“Karmi clothes” and “devotional clothes” - Getting the definitions right

7,861 Views / EMail This Post / Print This Post / Home » "Karmi clothes" and "devotional clothes" - Getting the definitions right

Chandrashekhara acharya dasa: The word “karmi” means “fruitive worker.” The word “clothes” mean “items worn to cover the body.” By definition, then, the words “karmi clothes” mean items worn to cover the body of someone who is a fruitive worker. Similarly, the word “devotee” means someone who is engaged in the loving service of Lord Krishna. By definition, then, the words “devotional clothes” mean items worn to cover the body of someone who is a devotee of Lord Krishna.

It is a sociological fact today, as it was centuries ago, that Vaishnavas and Vaishnavis are not the only people who wear dhotis and saris. Indeed, the large majority of individuals who wore/wear dhotis and saris are non-Vaishnavas or, in other words, “karmis.” Muslims, tantrics, demigod worshipers, meat-eaters- millions of them- wear dhotis and saris. These people have little or nothing to do with devotion to Lord Krishna. Therefore, by definition, the dhotis and saris that these non-Vaishnavas wear are, in effect, “karmi clothes.” Similarly, there are Vaishnavas and Vaishnavis who dress in Western clothes. By definition, these devotees’ garments are “devotional clothes.” The dress does not define the Vaishnavas; the Vaishnavas define the dress.

In ISKCON, we often define the words “karmi clothes” and “devotional clothes” according to our constructed interpretation. For many of us, “karmi clothes” means Western clothes, and “devotional clothes” means dhotis and saris, irrespective of who is wearing them. Such definitions are erroneous, as shown above. They have serious implications.

One such implication is the misconceived theory that we can only practice Bhakti-yoga- a universal, trans-cultural spiritual science- while wearing a specific type of dress. It implies that there is only one permissible genre of devotional clothes, i. e., dhotis and saris, and that any other genre of dress is disqualified, even if worn by men and women who are devotees of Lord Krishna.

The doors to the pujari rooms of our ISKCON centers illustrate this misconception. They often have a sign hanging on the door that states, “devotional clothes only.” I ask my reader, “What does that mean?” It is not the subject matter of this short article to argue whether or not ISKCON should maintain a uniform, or to controvert about what uniform, if any, is appropriate for what members of which ashrams. It is also not my purpose to deliberate on the apparently contradictory statements by Srila Prabhupada regarding what he desired his followers to wear. However, it is a fact that our ISKCON definitions of “karmi clothes” and “devotional clothes” are imprecise.

Maybe the signs on the doors of the pujari rooms should say, “Traditional Indian dress only,” or “Vaikuntha dress only” [I do not know if United Colors of Benetton sweatshirts, Seiko wristwatches, Muslim kurtas, cotton socks, plastic sandals and other such gears are part of the decorum in Vaikuntha]. I argue elsewhere that if we are to emphasize a standard dress-code, we had better insist on principles such as chastity, cleanliness, and modesty. At any rate, our interpretations of “karmi clothes” and “devotional clothes” are flawed. We should get our definitions right.

Please click the "Like" button below if you haven't done so already!
 
 
 
7,861 Views / EMail This Post / Print This Post / Home » "Karmi clothes" and "devotional clothes" - Getting the definitions right
 


Comments • [comment feed]

1 NityanandaChandra

Hare Krishna Prabhu
Please accept my humble obeisances
All glories to Srila Prabhupada
All glories to your services

This term “Karmi Dress, Karmi clothes” was learned from our Founder/Acharya Srila Prabhupada. Srila Prabhupada used this term, therefore we, erroneous ISKCON members are following Parampara.

Your humble servant,
Nityananda Chandra Das
ISKCON Dallas

Comment posted by NityanandaChandra on August 28th, 2011
2 NityanandaChandra

The difficulty with this article is that Srila Prabhupada used the term “Karmi Clothes, Karmi Dress”

Comment posted by NityanandaChandra on August 31st, 2011
3 pustakrishna

In Vaikuntha, the jiva souls and Lord Vishnu all have spiritual and self-effulgent forms. The jiva souls also may have different spiritual colors, such as red, blue, yellow, white and green. All are purely spiritual, and all are effulgent blissful forms absorbed in loving sentiments of rasa with their Lord. In addition to their spiritual bodies of different colors, they all have a spiritual yellow golden colored dhoti-like (or genie-like) lower garb from the waist down. In Vaikuntha such forms have four arms, like their Lord, Sri Vishnu. Lord Vishnu has a transcendental golden crown as well. These descriptions are confirmed in the shastra, and Srila Prabhupad briefly mentions them in his purports, I believe in the second canto of the Srimad Bhagavatam. Some rare revelations have also confirmed the same.

So, while the cloth of this world is not composed of Sat-Chit-Ananada, the form of the transcendental cloth indeed appears to have favored the type of general East Indian dress we are accustomed to see. Chandrasekhara acharya das is correct also in his discussion. I shall give you an example, in a practical way, that Srila Prabhupad was not attached to the Indian dress. Mind you, I know, and he has expressed it many times, that the disciples wearing the “uniform” of bhakti would remind the public of devotional service, just as policemen in their uniforms remind the public of the protection afforded by the police when seeing those in their uniforms.

We were about to enter Durban, South Africa for the first time with Srila Prabhupad in October, 1975. I had been preaching and organizing there with a small but dedicated group of bhaktas from 1973. It was a long and arduous road to obtain a religious visa for Srila Prabhupad during the apartheid era. Previously, Brahmananda then Swami was blacklisted for showing up at the Rhodesia-S. African border with the Hare Krishna van. Ksudhi das was removed from the country by the secret police just prior to my coming with mortal threats by them (to throw him out a window high in a building). Somehow or other, we went on preaching, performing sankirtan openly, and preaching both to the Indian and European, as well at that time in a limited way to the African community. However, every three months, I had to leave and come back into the country. I would wear a wig or simply a cap and western dress. CONTINUED Pusta Krishna das

Comment posted by pustakrishna on September 1st, 2011
4 pustakrishna

Continuation:

So there we were in Mauritius. I would accompany Srila Prabhupad on the plane from Mauritius, an island in the Indian Ocean, to Durban on the plane. I informed Srila Prabhupad that I would have to wear western dress to enter South Africa. Srila Prabhupad had no difficulty with that, in fact, he immediately asked,”I can also wear if necessary”. I explained to Srila Prabhupad that that was not necessary since we had obtained a religious visa for his trip to South Africa. Indeed, we entered through customs, I explained that I was assisting this elderly holy man from the plane. I wore a British cap, and Srila Prabhupad came in his saffron robes, and he was greeted by a wonderful crowd at the airport arranged so nicely by Riddha Prabhu and the other bhaktas who included Dhiranga, Jagat Guru, Gokulendra (our first S. African to join), Rocani dd (our first lady to join), Ramanujacharya, His Grace Parthasarathi, Johnny, and several others whose names are not coming to me at present, one of whom is living peacefully now in Thailand, seemed very hardnosed at that time, but he has continued to chant 16 rounds daily ever since. I think his name started with a P, and he was simply a man who did not like being ordered around, but he spontaneously engaged in service all the time. Really an inspiring person in fact. Amazing group, and an amazingly generous and wonderful group of Indians in South Africa who helped us become established there.

This incident came to me while reading your short essay, and so I am sharing it with you.

Pusta Krishna das

Comment posted by pustakrishna on September 1st, 2011
5 pustakrishna

continued, page 3

Ah! Finally, his name came to me: Rukma das. I apologize for not remembering, but in truth we are all dependent upon the Lord in our heart for memory (matah smritir jnanam apo hanam ca(BG 15.7)). And yes, our bhaktas would often go out on book distribution in those days in western dress. Who would say they are not devotional? Atreya Rsi Prabhu, a high level CPA used to live in the Brooklyn Temple, and after the morning program, in suit and tie, he went off to work for an important company. Where is he now!? Such a wonderful and gentle soul!
The first generation of western bhaktas….what an experience. Now, congregations have formed and relatively few live in many of the temples. Still, for those who have the opportunity to wear the dress of Srila Prabhupad, with tilak to mark the body as a temple of Sri Krishna, designated for His service, it is a transcendental serving point. It is in the tradition of Lord Chaitanya’s line that such be the case. It is the uniform for exclusive service to the parampara. That is indeed the standard dress for vaishnava preachers in the brahmachary and sanyas ashrams. No one would consider coming into the presence of Srila Prabhupad in any other fashion, if they wanted to obtain the favor of His Divine Grace. So, it is important not to water down the standard of the Gaudiya Vaishnava Sampradaya. Self interest must be replaced by desire to please Srila Guru Maharaj. That is the way to Krishna’s Heart, I am sure. Even if I fall short of that standard, still I acknowledge that standard. As stated in the Bhagavad Gita, in performing such sacrifice, everything comes to the transcendental plane (the sacrificer, and the instruments of sacrifice, and the objects being sacrificed). All other standards are compromises, certainly, and the one true standard…yasya prasadad bhagavat prasado…
Sincerely, Pusta Krishna das

Comment posted by pustakrishna on September 1st, 2011
6 Unregistered

“Vaikuntha Dress” would probably more accurate since Srila Prabhupada taught that men look like they come from Vaikuntha when dressed in the clothes that Lord Chaitanya and His associates wear, with dhoti, shaven head, and tilak. It meant a lot to Srila Prabhupada that we dress like such Vaikuntha men. He said that, “Just as you recognize a policeman or fireman by their uniform, by our clothes you can know that We are the ‘Hare Krishna People.”

Comment posted by Jayabalarama dasa on September 1st, 2011
7 pustakrishna

One addendum to JayaBalaram das’s description…the souls of Vaikuntha have long fine transcendental black hair like Sri Keshava Himself. The shaving of the head, with sikha, is a sacrifice we can make in this mundane plane in order to cut ties with the material conception of bodily identification. Such vanity is a weight for the soul! But, nonetheless, the description of bhaktas “dressed like they were from Vaikuntha” has been used. And, yes, Srila Prabhupad said that such bhaktas will remind the public of Krishna, just by seeing them dressed in that way.

It is interesting that so few wear this dress anymore in the west, but we must remember the standard which Srila Prabhupad suggested, and the rationale why he did so has also been expressed. But, of course, dress alone does not make the heart soften to Krishna. The internal world of devotion is critical to our spiritual lives. I thank JayaBalaram for his comments, and I am happy to remember him also…what a beautiful spiritual name, JayaBalaram das! It too reminds us of what is important. Pusta Krishna das

Comment posted by pustakrishna on September 2nd, 2011
8 Locanananda dasa

According to my recollection, it was forty years ago to the day, on the occasion of Holy Radhastami, that I travelled from Paris to London to receive brahminical initiation and the sacred thread from the hand of Krishna’s pure devotee, Srila Prabhupada. I was also carrying three sets of beads for him to chant on for new initiates, two young men and one young lady, who received the names Jaya Krishna, Jaya Balarama and Jaya Subhadra.

To have had the personal association of Srila Prabhupada, even if only for a single moment, was sufficient to awaken all auspiciousness in our hearts. In my own case, to have acted as his trancendental courrier, I felt at the time that the purpose of ths human form of life had been completely fulfilled.

Comment posted by Locanananda dasa on September 4th, 2011
9 sita-pati

Once a disciple of Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati insisted to the Math editors that the dictionary by changed rather than a word be corrected in an article written by his spiritual master. His spiritual master appreciated his sentiment, but had the word corrected to the standard spelling.

Comment posted by sita-pati on September 7th, 2011
10 sarvopama dasa

In 2005, while serving in the Miami temple, I was very fortunate to meet a devotee named Amarama das from Spain. He had just returned from China where he had chanted the Hare Krishna maha mantra at the Great Wall. At one point he happened to mention that for the previous thirteen years he had never changed from his dhoti. He said he only wore devotional clothing. Something about his gentle behavior really impressed me and the next morning I sorted through all my clothing and anything that wasn’t devotional went straight into the dumpster behind the temple. There is an old saying, “You are what you wear.” and at least in my case I could really tell the difference. I immediately felt more serious and surrendered. Obviously there can be extenuating circumstances where one may be putting oneself in danger because of various ridiculous political conditions and requirements but generally speaking I can say that, from my own experience, it is highly preferable to simply wear the devotional attire.

One principle I consider is the factory versus village distinction. I prefer wearing something a man in the village can make on a loom over anything that requires workers toiling away in some factory.

Here where I’ve been living in Gujarat for the last five years there are many college students wearing what we tell them are the go mata hataka pascheem (Western cow killer) blue jeans. When we mention that along with a quick description of the history of the American cowboy and his actual job, the students immediately smile and nod. They chuckle and agree.

Finally I’ve definitely noticed another practical advantage of wearing a dhoti rather than denim trousers. Since I made the switch no one has asked me if I can change the oil in any vehicle or help them move.

Comment posted by sarvopama dasa on September 7th, 2011
11 Svayam Rasesvari dd

I am a full time temple devotee and I wear nothing but sari. Why? Because I feel it’s better for my consciousness to remember that I am a servant of The Supreme Lord. I’ll often ask matajis,”What do you do that you can’t do in a sari?” They’re hard-pressed to give me an answer.

An interesting note: While I was researching to find out Srila Prabhupada’s instruction on this subject, I came across another dandavats.com article written by Hari-Sauri Prabhu back in 2007. In it I found exactly what I wanted to say:

“Clearly there has to be some standard otherwise the whole process becomes absurd. My proposal is that we should follow Srila Prabhupada’s standards and not try to change them. Whatever was established by His Divine Grace should be accepted by us as being the best way to sustain our spiritual lives.”

I suggest that everyone gives this article a good read as Hari-Sauri Prabhu gives many fine examples of Srila Prabhupada’s mood concerning devotional dress. http://www.dandavats.com/?p=4817

Comment posted by Svayam Rasesvari dd on September 7th, 2011
12 kavicandra swami

Reporter: Swamiji, your movement has received a great deal of attention for, at least one reason, because many of your followers dress in what for the West is an odd fashion and relate to the world in what for the West is an odd fashion. Can you respond to that? Why have you asked your followers to dress in this fashion and to play drums on the streets?
Prabhupada: This is our preaching method, some way or other to draw their attention. (laughter)
Devotees: Jaya! Haribol!
Reporter: I’m sure that you’re aware that to many people in the West, in America, in New York City specifically, that your disciples seem strange because of the way they act on the streets. What about that?
Prabhupada: Yes, they must be strange because they are spiritual. You are all material. (laughter) So, for the material persons, we are surely strange people.
Reporter: Is this manifestation the only way to be spiritual, dressing in this fashion?
Prabhupada: No, no, you cannot compete with us. Because we don’t have any illicit sex, we don’t have meat-eating, we have no intoxication, we have no gambling. There’s so many no’s which you are unable to perform.
Reporter: Swami, that wasn’t my question. My question was, is this manifestation, dressing in this fashion, playing drums and dancing in the streets, the only way to be spiritual?
Prabhupada: No, we have got about sixty books. If you want to learn this movement through science and philosophy, we have got our books. You have not seen our books? (laughter)
Reporter: Swami, that isn’t the thrust of my question. Yes, I have. The thrust of my question very simply is this: Can’t people be spiritual without dressing in this fashion and dancing in the street?
Prabhupada: Oh, yes, oh, yes, you can become spiritual in your this dress. Simply you have to learn what it is from the books. The dress… dress is not very important thing, but still, in the material field, this girl is dressed in a different way, you are dressed in a different way.
Reporter: The way we dress lets us move in all circles.
Prabhupada;: No, the thing is, dress is not very important.
Reporter: But you have your disciples dress in this way…
Prabhupada: But just to draw a particular… Just like the policeman, he is differently dressed. One can understand that he is policeman. Similarly, we are also differently dressed so that people may understand we are Hare Krsna people.
Devotees: Jaya! Haribol!

>>> Ref. VedaBase => Interview — March 5, 1975, New York

Comment posted by kavicandra swami on September 7th, 2011
13 Locanananda dasa

Oh, yes — and as far as how to refer to the two basic categories of clothing worn by devotees, I would take into account the origin and the purposeful design of each. If Vaisnava dress (dhoti and kurta for men, saris for women) originates in the spiritual world, we may refer to that as devotional attire, for that is the original use of those garments. Dresses, pants, suits, and ties, on the other hand, are worn all over the world, but their origin is in Western civilization. Their purpose is to accentuate the bodily concept of life, so they are correctly referred to as “karmi clothes.” Clothes do not make the man, but the connotation of this expression would incorrectly indicate that a devotee so attired has become a fruitive worker, which, I hope, is not the case.

It would not be appropriate at all to wear “karmi clothes” on the altar, even if one were a pure devotee of Krishna. And our Krishna consciousness is strengthened by appearing as a vaisnava in terms of outward dress whenever possible. Srila Prabhupada approved of devotees dressing as a gentleman with suit and tie, but at the same time, he did not want us to neglect wearing neck beads, carrying a bead bag and sporting a sikha, or flag, as he called it. I have even heard that he once suggested wearing a suit jacket on top of a dhoti. So, preaching is not hampered by wearing Western dress, and one’s results may even be greater in terms of books distributed and donations received.

So I am inclined to use the terms “devotional attire” and “Western dress” as our two alternatives, based primarily on the original purpose of their design.

Comment posted by Locanananda dasa on September 8th, 2011
14 pustakrishna

We, who are trained to recognize the atma in every living creature as the true self, should not think that simply wearing a dhoti or sari (with or without kunti mala) is in itself devotional dress. In India and elsewhere, hundreds of millions of people wear this dress and are not bhaktas. And, very unfortunately, we have even seen bad behavior unbefitting a vaishnava being perpetuated by people in such ‘devotional’ garb. Really, the consciousness of the individual is of prime importance. Martin Luther King used an expression in relation to racial discrimination: A person should be judged by the content of their character rather than the color of their skin. While we can emphasize the dress, we should not de-emphasize the entire purpose of Krishna consciousness. I do believe that preachers of Krishna consciousness have more of a responsibility to dress the role of preacher than others, but we must not lose our heads over the issue of dress. We are not the body, and we are not the dress also. I truly believe, that Krishna (and Srila Prabhupad as well) knows our heart. It is ok to criticize what I have said here. But, it must be said in order to balance the discussion. Thank you. Pusta Krishna das

Comment posted by pustakrishna on September 8th, 2011
15 ParamshreyaDasa

About Sriman Nityananda Chandra Prabhu’s comment:

When researching the VedaBase we will see that Srila Prabhupada very rarely used such terms as “karmi dress”. Such terms were rather inforced by his disciples, especially after his departure. After that this overstressing was adopted by the next generation and by now most of the devotees are convinced that Western dress is automatically karmi dress, without any scientific reason.

By researching the VedaBase one will find also that Srila Prabhupada didn’t give only instructions for the dressing in dhotis and saris, or “robes” as he called it , but we will see that he allowed and appreciated the wearing of respectable Western dress equally. (”American gentlemen”)

Prabhupada never gave a scientific explanation why a dhoti should be devotional dress and why Western dress should not. At least as far as I know. When he talkes about uniform, he rather specifically meant three things: Tilaka, Tulasi neckbeads and sikha (”flag”).

Here is a list of references confirming this:

Shikha is a tuft of hair at the back of head specifically kept by Vaishnavas and brahmanas. It shows the following two things:

(1) The Vaishnavas following a descending spiritual path that is they depend on the mercy of the Supreme Lord at every step to pull them out of Maya. So when we are drowning in Maya and only our head is out of the water, Guru and Gauranga can still pull us out comfortably by holding our head by this tuft of head called the shikha. So the shikha shows the subordination and dependence of the devotee on the causelessmercy of Lord Gauranga-Krishna at all times. The Mayavadis follow the ascending path since they egotistically confident of achieve God and coming out of illusion by the dint of their insignificant efforts or sadhan. So they do not keep a shikha because they do not need the mercy of the Lord.

(2) Shikha is also like a spiritual antenna on the top of head meant to show to the Lord and that we are aspiring recepients of His causeless mercy.

Tuft of Hair (sikha)
from Pancharatra Pradipa

According to the Vedic culture, when a person undergoes the
cuda-karana-samskara (hair-cutting ceremony) and upanayana (Vedic
initiation), he must shave his head, leaving a tuft of hair called a sikha
. One must have a sikha to perform any kind of yajna. Therefore in Indian
tradition all the brahmanas, Vaisnava or otherwise, keep a sikha.
Although there seem to be no sastric injunctions regarding the size of the
sikha, Gaudiya Vaisnavas traditionally keep the sikha about the size of a
calf’s hoofprint, approximately 1.5 inches (5 - 6 cm.) in diameter. Srila
Prabhupada mentioned this in a conversation with some of his disciples in
Hawaii: "Gaudiya Vaisnava sikha is an inch and a half across — no bigger.
Bigger sikha means another sampradaya…. And they have to be knotted."
(May 6, 1972, Hawaii; Srila Prabhupada Lilamrta V, page 93)
The sikha may be any length, but it should be kept tightly knotted and only
untied when you are washing,The Hari-bhakti-vilasa observes that members
of the upper classes even tie the sikha before taking the final ablutions
of a bath. This particularly applies when bathing in a body of water such
as a river or a lake, in which case to not tie the sikha prior to bathing
is considered low class and disrespectful to the sacred rite of bathing.
You may tie it in a simple manner for bathing, retying it more carefully
after the bath.* cleaning, or oiling it. Also, when going to sleep,
attending funeral rites, or observing a period of mourning, you should
keep the sikha untied. Since an untied sikha is a sign of a death in the
family, it is inauspicious to go about one’s daily duties with an untied
sikha. It is also said that if one keeps the sikha untied, the body may
become weak.
While tying your sikha after bathing, chant the Hare Krsna mantra, or, if
initiated with Gayatri mantras, silently chant the Brahma-gayatri (first
line of Gayatri). The sikha should not be braided (traditionally only
women braid their hair), nor should it be kept long and disheveled.
Naturally, if the sikha is too short to be tied, it is all right to leave
it open, but it should not be disheveled.*
————————————————-

Shrila Prabhupada’s letters

…but every one of my disciples must have the flag & marks of tilak on forehead. This is essential.
Letter to: Damodara — Calcutta 13 October, 1967
…in all circumstances a devotee cannot avoid tilak, flag on head, & beads
on neck. These are essential features of a Vaisnava.
Letter to: Brahmananda — Calcutta 14 October, 1967
I never objected to any of my students dressing like nice American
gentleman, clean shaved; those who are my disciples must have flag, tilak &
beads on neck without fail.
Letter to: Kirtanananda — Calcutta 16 October, 1967
Householders may wear dhotis in the Temple, or as they like, but not of the
saffron color. They may wear white, yellow, or whatever. Outside the Temple
they may wear American gentleman’s dress, with Tilaka, flag, and beads.
Letter to: Balai — San Francisco 12 March, 1968
The Vaisnavas, with tilaka, with kunti, with chanting beads, as soon as you
see… And practically you know. As soon as they see these Hare Krsna
movement people, they also chant, "Hare Krsna," giving a chance to the
others. The dress is also required. You should be always equipped with
tilaka, kunti, and sikha, sutra. Then, as soon as a common man sees, "Oh,
here is a Hare Krsna man. Hare Krsna," he’ll chant. Automatically you give a
chance to chant Hare Krsna.
So this is required. The foolish rascals, they say that "What is the
necessity of this, that?" No. This is necessity. You must always remain
dressed like a Vaisnava. That is necessity.
Srimad-Bhagavatam 3.28.19 — Nairobi, October 29, 1975
Vaisnava must have dvadasa-tilaka, sikha, sutra, kunti, and there are many
things, description.
Sri Caitanya-caritamrta, Madhya-lila 8.128 — Bhubanesvara, January 24, 1977
…we must have always our tilak and sikha and there is no compromise for
this purpose.
Letter to: Brahmananda — Seattle 6 October, 1968
…our real dress is the tilaka and sikha.
Letter to: Raktak — London, 25 September, 1969
…we should always keep sikha and teelock.
Letter to: Jagadisa — Bhaktivedanta Manor 23 July, 1973
Regarding what is a Vaisnava, Vaisnava means that when others see him, they
will also chant Hare Krsna. So why not give them the chance of seeing by
wearing the beads, tilaka, and sikha?
Letter to: Sudama — Bombay 10 December, 1973
According to sastra anyone who wears tilaka and sikha and kunti over and
above the Vaisnava dress or Vaisnava sannyasi must be accepted especially
while chanting Hare Krishna mantra with bead bags. Kindly convince them and
induce them to allow these Vaisnavas to enter Jagannatha Temple.
Letter to: Syamasundara — Bombay 8 April, 1974
Rather our sampradaya-acharya Srila Rupa Gosvami, of whom’s philosophy of yukta-vairagya Srila Prabhupada was a strict and expert follower, gives a perfect scientific explanation when something is spirituslized and by that devotional and when not. He explains this in his Nectar of Devotion beginning with anasaktasya visayan.

Chandrashekhara is pointing out that there is up to now no such scientific explanation for Western and Indian dress as being devotional and karmi attire and therefore we should rethink about this unnecesarry overstressing.

Prabhupada stressed that we should not follow dogmatically or fanatically but scientificly and with common sense (”Religion without philosophy…”).

Otherwise it will only create a disturbance in society sooner or later.

Comment posted by ParamshreyaDasa on September 12th, 2011
16 Akruranatha

I once heard, from a non-devotee, that sewn cloth was considered impure in Hindu society because traditionally sewing machines existed which used leather belts for their operation, and thus the cloth would have come in contact with leather and could not be purified.

I have some doubt about this statement. I have never heard it from a devotee. I have never seen references to sewing machines, with or without leather straps, in the scriptures. If they did have such machines in ancient Vedic India, could they not have found some other durable material to make the belts with?

Maybe these sewing machines with leather straps were not from ancient Vedic times but were introduced more recently (but long enough ago to create a tradition against stitched cloth)? More likely, the whole story about the leather straps on sewing machines is a speculation or concoction.

Nevertheless, we do have rules (don’t we?) discouraging pujaris from wearing stitched cloth on the altar. I guess ladies wear cholis, and some men nowadays often wear regular, store-bought underwear (instead of kaupina), but the men on the altar usually wear a chaddar rather than a sewn kurta on the upper body.

Where does the rule against sewn cloth come from? Is it found in scriptures like Hari-Bhakti Vilas? Is sewn cloth considered less pure than simply woven cloth? If so, why?

Also, if a cloth of wool or cotton or silk happens to touch some leather, does it become contaminated? Can it be purified? Is there something more contaminating about leather than other substances, such as bones, stool, alcohol, etc.?

Modern textile fibers are made from petrochemical polyamides such as nylon and polyester. Can they be more easily contaminated than natural fibers? Can they be purified?

Sometimes cloth from synthetic fabrics can be flammable and can be dangerous for pujaris to wear, quite apart from the purity issue. But is there even a problem of wearing underwear that uses lycra or spandex or other synthetic materials, from the point of view of ritual purity of materials that can be brought onto the altar?

If so, what about other materials used in dressing the Deities, like synthetic thread and blu-tack and so on? Is there a problem vis-a-vis the purity of such materials or purification if they get contaminated?

Comment posted by Akruranatha on September 14th, 2011
17 chandrashekhara

Sitapati prabhu’s comment is very appropriate:

“Once a disciple of Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati insisted to the Math editors that the dictionary by changed rather than a word be corrected in an article written by his spiritual master. His spiritual master appreciated his sentiment, but had the word corrected to the standard spelling. ”

Also, it is a fact, as Paramshreya prabhu points out, that Prabhupada uses the term “karmi dress” or “karmi clothes” only once in the Vedabase, in reply to a letter of a disciple who himself (or herself) uses that term to indicate Western dress. Conversely, Prabhupada refers to Western dress as “Western dress” and other similar descriptions many, many more times. Therefore we are in no position to demand that the entire dictionary and English language be re-written because Srila Prabhupada once used the term “karmi dress” to refer to Western clothes.

Also, as I pointed out and as Pusta Krishna prabhu points out, the very fact that millions upon millions of non-Vaishnavas wear dhotis is the proof in itself that we cannot call a dhoti “devotional” by itself.

Another point: Are there really Muslim kurtas in Vaikuntha?

The whole “Vaikuntha dress” argument is anthropomorphic anyway: in a real sense, who cares what Krishna wears ? How is that relevant to us down here? Does He say anywhere that we should imitate His dress in order to reach Him? Or does He stress that Sankirtan is the way to reach Him? Are we to imitate or follow? If we want to imitate, fine. But if we don’t want to imitate His dressing and rather stick to performing the Yuga-dharma dressed in Western clothes, that should be perfectly fine, by all means.

Our founder more than once told interested people that they could indeed wear Western clothes and be Krishna Conscious. Are we going to take these words at face value, or are we going to apply the same logic that the proponents of the “soul never fell from Vaikuntha” hold? They say that Prabhupada was only being diplomatic and strategic in terms of preaching to Westerners when he claimed that the soul falls from the spiritual world. In fact, they claim, Prabhupada never really MEANT that. He always knew that the soul cannot fall from the spiritual world, but he spoke in this way just to for preaching purposes. Do we accept such an argument? I don’t. When Prabhupada says that we fell from the spiriutal world, I believe that he meant it.

Comment posted by chandrashekhara on September 14th, 2011
18 sarvopama dasa

Srila Prabhupada encouraged us to live simply. He said factories were hellish. It may be a gradual process but the more we can try to apply these understandings to daily life, the easier it will be for us to experience and share the varnashrama culture. Ideally a person should wear cloth that is made on a simple loom in the village. Obviously we are presently far from that point at this stage of the game. Does that mean we should give up?

Comment posted by sarvopama dasa on September 16th, 2011
19 chandrashekhara

There was not enough room in my last posting to finish my point, which is:

[When Prabhupada says that we fell from the spiriutal world, I believe that he meant it.]

Similarly, when Srila Prabhupada told Sacinandana Swami’s father, “One can be Krishna Conscious in a suit and tie,” I fully believe that he meant it- he meant it fully and completely. If Sacinandana Swami’s father had become serious about Krishna Consciousness, had begun chanting 16 rounds and had requested Prabhupada to initiate him, I am 100% sure that Prabhupada would not have changed his policy. Prabhupada would not have told him, “Yes- I can give you initiation. But forget what I told you previously. Now that you are serious about spiritual life, you have to put on a dhoti. Disregard everything that I told you before.” I don’t believe this one bit.
If Prabhupada said we can practice Krishna Consciousness in Western attire, let us believe him fully, in toto. Let us not add anything to his clear statements; let us accept them “as they are.”

Regarding Sarvopama prabhu’s statement, in today’s context, I doubt that it is more simple to wear dhotis that are imported from thousands of miles away than to wear trousers. Sarvopama prabhu lives in India; most Vaishnavas do not. Of course, to wear trousers imported from China is not much more simple either. This just shows the complexity of today’s economic situation. However, wearing a dhoti that comes from a cloth market in India is not more ’simple’ than wearing trousers purchased at any local garment shop in one’s own city. In fact, purchasing a pair of trousers is much simpler than finding and buying a dhoti. One can find a pair of trousers anywhere, whereas dhotis are only available in extremely restricted shopping areas. In fact, in many countries, it is simply impossible to find a dhoti. What is more simple, then? The essential principle is to practice Krishna Consciousness wearing clean and respectable clothes, period.

We will introduce the principle of “simple living, high thinking” not by standing out from society by our exotic appearance, but rather by participating in society, from within, and enacting significant policy changes (closing slaughterhouses, for example.)

Coming back to the original point of my article, it is a fact that our definitions are factually incorrect. Second, our own founder-acarya made it crystal clear that Vaishnavism does not depend on wearing a particular style of dress.

Comment posted by chandrashekhara on September 16th, 2011
20 Unregistered

Chandrashekhara Prabhu, in an attempt to change the definition “devotional clothing” to something else, says that it is a sociological fact that centuries ago, devotees were not the only people to wear dhotis and saris – there were also karmis around then who wore them. His argument is that dhotis and saris, even if worn by non devotees, as is often the case in India, could be referred to as devotional clothing. This seems like an attempt at word jugglery. We have to go further than a few centuries ago. There are descriptions of associates of Krsna and also Draupadi (being disrobed) wearing saris. There are also descriptions and paintings of colourful dhoti like clothes worn by Lord Krsna’s associates. Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu and His associates and our acaryas wore dhoti like clothes with chaddars wrapped around their shoulders and possibly also kurtas and the women wore saris. This is the closest you would get to the dhotis and kurtas as introduced by Srila Prabhupada. Srila Prabhupada wore the sannyasa dhoti (if it can be called that) and he wore a kurta and because he introduced the dhotis and kurtas to devotees, they can be called devotional clothing.

We may refer to Western dress worn by non devotees as karmi clothes but I do not think any devotee actually refers to dhotis and saris worn traditionally by non devotees as devotee clothing. This term from my experience is only used within the devotee community – so this is a false conclusion by Chandrashekhara Prabhu. From this false conclusion, he suggests an implication could be the idea that we can only practice bhakti-yoga in devotional clothing. I honestly did not come across any devotee saying that we cannot practice devotional service in Western dress. Most of us are not full time temple devotees and we wear Western clothing most of the time and I think this article is an attempt to justify this and this word jugglery could, on a subtle platform, plant the seed for more radical changes in devotional attire even within the temple.

continued

Comment posted by Nitai dasa on September 16th, 2011
21 Unregistered

Chandrashekhara says that the temple pujari rooms often have signs on the doors that states “devotional clothing only” and he says our interpretation of this term is flawed. For practical purposes, we refer to ourselves are devotees just as Srila Prabhupada did and we do not say practicing devotees (which we actually are). So for practical purposes, it would make sense to refer to dhotis, kurtas and saries as devotional clothing although the clothing does not necessarily make the devotee but it helps in consciousness. Chandrashekhara says that instead, we should insist on principles such as chastity, cleanliness and modesty. I would add that as practicing devotees, the appropriate dress helps the consciousness with these qualities. It is not important whether devotees refer to Western dress as karmi clothes although the term “Western dress” would sound more natural and is my preference. But the term devotional clothing cannot be changed, as Chandrashekhara suggests.

There are so many issues right now within our movement that disturb devotees unnecessarily; we do not need to add more and I think this article is totally unnecessary. It is a subtle attempt to liberalize or add more unfavourable practices to our devotional lives. Why do we want to cause more divisions? Sometimes we may feel uncomfortable or embarrassed wearing devotional clothing. There is no restriction where devotees cannot wear Western dress if they want to – so just go ahead and do so, without trying to justify it.

Hari-Sauri Prabhu was quoted in a comment saying: “Clearly there has to be some standard otherwise the whole process becomes absurd. My proposal is that we should follow Srila Prabhupada’s standards and not try to change them. Whatever was established by His Divine Grace should be accepted by us as being the best way to sustain our spiritual lives” So the dhotis and kurtas were established as standard dress for devotees by Srila Prabhupada and we should accept it and not try to change. Someone also stated in comments that he wanted to balance the discussion. This is also a subtle tendency to change. Balance means change. What is there to balance? Should we get to the stage where devotees are allowed to use Western dress on the alter? Srila Prabhupada said this desire to change is a Western disease.

Comment posted by Nitai dasa on September 16th, 2011
22 sita-pati

Wearing clothes that are *different* from everyone else is Prabhupada’s point. The dress that ISKCON devotees wore in the 70s in the West was different from everyone else. Prabhupada’s analogy is instructive. Police uniforms are not objective - they change in different countries, and change at different times. One thing remains the same, however, they are unique and distinctive in their particular time and place. They serve to separate and identify the wearer.

So the argument that millions of people wear dhoti, kurta, and sari in India and are not devotees is tangential. The point is that in the West it is a distinctive garb that is useful for creating a corporate identity (both for the public and the devotees). It’s a tactic.

Comment posted by sita-pati on September 16th, 2011
23 sita-pati

Sarvopama: that’s a nice idea, but wearing clothes that are flown in from another country (as dhotis, kurtas, and saris are for non-Indian dwellers) goes against that idea. Wearing locally-produced, hand-made clothes would fit that; and those clothes here in Australia are not dhotis and kurtas.

Comment posted by sita-pati on September 16th, 2011
24 NityanandaChandra

Phalena Pariciyate. Chandrasekhar Prabhu, I have not seen you recently as we don’t live in same city but I do hear about your preaching activities from time to time. This is what I heard recently and I just want a clarification from you.

The story goes that you were visiting a temple and was invited to give class on the Vyasana, or offered to give class on the Vyasasana. Either Srimad Bhagavatam or Bhagavad Gita. But when the time came to give the class you showed up in slacks and a button up shirt. At that time you were asked not to give the class due to your dress and dissatisfied in rebuttal you gave the same arguments that you are listing here.

Please let me know if this is true or somewhat true? If it is somewhat truthful, please tell me what actually transpired. If nothing of the sort ever took place then please let me know.

Comment posted by NityanandaChandra on September 17th, 2011
25 chandrashekhara

Sita Pati prabhu’s statement “Wearing clothes that are *different* from everyone else is Prabhupada’s point” is, I respectfully think, not fully objective. In other words, while Prabhupada at some times insisted on the dhoti (mostly with brahmacaris and sannyasis or ’saffron-clad grihasthas”), Prabhupada also made extremely clear and numerous statements to the effect that devotees are free to dress in respectable Western clothes. To ignore these statements is not scientific and is no loyal to Prabhupada. If it was good enough for Prabhupada, it should be good enough for us.

I did not understand Nitai Prabhu’s argument; I am sorry.

Comment posted by chandrashekhara on September 17th, 2011
26 sarvopama dasa

Sita Pati Prabhu, I like very much where you point out that Srila Prabhupada said both devotees and police officers wear distinctive uniforms. You say, “Wearing clothes that are *different* from everyone else is Prabhupada’s point. The dress that ISKCON devotees wore in the 70s in the West was different from everyone else[…]… they are unique and distinctive in their particular time and place. They serve to separate and identify the wearer.” I agree with you 100%, Sita Pati, and can only add that one could even say that along with the chanting of the Holy Name, wearing of the devotional garb can be a real demonstration of faith.

The only other question I have is whether or not anyone in Australia knows how to use a loom and might concievably be able to make cloth. Srila Prabhupada encouraged us to become self sufficient and knowing how to produce cloth on a loom is something he hoped we might even take up as a cottage industry within our ISKCON varnashrama communities world wide to employ people in an activity that would provide clothing without depending on the hellish factories.

Dhotis when understood to be a simple piece of cloth made on a loom can be seen as fully transcendental to national limitations. While I would never dream of making anyone feel guilty or ashamed for not wearing sari or dhoti, I’ve found that for me at least, it is very helpful in my ongoing effort to become more surrendered and absorbed in devotional service.

Comment posted by sarvopama dasa on September 17th, 2011
27 sarvopama dasa

Chandrashekhara Prabhu, in your last post you say, “If it was good enough for Prabhupada, it should be good enough for us.” Srila Prabhupada was extremely liberal and 99% lenient in his dealing with Westerners. The first disciples were even drinking coffee, smoking and engaging in all manner of anarthas right up to their initiation and some even after it. If we set a filter to incorporate any and all allowed activity that the founder acharya saw fit to tolerate at one time or another, I really have to wonder what will become of us.

Comment posted by sarvopama dasa on September 19th, 2011
28 ParamshreyaDasa

Sometimes I heard the argument that “Look, its Vaishnava clothes, just see the paintings!” However we often see also the deamons dressed in dhotis on the same paintings like Hiranyakasipu, Kamsa or Jagai and Madhai (before surrendering). How fits that together?

Comment posted by ParamshreyaDasa on September 21st, 2011
29 sarvopama dasa

SB 10.90.1-7: Sukadeva Gosvami said: The master of the goddess of fortune resided happily in His capital city, Dvaraka, which was endowed with all opulences and populated by the most eminent Vrishnis and their gorgeously dressed wives. When these beautiful women in the bloom of youth would play on the city’s rooftops with balls and other toys, they shone like flashing lightning. The main streets of the city were always crowded with intoxicated elephants exuding mada, and also with cavalry, richly adorned infantrymen, and soldiers riding chariots brilliantly decorated with gold. Gracing the city were many gardens and parks with rows of flowering trees, where bees and birds would gather, filling all directions with their songs.Lord Krishna was the sole beloved of His sixteen thousand wives. Expanding Himself into that many forms, He enjoyed with each of His queens in her own richly furnished residence. On the grounds of these palaces were clear ponds fragrant with the pollen of blooming utpala, kahlara, kumuda and ambhoja lotuses and filled with flocks of cooing birds. The almighty Lord would enter those ponds, and also various rivers, and enjoy sporting in the water while His wives embraced Him, leaving the red kunkuma from their breasts smeared on His body.

So frivolous sports are all OK? During their exile the Pandavas killed animals. Does that mean we can do that also?

Also it may be worth noting that Jagai, Madhai and Hiranyakasipu and Hiranyaksa were actually incarnations of Jaya and Vijaya, the gatekeepers of Vaikuntha. Kamsa was directly killed by Krishna and achieved liberation. I can only pray that I will be as fortunate as these “deamons” [sic]. So yes, thank you, Paramshreya Dasa. My wife and I are now even more convinced that we are making a good choice and pleasing Srila Prabhupada by simply wearing our saris and dhotis.

Comment posted by sarvopama dasa on September 21st, 2011
30 chandrashekhara

Pusta Krishna prabhu made a beautiful point, which I am posting again:

“We, who are trained to recognize the atma in every living creature as the true self, should not think that simply wearing a dhoti or sari (with or without kunti mala) is in itself devotional dress. In India and elsewhere, hundreds of millions of people wear this dress and are not bhaktas. And, very unfortunately, we have even seen bad behavior unbefitting a vaishnava being perpetuated by people in such ‘devotional’ garb. Really, the consciousness of the individual is of prime importance. Martin Luther King used an expression in relation to racial discrimination: A person should be judged by the content of their character rather than the color of their skin. While we can emphasize the dress, we should not de-emphasize the entire purpose of Krishna consciousness.”

Comment posted by chandrashekhara on September 22nd, 2011
31 ParamshreyaDasa

About comment 29: Maybe there is a misunderstanding, dear Sarvopama Prabhu. I just wanted to point out that even on many of our classical BBT paintings it is not the case that only the Vaishnavas wear dhotis and saris and the Non-Vaishnavas do not. No, most of the times both groups wear these dresses and therefore we cannot really say that it is an exclusive Vaishnava dress. That’s all what I wanted to say. If you like, you may certainly continue wearing dhotis and saris (I also do it sometimes), but to say that saris and dhotis are exclusive devotional dresses is not a valid statement (even) in the light of our classical BBT paintings.

I am convinced, we are equally pleasing Srila Prabhupada and Krishna, by using sattvic respected clothes (be it Western or Eastern) in the devotional service of the Lord. Then it becomes devotional dress according to Srila Rupa Goswami’s scientific definition (yukta vairagya).

Hare Krsna,
your servant Paramshreya Dasa

Comment posted by ParamshreyaDasa on September 25th, 2011
32 chandrashekhara

I would like to veer back to my original intent: redefining, if necessary, the terms “karmi-dress” and “devotional dress.” I suggest that we stay focused on this specific point.

By reading all the comments so far, only Nityananda Chandra prabhu addressed the issue directly by stating that the term “karmi dress/karmi clothes” was introduced by Prabhupada. I pointed out that Prabhupada rarely used those terms, actually. Rather, his disciples used those terms.

The only time when Srila Prabhupada uses the term “karmi dress” is in a letter of 1976, in which he states:

” If karmi dress is favorable, then go on with karmi dress. We have to execute missionary activities; dress is not fundamental.”

Please note that he is using the term “karmi dress” as a reply to a devotee’s query in which the devotee himself or herself introduces the term “karmi dress.” Prabhupada is only repeating the term, not introducing it first-hand. The other two times the words “karmi dress” come up in the Vedabase is when Bhakti Vikasa Swami uses them in one of his books.

Similarly, the term “karmi clothes” appears also only once when spoken directly by Srila Prabhupada (in a letter replying a similar query as above). For the other twenty-five references to that term, it is disciples of Srila Prabhupada who use it.

As far as the term “devotional dress” or “devotional clothes” are concerned, we do not even find one single entry in which Prabhupada uses those terms, not even in a reply to a devotee’s query. He never used that term at all.

Thus, from a study of Prabhupada’s own statements recorded in the Vedabase, we can make a solid argument that the terms “karmi dress” and “devotional dress” were introduced by disciples of Srila Prabhupada, and not by Srila Prabhupada himself. This is not to say that Prabhupada did not go along with those terms, but it shows that those concepts were not his own constructs. Therefore to say that we must continue using those terms because Srila Prabhupada used them may be incorrect.

Comment posted by chandrashekhara on September 26th, 2011
33 sarvopama dasa

What example did Srila Prabhupada offer? What did Srila Prabhupada want? What did Srila Prabhupada tolerate?

Comment posted by sarvopama dasa on September 27th, 2011
34 Unregistered

Chandrashekhara Prabhu suggests in his last comment that we stay focused on the specific point of redefining, if necessary, the terms karmi dress and devotional dress. However, this is not as simple as that. From these comments, it is sometimes possible to understand the mood of devotees and understand their intentions and aspirations. I feel that Chandrashekhara would like to see legislation where Western clothing will be allowed in areas of temple service where devotional clothing is stressed. It is possible that he may also like to see Western dress take precedence over dhotis and saris in and around the temple. It would be nice if he could clarify his stance in a straight forward manner. Nityananda Chandra wrote that once when Chandrashekhara showed up in slacks and shirt to give class in a temple, the authorities refused him permission to sit on the Vyasana and he was not satisfied. He gave the temple authorities the same arguments he is giving here. He gives irrelevant arguments for wearing Western dress - he says it is much easier to walk into any local shop in his area and purchase trousers whereas it is not so simple to purchase a dhoti. If you have the desire to wear a dhoti, Krsna will send you one.

Chandrashekhara says “The whole “Vaikuntha dress” argument is anthropomorphic anyway: in a real sense, who cares what Krishna wears? How is that relevant to us down here?” For less advanced devotees, it may not be so relevant what Krsna wears but more advanced devotees have stronger realization how all Krsna’s paraphernalia are non different from Him. Of course, most of us care what Krsna, His associates and His devotees wear and advanced and pure devotees will go into ecstasy simply thinking about Krsna’s clothes.

Chandrashekhara also says “Maybe the signs on the doors of the pujari rooms should say, “Traditional Indian dress only,” or “Vaikuntha dress only.” Maybe this is his suggestion to replace the term “devotional clothing.” Since the term “devotional clothing” as used by devotees specifically refers to dhotis, kurtas and saris, it would seem there could be a motive to redefine this term to something else so that Western clothes could also be accepted and used more in temple services such as sitting on the Vyasana or pujari services – and possibly replace dhotis, kurtas and saris. This change can’t take place if the term devotional clothing is used since devotional clothing already refers to dhotis and saris.

continued

Comment posted by Nitai dasa on September 28th, 2011
35 Unregistered

Also his argument that millions upon millions of karmis use dhotis and saris in India and therefore it cannot be called devotional clothing is not in line with our tradition. Devotees wore dhotis and saris during Krsna’s pastimes on this planet and even before that. So the non-devotees in India that use dhotis and saris are actually using clothes coming down from a profound spiritual tradition. Since the term “Indian” is fairly recent, the term “Traditional Indian dress” won’t be suitable. By endorsing traditional Vedic clothing or devotional dress now, it will be easier for devotees when Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu’s movement reaches a mini golden age, the devotees all over the world and the millions upon millions presently using this dress in India will do so with the proper intent. Chandrashekhara, more than once, referred to the kurta as “the Muslim kurta.” We can never know with certainty where the kurta originated. The Muslim rulers were influenced by Vedic culture and they probably adopted some type of vaisya or sudra dress. Anyway, Srila Prabhupada introduced the kurta, together with dhotis and saris, as devotee dress.

In traditional Varnasrama, there were also non-Vaisnavas or worshippers of demigods who used dhotis and saris. It has to be understood that this was still a spiritual tradition coming down from something original. Even the demons were well versed in sastra and tradition. Many non devotees in India may abuse the dhotis and kurtas and you quoted Pusta Krishna prabhu’s concerns regarding this. However he also concluded by saying: “While we can emphasize the dress, we should not de-emphasize the entire purpose of Krishna consciousness.” Are you prepared to whole-heartedly emphasize and endorse dhotis, kurtas and saris as devotional clothing above Western dress in all temple services including giving class? If you don’t want to use the term “devotional clothing”, then the term “Vedic dress” will also be appropriate since Vedic tradition includes demigod worshippers and all others of that tradition. So the definitions are not as important as the motive.

Prabhupada: So many Indian swamis, they requested me to dress myself with coat-pants. I never agreed. You see all my pictures. They are all foreign pictures. So I never (indistinct) this dress also. Why shall I take to coat-pant? What is use? Now my students, they are giving up coat-pant. And girls, they are taking to saris. There is now good demand for saris in Europe and America.

Comment posted by Nitai dasa on September 28th, 2011
36 ParamshreyaDasa

With interest I have read Nitai Dasa’s comment (No.34/35). He is presenting his points in such a way that one might start thinking that Prabhupada has given us the “eternal spiritual dress,” and if we don’t accept it, we seriously deviate from the path of spiritual life. At least this is my impression. Nitai says, “Srila Prabhupada introduced the kurta, together with dhotis and saris, as devotee dress.” This is not really true. There may be statements and gestures where Prabhupada speaks favorably about dhotis and saris or “robes.” But there are also many quotes where he likewise appreciated respectable Western dress. Here are just two very clear examples:

(1) Prabhupada: No, dhoti, I don’t say. You have nice coat-pant. I don’t say that you have to… I never said that. You have adopted it. (laughs) I never said that “You put on dhoti.”
(Conversation on Train to Allahabad — January 11, 1977, India)

(2) Jyotirmayi: No, no. He’s saying why are we dressing like that, like Indians?

Prabhupada: I have not said that you dress like that. You like, you do it. Did I say that you do it?

Priest: It’s like the Indian Catholic priest dressing like a (indistinct) priest or like a European priest. I mean, they look as if they had a disguise with them.

Prabhupada: No, no, just like when the English were ruling, English national. So the Englishmen never said that “You dress like Englishmen”, but they automatically dressed. You know very well. They do like that. The Englishmen, they went there to get some money by trade, by politics. But they never went there to change their dress. But they thought that “If I dress myself like Englishman, I will be more honored.” That is their point. Similarly, we never preach that “You dress like this.” But the student, they like this dress. That’s all right. What is the wrong there?

Priest: It’s not wrong. It’s funny.

Prabhupada: Rather these girls, when they dress in Indian way, they look more beautiful. That you will have to admit. Yes. The same girl will dress in your…

Priest: (indistinct)

Prabhupada: So the girls, the women, they like to be more beautiful. So if by dressing in other way they look beautiful, why should you ask them not to do it?

Priest: Maybe for ladies and girls certainly, but for the dhoti and…

(To be continued…)

Comment posted by ParamshreyaDasa on October 6th, 2011
37 ParamshreyaDasa

Prabhupada: But we are not concerned with the dress, we are concerned with the advancement of spiritual understanding, that’s all. (Room Conversation with Christian Priest — June 9, 1974, Paris)

So, I wonder, how can Nitai Prabhu be so sure that dhotis and saris, as we know them today, are eternal spiritual dresses and present this as an axiomatic truth? Where are the references and slokas from the Vedic scripture? As far as I know, there are not even words like “dhoti” and “sari” found in the Sanskrit language. In the scriptures like Srimad-Bhagavatam we find terms like “vesa” which just means garb, dress, cloth and so on. We do not really know that dhotis and saris are coming from the spiritual world. There is no exact Vedic reference.

Certainly, I don’t want to say here that Nitai’s suggestion is impossible. I personally have no problems with the idea that people of Goloka wear these dresses. I think it is wrong, however, to say that dhoti and sari is the only dress in the spiritual world, and therefore they are “spiritual dresses,” while everything else is material dress. Krishna is unlimited. His creativity and His taste have no boundaries. Why should he reduce His wardrobe to only one style of dress? Even here on Earth we see that in so many temples the devotees dress Krishna in so many styles and fashions. Recently I have seen how Sri Sri Radha Madhava and the Astasakhis of Mayapur were dressed in stitched colorful Japanese outfits. Nobody complained.

Nitai Prabhu also said, “Of course, most of us care what Krsna, His associates and His devotees wear and advanced and pure devotees will go into ecstasy simply thinking about Krsna’s clothes.” That is alright. We should certainly think about Krishna and His paraphernalia, and there are so many nice descriptions in our literature like Brahma-samhita and Srimad-Bhagavatam about how beautiful Krishna looks and how stylishly He is dressed. Why, however, must we also wear His dress in order to remember Him? If that is the process of self-realization, we also have to wear crowns, golden ornaments, garlands, a peacock feather, go to a special tanning salon which makes our skin bluish etc. No, our process of self-realization and God-consciousness is clearly described in our scriptures:

harer nama harer nama harer nama eva kevalam
kalau nasty eva nasty eva nasty eva gatir anyatha

(To be continued)

Comment posted by ParamshreyaDasa on October 6th, 2011
38 ParamshreyaDasa

(continued, part 3)

“In this age of Kali, there is no alternative, there is no alternative, there is no alternative for spiritual progress other than the chanting of the holy name, the chanting of the holy name, the chanting of the holy name of the Lord.”

(Brhan-naradiya Purana)

Srila Prabhupada has written and spoken probably millions of words about this process. Why should we be more Catholic than the Pope or more Vedic than the Founder-Acarya and establish a new additional doctrine that the scriptures and Srila Prabhupada have not given?

Nitai Dasa said, “This change can’t take place if the term devotional clothing is used since devotional clothing already refers to dhotis and saris.”

This is exactly the topic of Chandrashekhara’s original article. If we find out that this term is unscientific and theologically wrong, we immediately have to correct the usage. “Devotional dress” has nothing to do with a specific ethnic style of dress, but is a universally term for clothes used in devotional service, like a devotional pot or plate. According to the 14th chapter of Bhagavad-gita, it is most appropriate to use things in the Lord’s service which are in the mode of goodness. Therefore, the conclusion is that the Western wardrobe offers plenty of respectable decent types of dresses which can be used in Krishna’s devotional service without a problem. In this way we can call such clothes equally devotional clothes.

If we have a problem with that, i.e. if we do not want that devotees wear any kind of clothes during worship service like kirtana, lecture, cooking and arati, even when it is clean and respectable, then we have to admit that we want to have a uniform for particular practices. In this case, we have to be honest and bring the discussion to a conclusion about whether or not dhotis and pants are devotional dress. The discussion is then whether we want to have a uniform for our members and if yes, which one and in which areas.

In this case, we have to consider that Lord Chaitanya didn’t ask his followers and associates to wear a particular uniform, but they were all dressed as their neighbors who often were demigod worshipers or mayavadis. It is a sociological fact that religions which demand a uniform from it’s members are not so attractive than religions which have no particular dress code.

(to be continued)

Comment posted by ParamshreyaDasa on October 6th, 2011
39 ParamshreyaDasa

(continued, last part)

As far as I have learned, Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati has introduced a uniform for his sannyasis and brahmacaries, but not for the grihasthas or normal congregational members. He has introduced the saffron dhotis because in India at that time that was the respected outfit for religious preachers particularly of the very respected Sankara tradition.

In my opinion, the discussion should be over as soon as possible whether congregational members should wear a particular uniform or not, i.e. dhotis and saris in our case. All evidences speak against it. But if we definitely want a uniform for fulltime missionaries like sannyasis and brahmacharies and for pujaris, the question of future discussions should be then: Which type of uniform we want? Which is most suitable and practical from a climate viewpoint, and which is respected also by the particular society of our country. What was respected in India 100 years ago must not be respected in places like America, Germany or the Middle East.

Your servant
Paramshreya Dasa

Comment posted by ParamshreyaDasa on October 6th, 2011
40 NityanandaChandra

Paramshreya Prabhu, I would just like to mention that the Vedabase is small percentage of the instructions given by Srila Prabhupada. Therefore Guru is there, from guru to disciple. From my small experience all my shiksha gurus who are disciples of Srila Prabhupada I find that it is without out a doubt that wearing dhoti and kurta was an establish practice given and trained by Srila Prabhupada.

Comment posted by NityanandaChandra on October 8th, 2011
41 Unregistered

Hare Krsna. I refer to specific points by Paramshreya Prabhu.

He is presenting his points in such a way that one might start thinking that Prabhupada has given us the “eternal spiritual dress,” and if we don’t accept it, we seriously deviate from the path of spiritual life.

I did not suggest anything as such. This is what I said: “I honestly did not come across any devotee saying that we cannot practice devotional service in Western dress. Most of us are not full time temple devotees and we wear Western clothing most of the time and I think this article is an attempt to justify this and this word jugglery could, on a subtle platform, plant the seed for more radical changes in devotional attire even within the temple.”

“But there are also many quotes where he likewise appreciated respectable Western dress.”

Yes, because it was the Western devotees culture to wear a certain dress and they had to engage with the material world so Srila Prabhupada did not disallow them wearing Western clothing.

So, I wonder, how can Nitai Prabhu be so sure that dhotis and saris, as we know them today, are eternal spiritual dresses and present this as an axiomatic truth?

I did not present that dhotis and saris, as we know them today, as being eternal spiritual dress and as being an axiomatic truth. But I did say that dhotis and saris come down from a spiritual tradition. I also referred to Draupadi’s sari being disrobed and there are also references of Srimati Radharani wearing saris. Since, as conditioned devotees, we cannot even begin to conceive what the eternal spiritual dress actually looks like, we have to accept that sari’s and dhotis as introduced by Srila Prabhupada and worn by our previous acaryas is closest to the descriptions of the clothing worn by the Lord and His associates instead of the pants and shirt.

My point is that this debate should not be about the definitions but rather about the intent - which is, Western clothing replacing dhotis, kurtas and saris, already used in specific temple services. Most of us living outside the temple already use Western clothing most of the time and we may also go to the temple to take darshan of the Deities and do some service in Western clothing. Why can’t we just accept the temple rules that for certain services, dhotis and saris are required? Why change this?

Comment posted by Nitai dasa on October 8th, 2011
42 Unregistered

If we have a problem with that, i.e. if we do not want that devotees wear any kind of clothes during worship service like kirtana, lecture, cooking and arati, even when it is clean and respectable, then we have to admit that we want to have a uniform for particular practices. In this case, we have to be honest and bring the discussion to a conclusion about whether or not dhotis and pants are devotional dress. The discussion is then whether we want to have a uniform for our members and if yes, which one and in which areas.

Here again, the intent is clear. Some devotees commenting here would like Western dress used in certain temple services where traditionally, dhotis, kurtas and saris are used. I do not want to comment here anymore because my case is simple: Congregational devotees already use Western clothing outside the temple and there is no restriction for them not using it in the temple, although sometimes they may be encouraged to. However, the standard is that for particular services, dhotis and saris are required. The definitions are secondary and not important.

But if we definitely want a uniform for fulltime missionaries like sannyasis and brahmacharies and for pujaris, the question of future discussions should be then: Which type of uniform we want? Which is most suitable and practical from a climate viewpoint, and which is respected also by the particular society of our country. What was respected in India 100 years ago must not be respected in places like America, Germany or the Middle East.

A discussion is even called for on what sannyasis and brahmacharies should wear, as if this is not already clear and in practice.

Comment posted by Nitai dasa on October 8th, 2011
43 pustakrishna

Well, I returned to reading the threads in this discussion after some time, and I am sure that there is some heated discussion here! Lets see if we can make sense out of this.

First, Srila Rupa Goswami has said that all the rules and regulations of the vaishnava tradition are aimed at this: Always remember Krishna, and never forget Krishna.

We can appreciate that some individuals might be inspired by one thing, while another might not be. The important item, and the item that Srila Prabhupad would surely stress, is that Krishna consciousness has precedence over everything. We don’t want to see police men abusing their position and power with a police uniform on, yet we are generally comforted that there are police around when we need their protection. It is truly the quality of consciousness that we need, and that will help us on the spiritual path of Krishna consciousness. That said, if one’s Krishna consciousness is enhanced by dhoti or sari, by all means it is then favorable. But, mundane exploitation in such “devotional” dress may be all the more abhorrent and detrimental.

It is important that when we mark the body with tilak, with the Holy Names, we are both respecting that the body and senses belong to Krishna, and that we need His protection from all sides. Who can object to that? And, knowing what you will wear in advance, having a simple wardrobe, will contribute to the simplified life that Srila Prabhupad emphasized…simple living and high thinking.

Were we never cheated or disappointed by someone in a dhoti or a sari, we might not have any issue what-so-ever about dress, because we might consider that a magical purifying aura passed over such an individual. That is not the case, and therefore we cannot be fully settled by external dress making the man or woman or child. We are left with the truth, that consciousness, the internal work of sadhana, must take the highest precedence. In that arena, where Krishna within our heart is the everpresent witness (and dearmost Friend), we need to be attentive. That is Krishna consciousness has full precedence over self-consciousness. Hare Krishna.

Pusta Krishna das

Comment posted by pustakrishna on October 9th, 2011
44 Unregistered

AGTSP
Regarding “Getting the definitions right”
It is clear that the author has some objection but Its not clear what It is? Does he want us to change our dress or just the names of our dress? Is it simple fault finding or is he making a proposal? I think our dress is based on “Vedic” culture regardless of who is wearing it and we have developed “industry standards” in our nomenclature. Just like a “robe” certainly means something different to a “Jew” and different for a Catholic but each know what it looks like for their respective discipline. What is the use of making a universal definition? When we say Devotee clothes does he not know what it means?
What makes him think that “chastity, cleanliness, and modesty” should be reflected in the dress, verses lets say “the pleasure of Krishna?
Disa Dasa

Comment posted by disadasa on October 11th, 2011

Comments are closed. Please check back later.

 
 
Home » "Karmi clothes" and "devotional clothes" - Getting the definitions right
 
  • Post Details

Author: Administrator Administrator's website Administrator's email
Post Date: Saturday, August 27th, 2011
Categories: Blog thoughts
Trackback: Trackback
 
  • Last update: Sun July 27

  • Who is online

    • 30 currently online
    • 170 maximum concurrent
    • 11741020 total visitors

    Registered users online

  • Registered users: 6292

  • Navigation

  • -OTHER INCOMING LINKS
  • BC VTE Bhakti Sastri Online
  • Bhaktimarga Swami's blog
  • Bhaktivedanta Book Trust
  • Bhaktivedanta College
  • Bhaktivedanta Institute (Alachua)
  • Bhaktivedanta Manor
  • Bhaktivedanta VedaBase Network
  • Bhaktivedanta Vedabase Online
  • Cooking with Kurma
  • Darshan of SS Radha-Londonisvara
  • Dharmapatnis
  • Diary of a Traveling Preacher
  • Euro GBC
  • Forbidden Archeology
  • Gaudiya Vaisnava texts
  • Indradyumna Swami Media
  • ISKCON Bangalore Official
  • ISKCON Deity Worship Ministry
  • ISKCON Health & Welfare Ministry
  • ISKCON Ministry of Educational Development
  • ISKCON's Congregational Development Ministry
  • Iskcon-desire-tree
  • Iskcon.com
  • Jayadvaita Swami's personal site
  • Krishna Dharma's website
  • Krishna Lila Entertainment
  • Krishna.com
  • Krishnamarriage.com
  • matchlessgifts.org
  • Mayapur Academy
  • Mayapur Days
  • Mayapur International School
  • Ministry of Educational Development
  • Our Spiritual Journey
  • Parisisvara
  • prabhupadavani.org
  • Radio Krsna Central
  • Saligrama Sila site
  • Sridham Mayapura
  • The Bhaktivedanta Archives
  • The ISKCON Sannyasa Ministry
  • The Official GBC site
  • Trivikrama Swami
  • Vaisnava Calendar
  • Vaisnava Calendar Reminder
  • Vaisnava care website
  • Vanipedia
  • varnashrama.org
  • Vedic Astrologer
  • Vedic knowledge online
  • Vedic view on controversial issues
  • Website in Bengali language
  • Yadunandana Swami's personal site
  • Alachua Temple Live Podcast
  • Comments by author
  • Donate through searching
  • Founder Acarya
  • Incoming Links
  • Iskcon News TV Channel
  • Iskcon Radio stations
  • Iskcon Universe Feed
  • Jaya Srila Prabhupada!
  • Krishna conscious "youtube"
  • Krishna Conscious Media
  • Most commented articles
  • Most read articles
  • New Dwaraka Archived Lectures
  • Polls
  • Stats
  • Temple webcams
  • Thanks!
  • The last seven day's most read articles
  • I Am Looking Pujari Service Any Iskcon Temple Outside Of India
  • Prosperity of the Earth Culture
  • WSN June 2014 - World Sankirtan Newsletter
  • ISKCON Boston Hosts Interfaith “Field Trip”
  • The Launch Of The New Book Prabhupada Now
  • How to address a woman?
  • Tomatoes from Heaven
  • ISKCON GBC Executive Committee’s Letter to Ukrainian Devotee Refugees
  • Thirteenth Padyatra Winds through Slovenia
  • NASN June 2014 - North American Sankirtan Newsletter

     
    "Artwork and photos courtesy of the Bhaktivedanta Book Trust International, Inc. www.krishna.com. Used with permission"