Kṛṣṇacandra Dāsa – Śrī Vṛndāvan Dham: After the comment below was posted on our Facebook account we decided to put together a ‘gallery’ of similar deviations committed by sentimental devotees who are beginning to play ‘dress-up’ with the Supreme Personality of Godhead Lord Śrī Kṛṣṇa and His Divine consort Śrīmate Rādhārāṇī.
John Roberts – Mr & Mrs Claus? What has ISKCON’s Deity worship standard degraded to? Sahajiya sentimentalists. The standard of little girls playing with dolls? Why ISKCON should play into the hands of ‘father Christmas’ commercialism is beyond me? What has this to do with Krishna Consciousness? A toy sack and a Christmas tree on a altar? Shame on you for playing dress up with the Supreme Personality of Godhead!
Due to the influence of neophyte sentimental devotees who are ill versed in sastra and/or falsely believe they have some ‘mystical connection’ with the Lord not found in sastra and the instructions of Srila Prabhupada – the ‘mood’ of playing kitsch ‘dress up dolls’ is insidiously inculcating itself into our Deity Worship. This can best be described as a ‘naive kitsch’ genre stemming from neophyte devotees’ socioeconomic and cultural backgrounds, is becoming a disturbing trend within our Vaisnava society. The addition of the stuffed toys and statues, turns this rather macabre spectacle into a “Russian kitsch” extravaganza which has nothing to do with worshiping the Deity form, arca vigraha, of the Lord according to sastric reference.
The idea in our society that to dress up the Deities in a contemporary manner and/or in a pseudo religious fairy-tale setting, is becoming increasingly popular. The ideology some put forward to justify this trend is that ‘Kṛṣṇa can do what he wants’ – therefore if He wants He can dress up as Father Christmas or He can have stuffed toys around Him or reindeer or porcelain dolls… However, this has nothing to do with what Kṛṣṇa wants and more to do with what the ‘so called’ pujari and the Temple Authorities want. What Kṛṣṇa wants is found in śāstra not in ones imagination/mind. This is pure sahajiyaism and is nothing short of offensive.
A simple example to illustrate this point is that there is considerable ‘insidious’ license to dress the Lord in many different colored garments when according to śāstra Lord Kṛṣṇa only wears yellow garments… “Alas! Where is Kṛṣṇa, the treasure of My life? Where is the lotus-eyed one? Alas! Where is the divine ocean of all transcendental qualities? Alas! Where is the beautiful blackish youth dressed in yellow garments? Alas! Where is the hero of the rasa dance?”
Under the errant leadership of the GBC the trend has been to change the movement’s focus away from pure devotional service to the neophyte mentality of karma-misra bhakti or mixed devotional service. This is evidenced by the acceptance of unqualified gurus, secular academic education, bureaucratic centralized corporatism and now we see even the worship of the Deity is being changed or degraded to that of the less than kaniṣṭha adhikāra or sentimentalist/sahajiya mentality . This trend has manifested in our society due to our leaders’ own immature consciousness and lack of spiritual realization / adhikara. A thief not only sees others as thieves but sees ‘everything’ through the eyes of a thief and so everything they do and support is illegal and criminal.
To dress the Lordships in anything but what is found in śāstra is saying more for what we believe is correct as opposed to what is actually correct. Or in other words we think we know better than the Lord Himself knows, that we know what is good for Him… This is out and out impersonalism which in other words stands for falsely believing that we are the controllers, that we are God. This mentality is borne out of ‘kanistha’ emotional immaturity where we lack empathy for others, subsequently disregarding their personal opinion, wants and needs and superimposing our own, with little or no consideration for the other person.
When we fail to see the Deity as a personal manifestation of God we can only see the Deity as an object or idol that represents our own desires and so totally disregard what the Lord desires and treat Him as an impersonal object of our own imagination to do with as we please. This is idol worship.
There is a qualitative difference between Deity worship and Idol worship as Śrīla Prabhupāda explains below…
Woman guest (2): Could you… Do you think you could explain to me about the Deities and how it’s different from idol worship? Because no one has been able to explain that to my understanding.
Prabhupāda: Idol means your imagination. And Deity is not imaginary. Deity is installed by the authorized person and it is worshiped according to authorized methods. So it is not idol. Idol worship, you imagine something and, some doll or idol, and do in your own way, that is idol worship.
Puṣṭa Kṛṣṇa: She’s saying but it’s manufactured, it’s made, graven.
Prabhupāda: That doesn’t matter. But it is made according to the Vedic principles. Just like in the Vedas, Kṛṣṇa’s form is described, veṇuṁ kvaṇantam aravinda-dalāyatākṣaṁ [Bs. 5.30]. Kṛṣṇa is playing on His flute, veṇuṁ kvaṇantam. His eyes are like the petals of the lotus flower.
So if you follow the description, then it is coming from the Vedic literature or Vedic knowledge. It is not that an artistic way of imagining some idol, the eyes are like this and He must play flute. It is not like that.
Woman guest (2): That’s because it came from scriptures instead of from men’s minds.
Prabhupāda: Yes. Therefore it is authorized. When you take anything from the statute, book, that is law. And if you manufacture something, that is not law. Just like, I’ll give you one very good example. Just like in your front of your house there is U.S. letterbox.
So another man, he sees that the box is in front of his house, “Why shall I go so far? Let me manufacture a box here.” So he’s posting. After six months, he’ll see all these letters are lying there. (laughter) And one who is posting that authorized box, his letter is going to thousands and thousands of miles away. So you cannot imitate. If you imitate U.S. letterbox in front of your house and post your letters, it will never go, it will remain there.
[Evening Darśana: July 8 1976]
Following is a ‘slideshow’ of pictures of the Deities of Sivarama Swami and from the ISKCON Temple in Sri Māyāpura Dham that best illustrates how much our society has lapsed in sahajiyaism and turned Deity worship into a – ‘little girls playing with dolls’ mentality.
As you can see in the slideshow there is an extravagant use of kitsch stuffed animals and plastic/porcelain statues/false arms, legs and masks/having them seated on chairs with false legs/eyes looking at each other/depicting mundane pastimes /rasabhasa depictions of pastimes replete with kitsch stuffed animal scenes etc.
Please be reminded that this is occurring to the arca vigraha form of the Lord on His very altar and not at some country sideshow or art exhibition. Please also note that the most kitsch and vulgar display of this deviation is in Sri Mayapura Dham itself which should set the most perfect standard of Deity worship but is spiraling down into the standard of a gaudy kitsch doll displays that would only be found in some backwater museum of an eccentric ex patriot Russian babushka.
This is a very degraded deviation which needs to be treated with the utmost seriousness and urgency within our society and must be rectified to the standard set by Srila Prabhupada and our Vaisnava sastra. We are already the laughing stock of Vaisnavaism for our wealth of deviations and the sinful behaviour of our so called gurus. We do not need to ‘add insult to injury’ by such childish mockery of the Supreme Personality Lord Sri Krsna by treating Them like dolls on Their very altar!