Book excerpts Acarya Kesari Discussion Regarding Touched and Untouched bhoga in Sri Jagannatha Mandira

Discussion Regarding Touched and Untouched bhoga in Sri Jagannatha Mandira

On 3 November 1963, an article was published in the Bengali daily newspaper Yuganantara regarding bhoga worth thousands of rupees being thrown away in Puri. “Today, 1 November, a person who was not engaged in deity service touched the bhoga by sight before it was offered to Sri Jagannathaji in the evening. This resulted in an uprising among the cooks, and the police had to intervene. In accordance with temple procedure, thousands of rupees worth of bhoga was disposed of and buried in the ground.” (VNI 1.11.1963)

Paramaradhyatama Srila Gurudeva commented on this incident as follows: “We are attracting the attention of the public by this incident, which Sri Jagannatha-deva Himself has arranged. Some people try to disregard the offence of touch in bhagavat-seva, and want to dismiss as insignificant the distinction between ‘touched’ and ‘untouched’. Such people are hypocrites and are opposed to the path of dharma. We should accept this teaching of Sri Jagannatha-deva and always remain on the path of distinguishing between ‘touched’ and ‘untouched’ bhoga, according to scriptural rules. We should also instruct others to stay on this path. This deceitful concept is atheistic, and we should never let it enter into the worship of Bhagavan, whether it comes from Western atheists or native atheists. Even today the conception of food as lawful or unlawful is observed in Sri Jagannatha temple and exists in different systems all over India. We consider those who do not acknowledge the offence of touch (sparsa-dosa) to be untouchables.

“It is not an offence to touch the preparation after it has been offered to Sri Jagannatha-deva, for the bhoga prepared by the cooks then becomes maha-prasada. But no one has the right to touch the bhoga before it is offered, apart from Sri Jagannatha-deva’s servants who are qualified to prepare and offer it. No offering (naivedya) that has been touched by an unqualified person can ever be offered to Sri Jagannathaji. This is the correct understanding.

“Human beings should only accept Sri Bhagavan’s remnants, and it is improper to give anyone anything that Sri Jagannathaji has not accepted. Sri Jagannathaji is using this incident to teach us that Bhagavan does not want to accept any unofferable substances. There is another instruction within this one. Meat, fish, eggs, tobacco, tea, bidis, cigarettes, chewing tobacco, alcohol, coffee, onion, garlic and so on cannot be included in an offering to Bhagavan. Therefore, all these substances are to be rejected. Those who make use of these unlawful substances in service to the deity belong to non-bona fide sampradayas and have no connection with Hindu sanatana-dharma. The sastras call such people outcastes (mlecchas) or those born in the lowest caste (antyaja).”

The servants of Sri Jagannatha-deva, along with virtuous men following Hindu dharma, were very pleased with Srila Gurudeva’s argument.

Preaching in Siligudi and Bihara

After Sri Dhama Navadvipa parikrama and Sri Gaura-janmotsava in 1963, paramaradhya Srila Gurudeva went preaching for a week with his associates to various places in the Sundaravana region, including Maipitha-Vinodapura, Damakala and Kasinagara. From there, he went all around Siligudi and preached sanatana-dharma (suddha-bhakti) extensively for almost a month, from 21 April to 18 May.

During the same period in the following year, 1964, he preached vaisnava-dharma with sannyasis and sixteen matha residents in Sarasajola, Asanavani, Rajavandha, Palasi, Baramasiya, Dhadika, Kumadavada, Dumaka town and other places in the Dumaka district of Bihara. Accompanying Srila Gurudeva at that time were Sripada Trivikrama Maharaja, Sripada Narayana Maharaja [the author], Sripada Krsna-krpa Brahmacari, Sri Gajendra-moksana Brahmacari, Sri Rohini-nandana Vrajavasi, Sri Bhagavan dasa Brahmacari, Sri Vrndavana-vihari Brahmacari, Sri Cidghananada Brahmacari, Sri Vrsabhanu Brahmacari and other leading sannyasis and brahmacaris.

Sarasajola is a well-known and prosperous village in the Dumaka district. Srila Gurudeva stayed in Sri Madhusudana Vidyanidhi’s home in Sarasajola and preached suddha-bhakti there for seven days. All the leading villagers there accepted vaisnava-dharma along with their families. Sarasajola became like Kulina-grama, whose inhabitants were all great Vaisnava devotees during Sriman Mahaprabhu’s time. In those days, there were only Vaisnavas in the village of Kulina-grama; even the village dogs were devotees who observed Ekadasi and other vratas. Similarly, Sarasajola became blessed by Srila Gurupada-padma’s auspicious arrival there. He lectured for six days there on the following six different subjects:

  1. What is sastra?
  2. The distinction between demigods (suras) and demons (asuras).
  3. Kirtana is the only beneficial sadhana.
  4. To merge with brahma, or to become brahma, is a curse for the jiva.
  5. Isvara is savisesa (with a personal feature) and sakara (with form), not nirakara (formless).
  6. Nirakara-vada (the doctrine stating that God is formless) is only an atheistic heretical concept (pakhanda-vada).

Among the other speakers were Sripada Trivikrama Maharaja, Sripada Narayana Maharaja [the author], Sri Cidghananada Brahmacari and Sri Rohini-nandana Vrajavasi.

Srila Acaryadeva gave brilliant discourses in Dumaka town for three days at the Popular Club, Sri Radha-Madhava temple and the District Council House. Srila Gurudeva lectured on subjects such as ‘Sad-darsana and vedanta-vijnana’, ‘The worthlessness of nirakaravada’ and ‘Dharma-seva is the only perfection of society’. At his request, Sripada Trivikrama Maharaja and Sripada Narayana Maharaja lectured on sri gaura-lila and sri rama-lila. They illustrated these talks, full of bhakti-siddhanta, with slide shows. The preaching of suddha-bhakti in these parts of the Dumka district inspired the people to have unsurpassed faith in vaisnava-dharma. Whole groups of them gave up alcohol, meat, fish, smoking and so on, and were initiated into suddha-bhakti. Srila Acaryadeva and his associates returned to Sri Devananda Gaudiya Matha after preaching in this way for about a month.

In August 1964, Srila Gurudeva was at Sri Devananda Gaudiya Matha during the grand and festive celebration of Sri Sri Janmastami and Sri Nandotsava. Many educational exhibitions were organized on the matha’s premises, and the devotees eagerly requested Srila Gurupada-padma to open the exhibition. In the religious assembly in the natya-mandira, he delivered a lecture on Sri Janmastami which was filled with profound siddhanta.

Srila Acaryadeva said that it is a mistake to observe Sri Janmastami and fasting for other vratas in accordance with the views of the smarta Raghunandana. According to Hari-bhakti-vilasa, when Vaisnavas observe these vratas, they should abandon mixed tithis and observe suddha-vrata. Sri Krsna did not take birth on saptami-biddha-astami (Astami mixed with Saptami), but rather on navami-biddha-astami (which is also called Uma-Mahesvari tithi).

Navami combined with Astami tithi is therefore the tithi to be observed for the vrata. Abhijita-muhurta (the eighth muhurta of the day, a very powerful muhurta at about midday), the Rohini constellation and other considerations are also of special importance for this vrata.

[CC-by-ND GVP]

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