GBC defends demigod worship 

Spring 2006

We reported on the new temple being constructed in San Diego by ISKCON GBC member Badrinarayan Das designed to appeal primarily to the wealthy Hindu community, and highlighted the fact that the temple will include shrines for the demigods Lord Siva and Lord Ganesha. Such demigod worship by ISKCON devotees is not at all sanctioned by Srila Prabhupada:

“You know that we have refused even the Hindu people to hold demigod worship in our temple […]
As a matter of fact, we should not allow anyone to hold any function in our temple, otherwise than Vaisnava principle”
(Srila Prabhupada Letter, 10th October 1968)

“Other demigods, like Brahma, Siva, Surya, Ganesa and many similar deities, are worshiped by men in the mode of passion, urged on by the desire for material enjoyment. But those who are actually situated in the mode of goodness (sattva-guna) of material nature worship only visnu-tattvas […]
It is for this reason only that candidates for liberation deliberately reject the worship of the demigods, although they have no disrespect for any one of them.”
(Srimad-Bhagavatam, 1.2.26, purport)

“So I think that the Murti which you have got is not Visnu Murti, but it appears to be a Murti of Lord Siva.
Anyway, this Murti is not worshipable by us. In our temple we shall always worship Radha Krishna Murti or Lord Jagannatha.”
(Srila Prabhupada Letter, 15th January 1969)

Yet we find that the budget for establishing the shrines to Lord Siva and Lord Ganesha in the “Temple Plaza” is $469,000 – almost half-a-million dollars!
In justifying this move towards demigod worship, Badrinayan has offered the following reasons:

1) “Did you know that Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Thakur established a Siva linga in a small temple at the Yog Pith, the birthplace of Lord Chaitanya? Lord Siva is there as protector of the dham / temple site. Rupa Goswami and Sanatan Goswami had murtis of Ganesh carved over each entrance to their temples (Govindaji and Madan-Mohan).” (Badrinarayan Das, 10th March 2006).

2) “The temple is meant to be teaching experience. One of the biggest misconceptions in the minds of many (both westerners and Indians) is that the Vedas teach that there are many gods, not one singular God.”
(Badrinarayan Das, 10th March 2006).

3) “Both by the layout of the temple and by the brochures we will give to guests, they will understand that the devas and Lord Siva are servants / devotees of the one Supreme Lord. The shrines for Ganesha and Lord Siva are on a lower level than the main temple.” […] The layout and experience it invokes will serve as powerful preaching if I don’t say so myself, all presented in a very palatable yet solid way.”
(Badrinarayan Das, 10th March 2006).

Looking at his “justifications”, we invite our readers to consider the following points:

1) Whatever previous acaryas like Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Thakur, Rupa Goswami and Sanatan Goswami may or may not have done, our precedent is to follow the instructions of our current acarya, Srila Prabhupada.
As a GBC member, Badrinarayan should be aware of this, since it is his GBC body that has stated this as a fundamental principle:

“...we must see the previous acaryas through Prabhupada. We cannot jump over Prabhupada and then look back at him through the eyes of previous acaryas.”
(Our Original Position, GBC Press, p. 163)

And Srila Prabhupada’s instructions in respect of demigod worship are very clear, as we have shown above.
Further, to establish deities of Lord Siva and Ganesha to protect a temple is completely different from giving them their own temples established for the sole purpose of worshipping them.

2) Badrinarayan also states that one of the biggest misconceptions is that the Vedas teach there are many gods and not one singular God. And to dispel this idea he establishes many temples for many gods in one complex!
Go figure!

3) Thirdly, according to Badrinarayan everyone is supposed to work out that Krishna is the Supreme Personality of Godhead because of the layout and positioning of the temples. If it was so simple, one wonders why Srila Prabhupada established over 100 temples dedicated to Krishna alone and not a single one dedicated to a demigod.
Finally, Badrinarayan asserts that his new temple “is an ISKCON temple”. So according to him, an ISKCON temple is one:

a) which is not registered in the name of ISKCON;
b) whose trustees all seem to be well-wishers from the Hindu community apart from Badrinarayan himself;
c) and which contains temples of the demigods Lord Siva and Lord Ganesha.

Yet if you establish a temple in the name of ISKCON, with NO demigod worship, where only Srila Prabhupada is the Guru, and which is run only by disciples of Srila Prabhupada, then it is NOT an ISKCON temple. Rather such an IRM temple would actually be considered heretical and offensive.
Go figure!

As stated, in the Srimad-Bhagavatam:

“Therefore, by the influence of the age of Kali, everywhere, politically, socially or religiously, everything is topsy-turvy , and therefore for the sane man it is all regrettable.”
(Srimad-Bhagavatam, 1:16:22 purport, emphasis added)

And here we have yet another example of just how this “topsy-turvy” nature has infected ISKCON.
Indeed, Badrinarayan is not averse to punishing with Inquisition-like fervour anyone who even THINKS that Srila Prabhupada set up a ritvik system whereby he would be the only Guru worshipped in ISKCON, as the following letter reveals:

“Your claims of Srila Prabhupada inaugurating such a system are one of the mainstays of the ritvik theory…
To this date, you have not recanted your heretical views. Rather, when the topic comes up, you remain adamant in your conviction of its authenticity…
Whether you agree or not, it is the view of ISKCON that you are in a diseased spiritual state.”
(Letter from Badrinarayan Das, June 15th 2001).

The world according to Badrinarayan:

Exclusive worship of Srila Prabhupada as ISKCON’s Guru is “heretical” and “spiritually diseased”; while demigod worship is “a teaching experience”.