Book excerpts Acarya Kesari A philosophical assembly in Kesavapura

A philosophical assembly in Kesavapura

Sri Ayodhyanatha dasa Adhikari, from Kesavapura village in the Medinipura district, was a one-pointed Vaisnava, initiated by Sri Gaudiya Vedanta Samiti’s founder-acarya and president. Although he took birth in a lower-class poor family, he had firm faith in Sriman Mahaprabhu’s pure bhakti-dharma. He was a grhastha Vaisnava, yet he regularly performed arcana-pujana and sadhana-bhajana. He always abstained from eating meat and fish, from smoking, from illicit association with women and so on.

One year previously, in 1958, some important people in the village were collecting donations for the public worship of Sitala Mata which was to take place in his village, and they insisted that Sri Ayodhyanatha dasa Adhikari donate two rupees for the puja. Sri Ayodhyanatha, however, very politely replied, “We are initiated into the Gaudiya vaisnava-dharma proclaimed by Sriman Mahaprabhu, and we are fully under the shelter of Sri Gaudiya Vedanta Samiti. Pure devotees are not allowed to perform demigod worship, which is prohibited in Gita and other scriptures. For this reason, I am unable to give any donation for this puja.” The villagers became disturbed when they heard this, and they said, “Demigod worship has been going on since ancient times, and the scriptures confirm this. Let’s call an assembly, and when we have heard the arguments on both sides, we will decide whether demigod worship is proper or not.” It was agreed to call an assembly in the coming month of Sravana (July–August), but severe floods prevented this from taking place.

During the month of Sravana in the following year, 1959, a philosophical assembly was arranged in Kesavapura village and eminent smarta panditas were called to support the villagers’ side. Sri Ayodhyanatha went to Srila Acarya Kesari’s lotus feet in Chunchura Matha and in a very moving voice repeatedly requested him to take part in the assembly. “If you do not go there and refute the arguments of the opposite side,” he said, “it will be impossible for me to stay in that village. They will simply throw me out.”

Before this occurrence, it had been decided that Srila Acaryadeva would go to Pichlada for the installation of the deities, which was to take place at the same time as the assembly in Kesavapura. But when Srila Gurudeva heard Sri Ayodhyanatha’s distress-filled prayers, he decided to go to Kesavapura with Sripada Trivikrama Maharaja and other leading sannyasis and brahmacaris.

In the assembly, the smarta panditas raised this objection on behalf of the villagers: “Demigod worship is described in our Indian scriptures and has been going on since ancient times. We find many proofs of this in the Skanda and Padma Puranas. The worship of Katyayani, Yogamaya, Durga, Kali, Siva and others is even seen in Srimad-Bhagavatam, so why do Vaisnavas not worship demigods?”

On paramaradhya Srila Gurudeva’s order, Srimad Bhaktivedanta Trivikrama Maharaja replied first. He used evidence from Srimad-Bhagavatam, Gita and other sastras to show that the results of demigod worship are temporary. Materialistic people worship demigods to fulfil different material desires. However, all the results are of a temporary nature. Indeed, even those who have attained Svarga will fall down again to the material world after enjoying the results of their pious activities. Vaisnavas, however, are exclusively devoted to sri krsna-bhajana and do not have any material desires in their hearts.

After this, Srila Acaryadeva explained very clearly that Sri Ayodhyanatha had not done anything wrong. On the contrary, all sastras approve of his action. “If the gopis were worshipping Katyayani, then why did Sri Krsna have to come personally to give the benediction? The reason is that Krsna and His svarupa-sakti Yogamaya (Katyayani) are non-different: sakti-saktimator abhedah. Therefore, in this case, katyayani-puja is the same as the puja of Sri Krsna. Sri Krsna Himself put an end to the worship of Indra and other demigods, and He also says in the Gita, yanti deva-vrata devan pitrn yanti pitr-vratah (9.25) and kamais tais tair hrta-jnanah prapadyante ’nya-devatah (7.20). Evidence that the results of demigod worship are temporary is also found in Padma Purana: yas tu narayanam devam brahma-rudradi-daivataih / samatvenaiva vikseta sa pasandi bhaved dhruvam. The demigods cannot relieve us from the vicious circle of birth and death nor can they give us krsna-bhakti.

“The second point is that in Padma Purana demigod worship is prohibited for one-pointed Vaisnavas. The performance of demigod worship is considered to be an offence to the holy name. Statements from sastra are even cited in Sat-kriya-sara-dipika prohibiting one-pointed Vaisnavas from performing demigod worship.” When the opposite side heard Srila Gurudeva’s vigorous lecture, they became speechless.

The next day, another religious assembly was arranged on the village school premises. There Srila Acaryadeva emphasized the importance of leading a religious life and said that the only duty of human beings is to devout themselves to spiritual life. A life devoid of spiritual practices is simply animal life. The main religion in Kali-yuga is the chanting of Bhagavan’s names. Kirtana of Bhagavan’s names and hearing hari-katha, in accordance with Vaisnava etiquette, are the only means to make human life successful.

After preaching suddha-bhakti in this way, through a comparative study of different subject matters, Srila Gurudeva and his party returned to Sri Uddharana Gaudiya Matha in Chunchura.

[CC-by-ND GVP]

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