Ajaya-kṛṣṇa dāsa: During our Janmāṣṭamī and other grand festivals, is it all right that we invite professional people to perform?
Śrīla Nārāyaṇa Gosvāmī Mahārāja: When we observe Janmāṣṭamī in Mathurā, we call all the top professional radio and television singers and musicians who can play devotional songs on tabla and other instruments. We also call many top learned scholars, some of whom, like Vāsudeva Caturvedī, have degrees in seven subjects.
There are seven official gradations of professor degrees – Purāṇa, Kāvya, Vedānta, Chandaḥ, Nyāya, Vyākaraṇa, and Sāhitya – and certain teachers have degrees in all these subjects. In Vraja, in all of Uttar Pradesh and in all of India, there are no scholars like these. In all of Vraja, no one can speak in the Sanskrit language as they do. Yet, they see me like their guru.
Why do we call them? We do so in order to attract more people to come to our programs. When they come, a very, very large crowd also comes. At that time I speak hari-kathā to inject them with Kṛṣṇa consciousness, as I am injecting you all here. I inject the audience, the scholars, and the musicians. I also give the speakers praṇāmī (donations) and sweets. By this process, after some time practically all of Mathurā came to me.
Ajaya-kṛṣṇa dāsa: During our Janmāṣṭamī festival we put śālagrāma [Kṛṣṇa’a Deity in the form of a sacred stone] in a big cucumber. Then, at the moment of Kṛṣṇa’s birth, we take Him out in order to symbolize Mother Yaśodā giving birth to Kṛṣṇa. Some devotees objected to this. They said this is not bonafide.
Śrīla Nārāyaṇa Gosvāmī Mahārāja: On Janmāṣṭamī night, at midnight, not only in Mathurā but everywhere in Vraja and Uttar Pradesh and Bihar, this is followed. We also follow this. We keep a śālagrāma in a big cucumber.
Śrīpāda Mādhava Mahārāja: Or a big fruit, like a watermelon.
Śrīla Nārāyaṇa Gosvāmī Mahārāja: But especially we use the cucumber. Then, at the time of Śrī Kṛṣṇa’s birth, considering that Mother Yaśodā is giving birth to Kṛṣṇa, we take the śālagrāma out of the cucumber.
So this is not apasiddhānta; it is not against the conclusions of Vedic scripture. Moreover this attracts many guests, and in this way we inject them with spiritual impressions.
Śrīpāda Mādhava Mahārāja: By that gathering, new devotees will come. Otherwise, the current of bhakti will stop.
Śrīla Nārāyaṇa Gosvāmī Mahārāja: We call everyone to the temple to hear hari-kathā, but why do we distribute so much delicious prasādam to them? This is not hari-kathā, so why do we do this? It is to attract them. We distribute prasādam to rich persons as well. By honoring that prasādam, they get sukṛti (pious credit).
Excerpted from the Gaudiya Vedanta Publication “Walking With a Saint 2008”
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