Excerpt from the book Ācārya Kesarī Śrī Śrīmad Bhakti Prajñāna Keśava Gosvāmī – His Life and Teachings, 2nd Edition by Śrīla Bhaktivedānta Nārāyaṇa Mahārāja
Śrī Ayodhyānātha dāsa Adhikārī, from Keśavapura village in the Medinīpura district, was a one-pointed Vaiṣṇava, initiated by Śrī Gauḍīya Vedānta Samiti’s founder-ācārya and president [Śrīla Bhakti Prajñāna Keśava Mahārāja]. Although he took birth in a lower-class poor family, he had firm faith in Śrīman Mahāprabhu’s pure bhakti-dharma. He was a gṛhastha Vaiṣṇava, yet he regularly performed arcana-pūjāna and sādhana-bhajana. He always abstained from eating meat and fish, from smoking, from illicit association with women and so on.
One year previously, in 1958, some important people in the village were collecting donations for the public worship of Śītalā Mātā which was to take place in his village, and they insisted that Śrī Ayodhyānātha dāsa Adhikārī donate two rupees for the pūjā. Śrī Ayodhyānātha, however, very politely replied, “We are initiated into the Gauḍīya vaiṣṇava-dharma proclaimed by Śrīman Mahāprabhu, and we are fully under the shelter of Śrī Gauḍīya Vedānta Samiti. Pure devotees are not allowed to perform demigod worship, which is prohibited in Gītā and other scriptures. For this reason, I am unable to give any donation for this pūjā.” The villagers became disturbed when they heard this, and they said, “Demigod worship has been going on since ancient times, and the scriptures confirm this. Let’s call an assembly, and when we have heard the arguments on both sides, we will decide whether demigod worship is proper or not.” It was agreed to call an assembly in the coming month of Śrāvaṇa (July–August), but severe floods prevented this from taking place.
During the month of Śrāvaṇa in the following year, 1959, a philosophical assembly was arranged in Keśavapura village and eminent smārta paṇḍitas were called to support the villagers’ side. Śrī Ayodhyānātha went to Śrīla Ācārya Kesarī’s lotus feet in Chuṅchurā Maṭha and in a very moving voice repeatedly requested him to take part in the assembly. “If you do not go there and refute the arguments of the opposite side,” he said, “it will be impossible for me to stay in that village. They will simply throw me out.”
Before this occurrence, it had been decided that Śrīla Ācāryadeva would go to Pichladā for the installation of the deities, which was to take place at the same time as the assembly in Keśavapura. But when Śrīla Gurudeva heard Śrī Ayodhyānātha’s distress-filled prayers, he decided to go to Keśavapura with Śrīpāda Trivikrama Mahārāja and other leading sannyāsīs and brahmacārīs.
In the assembly, the smārta paṇḍitas raised this objection on behalf of the villagers: “Demigod worship is described in our Indian scriptures and has been going on since ancient times. We find many proofs of this in the Skanda and Padma Purāṇas. The worship of Kātyāyanī, Yogamāyā, Durgā, Kālī, Śiva and others is even seen in Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam, so why do Vaiṣṇavas not worship demigods?”
On paramārādhya Śrīla Gurudeva’s order, Śrīmad Bhaktivedānta Trivikrama Mahārāja replied first. He used evidence from Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam, Gītā and other śāstras to show that the results of demigod worship are temporary. Materialistic people worship demigods to fulfil different material desires. However, all the results are of a temporary nature. Indeed, even those who have attained Svarga will fall down again to the material world after enjoying the results of their pious activities. Vaiṣṇavas, however, are exclusively devoted to śrī kṛṣṇa-bhajana and do not have any material desires in their hearts.
After this, Śrīla Ācāryadeva explained very clearly that Śrī Ayodhyānātha had not done anything wrong. On the contrary, all śāstras approve of his action. “If the gopīs were worshipping Kātyāyanī, then why did Śrī Kṛṣṇa have to come personally to give the benediction? The reason is that Kṛṣṇa and His svarūpa-śakti Yogamāyā (Kātyāyanī) are non-different: śakti-śaktimator abhedaḥ. Therefore, in this case, kātyāyanī-pūjā is the same as the pūjā of Śrī Kṛṣṇa. Śrī Kṛṣṇa Himself put an end to the worship of Indra and other demigods, and He also says in the Gītā, yānti deva-vratā devān pitṝn yānti pitṛ-vratāḥ (9.25)* and kāmais tais tair hṛta-jñānāḥ prapadyante ’nya-devatāḥ (7.20)**. Evidence that the results of demigod worship are temporary is also found in Padma Purāṇa : yas tu nārāyaṇaṁ devaṁ brahma-rudrādi-daivataiḥ / samatvenaiva vīkṣeta sa pāṣaṇḍī bhaved dhruvam***. The demigods cannot relieve us from the vicious circle of birth and death nor can they give us kṛṣṇa-bhakti.
“The second point is that in Padma Purāṇa demigod worship is prohibited for one-pointed Vaiṣṇavas. The performance of demigod worship is considered to be an offence to the holy name. Statements from śāstra are even cited in Satkriyā-sāra-dīpikā prohibiting one-pointed Vaiṣṇavas from performing demigod worship.” When the opposite side heard Śrīla Gurudeva’s vigorous lecture, they became speechless.
The next day, another religious assembly was arranged on the village school premises. There Śrīla Ācāryadeva emphasized the importance of leading a religious life and said that the only duty of human beings is to devout themselves to spiritual life. A life devoid of spiritual practices is simply animal life. The main religion in Kali-yuga is the chanting of Bhagavān’s names. Kīrtana of Bhagavān’s names and hearing hari-kathā, in accordance with Vaiṣṇava etiquette, are the only means to make human life successful.
After preaching śuddha-bhakti in this way, through a comparative study of different subject matters, Śrīla Gurudeva and his party returned to Śrī Uddhāraṇa Gauḍīya Maṭha in Chuṅchurā.
yānti deva-vratā devān
pitṝn yānti pitṛ-vratāḥ
bhūtāni yānti bhūtejyā
yānti mad-yājino ’pi mām
*[Those who worship the demigods will take birth among the demigods; those who worship the ancestors go to the ancestors; those who worship ghosts and spirits will take birth among such beings; and those who worship Me will live with Me. (Bhagavad-gītā As It Is 9.25)]
kāmais tais tair hṛta-jñānāḥ
taṁ taṁ niyamam āsthāya
prakṛtyā niyatāḥ svayā
**[Those whose intelligence has been stolen by material desires surrender unto demigods and follow the particular rules and regulations of worship according to their own natures. (Bhagavad-gītā As It Is 7.20)]
yas tu nārāyaṇaṁ devaṁ
sa pāṣaṇḍī bhaved dhruvam”
***[“ ‘A person who considers demigods like Brahmā and Śiva to be on an equal level with Nārāyaṇa is to be considered an offender, a pāṣaṇḍī.’ ”(Śrī Caitanya-caritāmṛta Madhya-līlā 25.80)]
Translation of quoted verses that are marked with an
asterisk (*) are by Śrīla Bhaktivedānta Svāmī Mahārāja
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