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Disregarding Prabhupada’s Instructions on Dress


Question

In your presentation of Krishna West, you explain that there is no mention of dhotis in our scriptures. However, in the Caitanya Bhagavata (Madhya Khanda, chapter one), Lord Caitanya wrung out the dhotis of the other members of the Pancha Tattva them gave them dry dhotis. It is clearly mentioned in the Bengali, dhoti vastra. Thus, how can it be acceptable to disregard something Srila Prabhupada encouraged his disciples to do?

Answer

H.D. Goswami Profile Picture

We know that 500 years ago men in Bengal dressed in dhotis, and we know from Shastra that Mahaprabhu did many things to fit into the world of His time

Examples:

  1. taking sannyasa from an impersonal sampradaya;
  2. eating only in homes of brahmanas;

Mahaprabhu never said that Bengali dress of 500 years ago is eternal Vedic culture. We distinguish in Shastra between descriptive and normative statements. Just as Mahaprabhu fit into His time, we can fit into ours for the same reason. We also clearly see that at no time does Mahaprabhu ask anyone to change their dress style to join His movement.

Srila Prabhupada perfectly addresses this issue in the following purport:
“For paramahamsas, or sannyasis in the Vaishnava order, preaching is the first duty. To preach, such sannyasis may accept the symbols of sannyasa, such as the danda and kamandalu, or sometimes they may not. Generally the Vaishnava sannyasis, being paramahamsas, are automatically called babajis, and they do not carry a kamandalu or danda. Such a sannyasi is free to accept or reject the marks of sannyasa. His only thought is “Where is there an opportunity to spread Krsna consciousness?” Sometimes the Krsna consciousness movement sends its representative sannyasis to foreign countries where the danda and kamandalu are not very much appreciated. We send our preachers in ordinary dress to introduce our books and philosophy. Our only concern is to attract people to Krsna consciousness. We may do this in the dress of sannyasis or in the regular dress of gentlemen. Our only concern is to spread interest in Krsna consciousness.” –Srimad-bhagavatam 7.13.9

The “validity” is doing whatever is required to save the world, as that was Prabhupada’s first consideration. Western preaching is a shadow of what it was in Prabhupada’s time. I invite any preacher to come to America and show us how, with no adjustments and only using dhotis, we can bring the preaching back to its former glory. If someone can do this, then the point that dhotis are not an obstacle will be proved and I will be grateful.