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A Letter to Locanananda

From Umapati Swami

Dear Locanananda Prabhu,

Please accept my most humble obeisances. All glories to Srila Prabhupada!

Thank you for your comments about the picture of Srila Prabhupada on the lotus. You have tried to show that offering Srila Prabhupada a lotus to stand on is mayavadi. I find some flaws in your reasoning, however, and a tendency to rely on feelings rather than Vedic proof.

You try to present basic proof in this statement:

"Acts of glorification that appropriately honor the lotus feet of the Supreme Lord cannot be automatically transferred to the Lord's pure devotee. That would include offering tulasi leaves or a lotus flower to stand on."

Your statement, however, does not come from scripture. It is your own composition, and it contains the logical fault known as "begging the question," or stating something as proof, when this proof itself has never been proved.

If I were to say, for instance, that CHAKRA is infallible because it is edited by three mahabhagavatas, I would be begging the question. My premise would be that CHAKRA is infallible, and my proof would be that the editors are mahabhagavatas. The problem is that my proof has never been proved: So far no one has proved that the editors of CHAKRA are so advanced. (I know for a fact that at least one of them is not.)

Your original premise, stated in your two letters, is that offering the lotus is mayavadi. Your proof is that lotuses to stand on are reserved for the Lord, like Tulasi leaves on the feet. Back Home

You have proof that Tulasi leaves can only be placed on the lotus feet of the Lord because Srila Prabhupada said so. But you have no proof that offering a lotus is also reserved for the Lord, although you try to make it look as if you had.

You justify your lack of proof by committing another fault. You say:

"Actually, prabhus, the onus is not on me to cite a scriptural prohibition that outlaws the use of the transcendental lotus flower in your picture. If you want to consider your art as devotional service, it is up to you to confirm that it is bona fide."

How is it that others are obliged to quote scripture and you are not? First you state an injunction that no one has ever heard of, not even you, and then you say that other people must prove it does not exist. But you also have to prove your point.

Srila Prabhupada says:

"Any question that is put forward may be answered by quoting the authority, and that satisfies the saner section. That is the system even in the law court. The best lawyer gives evidence from the past judgment of the court without taking much trouble to establish his case." (SB 2.10.51, purport"

"Therefore, according to Vedic civilization, whenever an acarya speaks he immediately gives references from the Vedic literature. Then others will accept it: 'Yes, it is correct.' In a law court the lawyer gives references from past judgments of the court, and if his case is tight, the judge accepts. Similarly, if one can give evidence from the Vedas, then it is understood that his position is factual." (SSR 5)

"Therefore our method, Vedic method, is as soon as we speak something, we immediately give evidence from the Vedas. Then it is perfect. There is no question of arguing. Just like in the law court the lawyer pleading something, but if he gives quotation from previous judgement and section of law, it is accepted." (SB 1.2.6 lecture Hyderabad, 11/26/72)

The proof, then, must come from previous authorities, but you have none, so you try something else: a special sensitivity that you and you alone have. You say:

" I am perhaps more sensitive to this point than others because of the instructions I received personally from Srila Prabhupada. When we were preparing to install the first deity of Srila Prabhupada on the vyasasana in Amsterdam on his Vyasa Puja day in 1977, His Divine Grace told us that the spiritual master's form is not to be worshiped like Krishna on the altar. Earlier, he had explained to me that we must very carefully avoid equating the spiritual master with Krishna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead."

This argument does not give you your proof either, because there are ways in which the worship of Srila Prabhupada and the worship of Lord Krsna are the same. We offer arati to Krsna and we offer arati to Prabhupada, though not as often. We bathe and dress Krsna and we bathe and dress Prabhupada, though not in the same style. While worshiping Krsna and while worshiping Prabhupada, we sing the praises of the spiritual master. We offer flowers and garlands to Krsna and we offer them to Prabhupada, though I have seen Srila Prabhupada refuse a garland because it was bigger than Lord Krsna's. He made the pujaris exchange the garlands.

We decorate Srila Prabhupada's vyasasana with lotuses, we offer vases of lotuses, we garland Srila Prabhupada with lotuses, we cover his feet with lotus flowers and petals, we worship him by throwing lotus flowers and petals, and we give him a sitting place that looks like a lotus.

Therefore, you cannot state as a principle that we may not worship Srila Prabhupada with any kind of object or process used in the worship of Lord Krsna, including lotuses.

If anyone can show proof that we cannot offer Srila Prabhupada a lotus to stand on, we will change the picture. But special sensitivity does not constitute proof.

Finally, you criticize Jayapataka Swami for calling you das instead of prabhu. This, you say, betrays a condescending attitude coming from his being a guru. But again, you give no proof. What is the proof that he calls you das simply because he thinks he is better than you? And if it is indeed true, what is the proof that his attitude comes from the fact that he has disciples?

You also are betrayed by your own statement: it betrays a tendency to use your feelings as proof, and so far, this is what your argument about the lotus is based on.

Your servant,

Umapati Swami

© CHAKRA 20-Nov-98

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