ISKCON


This article is dedicated to Inno, Emina, Simone, Wepener, Ingrid, the BYS students at Wits and UJ and all those who want to know the techniques of mantra meditation.

I first spoke to Hare Krishna devotees in Cape Town in February 1997. Most of the devotees were in their early twenties. They wore eastern clothes. And they seemed to be happy. They were always chanting which sometimes frustrated me because I wanted to speak to them. I had so many questions.

The devotees had something I had been ardently looking for – a method of self-realization that connected them to God twenty-four hours a day. What was this? The chanting of the Hare Krishna maha-mantra. Yes. It was that simple: Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna/Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare/Hare Rama, Hare Rama/Rama Rama, Hare Hare. Their spiritual lifestyle complemented their constant chanting of the mantra. They refrained from intoxicants, meat-eating, gambling and were celibate. Everything they seemed to know – the philosophy, wisdom and practices of Krishna consciousness – was attributed to a teacher named A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada.

Aside from the obvious pleasure they derived from chanting, the devotees substantiated their practices with quotes from the Vedas. My second or third meeting with the devotees took place amidst the Parthenon-like architecture of the University of Cape Town (UCT). On this particular occasion, I approached a scholarly young woman named Rati. It was an incongruous situation. I was talking to a western girl, dressed in a sari, about the Ancient Indian spiritual culture. And this conversation was taking place amidst the neoclassical columns and steps of a university campus in Africa!

We philosophized on the Bhagavad-gita before Rati launched into an explanation of the chanting. I asked her, ‘How long should we chant?’ Rati answered matter-of-factly, ‘Twenty-four hours a day’. There was a distant look in her eyes as she quoted a verse from an ancient Sanskrit writing called the Brihad-aranyika Purana: harer nama harer nama/harer nama eva kevalam/kalau nasty eva nasty/eva nasty gatir anyatha. In this age of Kali the method for self-realization is the chanting of the holy names, the chanting of the holy names, the chanting of the holy names. There is no other way, there is no other way, there is no other way’.

After reading Juan Mascaro’s Bhagavad-gita I was convinced that I could become ‘enlightened’ or ‘self-realized’ through spiritual knowledge and principled living. Impressed by my knowledge of Hinduism and my interest in the Vedas, Rati encouraged me to read Prabhupada’s Bhagavad-gita As It Is. We spoke again, a few days later, and she asked me if I had gained anything significant from the book. I replied, ‘Determination’. Prabhupada seemed, however, to be repeating the same thing over and over again in his ‘purports’ or commentaries to the Gita – chant Hare Krishna. Hare Krishna Hare Krishna/Krishna Krishna Hare Hare/Hare Rama Hare Rama/Rama Rama Hare Hare. It was the same message and practice the devotees advocated.

Rati carefully pulled some wooden prayer beads from a cloth bag and, very gently, extolled the glories of chanting the mantra. ‘These are for you’, she said. There was no need for me to chant, I thought. I was quite happy reading the Bhagavad-gita. Sensing my apprehension, Rati said, ‘Just try’. ‘Okay’, I replied. That night I chanted on the beads for about half-an-hour. The chanting had a profound effect on me. Everything slowed down. The mantra seemed to open my perceptions and my ability to see the unity of God’s creation. All the knowledge in the Bhagavad-gita assumed a tangible form in the chanting of Hare Krishna.  Statements of Krishna like, ‘I am the light of the sun and the moon’, ‘I am the strength of the strong’ and ‘of bodies of water I am the ocean’ made perfect sense.  The chanting gave me a sense of God’s presence within and without myself.

I saw Rati the next day. ‘How was it?’ she said. ‘I feel like there is no need to read the Bhagavad-gita now. The chanting seems to encapsulate everything Krishna says in the Gita.’ ‘Well, the two go hand-in-hand’, she said. Rati was very convincing.

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We ascended the flight of stairs behind Braja Mohan prabhu’s house for the Sriji Mandir.  We stood on the top of the hill and admired the view of Varsana.  I followed Braja Mohan to the entrance of the Temple.  ‘You can leave your capalas here’, he said.  We took off our shoes and entered the crowded Temple.  I was the only westerner – something you would not find in a cosmopolitan ISKCON Temple.  Had I stepped back in time?  A group of local devotees, some in dhotis and some in western dress, huddled around a harmonium singing songs of praise to the Divine Couple.  Braja Mohan took me by the hand and led me through the crowd.  We wormed our way near to the front of the altar.

The brahmana priests were engaged in concentrated worship of Radha and Krishna.  The bell above the Temple Room door clanged incessantly.  The Deities were brightly dressed and, when the pujari blew the  conch, the restless-looking crowd burst into  rapturous song.  I closed my eyes and lost myself in song.   The assembly had become one mouth in their spirited praise of the ultimate worshipper, Sri Radha.  No hype.  No spiritual celebrity.   Just a heartfelt offering of love from a congregation to their Deities.  When the singing stopped there was a press of devotees towards the altar, where old women and men-with-moustaches-and-pants stretched to reach the sacred ghee-lamps.  By Braja Mohan’s grace, I was able to get a nice view of the Deities and offer prayers to the Divine Couple.  We left the Temple and retraced our way down the ancient stairway.  I bade good night to my friend, and took rest.

‘But worldly people take a contrary view and give the service of Godhead the second or subsidiary place to morality on the assumption that moral living may easily dispense the same.  There are people who admit the existence of God in their practical conduct as a means of establishing themselves in moral life as if Godhead is a mere steward and caterer of their worldly conveniences and comforts.  They opine that Godhead exists only for making us moral and not for our service.  To make Him exist for morality is to make Him an order-supplier.  Such misguided persons make a show of serving God for a time in order that while leading a life of gross worldliness they may pass before the world as self-restrained holy personages, but their purpose is to turn their so-called object of worship into an Impersonal Entity in the long run.  Godhead exists in His Transcendental Form that is visible only to His devotees who render their services for the gratification of His Senses.  Neither conventional morality, which are divorced from the service of Godhead and are practised for the sensual gratification of men, has any place in the conduct of those who live for the gratification of the Senses of God.  All morality, sanctity, good manners, patience, humility, and every other good quality of the head and heart are alway anxious to serve the purpose of the devotees if they are accepted for the worship of God.  Thus it should be admitted on all hands that to seek to separate morality from theism and to imagine Godhead Himself to be subservient to the rules of conventional morality, is nothing short of undiluted atheism’

[Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Thakur, ‘Spiritual Morality and Aesthetic Culture’ p.107-8]

Pankajanghri prabhu taking us on a tour of Mayapur

18 March 2001, ISKCON Mayapur

Pankajanghri prabhu gave Bhagavad-gita class in the evening.  His words were simple, but profound: ‘There is the theoretical understanding, ‘I am eternal servant of Krishna’; and  there is the practical application based on sadhu, sastra and guru.  Many cannot put this into practice.  Then, there are those who put this into practice but cannot practice for long.  And there are those who practice for long, but who still fall away.  Devotional service can be quite testing‘.

I met Pankajanghri some hours later behind Radha-Madhava’s kitchen.  He was pacing up and down in the darkness, chanting his japa.  I offered him my obeisances.  I was surprised when he did the same back.  Senior devotees normally just fold their palms and say, ‘Hare Krishna!’  He reminded me of a schoolboy.  Youthful, despite his age.  He was very humble.  I asked him about the wooden Deity of Lord Chaitanya in Prabhupada’s rooms.  He dead-panned, ‘Clay’.  The Deity was made from clay.  I had some pictures of Radha-Madhava which I had bought at one of the gift shop booths on the Campus.  I asked him to write something at the back of one of the photos.  He asked me what I should write.  I said, ‘I just want your blessings, prabhu’.  He wrote, ‘May you always think of Radha-Madhava’.

Pankajanghri prabhu changed track and said, ‘It’s my birthday today’.  I said, ‘But I thought it was at your birthday the other day’.  He replied, ‘Yesterday.  That was our tithi.  Tithi is the according to the moon.  Today is our actual birthday’.  He went on, ‘One Vaisnava near here from the Gaudiya Math is a hundred years old.  He says, ‘Trees live to be a hundred’.  So, what’s the big deal about having a birthday?’.  I said, ‘It is different.  You are a Vaishnava’.  Pankajanghri then asked, ‘What is your name?’  ‘Michael’.  ‘How long have you been at the Temple?’ I said, ‘Here?’ ‘No.  In ISKCON’.  ‘Four years’.  ‘And you are uninitiated?’  I told him about my meeting with Radhanath Maharaja and he said, ‘He’s accepted you.  That’s real initiation.  You are fortunate to have a Spiritual Master!’

Since Pankajanghri prabhu is such a revered pujari (priest of the Deity), I wanted to ask him a pertinent question.  So I asked,’What is the essence of Deity worship?’  He replied, ‘You have to understand who you’re dealing with.   The Deity is not just wood or stone.  If you think like that, it’s because you think you are made of blood and marrow.  The Deity is spiritual.  Krishna mercifully comes in the form of the Deity for our benefit.  We should always have the consciousness that the Lord is sentient.  The Lord can, of course, alternate between matter and spirit, spirit and matter’.  His words shed new light on Deity worship for me.  He continued, ‘We have to be careful of offences.  In the beginning we are absent-minded.  We have bad thoughts and commit seva-aparadhas [offences while serving the Deity].  As we progress, there is improvement.  Everntually, after some years, our consciousness develops by serving the Deity.  We can take that consciousness outside the Temple and see the Lord everywhere’.

I thanked Pankajanghri prabhu, and took his leave.

18 March 2001, Sri Mayapur Dhama

Vaishnavas are like salt.  Salt pervades a dish, but cannot be seen.  Similarly, the presence of great devotees has a high impact, yet they never push themselves forward.  Jananivas and Pankajanghri prabhus are like that.   I never met them during my first visit to Mayapur in 1997, but certainly felt their presence.  As twin pujaris of ISKCON Mayapur, Jananivas and Pankajanghri are an integral part of the Mayapur experience.  This time I had heard more of their glories and wanted to hear from them and witness their unwavering dedication to Radha-Madhava.  I was not  disappointed.

Subhaga Maharaja gave the English Srimad Bhagavatam class in the Sankirtan Building on the morning of March 18 2001.  He spoke philosophically about the beauty and joyfulness of the bhakti process from Chapter 15 of the 7th Canto.  He related an incident where an impersonalist came to Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakur with mangos.  Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati distributed the mangoes to his disciples, leaving one rotten one for the impersonalist.  Bhaktisiddhanta said, ‘All is one.  So, this is the same’.  The man reluctantly ate the rotten mango.  He explained how Bhaktisiddhanta encouraged his disciples to honour sumptuous offerings of prashadam (offered foods) – gaja, sweet dal and laddhu – in Jagannatha Puri.  He quoted the founder of the Hare Krishna Movement, A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, telling his disciples to ‘Eat Simply Wonderful [a delicious milk sweet], and go back to the wonderful world’.  Prashadam should be taken in moderation, however.  As we make advancement we should minimize our intake of prasada.  Today was Srivas Thakur’s Appearance Day.  It was also the tithi celebration of Jananivas and Pankajanghri prabhu’s Appearance Day.  Subhaga Maharaja ended his class by saying, ‘Happy Birthday’ to the twins.  Pankajanghri prabhu humbly responded, ‘Make us happy’.

I visited the Yoga Pitha – the Birthplace of Lord Chaitanya – with Padmanabha prabhu.  Yoga Pitha means ‘blending-spot’ – where the spiritual comes in contact with the material creation.  We offered our obeisances to lord Siva – at the site where Mahaprabhu appeared. We bathed in Ganga again.  Then went home. I heard there was going to be a celebration – a vyasa-puja ceremony – for the twins, but did not know where it was going to take place.  The observance of the twins’ birthday was kept  secret because, in their humility, they often disappeared at the hint of a celebration.  They lived to serve Radha-Madhava and the Deities of the ISKCON Mayapura Candrodaya Mandir.

Some time after noon I saw Ganga prabhu, one of the local residents of Mayapur, leaving the Conch Building.  I followed him to Jananivas and Pankajanghri’s quarters, behind the Altar.  The devotees had brought two vyasasanas into their room and the brothers were seated next to each other with garlands around their necks.  A group of about thirty devotees – permanent residents of Mayapur – were singing the guru vandanam prayers, offering garlands and gifts to the brothers.  There was a queue of devotees standing in line.  Some were standing, some were making offerings to them and others were bowing at their feet.  The twins, in return, were handing out maha-prasada from the Deities.  It was a sweet and moving scene.

I gave Jananivas prabhu a picture of Radhanath Maharaja and His Grace dressing Radha-Gopinatha.  He exclaimed, ‘Oh, it’s Chowpatty!’  Jananivas placed a large simply wonderful in my hand.  I bowed and made way for the next person in  line.  Someone handed me a pair of karatalas, which I played ecstatically.  The kirtan was brief, but rousing.  Then Bhakti Purussotama Maharaja recited the prema-dhvani prayers.  The devotees moved in a colourful procession to the marble corridor behind the Deities.  A huge transcendental feast was served.  Some of the local preparations and western dishes that the twins liked were served.  The feast was out of this world:  I ate and ate but did not feel full.

Jananivas and Pankajanghri were sitting on the far end of the corridor with the Bengali brahmacaris.  At one point a cluster of brahmacaris leaned forward and took the remnants of both twins from their plates!  This is very rare because Jananivas and Pankajanghri are very humble and rarely let anyone take their remnants.  I sat there and appreciated their wonderful qualities and the wonderful celebration of their lives.

Today I gave a talk at the University of Johannesburg’s Bhakti Yoga Society at the Doornfontein Campus.  There were about 40 students and one or two lecturers in the audience.  After some introductory words by Ananga Manjari, I was asked to speak on Kirtan and Japa.

I began my talk by writing several Sanskrit words on the chalkboard: MRIDANGA, KARATALAS and SANKHA.  Since I had a mridanga strapped around my shoulders, I introduced the instrument to the students.  I asked them if they knew what a tabla was.  Quite a few put their hands up.  So I asked one of them to describe the instrument.  I explained that the tabla was a relatively modern Islamic instrument.  The mridanga is older.  It is a bit like the big head and the small head of a table combined.  I then explained what karatalas were.

Karatalas are small cymbals made of bell-metal or bronze.  They are percussion instruments.  In the Vedic culture there are personalities who preside over different aspects of material creation.  Just like Anglo-American.  Anglo-American may have a big building in town, with a staff and mines all over Africa.  But there is a personality, a Chairman of the Board, who runs Anglo.  Similarly, we may see a thunderstorm outside and simply see phenomena of nature.  There is, however, according to Vedic thought, a personality behind that storm – Indra.  There are many powerful personalities who preside over the material nature.  These are the Demigods.  We may not be able to see them, but they are there.  And the power behind the Demigods is the Supreme Lord, Krishna.  Nothing is produced in this world without a person behind it.  Similarly, everything has an ultimate source:  God.  There is a personality who presides over death, and he is called Yamaraja.  It is said that when there is kirtan (chanting of the Holy Names of Krishna in the assembly of devotees) and the sound of karatalas and mridangas, then there can be no influence of Yamaraja or Death.  When we chant together, we are in contact with the Holy Names of God and His Eternal nature.  It is like a little bubble of eternity.  I explained that sankha means ‘conch’.  We sometimes blow the conch to add to the auspiciousness of the kirtan.  

At this point in the presentation, I wrote down some more words: HARINAMA, KIRTAN, JAPA and JAPA MALA.  I briefly explained what harinama was.  Harinam is also a form of mantra meditation.  Manas is ‘mind’ and tra means ‘to free’ – mantra means to ‘free the mind’.  The mind is a bit like an internet server.  An internet server, like Yahoo or Google, collects words, images and sounds and captures them in a data base.  Similarly, the mind collects all the data from the senses and stores these impressions in its memory. By focussing the mind, which is the “server” of the senses, we can be liberated of all the impressions that the mind captures and the desires which stem from the senses contact with the external world.  Hari is one of God’s names and nama (pronounced ‘naam’) means name ie.  chanting the Holy Names of Hari/God.  Kirtan is congregational chanting.  One person ‘leads’ the chanting, by singing the mantra to a melody. Then everyone else follows, in unison. Those who can play mridanga and karatalas play them.  This is a very powerful form of meditation in the modern age.  We then performed a little kirtan.  

I then explained japa meditation.  Japa meditation is a more personal form of meditation.  Instead of chanting to the accompaniment of musical instruments, we chant on japa mala or a ‘garland’ of wooden beads (similar to the prayer beads of the Catholics, Buddhists and Muslims).  The word japa comes from the Sanskrit word jalpana which means ‘to speak’.  This kind of speaking is soft speaking, not loud.  A similar word is prajalpa which means mundane talk.  Another Sanskrit word is gramya-katha or ‘village talk’.  Like when we go on Google to see read about Rihanna’s new haircut or Wayne Rooney’s salary or the outcome of the South African elections.  Most of us are very eager to speak about or hear about these things.  How many of us are chanting japa?  How many of us are giving time to talking about or researching spirituality and self-realization?

I cited the great Kirtan singer, Vaiyasaki prabhu.  He was giving a talk to our Youth Group in Randburg and he asked the youth, ‘Do any of you watch movies?’  They all put up their hands (I got a similar response from the UJ students).  How long is a movie?  About two hours?  We can spend two hours watching a movie, yet we say we have no time to “focus” on chanting.  Some of us sleep 10 hours on the weekend.  Yet we do not make time for our spiritual lives.  We only need 6 hours sleep.  I encouraged the students to make some time for chanting, for reading spiritual literature and for some kind of devotion in their lives.  I mentioned that this would help them to cope with the stresses and problems of this world and also simply to get in touch with the divinity within their own selves.  Someone asked what the names meant so I explained, briefly, that Hare was the female aspect of God, the Lord’s energy.  We appeal to Hare to be engaged in the service of Krishna or the ‘all-attractive’ Lord.  Rama means ‘the reservoir of all pleasure’ and, by contacting the Holy Names, we can experience spiritual pleasure.

I then explained to them how to chant on beads and we chanted about half a ’round’ of the maha mantra on japa mala.  I asked the students to keep their eyes shut and quoted from the Brihad-aranyaka Purana – harer nama harer nama/harer nama eva kevalam/kalau nasty eva nasty/eva gatir anyatha – The method for self-realization in this Age of Kali is the chanting of the Holy Names of Krishna, the chanting of the Holy Names, the chanting of the Holy Names.  There is no other way, there is no other way, there is no other way.  I explained that in the Vedas that something that was repeated three times was very important.

I then wrote another word on the board: YAJNA (pronounced ya-gya). Yajna means ‘sacrifice’.  We cannot make spiritual progress without making some sacrifice.  We are giving so much time to our studies, to sleeping, to our friends and families.  How much time are we giving to spirituality and to our own higher interests?  Very little.  As we can see, this requires some kind of sacrifice or yajna.  I explained how we gave most of our waking time in sacrifice while living in the Temple. Why not sacrifice half an hour of our time to chanting japa? Or getting together with our friends and doing some kirtan?  You will see the difference this will make in your lives.  You all felt the spiritual effect of the chanting which we just did.  These techniques of kirtan and japa are empowering tools to help us awaken our spirituality.  In fact they are the Names of God Himself and just by contacting them, we are in contact with pure spirituality.

The students took prasada.  One girl took a Chant and Be Happy.  We chatted a little, then left.

What Is Prashadam?

Krishna is the Supreme Lord (isvara) and the Supreme Enjoyer (purusa).  The living entity, or the jiva, is the enjoyed (prakriti).  It is the jiva’s eternal function to serve God.  That is called sanatana-dharma, or ‘eternal religion’.  We are all servants of God.

Since Krishna owns everything, it is only proper to honour His proprietorship by offering everything back to Him.  The Supreme Lord does not need our meagre offerings.  What He wants is our devotion.  The Bhagavad-gita, therefore, describes the process of sanctification of food – patram puspam phalam toyam/yo me bhaktya prayacchati/tad aham bhakty-upahrtam/asnami prayatatmanah – ‘If one offers Me with love and devotion a leaf, a flower, a fruit or water, I will accept it’.  Sanctified foodstuffs are called prasadam, the ‘mercy’ of the Lord.  Krishna is also known as bhava-grahi janardana – in other words, He sees the intent behind our offering.  Our offerings, therefore, should be imbued with love for Him.

Offering Food To Krishna 

The process of offering foodstuffs to the Deity of the Lord in the Temple is restricted to brahmana-initiated Vaishnavas. Devotees, however, understand that everything should be offered to the Lord.  Therefore, a simple process for offering foodstuffs to the Lord is prescribed for the uninitiated or the lay-person.  Such offerings are made before pictures of one’s personal guru, Srila Prabhupada, the disciplic succession and Deities of the Lord.

Vaishnava Kitchen Etiquette

I read an interview one of Prabhupada’s female chefs in a Back To Godhead magazine where Prabhupada emphasized three important factors in the preparation of devotional offerings – cleanliness, quality of ingredients and consciousness.

1.  Our kitchen should be suci or clean.  The cooking paraphernalia of a suci kitchen is the exclusive property of the Lord.  The Lord also has a separate plate, cup and various thalis (bowls) to eat from.  Strict devotees make sure their own condiments (spoons, cups and plates) are not mixed with those reserved for the Lord.  This generally means that our own condiments, and those reserved for guests, are stored outside of the kitchen.

Devotees do not taste food until it has been offered.  Nor do they eat from the Lord’s pots, or with the Lord’s cooking equipment.  If the Lord’s equipment is used by mistake, it is considered contaminated and should not be used cooking or offering to the Lord again. Eating, which is considered unclean, is also prohibitted in a suci kitchen.  We do not use the sink to wash our plates or hands after eating.  The kitchen sink is for washing vegetables, cleaning the Lord’s pots and running water for cooking.  Devotees generally wear shoes reserved kitchen use only (‘kitchen shoes’) as a further standard of cleanliness.  Women (and men with long hair) generally cover their hair while cooking.

The cook should, ideally, be suci or clean.  On the strictest level this means that cook should have showered and should be wearing clean cloth.  If you eat, evacuate, go outside or enter a toilet then you are considered ‘dirty’ again.  If you touch your eyes, nose or ears you should wash your hands (in a suci basin outside of the kitchen).  Women should not enter the kitchen while they are “off the altar” (ie. during their monthly period).  We are also considered contaminated if we take rest for longer than 45 minutes.  If we do so, and we want to follow the highest standards of cleanliness, then we should take bath and put on fresh clothes.  We should not eat with an apron from the kitchen on either.

2.  We should use the best quality foodstuffs if we can.  If possible, we should use organic vegetables, pure cow’s ghee, non-irradiated spices, sea salt or pure salt.  Ideally, we should grow our own fruit, vegetables and shrubs for Krishna and milk cows bred exclusively for the pleasure of the Lord.  This is not always possible in modern cities.  Soya, mushrooms, cakes made with flour, bread and canned foods are not offered to installed Deities in the Temple.  They can, however, be offered to pictures of the Lord at home (in the case of mushrooms they should be growing naturally in a field, not on stool).  According to the Manu Samhita and Hari Bhakti Vilasa (a Vaishnava manual for etiquette), we cannot offer Krishna onions or garlic.  A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami, however, permitted the offering of brinjal, tomatoes and carrots which are often excluded from a strict Vaishnava diet.

3.  The quality of our consciousness is the most important factor in the preparation of foodstuffs for the Lord.  Cleanliness and quality of ingredients are servants to the principle of good consciousness.  We should be Krishna consciousness ie. situated in spiritual consciousness.  How do we achieve this?  We should, if possible, be chanting a minimum of 16 rounds of the Hare Krishna Maha Mantra.  Our kitchen should be clean, like the altar of our Temple.  We should not cook if we are in bad consciousness (for example if we are angry or feeling lusty thoughts).  We should listen to spiritual discourses or devotional music and only discuss spiritual subject-matters or subjects related to our cooking service with the other cooks.  We can also chant the Hare Krishna maha-mantra.

A Simple Food Offering

The following is a very basic method of offering, usually within a devotee’s kitchen or on a simple altar with pictures of the Lord.  In a more sophisticated Temple set-up, the devotee would close the curtain of the alter while offering food, and perform a more elaborate ritual before offering food to the Lord.

Devotees perform acamana (pronounced ‘ah-cha-mun’) before the process of offering.  Acamana is a purificatory process involving mantras and the sipping of water from an acamana cup and acamana spoon.  (This process need not be followed by beginners).  The devotee takes the acamana spoon in his right hand and pours three drops of water on the same right hand.  The devotee then pours three drops of water on the left hand and chants ‘Om keshavaya namah’, then sips the water from the base of the palm of the hand.  Having done this, the devotee pours three drops of acamana water on the bell and then takes the bell in his/her left hand.  The bell has to be rung while the mantras for offering are recited.  The bell is only stopped when the final mantras have been chanted.  Devotees usually take off their socks, aprons and head-coverings when offering bhoga to the Lord.

Devotees do not feel themselves qualified to offer foodstuffs directly to the Lord.  The devotee, therefore, offers the food to the Spiritual Master, all the time reciting the Spiritual Master’s mantras.  The devotee then offers the food to Lord Chaitanya, reciting Rupa Goswami’s prayers (namo maha vadanyaya).  The devotee finally offers the bhoga to Radha and Krishna, reciting the relevant mantras.  While offering the bhoga to Lord Chaitanya and Radha-Krishna, the devotee thinks himself the servant of his guru and understands that his guru is actually performing the offering.  The offering will be offered from disciple to guru, through the entire guru succession, until it finally reaches Krishna.

The following mantras are recited three times before the pictures of (1) Srila Prabhupada; (2) The Pancha Tattva/Gaura-Nitai; and (3) Radha-Krishna:

1.  Prayers To The Spiritual Master (Srila Prabhupada Pranati)

nama om vishnu-padaya/krishna-presthaya-bhutale/srimate bhaktivedanta/svamine iti namine‘I offer my respectful obeisances unto His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, who is very dear to Lord Krishna, having taken shelter at His lotus feet’

namas te sarasvate-deve/gauravani-pracarine/nirvesesa sunyavadi/pascyata-desa tarine‘Our respectful obeisances are unto you, O spiritual master, servant of Sarasvati Goswami.  You are kindly preaching the message of Lord Caitanyadeva and delivering the Western countries, which are filled with impersonalism and voidism’

2.  Prayer To Lord Chaitanya (Sri Gauranga Pranama)

namo maha-vadanyaya/krishna-prema-pradayate/krishnaya krishna-caitanya/namne gaura-tvise namah‘O most munificent incarnation!  You are Krsna Himself appearing as Sri Krishna Caitanya Mahaprabhu.  You have assumed the golden colour of Srimati Radharani, and You are widely distributing pure love of Krishna.  We offer our respectful obeisances unto You’

3. Prayer To Lord Krishna

namo brahmanya-devaya/go-brahmana hitaya ca/jagad hitaya krishnaya/govindaya namo namah‘Let me offer my respectful obeisances unto Lord Krishna, who is the worshipable Deity for all brahminical men, who is the well-wisher of cows and brahmanas, and who his always benefitting the whole world.  I offer my repeated obeisances to the Personality of Godhead, known as Krishna and Govinda.’

hare krishna hare krishna/krishna krishna hare hare/hare rama hare rama/rama rama hare hare

On reciting these mantras the devotee humbly beseeches the Lord to accept these offerings, ‘Please, my Lord, accept these offerings from Your servant.’  The devotee then stops ringing the bell, and leaves the altar room.   The devotee then bows at the side of the altar.  The Lord may now accept the devotee’s offering.

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