Coronavirus – Statement from ISKCON’s Deity Ministry

By: Nrsimha Kavaca dasa for ISKCON News on March 16, 2020

“Srimad Bhagavatam explains that the material world is a place of constant danger: padam padam yad vipadam na tesam … the place where there is danger at every step. We are constantly confronted with a myriad of challenges in this world and it only worsens as Kali-yuga progresses. The devotee’s only shelter is the lotus feet of the Lord. The more we take shelter of the Lord’s lotus feet the more we become freed from the effects of the material nature.

Our Vaisnava history is rich with so many examples of great souls taking exclusive shelter of the lotus feet of the Lord and practicing uninterrupted devotional service. And while this is every devotee’s aspiration and constant endeavor, it manifests in different ways for different devotees in any given circumstance.

With the current world situation, and the ongoing spread of the Corona Virus, governments and other authorities around the world are imposing quarantines and other restrictions on people which may lead to difficulty in maintaining the regular standard or schedule of deity worship in ISKCON centers.

Our initial response may be to push on with our service regardless of what the civil authorities are directing, but we encourage you to work within the guidelines given by governments and other authorities. As a result, there may need to be some practical adjustments to the worship standards and schedule according to time, place and circumstance.

As explained in the Srimad Bhagavatam 4.8.54, the deity of the Lord is installed and worshipped “…according to the rules and regulations prescribed by authorities. But this should be done in consideration of place, time, and attendant conveniences and inconveniences.”

As a result it may happen that there are less devotees available to offer services and the responsibility for maintaining the regular services for the deities will fall on a few. Naturally this will be a rewarding time for those entrusted to care for the deities, but also it is important to be mindful that not all devotees are able to maintain a greatly increased personal service schedule to deity worship for an extended period of time.

Therefore, some practical adjustments may need to be made. As far as possible maintain the regular daily schedule of worship, but as stated in the above Srimad Bhagavatam verse, do so in accordance with due “consideration of place, time, and attendant conveniences and inconveniences.” Considering the above, if you have a lack of devotees, here are some suggestions you may implement when and if necessary :

– Do not offer garlands to the deities or Srila Prabhupada on a regular basis, but save whatever flowers you have for aratis. – Simplify the bhoga offerings. As far as possible continue with the regular bhoga offerings, but the number of preparations may need to be reduced.

– Simplified dressings — it would be sufficient to simply undress the deity, wipe with a soft cloth and then put on fresh clothing.

– No need for any ornamentation.

– Minimize backup services. Many temples around the world depend on congregation members for backup services. If the situation arises that these devotees are unable to come for service then many of the things they do will need to be reduced or stopped.

– The sodasopacara puja of the small deities may also be reduced to simply bathing and dressing.

– Additionally, you may reduce the number of times the deities are polished.

Please be mindful that these would only be short-term adjustments to your existing worship standards, until the emergency has passed.

The worship of the Lord must continue even though the standard may need to be adjusted.

Temples may find it necessary, following the above guidelines given by Srila Prabhupada in Srimad Bhagavatam 4.8.54, to introduce further temporary adjustments in the worship or restrictions in the deity department.

We encourage you to consult with ISKCON Deity Worship Ministry (IDWM) in this regard.

Do your best to maintain standards of cleanliness and punctuality. As additional precautions:

– After each use rinse the blowing conch with antiseptic or a diluted bleach solution. If these are unavailable or this is impractical simply do not use the conch.

– Keep your hands thoroughly clean using either soap or a suitable sanitiser. – Use fresh acamana water and a freshly cleaned acamana cup and spoon each time you do acamana.

– Use disposable gloves when cooking or handling bhoga and prasada. Change them regularly. If you need to remove them put on fresh gloves after thoroughly washing your hands.

– Don’t leave water, bhoga, etc. uncovered.

– Additionally as requested by by the GBC EC: Please do not distribute prasadam flowers, oil, or water at this time.

– Anyone involved in cooking or serving prasadam must wash their hands every twenty minutes with hot water and soap for twenty seconds.

– Servers must wear disposable gloves.

Our prayers are with you all for your continued health and well-being. May the Lord always bless you in your service.

Your servant, Nrsimha Kavaca dasa”

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