By Madhavananda das
Vaiá¹£á¹avas follow various vidhis or rules. However, it’s not that all of these vidhis have equal importance. For example it is a rule that one should take bath daily, it is also a rule that one should chant the holy names daily, but of the two vidhis the latter is much more important.
One set of rules are mukhya-vidhis or primary rules, for us these are the paÃ±cÄá¹ ga-bhakti, the five limbs of bhakti described by Mahaprabhu in Cc madhya 22.128: sÄdhu-saá¹ ga, nÄma-kÄ«rtana, bhÄgavata-Åravaá¹a, mathurÄ-vÄsa, and ÅrÄ«-mÅ«rtira seva.
Another set is gauá¹Äá¹ ga, or secondary rules. These include taking morning bath, being honest, and yes, even being vegetarian. Due to absorption in bhÄva, or some serious health problem some vaiá¹£á¹avas may not be able to take bath daily; Yudhisthir Maharaja is famous for his so-called “dishonesty” (which was actually pleasing to the Lord); and Srila Prabhupada sometimes refers to Garuda, the Lord’s personal carrier as a “non-vegetarian vaiá¹£á¹ava” (he sometimes eats fish, snakes, and turtles etc).
These gauá¹Äá¹ ga-vidhis are secondary in the sense that they have potency only when they are practiced in connection with the mukhyÄá¹ gas. For example, there are people all over the world who take bath daily, however, we don’t see them developing bhakti because of their bathing.
One the other hand, if someone simply chants the holy name they will develop bhakti even if they don’t take bath daily (they probably won’t be very popular socially, but Lord Rishabhdev is an example of someone who was not taking bath everyday).
NÄma-kÄ«rtana is a mukhyÄá¹ ga or primary limb of bhakti, therefore it acts by itself (in this age, all aá¹ gas of bhakti, even the mukhyÄá¹ gas are dependent on nÄma). Taking a daily bath to purify one’s consciousness so he or she can chant in a more concentrated way is helpful to the mukhÄá¹ ga of nÄma-kÄ«rtana, so it has some potency *while* in connection with any of the mukhyÄá¹ gas of bhakti. Therefore it becomes a gauá¹Äá¹ ga, secondary limb of bhakti.
This, of course does not mean that it is not important to take bath everyday or that one can give up being vegetarian. However, we should understand why we follow these principles if they are not universal. Those who have received initiation into our line are vegetarian and take daily bath because it is the order of their guru. To neglect the order of guru is the offence known as guru avajÃ±a. By disobeying the order of guru one will get a far worse reaction than an ordinary person gets by performing sin. Sad Guru gives orders to follow secondary aá¹ gas of bhakti because they will help us to follow the primary ones.
Padma PurÄá¹a describes the most important of all vidhis:
smartavyaá¸¥ satataá¹ viá¹£á¹ur vismartavyo na jÄtucitsarve vidhi-niá¹£edhÄá¸¥ syur etayor eva kiá¹ karÄá¸¥
“Krishna or Vishnu, should always be remembered and never forgotten. All the vidhis, rules, and niá¹£edhas, prohibitions of ÅÄstra should be the servants of these two principles.”