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Deity Worship Ministry Releases Statements on Controversial Issues

By: for ISKCON News on Nov. 9, 2018

Sri Sri Radha Kunjabihari, ISKCON Detroit

The ISKCON Deity Worship Ministry has released two position papers on perennially debated issues: “Showing Radharani’s lotus feet;” and “Who can participate in public abhisekhas in ISKCON Centers?”

Both can be read in full here:

The first paper takes the position that “Srimati Radharani’s lotus feet should not be ever shown publicly at ISKCON temples, whether on a daily basis or particularly on festivals such as Radhastami and Gopastami.”

It elaborates, “The ISKCON Deity Worship Ministry has been unable to determine any circumstance where Srila Prabhupada instructed, approved, or even witnessed Radharani’s lotus feet being publicly viewed in an ISKCON temple. It seems that the practice of showing Her feet in ISKCON temples on Radhastami and/or Gopastami became popular in ISKCON sometime in the 1980’s.”

Sri Sri Radha Rasabihari in Juhu, Mumbai

The second states: “Abhisekas in ISKCON centers may only be performed by suitably qualified brahmanas according to the same pancaratrika standards as Srila Prabhupada established for daily temple worship.”

“In the paper we also suggest several other ways in which temples can fruitfully engage donors, where they’ll feel satisfied by the exchange with the Deities, and you don’t have to transgress the laws of sastra,” says ISKCON Deity Worship Minister Nrsimha Kavacha Das.

Both positions are backed up by meticulous research of Srila Prabhupada’s statements, as well as many scriptural statements.

Interestingly, both papers present evidence on both sides of the issue, to create a balanced approach and allow devotees to come to their own conclusions.

Sri Sri Radha Gokulananda at Bhaktivedanta Manor, England

“The intention of the paper is not to make a rule, which is why we decided on the name ‘position paper’ instead of ‘policy statement,’” says Nrsimha Kavacha. “We’re not trying to heavy people out on it, just to provide them with the information so they can make informed decisions.”

After reading the papers, a number of temples have contacted the Deity Worship Ministry to say that they did not show Srimati Radharani’s feet this year.

In the future, the Deity Worship Ministry will continue to release regular position papers on a long list of other oft-debated topics. These include changing the appearance of Deities by adding arms or repainting Them differently; whether or not chocolate or frozen vegetables can be offered; should we observe Shiva ratri?; and do we worship demigods in ISKCON? – an issue that Nrsimha Kavacha says has become more popular since Srila Prabhupada’s departure.

Other topics include paying pujaris; the length of Krishna’s hair; was Srila Prabhupada in favor of Dwarka Sila worship?; is it alright to offer Hati Vesha to Lord Jagannath (dressing Him in an elephant costume)?; how do we observe eclipses?; should Lord Chaitanya wear a peacock feather?; and does a death in the family cause contamination and disallow you from performing Deity service immediately after?

Sri Sri Radha Shyamasundara in New Vraja Dhama, Hungary

There will also be papers on the use of white, sugar, yeast, and whether or not it is permissible to offer non-ahimsa, store-bought milk to the Deities.

“These topics keep coming up, and oftentimes before a major festival such as Radhastami we’ll get a flurry of letters, which puts pressure on us,” Nrsimha Kavacha says. “So rather than having to write so many emails, we’ll just direct them to a link with a well-researched position paper so devotees know what to do.”

Nrsimha Kavacha admits that writing the position papers is not easy, because Deity worship brings up strong emotions and opinions in devotees. However the Deity Worship Ministry is being as measured and balanced as possible in their statements. 

“We must point out that these positions are not set in stone,” Nrsimha Kavacha adds. “There’s always a possibility that we will change them as we find out more information, or other saintly souls weigh in on the discussion and help us to understand the situation better. But at this point, we are happy with the statements we’ve released so far.”

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To read the current position papers and new ones as they arrive, please visit: 

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