Category Archives: Devotee

Vaishnava Tilaka

What is the reason to put tilakam? And why devotees in ISKCON put it so long till the nose? I am working in office so how can I apply it?

Tilak is a traditional mark to identify devotees of Krishna. It is made with a sacred clay from a holy place in India. It is worn to remind the wearer and everyone else that, the body is a temple and within the body resides the individual soul and the Supreme Soul, Krishna.

The ‘U’ represents the Lotus feet of lord Krishna. The mark below represents Tulasi leaf. This is the beautiful ancient Gaudiya Vaisnava tradition and an ornament of a devotee. If one cannot put a tilak due to circumstances one can use water and chant the mantra. This should do.

Bhrigu Samhita’s relevance to devotees

Q. How perfect are Bhrigu-Samhita’s predictions? A lot of ISKCON followers consult Bhrigu. Can our current actions drastically change our destiny?

A. Bhrigu-samhita, being a part of the Vedic literature, is all-perfect. It deals with astrological science and the predictions made according these calculations are always accurate.

In his purport to Srimad-Bhagavatam (6.1.49), Srila Prabhupada writes,

“A human being must be educated to understand his past life and how he can endeavour for a better life in the future. There is even a book, called Bhrigu-Samhita which reveals information about one’s past, present and future lives according to astrological calculations. Somehow or other, one must be enlightened about his past, present and future.”

With proper reference to the context, this instruction is meant to make us aware of the importance of the human form of life so that we don’t take it cheaply. If astrological predictions can help us understand our future destiny, we may take corrective action so that we can “endeavour for a better life in the future,” which of course means a life that is more Krishna conscious.

Our current actions and also our thoughts, prepare our future destiny because they decide what we think at the time of death. “Whatever state of being one remembers when he quits his body, O son of Kunti, that state he will attain without fail,” Krishna says in the Bhagavad-gita (8.6). If we think of Krishna at death, we go to His abode.

Overall, Prabhupada did not very much encourage his disciples to consult astrological charts and understand the future. As soon as one takes to Krishna consciousness, all his karma is destroyed, and the Lord takes full charge of the devotee. Whatever happens in his life either auspicious or inauspicious happens under the direct supervision of the Lord. The devotee therefore has nothing to worry about his future.

Tolerance limits

Q. Srimad Bhagavatam is filled with the pastimes of the devotees who were put in great tribulations and they maintained their faith in trials and tribulations. When neophytes are told to tolerate their problems like these great souls have tolerated. Often times mind immediately say it’s OK for them (Prahlad, Pandavas) to tolerate because they were so great because they are mahabhagavats but as far as I am concerned I am very weak. Because of weak mind it tells us you are so weak and make you hopeless and say you can’t do like Prahlad and we feel despondent and real shelter which is there in the story is not really obtained when we need that most.

A. It is your sincerity that will give you the correct understanding. If you are insincere you will think that this great person can do it but I am not so great so why should I try? But if you are sincere you will understand that these great persons they didn’t have to do it, they are doing it only to teach us how to do it? There is no reason for Prahlad to suffer. But the Lord put him in that situation to teach us how to remember Krishna even in the greatest sufferings. We can not imitate these great souls. That is correct. Continue reading Tolerance limits

Avoiding offenses

Q. In this age it is very difficult not to think anything if you have seen or hear or feel something wrong from a Vaishnava.
How to avoid this aparadha?

A. Yes, it is true mind can not remain inactive in its function of thinking, feeling and willing.
We are pardoned as long as these subtle activities of the mind are not manifested on the grosser level by speech or by action.
If any negative thoughts come in the mind, we can replace it by positive thinking about a particular Vaishnava.
Everyone has some good quality. If you simply focus on good quality and magnify it, then the negative thoughts may not come.
You may not speak to that particular Vaishnava, however you may glorify him to some another Vaishnava and in this way this ‘anartha’ shall be removed.
This is an austerity of mind and speech.

Shaving head

Q. Why do Hare Krishna men shave their heads?

A. Hare Krishna men shave their heads to symbolize renunciation of the material way of life and dedication to spiritual pursuits. The small tuft of hair at the back signifies that they are devotees of Krishna, distinguishing them from other renunciants who shave their heads, such as Buddhists.

Shaving one’s head is not a strict rule for Krishna devotees and is done mostly by men living in a monastic environment or ashram. Most Hare Krishna men live and work outside Krishna communities and don’t shave their heads.

Daily activities

Q. What do you do all day?

A. The activities of the members of ISKCON are as varied as their strikingly diverse lifestyles. For instance, although most members are naturally vegetarian, all other practices are a matter of their personal choice and commitment. Thus one member of ISKCON lives in a religious community, rises at 4 o’clock in the morning, and leads a strict monastic life, while another cares for a young family or works in a busy office. The circumstances may vary greatly but the basic aim is the same.

Appearance like Buddhist monks

Q. Why do some Hare Krishnas look like Buddhist monks?

A. Shaven heads and orange robes actually pre-date Buddhism by many centuries. In Vedic culture a person dressed according to his or her social and spiritual position.  Simple robes, although external, have traditionally been worn to help cultivate humility and freedom from vanity.

In keeping with this reasoning, the Hare Krishna Movement has retained certain elements of Vedic tradition wherever practical. Following this principle, women in Hare Krishna communities wear the traditional sari, while men wear robes known as dhotis.

Young men who have gone forward to observe a celibate student life and train as monks wear saffron colored robes; married men wear white. Most choose to shave their heads leaving a single lock of hair in the back called a sikha. This is done as a sign of renunciation and surrender to Krishna, as well as for cleanliness and simplicity. The U-shaped marking of clay on the forehead is known as tilak, and is made with yellow clay from the banks of sacred rivers in India. Together with these traditional ascetic practices, fully committed devotees of Krishna, whether residing in a temple community or not, also abstain from all types of intoxication, and do not gamble or have sexual relationships outside of marriage.

Krishna Reciprocrates…!

Q. Once a person is fortunate enough to hear about Lord Krishna and starts on spiritual path, does God help him to advance rapidly? I find many cases were people wishing to advance on spiritual path are suffering from their inability to control their senses? If one strongly wishes to take to lotus feet of Lord why doesn’t God immediately help him control his senses?

A. In the Bhagavad Gita (10.10) Krishna says, “To those who are constantly devoted to serving Me with love, I give the understanding by which they can come to Me.” Krishna is situated in every one’s heart as the Super soul (paramatma). As soon as one takes to Krishna consciousness, Krishna helps him. If he comes forward one step, Krishna comes forward ten steps.

The second part of the question (why doesn’t God immediately help him control his senses) goes back to the issue of free will. If Krishna did everything for us, then where would be our desire, our effort, our love? A genuine desire manifests itself as a sincere effort and Krishna will undoubtedly reciprocate when He sees that sincere effort.


Q. Both in spiritual life and also in material life people speak of attitude. What should be the approach of a spiritual aspirants towards other spiritual aspirants and with materialists?

A. The answer to this can be found in a number of places, where qualifications of a madhyama adhikari are described. Amongst spiritual aspirants, there are those more advanced, those who are peers and those who are less advanced. In all cases, we should try to render service to the vaisnavas. Those who are more advanced, we should hear from them and serve them favorably. Amongst those who are peers, we should exchange realizations in the matter of spiritual understanding. With regard to those who are less advanced, we should try to extend ourselves in a helpful and compassionate way. As far as the materialists are concerned, their individual attitude should be carefully determined. It should first be determined whether the materialist is simply innocent and requires good association or is adamant and opposed to the supremacy of God. If the non-devotee is simply innocent, then we should carefully try to give some association to help that individual progress in his spiritual life. Those who are overt atheists, we should carefully guard against taking confidential association with them.


Q. I thought that Sampradaya applies only to those initiated in disciplic succession (according to BG AS IT IS). For eg. I am not initiated in the ISKCON sampradaya at present. But I don’t think that it would be right if I claim to be part of the sampradaya. My question arises due to the fact that even though Srila Bhaktivinod Thakura is not the initiating guru of Gaura Kishora dasa babaji maharaja but still he appears in our sampradaya. Actually Gaurakishora dasa babaji maharaja is disciple of Srila Bhagavata Dasa Babaji who is a disciple of Srila Jagganatha Dasa Babaji (the spiritual master of Srila Bhaktivinod Thakura).

A. One can be considered to be part of a sampradaya if one receives instructions and faithfully adheres to those instructions according to the sampradaya. Initiation into the sampradaya is a formalization of the acceptance of the teachings and instructions of that sampradaya. In our particular disciplic succession, the lineage is traced by the source of primary instruction that one receives. Another way of saying the same thing is that our disciplic line is a siksa line, not a diksa line. You most certainly can be considered part of the sampradaya if you receive instructions from Srila Prabhupada’s teachings. He is your primary siksa guru and others may also be guiding you very nicely in your spiritual progress. This is what constitutes being part of a sampradaya. At some point in time diksa will formally connect you with the disciplic succession, but you may very well be presently part of this sampradaya by taking primary instruction from Srila Prabhupada’s books and teachings.