DEITY WORSHIP STANDARDS: A Few Remembrances of Earlier Days

The Deity standards that were taught to me here at New Vrindaban in 1975-76 were taught by word of mouth and by the physical practical hands-on teachings, as nothing was in writing in those days.  

    Now before I go any furthur, there are things that you must take into account when reading this: One thing is that I never did to come to the level of a real Brahmin during all those years of very regulated sadhana. From here is looks as though I was just externally going thru some of the motions, usually just those that allowed me plenty of freedom. Likely because I never understood the meanings of the words in all these incredibly powerful mantras. However, I have lived here continually and briefly visited some of Srila Prabhupada’s other Temples to do some construction work or plumbing for the last 32 years.  So you will need to take everything that I have written with more than just a few grains of salt as I have a very limited perspective of Lord Caitanya’s and Srila Prabhupada’s missions. Please forgive me if in writing this, I’ve made any offenses against anyone in any way. 

     For about 20 of years, from March or 1976 ( from the very first day after my 2nd initiation), till November of 1995 when I went to India for the first time, I was allowed to dress one of the smaller sets of Sri Sri Gaura-Nitai on Radha Vrindaban Chandra’s Alter, once for sure, and many times twice a daily, especially after everyone moved into the present RVC Temple building. At that time all the Deities were taking afternoon naps, every afternoon of the week, even weekends, of course with with new garlands at that time and other added decorations . Their afternoon naps were discontinued sometime shortly after They moved to Their present residence, in order to better facilitate the special mercy of Radha-VrindabanChandra because so many guests were coming seven days a week, even in the winters.  

     One standard I can remember being taught in the beginning, and it remained in place for many many years, was that anyone who was entering the pujari room had to have just bathed and have on clean doti and chaddar, at least 12 rounds completed ,(even just to wash dishes, the floor or to do anything, initiated or not), and if you actually went on the alter, then a minimum of 16 rounds, have chanted the Gayatri mantras,( other things were also probably required that I’ve forgotten). 

    While on the alter or coming off the alter to get bathing paraphernalia, Deity clothes, jewelry, etc., anytime a pujari touched any of their own clothing, for any reason, (dhoti, chaddar, or sari), then the pujari would have to purify their hands, with water & the correct mantra, just as one does before entering the alter and of course only un-sewn cloth allowed, which meant for really cold feet in the winter as socks were sewn. 

     Another thing I remember was that there was absolutely no talking while on the alter–unless receiving or giving some instructions and then the devotee would be brought away from the Deities, to the side and told in just a whisper, but sometimes still on the alter. 

     I was first given the opportunity to learn how to serve the smallest set of the three smaller size sets of Sri Sri Gaura-Nitai Deities at Bahulaban. First I was to watch and learn quietly for three days, so on the first day I took paper and made notes so that I could ask questions later. After watching for three days, then I was allowed to bath and dress Them both myself, of course with my trainer right beside me watching for three days also.  

    I can also remember Radhanatha prabhu (then, now Radhanatha Maharaja), standing behind us, observing and instructing me, along with the head pujari at that time Kalpa-vrksa. For some reason I thought it a little strange that these two were both present watching and instructing me, as they had left their regular very important Deity services for a few minutes. This happened on the second day and perhaps also the third day I was allowed to dress Sri Sri Gaura-Nitai. At that time, Radhanatha Maharaja had been coming down to Bahulaban from the Vrindaban Temple. I think he was involved with the worship of the Shilas at that time. The Shila’s place of worship, bathing, etc. was in a closet area, underneath the stairway that went up to the dry bhoga & spices storage area & photo-darkroom on the second floor & the 3rd floor was the men’s ashram (also a kind of hiding place and crash-pad). Absolutely no-one was allowed to go upstairs during that time of day… 

Jaya Murari dasa 

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