Goof Up with Ganesha
Back to Godhead has indeed set an exemplary standard for all devotees by serving Srila Prabhupada continually. Thus all Hare Krishna devotees have deep respect the publication. I have some comments/questions regarding this magazine:
The articles published in Back to Godhead should comply with the teachings of Srila Prabhupada. Some caution should have been exercised in selecting articles for the special issue on Lord Ganesha (August 2009) because of the following reasons:
1. Ganesha Chaturthi is not displayed in the Vaishnava calendar, and Ganesha worship is not performed in ISKCON. But, here at Parbhani, Maharashtra, during a college preaching program, one of the preachers urged us to recite the story of the Shyamantaka jewel on the occasion of Ganesha Chaturthi because a reference to the story was published in BTG.
2. Another devotee commented, “If BTG recommends Ganesha worship, then what is wrong with performing it?”
3. Since all the articles published in your magazine are based on Vedic literature, I can’t even criticize them. However, Srila Prabhupada’s teachings are primarily based on Bhagavad-gita and Srimad-Bhagavatam. In Srimad-Bhagavatam, Srila Narada Muni has criticized Vyasadeva for including sections on karma-kanda based on sakama karma (fruitive activities) in the Vedas (jugupsitam dharma-krte). He denounced such karma-kanda and glorified pure devotional service. In the same way, Srila Prabhupada never encouraged such karma-kanda in the Hare Krishna movement. But inspired by the articles in your magazine, neophyte devotees will be encouraged to read certain stories on Ganesha Chaturthi, like not seeing the moon on certain days, etc.
4. When one account of the appearance of Sri Ganesha is already prominent, what is the need to present another version?
5. When Gita-mahatmya gives ekam Sastram and eko deva, how can it be important to explain the glories of Ganesha-puja? Srila Prabhupada, Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati and Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura have never written such articles, nor have they performed any such worship during their lifetimes. Similarly, we don’t find any similar puja in the Sri Caitanya-caritamrta. So, this is a request to the editors that they should first decide whether the articles published are in line with Srila Prabhupada’s teachings or not. When an author presents his views that are not found in Srila Prabhupada’s books, a great confusion is probable on the preaching scene. The existence of different philosophies in Kali-yuga has already created a lot of confusion in the minds of the masses. Therefore, I request the authors of BTG to base their articles on Srila Prabhupada’s books to propagate pure unmotivated and uninterrupted devotional service.
I am myself full of faults. If any of my views presented above are faulty, please let me know. (Dinanatha Dasa Parbhani, Maharashtra)
Our Reply: We appreciate the concern that you have expressed in your well-thought letter. Thank you for writing to us so that we have an opportunity to clarify any unintended confusion that may have resulted among our readers.
1. Ganesha worship is performed by lakhs of Indians. We could have chosen to ask them to stop doing so or ask them to add Krishna. We chose the latter. The entire Ganesha issue focused on this theme. We published the Shyamantaka jewel story to attract people to read Srimad-Bhagavatam. Blinded by Kali-yuga, all those who seek light should read Srimad-Bhagavatam. Devotees of Lord Krishna give secondary importance to benefits obtained by reading certain sections of the text. These encouragements are to attract people who still harbor material desires. Such recommendations, or Sruti-phala, are found even in the Bhagavatam, and we have just followed in the footsteps.
We have never explained the glories of Ganesha-puja. We explained the glories of hearing the Shyamantaka jewel story, which are taken straight from Srimad-Bhagavatam:
“This narration, rich with descriptions of the prowess of Lord Sri Vishnu, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, removes sinful reactions and bestows all auspiciousness. Anyone who recites, hears or remembers it will drive away his own infamy and sins and attain peace.” (Bhag. 10.57.42)
2. There is no instance of recommending Ganesha worship independent of Lord Krishna anywhere in this issue. Especially, the kind of public worship going on in Ganesha pandals presently is entirely unacceptable. In an article where there is mention of the proper way of worshiping Ganesha, it was mentioned that we should offer food first to a Salagrama and then to lord Ganesha.
If we find mention in the scriptures of Srimati Radharani worshiping Ganesha, then what is wrong with it? Srimati Radharani loves Ganesha as Her son, and so there is mention of his praise in the scriptures. Moreover, why ignore Ganesha’s praise and glorification of Radha-Krishna in the same article?
Lord Sri Krishna personally served Sudama, seating him on the throne of Dvaraka. He even drank the carnamrta! But this has not created any kind of confusion in the Vaishnava community because these devotees never harbor any kind of intention of usurping the position of the Supreme Lord.
3. You are apprehensive that we may be promoting karma-kanda among neophyte devotees. Again, such information is meant to attract the newcomers. For serious students of ISKCON, Srila Prabhupada’s instructions on demigod worship are clear. We respect and worship them whole heartedly, but do not consider them separate controllers independent from Lord Krishna, who is the source of all.
4. While studying the Vedic scriptures, we came across another account of Ganesha’s appearance that had a large section devoted to Krishna, so we selected the article. This version mentioned that Mother Parvati obtained Ganesha because of worshipping Lord Krishna. There is abundant glorification of Lord Krishna in this article. That is why we chose it.
There are different accounts of the appearance of different avataras of Lord too. The devotees of the Lord experience an increase in their faith by reading these different accounts. The conditioned soul understands by reading these different accounts that the Supreme Lord and His servitors are indeed very powerful, and their appearances as well as their activities are beyond human comprehension.
5. You ask us to check if our articles are in line with the teachings of Srila Prabhupada. We do always take care of this, and we feel that we have not deviated from the founder’s instructions on demigod worship. We have only tried to induce new readers to add Krishna to their lives. Although the doctrine of ekam Sastram . . . eko devo is the highest, we cannot force it suddenly upon those whose faith is at a different level. This special low-priced issue was meant for mass distribution, and for many readers it may be their first contact with Gaudiya Vaishnava philosophy. If they can accept even a part, it will be the beginning of their pure devotional service.
All said and done, your point is well taken. In our future issues, we will surely take extra care to avoid any unintentional ambiguity while presenting topics crucial to the philosophy of Krishna consciousness.
Reply to the letter was written by Shyamananda Dasa.
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