About Vaisnava etiquettes


Dear Radha Kunda,
Please receive my blessings. All glories to Srila Prabhupada.


In our culture what we call “etiquettes”, or proper behaviour (in body, speech and mind) is important. Behaviour modifies our character and therefore our consciousness. A good behaved devotee will advance in spiritual life while the others will not.
Therefore we must know what is a good behaviour and what’s not.

There are several words in sanskrit meaning “etiquette”.
One is sadacara. Sat means good, virtuous, correct, and acara means behaviour.
Another word is maryada, which means more or less the same thing with the addition of “rule” or “custom”. In other words maryada refers to good behaviour established either by Guru (spiritual master), Sastra (Holy Scriptures), Sadhu (Sages or Saints) or simply by custom coming down through time.

We find a nice description of the importance of knowing how to behave as Vaisnavas by Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu Himself while instructing Sanatana Gosvami.
maryada-palana haya sadhura bhusana,
“Maintenance of the Vaisnava etiquette is the ornament of a devotee.”
(Caitanya Caritamrita, Antya-lila 4.129 and 130.)

Maryada, or good behaviour is therefore a bhusana (ornament) of a sadhu (a devotee).
It’s like flowers in a garden. With flowers the garden is much more actractive and actually without flowers you cannot really call it a garden.

But I mentioned only a part of that verse. Complete is even more instructive.
yadyapio tumi hao jagat-pāvana
tomā-sparśe pavitra haya deva-muni-gaṇa
tathāpi bhakta-svabhāva — maryādā-rakṣaṇa
maryādā-pālana haya sādhura bhūṣaṇa
“My dear Sanātana, although you are the deliverer of the entire universe and although even the demigods and great saints are purified by touching you, it is the characteristic of a devotee to observe and protect the Vaiṣṇava etiquette. Maintenance of the Vaiṣṇava etiquette is the ornament of a devotee.”

The word raksana here is important. It means “protecting”. Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu is asking Sanatana Gosvami to protect the observance of proper behaviour of present and future Vaisnavas.

A s a consecuence of being ordered by the Lord, Srila Sanatana Gosvami wrote the Hari Bhakti Vilasa, where we find many many precious instructions on sadacara.
Some quotes:
1. No action is endowed with success unless performed with proper etiquette. Therefore, every action requires etiquette.
2. The heart of a saintly person is completely pure and his activities are called Vaisnava etiquette.
3. Vaisnava etiquette generates opulence, increases fame and longevity and destroys inauspiciousness like poverty and untimely death, etc.

We could go on and on but I think the point has already been soundly established.

A good and sincere devotee should asks about these “sadacaras”.
How should I behave with this person or the other, with this devotee or the other, in this circumstances or the other. The topic is vast, we could write a book just on these. Please make specific quesitons.

Now I will answer only to the question you have askes.

An initiated devoteed should call his spiritual master “Guru Maharaja” or “Gurudeva”, both in meeting and in writings. Under no circumstances with his bare name. When he meets him, he or she should pay obeisances reciting his Guru Pranama Mantra (which I doubt you have).

A devotee should never call a sannyasi with his bare name, but always with his name followed by the title Maharaja.

A devotee should never call any spiritual master, even if not initiated by him, with his bare name but always with the title Prabhu or Maharaja.

A devotee should give all respects to the godbrother of his spiritual master.

The titles “Holiness” is appropriate both for all spiritual masters and also sannyasis, and is a rough translation of the sanskrit title Sripada.

One should refer to any Vasisnava with the title Prabhu, in case of male devotees, or Mataji, in the case of female devotees.

There are etiquettes in every aspect of our life. Please be curious to learn them. Just put questions.


Unfortunately there are devotees who do not pay attention both to know about them or even less in practising it. Some even say that are not so important. This is seriously wrong. Breaking etiquettes means making offences.


Of course we always take into consideration desa-kala-patra, which means place, time and general circumstances. Sometimes is not possible to follow all the rules and regulations but at least everyone should make an effort to learn them and try to practice them.


Your well-wisher
Manonatha Dasa (ACBSP)

Bookstore and Blog: www.isvara.org

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