, every human being has good qualities and faults. Therefore, it is said “sadyana guna mitsanti.” A Vaishnava accepts only a man’s glories and not his faults. “Adosa darsi” means one who does not find faults in others. He simply sees the other’s good qualities and he finds faults with himself. He is very strict with himself and he is always watching himself very scrutinizingly, detecting all of the defects he has in himself.

A Vaishnava always follows the order of guru and Krishna. Anyone who attempts to write about Krishna must first take permission from the guru and Krishna. One must first become a pure devotee and then he must take permission from the spiritual master and that permission must be confirmed by Krishna from within his heart.

Sanatana Goswami followed the instructions of Caitanya Mahaprabu and wrote a book on Vaishnava Etiquette. This book is the guidebook that directs a Vaishnava’s activities. The Hari Bhakti Vilasa describes Vaishnava etiquette as the behavior of a pure Vaishnava. Everybody should follow that standard. Here is how the Hari Bhakti Vilas defines Vaishnava etiquette, its philosophy, and some basic Vaishnava principles.

“Since nothing can be successful without “sadachar” or etiquette, every action should be performed with proper etiquette.” We must act according to proper etiquette. The heart of a saintly person is free from contamination. The way a saintly person acts is known as proper etiquette. A way a saintly person acts is known as “sadacara.”

“If a person reads the six branches of the Vedas without practicing proper etiquette, he does not get purified, just as a bird flies away from the nest as soon as it grows wings, the Vedas leave him at the time of his death.

“Although one may have acquired the knowledge of all of the Vedas, but if one is not practicing the proper etiquette or if he did not become a Vaishnava, then all of this knowledge which he has acquired, will be lost at the time of death.

“Proper etiquette increases fame, opulence, longevity and destroys all inauspiciousness.

“O king, proper etiquette gives the results of dharma, artha and kama. Therefore a wise man very carefully performs the proper etiquette described in the scriptures.

“Thus one can understand that Vaishnava etiquette purifies the heart and the consciousness.”

Now here are some basic principles and points that I’ve compiled from Hari Bhakti Vilas and the Nectar of Devotion about the proper activities of one who is a Vaishnava.

A Vaishnava –

l. Offers respect and obeisances to the guru, to the Lord and His devotees, and to other superiors. One must offer respect and obeisances to the superiors, like the guru, the Lord and His devotees. We must also respect superior relatives, like the parents.

2. Get up before 4 a.m. and attend mangala-arati.

3. After waking up, first brush your teeth and afterwards take a bath.

4. Bathe after passing stool.

5. Wash with water after passing urine. Also wash hands and feet.

6. Wash hands, feet, and mouth before and after taking prasadam.

We must at least wash our hands. In the Western countries it may be difficult to wash our feet. But when in India, you should wash both your hands and your feet before and after taking prasada.

7. Wash hands after drinking water.  This is done because when your hold your cup while drinking, your hands actually become contaminated.

8. Use the right hand for eating and drinking. Even if you are a lefty, try to use your right hand.

9. Always wear clean clothes.

l0. Never steal anything.

11. Never use unpleasant words.

l2. Never tell a lie, even if it is pleasant.  That is don’t even tell a pleasant lie.

l3. Never speak ill of others.

l4. Do not become inimical to others.

l5. Do not develop friendship with people who are envious, fallen, insane, inimical, extravagant, deceptive, lying or illicitly related with women. Do not develop friendship with unchaste women.

l6. Do not travel alone.

l7. Do not sneeze or yawn without covering the mouth.

l8. Do not laugh loudly.

l9. Do not pass air loudly.

20. Always avoid a crematorium, a garden, and unchaste women at night.

2l. Do not take shelter of a fallen person.

22. Neither sleeps too much nor stays awake too much.

23. Do not outstretch your legs in front of your elders.

24. Do not pass urine or stool on the road.

25. Do not spit while eating.

26. Do not insult women.

27. Do not become envious of women.

28. Never cause any harm to anyone; instead, always try to do good to others.

29. Do not associate with unscrupulous people or read “scriptures” that are not bona fide.  Scriptures are in quotes, which mean they are so-called scriptures.

30. Do not mock people who are foolish, insane, distressed, ugly, cunning, lame, or fallen.

3l. Do not chastise anyone except sons and disciples to educate them.

32. Bathe after shaving, copulating, or going to a crematorium.

33. Do not hit anyone on the head or pull anyone by the hair.

34. Do not eat yogurt or chickpea flour at night.  Actually Prabhupäda instructed us about yogurt but we are not so sure about the chickpeas. So you be careful about that now. Don’t eat chickpeas at night. In the morning they are good, but not at night.

35. If someone insults you, leave the place silently.

36. Never praise yourself.

37. Never look at a naked woman or man.

38. Do not place your foodstuffs on your lap to eat.

39. Do not quarrel with your wife.

40. Do not spit on water.

Because people sometimes drink water from ponds or lakes or rivers, one should not spit on water.

4l. Do not sleep in the temple room.

42. Sannyasis should bathe three times a day, grhasthas and brahmacaris at least twice a day.

43. After one takes prasadam the area where the plate was kept must be cleared. One should not step over the area where prasadam was taken, because it is considered contaminated.

I have noticed in many temples that after we take prasada, which is usually on the floor, we just step all over. Then without even washing our feet we enter into the temple room. So one should be careful about that. The place where we take prasadam becomes contaminated. And if you step on that spot, then you must wash your feet. The place where the prasadam has been taken must be cleaned right after the prasadam has been taken. Because the temple must be very clean, we should be careful that we do not unnecessarily contaminate the temple.

44. After touching the inside of the mouth or nose, one must wash his hands.

45. After putting on tilaka, one must do acaman by saying “om kesavaya namah,” “om narayanaya namah,” and “om madhavaya namah.”

So those are some of the basic principles by which a Viashnava acts. We’ll be going over many of these points in detail later in our classes.

Becoming a Vaishnava Devotee of Krishna

1. We are all infinitesimal parts and parcels of Sri Krishna. As our Krishna Consciousness evolves we will naturally develop and manifest all divine qualities.

2. The Supreme process for developing such Krishna Consciousness is the chanting of the Holy Name.

3. Becoming a pure devotee is not a cheap thing. We must guard against imitation and strictly follow in the footsteps of Srila Prabhupäda.

4. The qualities of a pure devotee like Srila Prabhupada are far beyond our present grasp. However, in their compassion, Sri Krishna and the Vaishnavas have made both the principle and the process very clear and simple.

5. Sri Krishna in B.G. 12.13-20 tells us quite plainly which qualities are dear to Him:

(a) “One who is not envious but who is a kind friend to all living entities, who does not think himself a proprietor, who is free from false ego and equal both in happiness and distress, who is always satisfied and engaged in devotional service and whose mind and intelligence are in agreement with Me – he is very dear to Me.” (BG 12.13-14)

(b) “He for whom no one is put into difficulty and who is not disturbed by anxiety, who is steady in happiness and distress, is very dear to Me.” (BG 12.15)

(c) “A devotee who is not dependent on the ordinary course of activities, who is pure, expert, without cares, free from all pains, and who does not strive for some result, is very dear to Me.” (BG 12.16)

(d) “One who neither grasps pleasure nor grief, who neither laments nor desires, and who renounces both auspicious and inauspicious things, is very dear to Me.”

(BG 12.17)

(e) “One who is equal to friends and enemies, who is equipoise in honor and dishonor, heat and cold, happiness and distress, fame and infamy, who is always free from contamination, always silent and satisfied with anything, who doesn’t care for any residence, who is fixed in knowledge and engaged in devotional service, is very dear to Me.” (BG 12.18-19)

(f) “He who follows this imperishable path of devotional service and who completely engages himself with faith, making me the Supreme goal, is very, very dear to Me.”

(BG 12:20)

6. How can we develop these qualities? Srila Rupa Goswami explained–

(a) be enthusiastic

(b) Endeavour with confidence

(c) Be patient

(d) Act according to regulative principles (such as sravanam, kirtanam, visnoh, smaranam – hearing, chanting and remembering Krishna)

(e) Abandon the association of non devotees

(f) Follow in the footsteps of the previous acaryas

(Nectar of Instruction Text 3)

7. He also elucidates those practices which will hinder our Krishna Conscious development:

(a) Eating more than necessary or collecting more funds than required

(b) Over endeavouring for mundane things that are very difficult to obtain

(C) talking unnecessary about mundane subject matters

(d) Practicing the scriptural rules and regulations only for the sake of following them and not for the sake of spiritual advancement, or rejecting the rules and

Regulations of the scriptures and working independently or whimsically

(e) Associating with worldly minded persons who are not interested in Krishna consciousness

(f) Being greedy for mundane achievements.

8. Srila Prabhupada, being as practical as he is compassionate, has provided a very clear and simple check list by which we can assess our progress in Krishna consciousness. Please read Bhagavad-Gita Chapter 13, Verses 8-12.

9. The process for developing our Krishna consciousness is profoundly simple and straightforward. If we sincerely take shelter of the lotus feet of the Vaishnavas, and intensely desire to achieve the goal, Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu will undoubtedly shower His mercy upon us.

10. All the divine qualities are there in the spirit soul. Therefore as we come closer to our spiritual identity, these qualities naturally become manifest.

Basic Principles of Vaishnava Behavior

Vaishnava etiquettes are not superficial or un-essential.

“Having heard all these details, Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu, greatly pleased, spoke as follows: (Cc Antya 4.129-30)

tathapi bhakta-svabhava maryada-raksana maryada-palana haya sadhura bhusana

“My dear Sanatana, although you are the deliverer of the entire universe and although even the demigods and great saints are purified by touching you, it is the characteristic of a devotee to observe and protect the Vaishnava etiquette. Maintenance of the Vaishnava etiquette is the ornament of a devotee.”

So it is stated, “Etiquette is the ornament of a Vaishnava.” But what does this mean? Is etiquette something only external or optional? We could draw an analogy: Is it possible to be wealthy, but have no riches? Or what is the value of wealth if one uses no costly ornaments? Generally, one will decorate himself according to the degree of his wealth. If one is very rich, he will be adorned with only the finest of raiment and accessories. Similarly, for one who is profound in his Krishna Consciousness, the jewels of Vaishnava etiquette will naturally grace all of his dealings and activities. The characteristics of a devotee are always sublimely manifest in all of his actions. The depth of a Vaishnava is judged by his symptoms. The true devotee will therefore adorn himself unsparingly with the decorum of a Vaishnava in all respects.

Etiquette [Dictionary Definition]: 1) conventional requirements as to social behavior; 2) the code of ethics of a profession.

Accepting the identity of a Vaishnava necessitates a certain standard of behavior or etiquette. Vaishnava etiquette facilitates Krishna Consciousness. It provides the criteria — the protocol — by which a devotee can act properly in every situation. In the Bhagavad Gita (6.24 purport), quoting from verse 3 of the Upadesamrta, Srila Prabhupäda roughly paraphrases one of the items favorable for development of devotional service as, “by engaging completely in activities of goodness.” Practicing Vaishnava etiquette means always acting in the mode of goodness, which is a stepping-stone to the transcendental plane. The mode of goodness is conducive to self-realization, whereas ignorance and passion are not. Therefore, how one applies the principles of Vaishnava etiquette reflects whether a devotee is Krishna conscious or not: i.e., is he humble? Conscientious? Well-mannered? Disciplined? cultured? sensitive? Someone who is actually a devotee will be known by how much he displays the good qualities.

Quotes from Srila Prabhupäda

A Vaishnava is better than a Brahmana

SP Letter to Sivarama (12/7/75) “Brahminical life means cleanliness”

“Brahminical life means to be very, very clean, inside and out. Inside by chanting and hearing, and outside by bathing three times daily, if not possible at least two times, but never less than once. Bathing after passing stool. The qualifications of the brahamanas are described in the 18th Chapter of Bhagavat Gita verse 42: “Peacefulness, self-control, austerity, purity, tolerance, honesty, wisdom, knowledge, and religiousness — these are the qualities by which the brahmanas work.” So see that these instructions are being followed nicely.”

Not Associating with Materialistic Persons

[In regard to brainwashing] Ramesvara: They claim that our lifestyle tends to take the devotee and isolate him from the world.” “Yes,” said Srila Prabhupada, “We hate to mix with you. No gentleman tries to mix with loafers. Crows will not like to live with the ducks and white swans; and white swans will not like to live with the crows. That is natural division. Birds of the same feather flock together.” (SP Lil.VI, pg 222)

The Feet

The feet should not touch (or even be exposed to) anyone or anything especially sacred items). That is offensive. Basically, the feet touch only the floor. Otherwise, they are kept covered. One should not step over (or reach over) anyone a) while they are offering obeisances (e.g., before the vyasasana) b) while they are sitting (as in the temple room)

Slamming Doors

The slamming of doors, although seemingly a minor fault, greatly disturbed Srila Prabhupada. It symptomized carelessness and misuse, and Prabhupada said the sound cracked his heart. One time Prabhupäda came out of his room and called out, “Who is that slamming the doors? No one knows from where this building has come. You take it for granted, that it is here. But no one cares.” (SP Lil.V, p.144)


* SP Letter to Pradyumna VE (1/22/68) don’t steal “But so far as stealing is concerned, one should not steal except in the rarest circumstances. Moral principle is recommended in all scriptures as a prerequisite for spiritual culture.”

More on the Behavior of a Vaishnava

“It is the characteristic of a devotee to observe and protect the Vaishnava etiquette. Maintenance of the Vaishnava etiquette is the ornament of a devotee.” Cc. Antya-Lila 4.129-130.

1. The consciousness of a devotee is manifested by his actions.

2. If one has any depth of realization, the jewels of Vaishnava behaviour will naturally pace all of his dealings and activities.

3. We need to be aware that the vast majority of our exchanges are with devotees and the innocent public. Aparadha is the only real stumbling block in spiritual life. We must become fearful of committing offence.   Such awareness will give sobriety and gravity to our behaviour. We will naturally become humble, Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu will become pleased, and we will make advancement without serious obstruction.

4. Srila Prabhupada’s reputation depends on our behaviour. In his compassion he lifted us up from much degraded backgrounds. He was even criticized by the less intelligent in India for doing so. In order to maintain Srila Prabhupada’s good name our behaviour should be very exemplary.

Quotes from Srila Prabhupada

“Act in such a way that they will see we are of ideal character.”Well-known SP quote: When asked, “How do you recognize a Vaishnava?” SP replied, “He is a perfect gentleman.”

(Cc Antya 102-3) Sanatana Goswami to Haridasa Thakura:

apane acara keha na kare pracara pracara karena keha na karena acara

“Some behave very well but do not preach the cult of Krishna consciousness, whereas others preach but do not behave properly.”

acara pracara — namera karaha dui karya tumi — sarva guru tumi jagatera arya

“You simultaneously perform both activities in relation to the Holy Name by your personal behavior and by your preaching. Therefore you are the most advanced devotee in the world.”

“Better than the brahmana who knows the purpose of the Vedas is he who can dissipate all doubts, and better than him is one who strictly follows brahminical principles. Better than him is one who is liberated from all material contamination, and better than him is a pure devotee, who executes devotional service without expectation of reward.” (Srimad Bhagvatam 3.29.32)

SP Letter to Rupanuga 5/9/72 “Boil the Milk”

“Now I want that we shall concentrate on making our devotees Krishna conscious and ourselves becoming Krishna conscious, and not be so much concerned with expanding ourselves widely but without any spiritual content. Just like boiling the milk, it becomes thicker and sweeter. Now do like that, boil the milk.”

To Patita Uddharan (12/12/74) “A devotee is always ideal in behavior.”

So we all have to cooperate amongst ourselves, otherwise what will people think if we ourselves fight with one another? A devotee is always ideal in behavior.”

SP Letter to Gargamuni 2/5/69 “Vaishnava Symptom is Humility”

“Your humble repentance is just like a Vaishnava student, so I thank you very much for this humbleness. Lord Chaitanya taught us to be humbler that the grass on the street and more tolerant that the tree. so these symptoms are Vaishnava symptoms.

SP Letter to Dindayal 2/2/70

“Krishna is so very merciful to those who are very humble in their attitude engaged in service of the Lord. Lord Chaitanya advised, therefore, one should be humbler than the straw and more tolerant than the tree and thus be seriously engaged in glorifying the Lord. This world is very awful. Anyone is ready to create some disturbance; especially they are very much apt to disturb Krishna Consciousness persons because that is the way of demoniac life. So, in order to protect us from all dangerous elements, we have to chant the Hare Krishna Mantra regularly being humbler than the straw and more tolerant than the tree. Then Krishna, Who is Dina Dayal, will bestow His Mercy upon us.”

SP Letter to 8/18/70 Upendra

“You are good for everything but your attitude to remain good for nothing is very nice. A Vaishnava is always humble and meek, and he is never puffed-up, even he has got the highest qualities of demigods.”

SP Letter to Janardan 1/21/68

“So we have to be very careful in understanding Krishna Consciousness. …. To understand Krishna as He has spoken in the Bhagavad Gita or in other Vedic literatures through the right sources of disciplic sucession that is our real knowledge. The idea is everyone should try to pace himself as if he doesn’t know anything. His position is secure. But as soon as he says that “I know everything, and I was previously such and such…,” That is actually rascal. So I know that you are trying to know things from the real source, and you are not puffed up like other fools who think that they know everything. Your humbleness is very much appreciated by me.”

“Otherwise, we may become subject to criticism”

SP Letter to Advaita (5/28/70) “As I have already said many times that we have to maintain two lines parallel; namely the path of Srimad Bhagavatam and the path of Pancaratriki. Srimad Bhagavatam is the path for Paramahansas, and Pancaratra path is for the neophytes. So the Temple worship is necessary for the beginners so that by following the regulative principles, such devotees become more and more purified and thus gradually come on the platform to understand Srimad Bhagavatam. So we shall always keep these principles in view and maintain our centers on this standard.

Recently I have received one ‘Kalyan’ magazine in which our activities in the Western world have been very much appreciated. Especially they have appreciated my strong injunctions on the point of following the four prohibitive regulations. So after describing our activities, the editor has remarked in one place that things are going very nicely at present, but it is God only Who knows how it will continue in the future. This means that the Indians, or the rigid followers of Vedic principles, are doubtful about my American and European students about their sticking to these principles. So it is a God-sent warning for us so that we may not deviate from the above mentioned two lines of action and thus become subject to criticism by the opposing elements.”

“Our dealings with others must be very clear.” Letter to Bali Mardan (2/22/70)

SP Letter to Satsvarupa (8/19/69)

“Anyway, do things in good sense, without any disturbance. We have to make progress very soberly, and I am always at your service whenever required.”

[Therefore a serious devotee is always ready to take guidance from superior/other Vaishnavas to understand the proper way of acting.]

“But we should never steal anything like money, food, water, gasoline, etc., just to enhance our service to Krishna. That is too much dangerous, and if we are caught then all our work is finished. Just like in India recently, this Balyogi Guru Maharaji was detected by the customs authorities attempting to smuggle some small items into India. By this one tiny incident his entire effort for preaching – even he is rascal Number One and his preaching is nonsense, even so the example is there – his work is ruined now and he is practically finished, as the government will not grant him a passport to leave India. So we shall always be careful to avoid any kind of jeopardizing our high standing in the society by some foolish and small act of illegal stealing.” <Source N/A>

No Salaries

“The teacher and the pujari should never receive a salary. They must work in pure devotion. The ksatriya also.” (SP Lil.V,p.65-6)

Vaishnava Behavior is Inspiring for Everyone

SP Letter to Janardan (1/21/68) Humbleness is appreciated

SP Letter to Shivananda (9/14/68) “This Krishna consciousness movement through music, philosophy, spiritual culture, and personal behavior culminating in ideal character of the devotees. All these heavenly contributions combined together will certainly bring about a major change in the life of Western people.”

SP Letter to Batu Gopal (2/1/75)

“You are right. We must all become ideal in character and then people will become very impressed with such purity. A devotee is faultless — he has no flaws.”

But, on the other hand, if we don’t follow:

SP Letter to Madhavi Lata (10/28/68)

“It is nice that you are doing preaching work there, but you should know that such practices like stealing are against the principles of Krishna consciousness. I always want that my students should be very ideal in character and not discredit our society.”

Letter to Çrédama 7/8th/70

“It is very good you have received permission for chanting and distributing literature as well as collecting. Now you should concentrate to develop your spiritual power to attract the fallen souls to Krishna Consciousness. The daily regulative duties must be performed by everyone very strictly: the beads chanted sixteen rounds, and our literatures read and discussed. In this way, everything should be done very nicely. Sankirtan should be done by you in the streets and at gatherings and in this manner display what is this Krishna Consciousness movement and how it is for everyone’s eternal welfare and happiness. So you do all these with great enthusiasm and very carefully. Our all activities must be open so that no one may criticize our mission. So all dealings must be to the standard of Vaishnavism. We cannot misrepresent ourselves for the purpose of taking monies from the public, but as everything is undertaken forthrightly in a Krishna Consciousness way, then Lord Krishna will be pleased to provide all facilities for aiding our sincere service.”

Etiquette within Relationships

1. The Vaishnava society is very meticulously structured, where seniors are always respected by the juniors and juniors always receive affection from the seniors.

2. The Vaishnava society is structured according to Varnasrama, Brahmana, Ksatriya, Vaisya and Sudra; and Sannyasi, Vanaprastha, Grhasta and Brahmachari.

3. There are considerations of seniority according to initiation among Godbrothers. Devotees who have received initiation earlier are considered senior.

4. The Guru’s Godbrothers should be respected as the guru.

5. Sannyasis should always be respected as the guru.

6. In a Vaishnava society everyone tries to become humble. The more advanced one is the more humble he becomes.

7. Sometimes senior Vaishnavas may offer respect to a junior Vaishnava due to his humility, but a junior Vaishnava should never think that he deserves that respect from all senior Vaishnavas. On the other hand when a senior Vaishnava offers him respect then the junior Vaishnava should feel extremely embarrassed, and repeatedly pray to Krishna that He receives the respect.

8. One should always remember that his business is to become more humble than a blade of grass, more tolerant than a tree, and desiring no respect for himself he should offer all respect to others.

9. Transgression of Vaishnava etiquette will undoubtedly destroy one’s spiritual life.

10. Never take sides when there is a disagreement among senior Vaishnavas. Stay neutral because the quarrel among the Vaishnavas is a kind of pastime and beyond our understanding.

11. Disciple should always respect his Guru as God.

12. Preachers should have compassion upon the innocent souls but avoid offenders.

Quotes from Srila Prabhupada

Use of Titles

“One thing you may note also as a matter of etiquette. The Spiritual Master is addressed as His Divine Grace, a Godbrother is addressed as His Grace, and any sannyasi is addressed as His Holiness.” (SP letter to Rayarama 91/30/67)

Dealing with Godbrothers

– Definition of “Prabhu”: SP, “You should not just use it mechanically; you should meaningfully apply it.”

*** SP Letter to Himavati VE (6/14/68) [68-6-18]

“Yes, to call one another “Prabhu” is all right, but not to become prabhu. To accept others as prabhu, and remain as servant is the idea. But because somebody is calling you “Prabhu”, one should not become a prabhu and treat others as servants. In other words, everyone should feel himself as servant, and not to think himself prabhu because he is being called “Prabhu”. This will make the relationship congenial.”

– A Practical definition of “Prabhu”:

Ralph Waldo Emerson (who is quoted on the jacket cover of all English Bhagavad Gita’s) said, “Every man I meet is my superior in some way. In that, I learn of him.”

“To serve the Spiritual Master means also to serve his disciples.”

SP Letter to Shivananda 1/23/69 “Regarding serving your godbrothers, this is a very good practice. The Spiritual Master is never without his followers, so to serve the Spiritual Master also means to be the servant of his disciples. When you want to serve the king, you must also serve his minister, secretary, and everyone who serves him. And to serve his servants may please him more than to serve the king personally.”

But, on the other hand:

SP Letter to Kirtanananda (11/23/74)

“Why Taittiriya should have a servant? Godbrothers are not meant for being servants. Without the spiritual master’s order, nobody can utilize the service of a Godbrother as one’s personal servant. We address each other as “Prabhu” so how we can engage our Godbrother as servant? Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu engaged Govinda das, who was His Godbrother, as His servant, but that was only on the order of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu’s spiritual master.”

SP letter to Janardan (1/21/68)

“I understand that your Godbrothers are as your younger dependent brothers: kindly treat them as your younger dependent brothers and try to advance them in Krishna consciousness as good as you can.”

SP Letter to Janaki 1/18/69 “Please do your duty combined without any disruption of peaceful attitudes amongst yourselves. We are pushing our movement on the background of a peaceful atmosphere in the world, and if we show a little disturbance in our own camp that will not be a very good example, Therefore, everyone should be forbearing, tolerant and cooperative.”

SP Letter to Gargamuni 9/8/69 “But one thing is you must stop this fighting between brothers. Otherwise the whole program will be spoiled. Yourself, Tamal Krishna, Brahmananda, Satsvarupa–you should do everything combined. That is my request. Gradually, by Krishna’s Grace, we are expanding. So if amongst us there is friction, it will be very dangerous.”

SP Letter to Brahmananda 11/15/69 “This is called Vaikuntha attitude. In the Vaikuntha factually there is no fault in anyone, but there is another type of competition. The competition is that one devotee thinks of other devotees how nicely they are serving the Lord. In the material world the attitude is that everyone likes to think that I am doing better than others. This is material conception. In the Spiritual Sky it is just the opposite: Everyone thinks that my contemporary devotees are doing better than me. We are trained to address Godbrothers as Prabhu, which means Master. This means we shall try to find out always the serving side of our Godbrothers. Sometimes there are misgivings, but we should try to overlook.”

SP Letter to Upendra (8/4/70) “It doesn’t matter what we are, grhasthas or sannyasis, the point is to be paramahamsa, completely surrendered to Lord Krishna.”

“Brahmana, ksatriya, vaisya, sudra, brahmachari, grhasta, vanaprastha and sannyasa. These are all MATERIAL DESIGNATIONS, but this Krishna consciousness movement is for becoming transcendental to these material designations, and these boys, these foreigners, they are being taught in that light.” (SP Lil.V, p.21)

Dealings amongst Grhasthas

SP Letter to Vrindavan Chandra 6/24/70

“I am so glad to learn that your good wife is also helping you. That is the duty of a faithful companion of life. If the wife is helpful in the spiritual progress of life, she is the best friend and philosopher. So in Krishna consciousness the wife is never a burden, but she is completely a counterpart. So set example to your countrymen how younger generation can live peacefully, husband and wife, being engaged in Krishna’s service. There are many examples of this type of husband and wife working in our different centers for propagating this sublime message.”

Dealing with One’s Guru

Letter to Madhudvisa (2/14/70): “In regard to praying to Lord Nityananda Prabhu, I have written to you in my last letter that such prayer is quite appropriate. Our only prayer should be in the matter of desiring further development of devotional service and such sincere prayer should be submitted not directly to the Lord but through the via media of His bona fide servitor or representative.” [Note: media is plural in number, not just one]

“I chastise you, because it is my duty. Disciple is related to discipline, so it is my duty to my disciples. Otherwise, I am not upset with anyone. I simply do this to discipline you, because you are my disciples.” (SP Lil. V, p.43)

“You may be afraid of your spiritual master, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t come and see him.” “I will drag you to come and see me.” (SP Lil.V, p.196).

– Disciples should not try to instruct their spiritual master:”Not knowing why Madhavendra Puri was crying, Ramachandra Puri tried to become his advisor. Thus he committed a great offense, for a disciple should never try to instruct his spiritual master.” (Cc Antya 8.21 purpt)

– Disciples should not initiate while the spiritual master is present. SP Letter to Acyutananda (8/21/68) “The first thing, I warn, Achyutananda, do not try to initiate.

You are not in a proper position now to initiate anyone. Besides that, the etiquette is that so long the Spiritual Master is present; all prospective disciples should be brought to him. Therefore if anyone is anxious to be initiated, he should first of all hear our philosophy and join chanting at least for three months, and then if required, I shall send chanted beads for him if you recommend.”

– Gurus Should Not Transgress Vaishnava etiquette (and initiate their Godbrothers’ disciples in good standing):

SP Letter to Mukunda VE 3/26/68 “I have received one letter which is very depressing from Hrshikesh. I understand that he has been induced by Bon Maharaja to be initiated by him for giving him shelter, and this foolish boy has accepted his inducement. I have replied Hrshikesh’s letter in the following words: `My dear Hrsikesa… I am greatly surprised for Bon Maharaja’s initiating you, in spite of his knowing that you are already initiated by me. So it is a deliberate transgression of Vaishnava etiquettes and otherwise a deliberate insult to me. I do not know why he has done like this, but no Vaishnava will approve of this offensive action. …I do not wish to discuss on this point elaborately now, but if you are desirous to know further about it, I shall be glad to give you more enlightenment…’ If Hrshikesh writes you a letter, I think you may avoid reply. I do not approve of both Hrshikesh’s and Bon Maharaja’s this offensive action.”

Seniors, juniors, and Equals

gunadhikan mudam lipsed  anukrosam gunadhamat maitrim samanad anvicchen na tapair abhibhuyate

[SB 4.8.34]

gunadhikan — who is more qualified; mudam — pleasure; lip set –one should feel; anukrosam — compassion; gunadhamat — who is less qualified; maitrim — friendship; samanat — with an equal; anvicchet — one should not desire; na — not; tapair –by tribulation; abhibhuyate — becomes affected

(Narada Muni to Dhruva M 🙂

“Every man should act like this: when he meets a person more qualified than himself, he should be very pleased; when he meets someone less qualified than himself, he should be compassionate toward him; and when he meets someone equal to himself, he should make friendship with him. In this way, one is never affected by the threefold miseries of this material world.”

Purport: Generally when we find someone more qualified than ourselves, we become envious of him; when we find someone less qualified, we deride him; and when we find someone equal we become very proud of our activities. These are the causes of all material tribulations. The great sage Narada therefore advised that a devotee should act perfectly. Instead of being envious of a more qualified man, one should be jolly to receive him. Instead of being oppressive to a less qualified man, one should be compassionate toward him just to raise him to the proper standard. And when one meets an equal, instead of being proud of one’s own activities before him, one should treat him as a friend. One should also have compassion for the people in general, who are suffering due to forgetfulness of Krishna. These important functions will make one happy within this material world.

Surpassing a Superior Personality

(Maryada vyatikrama)

“To be well versed in the transcendental science necessitates awareness of the techniques of spiritual science. Uddhava, being well aware of all these technicalities of transcendental science advised Vidura to approach Maitreya Rsi to receive transcendental knowledge. Vidura wanted to accept Uddhava as his spiritual master, but Uddhava did not accept the post because Vidura was as old as Uddhava’s father and therefore Uddhava could not accept him as his disciple, especially when Maitreya was present nearby. The rule is that in the presence of a higher personality one should not be very eager to impart instructions, even if one is competent and well-versed. So Uddhava decided to send an elderly person like Vidura to Maitreya, another elderly person.

Since both Maitreya and Vidura were directly instructed by the Lord, both had the authority to become the spiritual master of Vidura or anyone else, but Maitreya, being elderly had the first claim to becoming the spiritual master, especially for Vidura, who was much older than Uddhava. One should not be eager to become a spiritual master cheaply for the sake of profit and fame, but should become a spiritual master for the service of the Lord. The Lord never tolerates the impertinence of maryada-vyatikrama. One should never pass over the honor due to an elderly spiritual master in the interests of one’s own personal gain and fame. Impertinence… is very risky for spiritual realization.” (SB 3.4.26)

SP Letter to Sudama 7/29/72 Respect for sannyasi

“All should offer due respect to a sannyasi. His position is always superior to all other inmates of the temple. He must always maintain that superior position by action and behavior.”

SP Letter to Rayrama (1/30/67)

“One thing you may note as a matter of etiquette: The Spiritual Master is addressed as `His Divine Grace’, a Godbrother as `His Grace’, and any sannyasi is addressed as `His Holiness’.”

SP Letter to Janardan (1/21/68)

“I understand that your Godbrothers are as your younger dependent brothers. Kindly treat them as your younger dependent brothers and try to advance them in Krishna consciousness as good as you can.”

SP Letter to Arundhati 6/16/69 “Regarding your second question about greeting karmis, if a karmi is a friend, you just greet him Hare Krishna, and with folded hands touch your forehead. If the karmi is a superior relative, then chant Hare Krishna and bow down to him on the ground. That should be the etiquette in our society transactions.”

SP Letter to Yamuna Devi & Harsharani (1/15/68)

“If you have any specific grievance, please let me know but don’t but don’t be disturbed by any sort of disagreement with your Godbrothers and Godsisters. Each and every living entity is an individual soul and as such disagreement is quite possible in our dealings with one another. But we have to consider the central point of interest. You are both very intelligent and sober girls and I have got good estimation of you; do not take at any time an attitude of non-cooperation because you have not agreed with another’s point of view.”

[As superiors] “We should not accept unnecessary favors for sense gratification.” (Letter to Brahmananda 2/20/68)

Treating Women as Mothers

“In distributing love of Godhead, Caitanya Mahaprabhu and His associates did not consider who was a fit candidate and who was not, or where such distribution should or should not take place. They made no conditions.” (Cc. Adi-Lila 2.7.22)

1. In essence, duality means that we forget that we are part and parcel of Krishna. We want to enjoy separately from Him, we want to play the controller. This controlling tendency culminates in sex desire.

2. Man/woman concept is synonymous with material consciousness.

3. Becoming Krishna conscious means rising above duality. We have to become fixed in the consciousness that all are part and parcel of Krishna and for His pleasure – not ours.

4. A devotee’s foremost duty is to transcend sex desire.

5. This takes philosophical awareness, constant practice and perseverance. (Aversion is not the solution. Attachment/ aversion are two sides of the same coin.)

6. Srila Prabhupada in the compassionate mood of the Pancatattva has opened the treasure house of bhakti to all classes of men – and women.

7. This offers us intense and unlimited opportunity to transcend material attachment and aversion and develop transcendental realization in Krishna.

8. The word ‘mother’ generates a mood of respect and sobriety.

9. When we advise that women should be seen as mothers, we mean that our dealings with women should be reserved and respectful.

10. Such conduct will minimize offensive mentality and dealings with other living entities.

11. Women should behave as mothers.

12. In the practice of Krishna consciousness segregation of the sexes is essential.

Quotes from Srila Prabhupada

SP letter to Gargamuni (75.9.84):

“Regarding the disturbance made by the women devotees, they are also living entities. They also came to Krishna. So consciously cannot deny them. If our male members, the brahmacharis and sannyasis, if they become steady in Krishna consciousness, there is no problem. It is the duty of the male members to be very steady and cautious. This can be done by regular chanting like Haridas Thakur did.”

Letter to Rayrama 10/4/67 “Protect the women (Don’t Exploit Them.)”

“Please guide our innocent Godsisters who have come to our shelter. Girls are more susceptible to the finer attachments of Maya. Boys are a little stronger. Mrinalini, Jadurani and all other girls who are so qualified, good-looking, intelligent, educated, and seriously engaged in Krishna consciousness should always be given protection from the attachments of Maya.”

SP Letter to Gargamuni 10/18/69 “Maya’s most attractive feature is women and money. We Krishna Conscious men have to deal with women and money in course of preaching work, and the only prophylactic measure to save us is not to accept them for our sense gratification. Then we shall remain strong enough. Materialistic people take everything for sense gratification and Krishna Conscious people take everything for Krishna’s satisfaction. There is no fault in the thing as it is; namely women and money, but it becomes faulty by improper use. The improper use is to accept them for sense gratification.”

SP letter to Ekayani (12/3/72):

“Who has introduced these things, that women cannot have chanting japa in the temple room?  If they become agitated, then let the brahmacharis go to the forest. I have never introduced these things. The brahmacharis cannot remain in the presence of women in the temple, then they may go to the forest, not remaining in NYC, because in NY there are so many women, so how they can avoid seeing? Best thing is to go to the forest for not seeing any women, if they become so easily agitated, but then no one will either see them and how our preaching work will go on?”

Vaishnava Aparadhas

“In Krishna consciousness every man is so important because all of the activities of a devotee of Lord Krishna are beneficial to all living entities.” (SP letter to Shivananda 6/15/69)

The Greatness of a Vaishnava Quotes from Hari Bhakti Vilas

1. Devotees of Hari are very rare in the age of Kali. The position of the devotee is more elevated than the position of Lord Brahma and Lord Rudra.

2. The presence of a devotee at the time of death elevates even the killer of a brahmana to the spiritual sky. (10.86)

3. If a dog-eater becomes a Vaishnava then he becomes more elevated than a brahmana, and if a sannyasi is devoid of devotion to Visnu then he is considered to be more degraded than a dog-eater. (10.87)

4. Even at the time of total annihilation the devotees of Visnu do not fall down. That’s why Sri Hari is known everywhere as infallible, all pervasive, and inexhaustible; therefore there is no need to fear a devotee. A devotee never inflicts pain on anyone. (10.101-105)

5. Those who worship the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Sri Hari, are the best of all people and no one is better than them in the three worlds. (10.110)

6. Those sinless, magnanimous Vaishnavas purify the entire creation; therefore they are even better than the places of pilgrimage. (10.118)

7. Those who are My devotees are not actually My devotees, those  who are My devotees of My devotees are real devotees.(10.133)

8 My devotees who are surrendered unto Me and free from attachment and disgust, envy and pride, sing My glory all the time. They never cause any harm to anyone. They are always engaged in worshipping My devotees and eager to hear about Me, they are the ones who always carry Me in their hearts. (10.145-146)

Blasphemy of a Vaishnava

SP letter to Gopal Krishna (4/21/70)

“You are always alert to see whether you are committing some offense. This is a very nice attitude. In rendering service to Lord Krishna and His representative, the Spiritual Master, we should always maintain this fearful attitude which means careful attention. This attitude will advance you progressively in Krishna consciousness.”

Quotes from Hari Bhakti Vilas

1. When one blasphemes a Vaishnava he loses his religiosity, wealth, fame and children. (10.310)

2. If one beats a Vaishnava, blasphemes a Vaishnava, shows disrespect to a Vaishnava, gets angry upon a Vaishnava or does not express joy in seeing a Vaishnava, he goes to hell. (10.310)

Four Kinds of Blasphemy to a Vaishnava

1. To find fault with a Vaishnava for his apparent low birth.

2. To blaspheme him for his previous faults.

3. To blaspheme him for his accidental fault.

4. To blaspheme him for the faults that is almost rectified.

(from Harinam Cintamini)

What to Do If One Commits Vaishnava Aparadha

If by chance one commits Vaishnava aparadha then he must be forgiveness from the Vaishnava very earnestly holding his feet. A Vaishnava is very merciful so he will immediately embrace him and forgive him for all his offenses. (from Harinam Cintamani)

Offering Praise to a Vaishnava

SP letter to Tamal Krishna (8/19/68)

“This is actually a devotee’s business that everyone should appreciate the value of other devotees. Nobody should criticize anyone.”

Now that you have come to my house today, I have become glorified; my life has become completely successful. To be able to see a Vaishnava is as rare as the good fortune of seeing Sri Hari. I must have acquired immense piety, huge as the Meru Mountain that’s why I got to see a great Vaishnava like you.” (HBV (10.337-338)

Dressing like a Vaishnava

“Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu said ‘A first class Vaishnava is he whose very presence makes others chant the Holy Name of Krishna.'” (Cc. Madya-Lila 6.16.74)

1. There should be no compromise in our Vaishnava appearance. We are representatives of Srila Prabhupada. We should aim to be first class representatives.

2. We need to be aware of the bonafide standard of appearance. Maintain it and preach it. In the age of Kali deviations easily become the standard. We should be alert to this.

3. Proper Vaishnava dress helps us maintain proper consciousness regarding our identity and responsibility in service to Srila Prabhupada and the Vaishnavas.

4. Vaishnava appearance is attractive and will facilitate our preaching. The first impression, which is most often formed from visual stimuli, is the most longstanding.

5. Just by seeing a Vaishnava the conditioned soul is purified.

Quotes from Srila Prabhupada

“Srila Prabhupada was dressed appropriately for a resident of Vrindavana. He wore kanthi-mala <neck beads> and a simple cotton dhoti, and he carried japa-mala <chanting beads> and an old chadar, or shawl. His complexion was golden, his head shaven, sikha in the back, his forehead decorated with the whitish Vaishnava tilaka. He wore pointed white slippers, not uncommon for sadhus in India. But who in New York had ever seen or dreamed of anyone appearing like this Vaishnava? He was possibly the first Vaishnava sannyasi to arrive in New York with uncompromised appearance. Of course, New Yorkers have an expertise in not giving much attention to any kind of strange new arrival.”(SP Lilamrta, vol 2, pg 7)

Episode of Vaishnava wearing tilaka in Muslim factory (SP Nectar 3, 6th Story): There was once a factory in India where all the workers were Hindus, and mostly Vaishnavas. The Vaishnavas had freedom, therefore, to wear their Vaishnava tilaka to work, and they also displayed other Vaishnava paraphernalia. But after some time, the factory went into new management, and then the proprietor was a Muslim. On taking over the business, the Muslim owner declared that he would not allow the workers to come to work anymore wearing Vaishnava tilaka. Most of the workers obeyed, and on the given date announced by the owner, they appeared at the factory without their tilaka. One employee, however, thought that he would take his chances and depend on Krishna. So he went to work wearing very clear, white Vaishnava tilaka. After seeing all the workers assembled, the new Muslim proprietor said, “This one devotee who has worn Vaishnava tilaka is very courageous. He may be permitted to continue wearing the tilaka to work. But all others are forbidden to wear it anymore.”

In this way, Prabhupäda encouraged the devotees to not unnecessarily abandon the markings of a Vaishnava. Where situations forbid it, Prabhupada said it was not absolutely necessary to wear tilaka, although a devotee should at least put water tilaka on his body with the names of Visnu. But if the paraphernalia is permitted, then a devotee should not unnecessarily do away with the dress or beads of a Vaishnava.

Comment by SDG: This story has obvious modern day application. In 1966 Srila Prabhupada was pleased when Rupanuga and Satsvarupa persisted in wearing Vaishnava tilaka to their jobs with the NYC Dept of Welfare. Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura also desired that one day the high court judges may wear Vaishnava tilaka, and this would be a symbol of the successful influence of Krishna consciousness in the world. Even in job situations where wearing tilaka is not permissible, a devotee should try in different ways to remember Krishna while at work. The story told by Prabhupada about the man who insisted on wearing tilaka to his job may remain an inspiration to all devotees who go to places of employment controlled by the karmis. Somehow or other, we must remain as devotees.

“Gaudiya Vaishnava sikha is an inch and a half across — no bigger. Bigger sikha means another sampradaya. …And they have to be knotted.” (SP Lil.V pg. 93)

Correcting Others

“Devotee means he is able to tolerate all kinds of discomfort and whims of the material nature, and because he is too much absorbed in serving Krishna he takes no time to become angry or take offense with others or find out some fault. No. Devotee means very liberal and kind to everyone, always gentleman under all kinds of conditions of life.” (SP letter to Hansadutta 12/10/72)

1. There is a difference between criticism and correction. A devotee realizes that criticizing a Vaishnava pollutes the heart and impedes spiritual advancement.

2. To correct a devotee one must be:-

(a) Non-envious

(B) Desirous to practically assist the devotee in his Krishna consciousness.

(c) In a position spiritually or managerially which justifies and/or necessitates such intervention.


Be personally requested by the devotee to help him in his difficulty.

3. The devotee offering correction must be practicing what he preaches.

4. Methods of Correction:

(a) Correct by personal example and association.

(b) Guide the devotee to the shelter of a more advanced devotee.

(c) A junior devotee should not personally attempt to correct another devotee. He should reveal his heart to a senior devotee whom he feels at ease with and seek his assistance/advice to adjust the situation.

5. Harsh words and actions have no place in correcting a sincere devotee. We want to destroy the ignorance in the heart of a devotee – not the devotee himself.

6. If there is some sincere and honest criticism offered, we should be grateful, not upset. To react negatively to well- intentioned correction is to manifest false ego.

7. An advanced Vaishnava will see each and every correction offered as the mercy of Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu.

8. Prevention is better than cure. If all devotees take up the responsibility to develop proper awareness in their devotional behaviour the need for correction will be minimized.

Quotes from Srila Prabhupada

SP Letter to Patita Uddharan (12/12/74) “A devotee — one who is humble — doesn’t fault-find”

“So in your letter you are not finding fault with anyone. So you are good Vaishnava. You do not find fault with anyone. This is the qualification. We should always think ourselves humble and meek. This you must know. So we all have to cooperate amongst ourselves, otherwise what will people think if we ourselves fight with one another? A devotee is always ideal in behavior.”

SP Letter to Brahmananda 11/15/69 “This is called Vaikuntha attitude. In the Vaikuntha factually there is no fault in anyone, but there is another type of competition. The competition is that one devotee thinks of other devotees how nicely they are serving the Lord. In the material world the attitude is that everyone likes to think that I am doing better than others. This is material conception. In the Spiritual Sky it is just the opposite: Everyone thinks that my contemporary devotees are doing better than me. We are trained to address Godbrothers as Prabhu, which means Master. This means we shall try to find out always the serving side of our Godbrothers. Sometimes there are misgivings, but we should try to overlook.”

Letter to Tamal Krishna 8/23/73 [73-8-26] “I have received one complaint from an Indian devotee at Mayapur, Prabharupa Das Brahmacary, that he is maltreated by our American devotees. Kindly inquire into this matter and do the needful. Either Indian or foreign whoever joins us they are not under any obligation, our only tie is Love of Godhead. It should be our definite policy that nobody is ill-treated that he may go away. We recruit a person to join us after spending gallons of blood. Everyone comes for reformation, you cannot expect everyone to be perfect, and rather it is our duty to make everyone perfect as far as possible. So we shall be very much cautious and careful in this connection.”

(Devotee misbehavior) Letter to Upendra (8/18/70) “Kindly observe the regulative principles, chanting 16 rounds regularly and see that all your other assistants are doing the same. If someone is lacking, try to induce him peacefully.”

SP Letter to Bhavananda 10/28/70 “Regarding some misbehavior, that we have to check by training peacefully. Your attitude of tolerance and kindness is very nice, so train them in this way.”

SP Letter to Upendra 3/11/69 “Yes, a new man may commit blunders in the beginning, but that does not mean we may be too impatient with him. After all, training means the man does not know, so you should train him nicely. A Vaishnava is expected to be humbler than the blade of grass, so when you train some new man you should not get agitated with him. After all, we are preachers, and we do not expect our audience or candidates completely respondent to our call. If everyone is trained [already] then what is the use of our preaching?”

SP Letter to Hansadutta (9/29/74) “Mend it; don’t break it””Try to settle up amicably and correct yourself. One man is trained up with great difficulty, especially in spiritual life. Everyone has got some weakness and deficiency. It is better to correct or mend it than to break it.”

SP Letter to Nara-Narayana 2/7/69 “Let the Authority Handle It”

“I beg to thank you very much for your letter pointing out some of the discrepancies of many of the devotees in New York. You are correct regarding the items which you have stated, such as sleeping in front of the Deities, taking of unoffered foodstuffs, drinking water from the bathroom, and non-chanting of rounds. But the thing is discipline cannot be observed unless there is obedience. As you are obedient to me, you should be similarly obedient to my representative. Your statement about Brahmananda that he is a wonderful devotee is hundred percent agreed by me. He is in charge of the New York center, and therefore, if proper obedience is not given to him, it will be impossible for him to manage affairs of the temple. Under the circumstances, the discrepancies you have observed in the temple may be referred to him, and he is quite reasonable, and will handle the matter with the respective devotees.”

SP Letter to Madhumangala (11/18/72) “Regarding general state of affairs at Amsterdam temple, I can understand there is some disturbance among you, but that is not to be taken very seriously. Real business is preaching work. And if there is full attention on this matter only, all other businesses will be automatically successful. Fighting amongst ourselves is not at all good, but if our preaching work is neglected, or if we fall down in following the regulative principles — such as rising before four, chanting 16 rounds, like that — if these things are not strictly observed, then Maya will enter and spoil everything. So my best advice to you is to strictly observe these things yourself and be the example so that all others may follow. We should not criticize each other as Vaishnavas, because there is fault in everyone and we may be ourselves subject to criticism. Best thing is to be above suspicion ourselves, and then if we see discrepancies and make suggestions, the others will automatically respect and take action to rectify the matters. Otherwise the whole thing is doomed if we simply go on fighting over some small thing. So try to organize things and preach together in this spirit and that will please me very very much.”

SP Letter to Vrndavanesvari 7/28/69 “You have mentioned about some criticism made by Jayagovinda which upset you. I do not know exactly what is the point, but if there is some honest criticism, there should be no cause of becoming upset.”

SP letter to Goursundar (8/26/72): THE DEFECT LIES WITHIN YOU

“If there is some incident and I claim that no one is cooperating with me or no one will work with me, that is MY defect, NOT THEIRS. The Vaishnava devotee must think like this. We should not find fault with others and criticize and go away. That is not the Vaishnava way. Better we should always be willing to offer all respect to others and consider them as our superiors always.”

Etiquette in Management

ISKCON is a spiritual organization personally established by Srila Prabhupäda. We must to take care that it doesn’t become material. Anything (husband-wife relationship, Deity worship, even prasadam) can turn material by one’s consciousness. In any Society, there must be some organization and management, otherwise there will be chaos. Even in the spiritual world, Krishna’s friends are subdivided and supervised (Lord Balarama is group leader for his cowherd boy-friends; Candravali and Radharani head up left-wing and right-wing gopis, etc). ISKCON is no different. In order for people to interact in a harmonious fashion, dealings and activities must be regulated and orchestrated.>

1. The material nature is the world of exploitation but the spiritual nature is the world of service.

2. ISKCON is a spiritual organization. Regardless of position everyone is first and foremost a servant of Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu and Srila Prabhupada. No one should exploit his position for selfish interests.

3. Higher position means greater service. Position means an opportunity to purely represent Srila Prabhupada. Hence our management must be based on humility and tolerance.

4. Treat your subordinates as younger brothers.

5. Leadership is based on spiritual qualification, not on anything material. A mature, dedicated preacher makes the best leader.

6. A leader’s character must be spotless.

7. Leaders must feel for their followers, and then the followers will naturally trust them.

8. It is important to lead with detachment and guide with a strong sense of duty.

9. Krishna conscious management is autocratic and democratic.

10. Talk to devotees and be open to new ideas.

11. Don’t hide anything from the Vaishnava’s.

12. There should be more than one signer for bank accounts, buying of properties etc.

13. It is best if all incoming funds are declared before the Deities, Srila Prabhupäda, and the Vaishnavas.

14. All incoming funds should be deposited in the bank and then spent from the account.

Quotes from Srila Prabhupada

“The sweetness of Lord Krishna is not to be tasted by those who consider themselves equal to Krishna. It is to be tasted only through the sentiment of servitude.”

C.C Adi-Lila 1:6:103.

SP Letter to Hansadutta 7/11/70

“…Or you may follow your other plan, but however you do it, do it jointly by combined consultation. If you do it jointly in this way, you will get strength to decide the right thing.”

SP Letter to Amogha 5/9/72 “One thing is, too much competition between centers is not good, the emphasis should be on co-operation, not competition.”

SP Letter to Janaki 1/18/69 “Please do your duty combined without any disruption of peaceful attitudes amongst yourselves. We are pushing our movement on the background of a peaceful atmosphere in the world, and if we show a little disturbance in our own camp that will not be a very good example.  Therefore, everyone should be forbearing, tolerant and cooperative.”

“Krishna consciousness is such an important mission, the devotees should cooperate, even if there were discrepancies <insufficient income, inadequate diet>. The material world is like an ocean, and there would always be waves.” (SP Lil.V, p.9)

Letter to Upendra 8/6/70 now all my disciples must work combined and with cooperation to spread this sankirtan movement. If you cannot work together, then my work is stopped up. Our Society is like one big family and our relationship should be based on love and trust. We must give up the fighting spirit and use our intelligence to push ahead. You should accept help from your Godbrothers.”

SP Letter to Kirtanananda (11/12/74) “Yes, following the rules and regulations is the real qualification of GBC. We have made things easy for being qualified for such position, but still they are violating… Your conclusion is very good and I very much appreciate that GBC or XYZ you are always servant of Krishna. That is wanted.”

“When a KC person is elevated to a responsible position, he becomes humble, as a tree laden with fruits.” (1/27/70) Gajendra “When a Krishna Conscious person is elevated to a responsible position, he never becomes puffed up. Just like a tree when over laden with fruits becomes humble and lower down; similarly, a great soul in Krishna Consciousness becomes humbler than the grass and bowed down like the fruitful trees because a Krishna Conscious person acts as the agent of Krishna, therefore he discharges his duty with great responsibility.”

Spiritual Management (SP Lil.V, p.91) Prabhupada said he knew “the pulse of his disciples.” Thus he had recently <1972> sensed a tendency to be too absorbed in management and not enough in preaching. He had been telling his secretary that GBC- men should not simply sit behind their desks and try to centralize power but should become detached, take sannyasa, and travel and preach. Now he had advised that they not give up their managerial burden but follow his example of preaching and managing their GBC zones in a renounced spirit.

SP Letter to Krishnavesa Devi Dasi (1/16/75)

“My request to you is that you try to follow the authorities there — the temple president, the GBC, etc. Cooperate nicely with them. Our movement is based on love and trust, so if we do not cooperate, then how is that love and trust? Follow all of the rules and regulations very strictly without deviation, chant 16 rounds, attend class and mangal arati, and then everything will be all right.”

SP Letter to Krishna Das VE (3/5/69) “This surrendering process is unconditional. Surrendering does not mean that one should only surrender in favorable circumstances. That is not surrender. Surrendering means that in any condition the surrendering process must continue. [And what is an important part of that surrendering process?] …You must work conjointly. That is my desire. And if you fight amongst yourselves for some individual interests, that is not surrender.”

“Krishna consciousness means full cooperation with Krishna, and Krishna means with all his entourage. We should always remember this. Just like when we speak of a tree, it includes the root, the trunk, the branches, the leaves, the flowers — everything. Therefore to love Krishna means to love Him along with all His Name, His fame, His qualities, His entourage, His abode, His devotees, etc.” (3/2/70) Yamuna

Temple Room Etiquette

Temple room etiquette is described in detail by Srila Prabhupäda in his Nectar of Devotion.

Other Quotes from Srila Prabhupada

Letter to Nandarani & Krishna Devi (10/4/67)

“Another thing I request is that everything in the Temple should be kept nice and clean. Everyone should wash hands before touching anything of Krishna’s. We should always remember that Krishna is the purest and similarly only the purest can associate with Him. Cleanliness is next to Godliness.”

[In arcan] There is no matter if there is a little change here and there — the real duty is love and devotion.” (7/26/70) Yamuna

SP Letter to Kirtanananda (11/23/74)

Regarding the prasadam, I never approved Mr. Malkani cooking in the temple. He is not initiated. Of course, he is Hindu, but he is not initiated to cook in the temple. Any paid cook is not desirable. The independent cooking in the temple is not good.”

{Footnote: “The right thing is that only twice initiated brahmin disciples cook in the temple.}”

Letter to Mahapurusa (3/28/68) “Yes, a non-initiate can work under the direction of a devotee in the kitchen.”

(Cc. Antya 4.128 purpt) It is customary for the priests of temples in India not even to touch outsiders nor enter the Deity room after having been touched. This is a very important item in temple worship.

Seeing the Deity in a pleasing mood

Letter (5/27/70) to Tamal Krishna

“You have described Their Lordships Sri Sri Radha Krishna at London Temple as wonderful. Yes, that is the test of standard service. If we see the Deities in very pleasing mood, that will certify our service unto the Lord. So everywhere we shall see the Deities in such pleasing mood. As soon as we see the Deities in a different mood we must immediately understand our discrepancies.”

Srila Prabhupada said that the devotional practices in the Jaipur temple were standard and could be introduced throughout ISKCON. <i.e., offering scented oils on cotton-tipped sticks, which the priest would later offer, along with the flower garland from the Deities, to the incoming worshipers in exchange for fresh garlands>. (SP Lil.V, p.47,48.)

Serving Guests and Life Members

A Vaishnava’s heart is very pure and a pure hearted person is extremely magnanimous. So one’s Vaishnavism will be judged by the degree of his magnanimity.


1. Any guests who visit are Srila Prabhupada’s guests. As his servants it is our pleasure (and duty) to serve them.

2. The arrival of a guest is a chance to introduce a conditioned soul to Srila Prabhupada or relish Vaishnava association. Vaishnavas feel joy and gratitude to be blessed with such an opportunity.

3. Krishna consciousness is synonymous with personalism. We need to step beyond the bodily conception and remember that everyone is a part and parcel of Krishna and is very dear to Him.  We show this practically by:

(a) Welcoming the guest with sweet words, a seat and prasada. (If no prasada is available at least a glass of water should be offered.)

(b) Being prepared to give our time and sincere concern

(c) Remaining Krishna Conscious in our discussions and dealings

(d) Thanking the guest for his visit and inviting him to please come again.

4. Essentially, our mood should be one of loving exchange.

Receiving Guests in the Temple

“When we actually see people coming to our centre, chant, and dance, take Prasad, becoming jubilant and purchase books, we know that certainly Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu is always present in such transcendental activities and He is very pleased and satisfied.”Adi Lila 2.9.50P

5. Spontaneous service is encouraged in the visitor by the sensitive, pure preaching of the devotee. Every guest should at least be engaged by hearing the glories of Srila Prabhupada, relishing prasada and chanting the Holy Name.

6. The natural reciprocation of the soul to such engagement is a desire to share the happiness experienced. The expert preacher will facilitate this by offering Prasad, temple invitations or literature to the guest to distribute to his friends and relatives.

Quotes from Srila Prabhupada

– SP Nectar 3, 1 Story of Surabhi Swami and Jayapataka Swami One day while Srila Prabhupada was in Bombay, he simultaneously had visitors from Vrindavana and Mayapur. This was during a period when temple construction was going on in both places, so Prabhupada expected his disciples in those places to come ask him for money. And the disciples knew that Prabhupada would be expecting and demanding results from them on these important construction projects.

But when these disciples visited from distant places, Prabhupada always first welcomed them according to Vaishnava etiquette. Prabhupada had said that his mission was like a war on Maya, and so he received his own soldiers from the field by first offering them sweet words and relief. He asked them if they had taken any prasadam, and he suggested that they might want to rest. At least for a few minutes, the immediate, pressing problems were put aside, as Prabhupada’s disciples basked in the sweetness of his darsana and his kind welcome.

“You should always be able to offer water, hot puris and eggplant bhaji, and sweets,” Prabhupada said. Even when guests appeared shy, Prabhupada would insist they take a full meal. SP Lil.V.p144

During the train ride to Calcutta, Srila Prabhupada reiterated his displeasure with the mismanaged ISKCON pandal at Kumbha-mela. Thousands of guests were coming to the Hare Krishna pandal without receiving prasadam. Determined that the bad example not be repeated, he dictated a letter, “To all ISKCON Temple Presidents.”

“Please accept my blessings. Now you must arrange in each temple there must be sufficient stock of prasadam for distribution. You can keep first-class cooks, two or three, and they should always be engaged. Whenever any guests come, he must get prasadam. This arrangement must be made, that the cooks prepare 10-20 servings at a time, of puris and sabji, and then you can add halava and pakoras and the visitors may be supplied immediately. Whenever a gentleman comes, he must be served. As the twenty servings are being distributed, immediately the cooks prepare another 20 servings and store it. At the end of the day if no one comes, our men will take, so there is no loss. You cannot say, “It is finished,” “It is not cooked yet,” “There is no supply for cooking,” etc. This must be enforced rigidly.  The temple is managed by Srimatii Radharani, Laksmiji; so why should there be want? Our philosophy is, if anyone comes, let him take Prasad, chant Hare Krishna, and be happy. Everything is being supplied by Krishna. Krishna is not poor, so why should we deny them? This should be done at any cost. There is no difficulty. It simply requires nice management. At the end of the day you may sell or give away. If we believe that Krishna is providing for and maintaining everyone, then why should we be misers? This means losing faith in Krishna and thinking that we are the doers and suppliers. We are confident that Krishna will supply! Let the whole world come. We can feed them. So please do this nicely. Begin at once.”(SP Lilamrta VI, pg 232; letter, Jan. 1977)

Serving and Honoring Prasad

“I like this idea very much. Our chanting is the medicine and our prasadam is the diet for curing material disease.” (P letter to Dayananda 68/10/37)

How to Honor Prasad

When a devotee distributes prasada, remnants of food offered to the Supreme Personality of Godhead, in order to maintain our spirit of devotional service we must accept this prasada as the Lord’s grace received through the pure devotees. (NI Text 4, p 39)

1. Remember that Krishna prasadam is non-different from Krishna. Recite the ‘sarira avidya-jal’ prayer to remember that.

2. Use the right hand to eat and drink.

3. Meditate on how Krishna tasted the offering. (One can also meditate on Krishna’s mercy in providing prasadam and the prasadam pastimes of Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu and Lord Krishna.)

4. Do not talk while honoring prasadam (besides glorifying Krishna and His prasadam.)

5. Do not throw prasadam. Never touch prasadam with your feet.

6. Wash hands, feet and mouth before and after eating.

7. Drink a glass of water one hour before eating. For some time after eating, don’t drink; if you at all have to drink, drink something hot.

8. Srila Prabhupada said: Fill 1/4 of your stomach with water, 1/2 with food and the other 1/4 with air. DO NOT OVEREAT!

How to Serve Prasadam

“We should never waste Krishna prasadam. Best thing is to cook only what is required and then give each person what he wants. That is the Vedic system that the people sit in rows behind their plates and servers pass down the rows and put a very small portion of each foodstuff on each plate, unless there is some objection by a person. Then nothing is given. Then if anyone wants more, the servers pass up and down the rows continually and give more if anyone requests. In this way nothing is wasted and everyone is satisfied.” (SP letter to Kirtiraja das 71.11.42)

1. All to be served should be invited to sit on the floor, and prasadam should be served by qualified devotees.

2. Those that are served should be very clean, peaceful, and satisfied. They should eat before serving, if necessary. They should try not to speak while serving.

3. Serve just the right amount so that nothing is wasted.

4. Seniors should be served first. Householders should serve the guests. Old people and children should be served first.

5. Place salt and lemon on each plate before those to be served are seated.

6. Always serve water first.

7. Prasadam should be served in the following order: First bitter preparations like sukta and bitter melon.  Then spinach and other astringent items.  Fried preparations and dhal. Various spicy vegetables Sour items. Sweet preparations. Rice and capatis are staple foods and should be on the plate

8. Go around serving seconds until everyone is satisfied.  Don’t be stingy – don’t hold anything back because you want to take it later. Prasadam is meant for distribution.

9. Do not touch plates with the serving spoon. Touching the plate contaminates the spoon. If a spoon becomes contaminated, you should wash it.

10. Don’t let your fingers touch any of the preparations, even water. Salt should never be served by hand, use a spoon.

11. Never touch prasadam with your feet or step over it.

12. Serve the prasadam from serving buckets.

13. Don’t drag buckets along the floor or make clanging noises with pot handles or utensils. Serve quietly.

14. After everyone is finished honoring prasadam, clean the place immediately.

Quotes from Srila Prabhupada

Story of Prabhupada’s visit (along with some disciples) at the Asram of Puri Maharaja in Visakhapatnam (SP Lil V, pg 66-67):”Prabhupada’s godbrother Ananda was eager to cook and serve not only Srila Prabhupada, but all his disciples. Ananda was elderly, yet he took the position of always offering menial service. Although he spoke very little English, Prabhupada’s disciples could perceive the affection of Ananda and Srila Prabhupada for each other. Ananda’s communication with Srila Prabhupada’s disciples was particularly manifest through his cooking and serving of prasadam…

[A wonderful description is then given on how Ananda would serve all the devotees prasadam.]

Each morning everyone would gather on the veranda outside Prabhupada’s quarters, the men sitting on one side, the ladies on the other. Down the center aisle, Ananda would walk briskly; distributing prasadam, while Prabhupäda sat at one end in a wooden chair, fingering his japa beads and observing the devotees take prasadam. Prabhupada had supplied money to the ashram and Ananda was regularly cooking sumptuous feasts: deep-fried chunks of potatoes in powdered spices, rice, yogurt, dhal, and three different types of subjis, French fries, chutney, malpura, rajkeli, sandesa, ksira — and everything cooked to a nectarean standard of excellence.

Prabhupada would sit at the head of the two rows and encourage them to take prasadam: “Give him more!” Prabhupada would praise Ananda’s cooking, smiling with pleasure to see his disciples accept prasadam. The devotees would finish, having been induced to eat as much as they possibly could, and Srila Prabhupada would say aloud the prema-dhvani. Then all the devotees would shout in response, “Jaya!”

After one such feast, Prabhupada called the devotees into his room and remarked, “See how he is cooking. He cooks everything, he serves it, and then he doesn’t eat until everyone is fully satisfied. This is Vaishnava, how he should act. He is more satisfied to serve than to enjoy himself.”

Kirtan Etiquette

“Regarding your question about the dancing, the dancing should be done enthusiastically by raising the hands like Panca-tattva. You can also dance enthusiastically by raising hands. All of Lord Chaitanya’s followers used to dance with raised hands. If someone dances with ecstasy, that is all right, but it is better to dance with raised hands.” (SP Letter to Kirtanananda 11/10/74?)

1. Kirtan means glorification of Sri Hari by means of singing.  (When only one devotee sings, it is bhajan.)

2. Glorify Sri Krishna, not yourself.

3. Sing with sincere devotion for the pleasure of Sri Krishna and His devotees.

4. When singing in a group, one or two persons should lead and other devotees should follow.

5. The instruments that Srila Prabhupada instructed for accompanying kirtan were kartals, mridanga and jhampa (whompers). He didn’t approve of harmonium for kirtan. For bhajan it is alright. The instruments, especially jhampa, should not drown out the holy name or cause pain to the ears. The instruments should follow the kirtan leader.

6. Use simple melody and preferably the appropriate melody (raga) for the time of day.

7. Don’t think that you are the best singer and therefore you should lead. Vaishnavas are by nature humble. They naturally want to follow not lead. However, if they are requested to lead by the Vaishnavas, then they are happy to serve.

Etiquette in Public

yad yad acarati sresthas tat tad evetaro janah sa yat pramanam kurute lokas tad anuvartate

(Bhagavat Gita 3.21)

Whatever action is performed by a great man, common men follow in his footsteps. And whatever standards he sets by exemplary acts, all the world pursues.

1. Always remember that you are representing Srila Prabhupada. Srila Prabhupada never compromised the Absolute Truth.  However, he was always the perfect gentleman. This is Krishna Consciousness.

2. While dealing with people we have to sacrifice our false ego. We must train ourselves not to be concerned with the subtle interaction of the three modes and material nature.

3. We need to develop single-minded determination to think, speak and act as Srila Prabhupada wants us. This is Krishna Consciousness.

4. It is imperative that we remember, by constant practice, that everyone is a part and parcel of Sri Krishna. Our only business is to reawaken their consciousness to spiritual reality.

5. Always remember that everyone – including Sri Krishna – is watching you.

6. Sankirtan is the most effective method to awaken Krishna Consciousness. A devotee should be very concerned to distribute Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu’s mercy. This should be the essence of all our dealings.

7. Never lose your temper in public. Humility and tolerance will always win over anger and frustration.

8. Don’t eat in public or sit in public places for discussion or relaxation.

Quotes from Srila Prabhupada

SP Letter to Sri Govinda (6/12/74) “Actually, what is our aim? Our aim is to create men of ideal character. And if our men are distributing books on this account, they are doing the best service to society. What we are doing, that they must see — see their sacrifice, what is behind their life, how they are living, how they have sacrificed everything for the welfare of society.”

(SP Lil.V, p.22-23) “That is the standard of living in America. You cannot say, `No, I shall not lie down in this nice apartment. I shall lie down in the street. I am a sannyasi!’ Then nobody will respect me. So we have to use it <cars>, but we should not be attached to it. Our attachment should be for Krishna, and for Krishna’s service we can accept anything.”

Touching feet 3/11/70 Acyutananda “You do not allow anyone to touch your feet–but if they want to insist on touching your feet and there is no other way to avoid it, you can simply remember your predecessor Acaryas and Spiritual Masters and accept them and return namaskar with folded hands. That is the Vaishnava etiquette.

When Srila Prabhupada was questioned by journalists he didn’t answer in view of what would be printed, but Prabhupada was speaking to these reporters as spirit souls, reaching out toward Krishna consciousness. (SP Lil.V, pg 58)

A young man demanded, “Have you realized the soul in the innermost depths of your being?”

Prabhupada: “Yes.”

The man: “When was the Bhagavad-Gita written?”

Prabhupada: “Now you answer my question. What is the process of receiving knowledge from the Bhagavad-Gita?”

The man: “No, you tell me when was the Bhagavad-Gita written? According to some swamis it was written fifteen hundred years ago, but you said 5000 years.”

Srila Prabhupada raised his voice angrily: “I am not your servant. I am Krishna’s servant. You must answer my question!”After the man left, Prabhupada completed his lecture by stating that one must approach Krishna or Krishna’s representative with a submissive attitude, by serving and inquiring, not simply asking challenging questions. (SP Lil. V, p.16)

“Just as the gopis were lusty for Krishna, Arjuna would get angry for Krishna. So it is not bad that a devotee becomes angry for Krishna.” (SP Lil. V, p.17)

Etiquette in Holy Places

“Coming to pilgrimage means to come where the sadhus are. I am here, so why is everyone going elsewhere?” “You cannot see Vrindavana with visaya, or material spirit. The test is how much you have conquered over eating, sleeping and mating. Don’t think you can just come to Vrindavana and become a Goswami!”(SP> Lil. V, p193)

1. We come to a holy place to become purified, to develop our Krishna Consciousness.

2. It is important not only to maintain a submissive, humble attitude with other ISKCON devotees but with all the residents of the Dhama. (We should be especially mindful of this in ‘mundane’ dealings e.g. arranging transport, shopping).

3. To actually be in the Dhama means to be in the association of devotees, to hear from senior Vaishnavas and serve them.  We cannot see a holy place with visaya (material spirit). We are reliant on the mercy of the Vaishnavas.

4. We must maintain Srila Prabhupada’s good name by being clean in all our dealings. (This includes everything from eating to changing money).

5. We must be aware that Govardhana Hill, Radha and Shyama Kund etc. are Supremely transcendental personalities. If we desire to take their darshan we must do so in proper consciousness.

6. Animals are also residents of the Dhama. We should neither befriend them nor make them our enemies. It is best to maintain a neutral position.

7. It is important to come to the Dhama in a service mood rather than an enjoying mood. Then our visit will be successful.

Quotes from Srila Prabhupäda

SP Letter to Jadunandan (3/26/68) Dhama considerations (neophytes are not recommended to go for seeking solitude)”The association of devotees is the only solace for our existence. New York might have been a little busier than Boston, but so long as it is under the guidance of an experienced devotee, the affairs in both cases are all right. The tendency for solitude is a kind of reaction on our past material activities, but solitude is not very good for a neophyte. ..The best thing therefore is not to seek solitude in the beginning, but remain in the midst of pure devotees so that even there is attack of Maya, their association will protect us. If you are, however, always busy in the matter of preaching work, that is very nice. But to remain alone in a solitary place for a new man is not advisable.

Vrindavana is of course very impressive for devotional service, but that also is not advisable to remain alone. I am trying to get a nice place at Vrindavana and when the place is there, I shall personally be present with some devotees, and appreciate the atmosphere in Vrindavana. So long we are engaged in devotional service with proper guidance, certainly we are always in transcendental position, and transcendental position is unlimited. It doesn’t matter whether you are in Vrindavana or USA. But still, of course, Vrindavana atmosphere is very sweet. But so long as we have not completely freed our material attachment, even Vrindavana residence becomes uncongenial. Just like in the case of Kirtananda, it was so happened. …Our sound position is always being engaged in service of Krishna that is positive standing.”

Learn the Etiquettes: “In the holy dhama, if one of my disciples drinks from a jug and contaminates that jug, everyone will notice it. Don’t be criticized for this uncleanliness or I will be criticized. It is the duty of the disciples to follow these etiquette habits very austerely.” (SP Lil. v, p.29-30)[Refer this also to “How to serve and honor prasadam”]

All Animals are Residents of the Dhama (Dogs, Hogs, and Monkeys)

Not Disturbing the Dogs

(SP.Lil.V, p.25) Once in Vrindavana, the devotees tried to chase away a few stray dogs by throwing stones and yelling, but Prabhupada stopped them, “Leave them alone,” he said, and he began throwing the dog’s prasadam from his plate.

The Monkeys

“Neither be their friend nor their enemies, if you make friends with them, they will simply be nuisance. If you become their enemies, they will become very vindictive. Just maintain a neutral position.” (SP Lil.V, p.42)

Dealing with Indian Brahmans, Mayavadis and other Sampradayas

Indian Brahmanas and Mayavadis

1. In dealing with the smarta Brahmans we must remember that they have no bona fide parampara. Therefore they are not in a position to have received transcendental knowledge.

2. The Vaishnava is more elevated than a Brahman.

3. Srila Prabhupada’s second pranam mantra indicates that we should minimize our dealings with the mayavadis.

4. We may choose to offer respects to Mayavadis but we must never accept their food.

5. How to defeat Mayavadis:

(a) Their understanding of the Absolute is incomplete.

(b) They utilize relative means in their quest for the Absolute.

(c) They distort the quintessence of the scripture.

(d) Lord Siva came as Sankaracarya to bewilder the demoniac people in the age of Kali through mayavadi philosophy.

6. It is better not to preach to mayavadis or smarta Brahmans. However, we should preach to the innocent who have been influenced by them.

Other Sampradayas

1. There are distinct differences between the four sampradayas – Sri, Brahma, Rudra, and Kumara.

2. There is a distinct difference between these sampradayas and ours.

3. There is a subtle difference between ISKCON and other Gaudiya sampradayas.

4. Srila Prabhupada’s spiritual position is unique. It is our special good fortune to be related to Him.

5. The caste goswami’s conception of disciplic succession is a complete misconception.

6. No matter how elevated, a Vaishnava always offers respects.  The more advanced he is, the more humble he is. Therefore our dealings with other sampradayas should be very respectful.

7. In our dealings we must be aware that there is a difference between submission, humility, and respect.

8. We should always be respectful towards other sampradayas – at least externally – to protect Srila Prabhupada’s good name.

9. It is good to know about differences and defects in other spiritual communities.

10. We must always be aware of the unique position of the Vraja Bhasis and never offend them.

Quotes from Srila Prabhupäda

“Swamiji, your disciples don’t pronounce the sanskrit very nicely. Even the Hare Krishna mantra they sometimes do not say correctly.”Prabhupada: “Yes, that is why we have come here — to get your association so you can teach us.” (SP Lil.V, p. 62)

SP Letter to Alfred Ford (7/16/74) “So far as your questions are concerned, in India a sannyasi or a person in the renounced order of life is always honored. Even in this fallen down condition of India a sannyasi is honored everywhere, and he has no problem for his living condition. So you are correct that a person in the renounced order of life is honored.”

Give everyone proper respect (4/30/70) Jayapataka “Regarding your questions how to offer respects to Sannyasis. Every Sannyasi, even if you see a Mayavadi Sannyasi, offer him your respects –there will be no harm. As you have observed we shall follow Lord Chaitanya’s instruction that we give all due respects to others regarding their position, but there is no need of always associating with each of them. Even if one is Vaishnava, but not of good character, we can give him the Vaishnava respect, but we cannot associate with him.”

Srila Prabhupada Nectar <3:30>

“One time when Prabhupäda was at Bhaktivedanta Manor, a Mayavadi sannyasi came to visit. Srila Prabhupada received him graciously, and they had some discussion. When the man departed, he deliberately left behind a big stack of pamphlets. The pamphlets contained a little essay on the monistic doctrine that “all is one,” defying the direct meaning of the Vedic scriptures and completely omitting Lord Krishna as the Supreme Pesonality of Godhead.

The next afternoon, Prabhupada met with the devotees as usual. His practice was to receive a very big plate of fruit and nuts, take some himself, and then ask a disciple to distribute the maha-prasadam to all the devotees. On this particular day, Prabhupada called for the pamphlets. The devotees were surprised –“Why is Prabhupäda calling for these pamphlets?” When they were brought in, Srila Prabhupada said, “Distribute one to each of the devotees.” The devotees were bewildered, as the Mayavadi pamphlets were distributed to one and all.  Then Prabhupäda said, “Everyone takes a pamphlet, open it up and put it in your hand.” He took a few fruits from the plate, began eating them, and then indicated that the rest should be distributed. He said the devotees should use the pamphlets as paper plates. One of the devotees mentioned later that Prabhupäda was practicing yukta-vairagya by this simple act. He had found a useful purpose for the atheistic tracts, simultaneously ridiculing their author and yet engaging him in devotional service.

Dealing with Mayavadis. …Then the other sannyasi <mayavadi> began speaking. Suddenly Srila Prabhupada looked at us and said, “Start kirtan immediately.” So we got up in the middle of the sannyasi’s speaking and started kirtana. “He was preaching impersonal philosophy and I could not tolerate it,” Prabhupada said. (Bhurijan w/SP in Japan, SP Lil.V, p.92)