Position Paper by ISKCON Deity Worship Ministry
Version 1 – September 11, 2018
Srimati Radharani’s lotus feet should not be ever shown publicly at ISKCON temples, whether on a daily basis or particularly on festivals such as Radhastami and Gopastami.
- Srila Prabhupada wrote a clear written response in a letter to the head pujari of ISKCON Los Angeles in 1973, which was the western headquarters of ISKCON. ISKCON LA had one of, if not the most established deity worship programs whereby Prabhupada gave extensive instructions on the subject. Among other questions related to the deity worship in ISKCON LA, the head pujari’s first question was apparently whether Radharani’s feet can ever be shown. Srila Prabhupada’s response was, “Your first question, shall Srimati Radharani’s feet be showing, the answer is no, they should never be seen. Krsna’s feet, however, should be showing.” The deity worship instructions he gave to ISKCON LA is understood to establish principles and standards for other temples to follow. The instruction in this letter cannot be relegated by some to fall under the category of being just a personal instruction from Srila Prabhupada to an individual disciple as the nature of the questions were for how the worship should be conducted publicly at a prominent ISKCON temple. To this day, ISKCON of Los Angeles never shows Radharani’s feet based on this clear instruction they received. (See References section below for full letter)
- The ISKCON Deity Worship Ministry has been unable to determine any circumstance where Srila Prabhupada instructed, approved, or even witnessed Radharani’s lotus feet being publicly viewed in an ISKCON temple. It seems that the practice of showing Her feet in ISKCON temples on Radhastami and/or Gopastami became popular in ISKCON sometime in the 1980’s. We must assume that he was certainly aware of this practice in some Vrindaban temples, including Radha-Damodar Mandir, where he resided for many years. However, there is no record of him introducing this as a practice for any festival observance.
- Srila Prabhupada emphasized that we worship Radha-Krishna in the mood of Laxmi-Narayana with awe and reverence as one would worship a king and queen. This worship is based on primarily on pancaratriki viddhi, emphasizing the mood of awe and reverence. Showing the feet of a queen is generally not compatible with this mood of worship he instructed for deity worship in ISKCON. However, if Srila Prabhupada instead emphasized us to worship Radha-Krishna as a young cowherd boy and girl based on raga-marga principles which is quite prominent in some Vrindaban temples, then arguably there could be scope for license to show Radharani’s lotus feet in ISKCON temples. The indisputable fact is that Srila Prabhupada consistently instructs in Srimad Bhagavatam purports, letters, and lectures that our worship in ISKCON of Radha-Krishna deities is in the mood of worshiping Laxmi-Narayana. He particularly states in a letter, “This is why we should worship Radha-Krsna in Their Laksmi-Narayana feature with all respect and reverence. If we deviate from this standard then we shall be prakrta-sahajiya, or a person who takes things very cheap.” (See References section below for purports and letters on this topic)
- ISKCON Deity Worship Ministry requested the GBC body to vote on this topic at their AGM meeting in Mayapur in 2014. They were asked via questionnaire, “Do you feel it is acceptable to show Radharani’s lotus feet?” and requested to respond by selecting “yes”, “no”, or “undecided”. A 65% majority of the GBC body responded that it is not appropriate to ever show Radharani’s feet.
- Some devotees who believe that it is acceptable to show Radharani’s feet annually on Radhastami and/or Gopastami in ISKCON temples cite one known instance where Srila Prabhupada apparently gave consent specifically for the Radha-Damodara deities during a bus tour program when he attended the Rock Opera performance at the Syria Mosque in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania held on Govardhan Puja, 1972. This was not regulated worship at an ISKCON temple.
- Radha-Damodara have been residing in Gita Nagari for many years now and Radharani’s feet are not shown.
* See References section for accounts of this instance, along with first-hand devotee
understandings of this.
And here is a statement written by Tamohara Prabhu on behalf of the ISKCON New Raman Reti management team in 2019:
Showing of Srimati Radharani’s Lotus Feet
Over the last couple years, the New Ramana Reti Board and Management has discussed the practice of showing Srimati Radharani’s feet on Radhastami evening. While this has been a long-standing tradition much appreciated by many community devotees, we faced increasing evidence that the practice was not actually approved, and not in accordance with the instructions of Srila Prabhupada.
First, a little background: Some ISKCON temples adopted the practice following the example of certain temples in Vrindaban. This came to the attention of the ISKCON Deity Ministry who then polled the GBC members. A large majority supported NOT showing Radharani’s feet. After extensive research, the Ministry produced a paper explaining why the practice should not continue in ISKCON. In 2018 the GBC body approved the paper as ISKCON Policy.
Thus, our decision to no longer continue this practice is not based on any personal sentiment or motivation, but to act in accordance with ISKCON standards, as given by the Ministry and GBC body.
Further, the practice was never done in the presence of Srila Prabhupada, other than one instance in the bus of the Radha Damodara Traveling Party headed by Vishnujana Maharaja. At the time Srila Prabhupada explained that Srimati Radharani was a five-year-old child appearing in this Deity.
To quote from Position Paper: The ISKCON Deity Worship Ministry has been unable to determine any circumstance where Srila Prabhupada instructed, approved, or even witnessed Radharani’s lotus feet being publicly viewed in an ISKCON temple.
To be in accordance with these policies and the instructions of Srila Prabhupada, the New Raman Reti Management Board approved the following resolution:
Whereas the ISKCON Deity Ministry Position Paper of 2018 was accepted by the ISKCON GBC: therefore, Srimati Radharani’s lotus feet should never be shown in the New Raman Reti temple, including on Festivals such as Radhastami or Gopastami.
We fully realized that this decision will take some adjustment. This is one reason we allowed the practice to continue this year, and are implementing in 2020, to allow for preparation. We did consult and discuss with our pujaris and members of the deity committee. While there was not complete agreement, most agreed we must follow the clear instructions of Srila Prabhupada. We are certain that our world class Radhastami celebrations will continue with great enthusiasm with beautiful dressing and decoration, ecstatic kirtans, and delicious feasts.