By Niraj Bidawatka
Yesterday I received an invitation letter from the Temple President of ISKCON Juhu Temple situated in Mumbai, India. It was an invite to the forthcoming Janmashtami festival. Accompanying the invitation letter was a colorful brochure which narrated the wonderful pastime of Krishna lifting the Govardhan hill. The brochure also listed the various programs that the temple was organizing, which included distributing prasadam to nearly 2 million visitors that the temple was expecting. Donations were also invited from patrons and if anyone had any queries, they were directed to contact one Dr. Mukunda Madhava Dasa, whose phone number was appended beside his name. This Dr. Mukunda Madhava struck my attention and made me think, which led to this write-up.
The devotees of Krishna consider themselves as servants of Krishna and as such they accept names which identify them as servants of Krishna. ‘Dāsa’ in Sanskrit means servant. So they accept names such as Krishna dasa, Shyamsundar dasa, Madhava dasa, Mukunda dasa, and so on and so forth. Krishna has millions of names, in fact He has unlimited number of names and the devotees accept any one name and add the suffix ‘dasa’, which identifies them as a servant of Krishna.
Thus, when I saw the name Dr. Mukunda Madhava dasa, I was surprised and wondered – “Since when has Krishna become a DOCTOR???” Mukunda Madhava is another name of Krishna, which describes Krishna, whose smiling face is just like the kunda flower, as the husband of the goddess of fortune and the bestower of liberation. The name Dr. Mukunda Madhava dasa, however, indicates that the person is the servant of Dr. Mukunda Madhava. But Krishna is not a doctor, neither a medical doctor nor a doctorate holder.
Krishna is free from any material designations and surely does not need to accept doctorate degrees. So it is erroneous of the said devotee, Sriman Mukund Madhava dasa to identify himself as Dr. Mukunda Madhava dasa. If the devotee in question wanted to exhibit his doctorate degree, he should have prefixed his doctorate degree before his karmi (wordly) name and appended that name in parenthesis, or brackets after his spiritual name. For example: Contact Mukunda Madhava dasa (Dr. XYZ)
Srila Prabhupāda has taught us that the devotees are free from all material designations, or upādhis. The famous verse of Nārada Pancharātra, which every aspiring devotee is introduced to, is as follows:
sarvopadhi vinirmuktam tat paratvena nirmalam
hrisikena hrisikesa sevanam bhaktir ucyate
Real devotional service, or bhakti, begins after one becomes free from all material designations. Being thus purified after relieving all material designations, one really begins serving Hrisikesa, the master of the senses.
I can understand that it sometimes becomes essential for a preacher of Krishna consciousness to exhibit his material achievements and designations to attract the neophytes, who are more impressed by so-called material qualifications rather than real devotional qualifications. I am personally aware that Dr. Mukunda Madhava das is a highly qualified engineer, who having graduated from the prestigious Indian Institute of Technology, has devoted and surrendered his life to the service of Krishna. He had some great material prospects and could have chosen to earn millions of dollars. Instead, he chose to accept the path of Krishna consciousness and serve Krishna, which is indeed a very great achievement. He is preaching Krishna consciousness with great vigour and has been instrumental in making many people Krishna conscious. Mukunda Madhava prabhu is a senior devotee and the purpose of writing this article is not denigrate him, but to discuss some evident follies, so that they can be rectified.
Srila Rupa Gosvami has explained that after one takes to devotional service, some anarthas (unwanted things) crop up and if we want to make steadfast progress, we need to carefully remove the anarthas. Prefixing material designations to the all-spiritual name of Krishna is an anartha (undesirable) and we should carefully avoid this anartha.
It is not the purpose of this article to give any advice to the aforesaid senior devotee in question or to criticize him – he may continue prefixing Dr. before his spiritual name. Instead, this article is an attempt to bring forth this issue to the subscribers of this blog so that they may grasp the issue at hand, introspect and be careful that they may not indulge into any such anarthas. This will help us in making more steadfast progress on the path of Krishna consciousness.