‘Vaishnava Dress’ Really Exists and ISKCON Devotees Must Wear It Akincana Staff

Prabhupada: Why your dress is not as a sannyäs?

Tusta Krsna: The robes make people uncomfortable, Prabhupada. They see you as different and can’t relate. They won’t relax enough to listen when I wear robes.

Prabhupada: But sannyasis must dress in saffron with robes and shaved head.

Tusta Krsna: I am following all the principles, but the dress is external and superficial. Why should we let it hamper the preaching?

Prabhupada: If the dress is superficial, why should you change your dress to please people who are so serious about the superficial? [Pause.] You understand my point? Superficial people become controlled by superficial and external things. Why do you dress to please superficial people? You should dress to please Krsna.

Tusta Krsna: So you would like me wear saffron and shave up?

Prabhupada: Yes, I want you to promise this. Only wear saffron and keep your head shaved. This is sannyasi dress. You should promise.

Tusta Krsna: Yes, Prabhupada. I promise.

Bhurijana prabhu’s book, “My Glorious Master.”

“Dressed in a saffron-yellow sari, with a belt tied about her full hips, mother Yasoda pulled on the churning rope,…”  SB 10.9.3

“This description (found in verses 165–181) is based on a book by Srila Raghunatha dasa Gosvami known as Premambhoja-maranda. Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura’s translation of the original Sanskrit reads as follows: … She sleeps in Her room with the aroma of pride, and when She lies down in Her bed, the transcendental variety of Her loving ecstasies is like a jeweled locket in the midst of Her necklace of separation. Her transcendental breasts are covered by Her sari in the form of affection and anger toward Krsna. … ” Caitanya Caritamrita Madhya 8.166

Madhya 8.168 “After Her midday bath, Radharani takes another bath in the nectar of bodily luster, and She puts on the garment of shyness, which is Her black silk sari. PURPORT Over and above the other baths, the bath taken in the afternoon is taken in the nectar of full beauty. This nectar represents the personal qualities of beauty and luster. Thus there are three baths in different kinds of water. Radharani then puts on two garments — a lower and an upper garment. The upper garment is pinkish and is Her affection and attraction for Krsna, and the lower garment, a blackish silk sari, is Her shyness.”

Madhya 14.195 TRANSLATION “When Krsna comes forward and greedily snatches at the border of Her sari, Srimati Radharani is actually very pleased within, but still She tries to stop Him.”
SB 4.21.17 dukula-agrye — dressed with a dhoti; TRANSLATION “The black, slick hair on his head was very fine and curly, and his neck, like a conchshell, was decorated with auspicious lines. He wore a very valuable dhoti, and there was a nice wrapper on the upper part of his body.”

October 13 from Calcutta [note: ‘flag’ here means sikha]:

My Dear Damodara, Please accept my blessings. I am in due receipt of your letter of Oct. 9. I am very sorry to hear that Kirtanananda is advising you to give up the robes and the flags on the head. Please stop this nescience as I never instructed Kirtanananda to act like that. I am not at all satisfied with this action of Kirtanananda. Kirtanananda has no right to instruct you in that way, without consulting me. People are being attracted to the chanting of Hare Krishna & not to Kirtanananda’s devices. Kirtanananda suggested to me when he was here that the Americans do not like the robes & flag. I told him personally if you think that Americans in great numbers will follow you, simply for not having robes & flag, I therefore advised him to drop for a few days in London & test this theory. But he has gone directly to N. Y. & is now causing these disturbances without consulting me. I have not sanctioned these methods. In my opinion, Clean shaved Brahmacharies & Grhasthas in saffron robes look like angels from Baikunta. Translation of prayers into English is good & if somebody dresses like nice American gentleman without any robes, I have no objection; but every one of my disciples must have the flag & marks of tilak on forehead. This is essential. Besides that, nobody should do anything without my sanction. I am very sorry to hear Kirtanananda, without doing anything practical, changes his ideas constantly. He was first man in our society to take the robes, shave cleanly, & take flag & now he is changing his position. You have asked me to tell you whether you are right or carry on by the following the foolish advice of Kirtanananda, & I say straight that Kirtanananda is wrong and you are right when you say that the movement will come to nothing if I am not satisfied with your actions.”

February 18, 1977, Mayapura

Prabhupada: [break] And now don’t go to the court with any other dress. Preach like this. Preach there with this dress. Have they any objection with this dress [as a sannyasi]?

Hari-sauri: In this dress.

Adi-kesava: I agree. I think it is very good that they see us dressed like this in court.

Prabhupada: Yes, we should…

Adi-kesava: They will understand what we are.

Prabhupada: We shall…

Hari-sauri: We have to represent our religion properly.

Prabhupada: Yes.

Tamala Krsna: A priest will not put on a suit.

Adi-kesava: In fact one time… Even the last time I went…

Prabhupada: No, whatever is done, done. Now you make a difference. In any case, we shall go in this dress.

Hari-sauri: Tell Ramesvara that, too.

Prabhupada: They requested me to change the dress. I have… The Ramakrishna Mission, that “Unless you dress yourself…” “I have no money. You give me three dress for public.(?) Then I shall do it. I know how to dress. In my business life I was dressing like that, but now I have no money. You give me money.” (laughter) I told them that. (laughs) “I know how to dress like a gentleman. Every day it must be changed, must be nicely ironed. But I have no money. You need not required to teach me. I know how to dress like an European gentleman. And I have no money.” [break] … coat, same pant, same hat — I do not like that. If I dress like a European, I must change daily. Do they not? A respectable European?

Tamala Krsna: Oh, every day.

Prabhupada: Yes, morning and evening.

Tamala Krsna: Just like a Deity.

Prabhupada: Yes. “So I know that, but I have no money.” I replied to that Mr. Mukerjee. He lives near that University, Columbus? Columbia? He’s a teacher there. So he came to see me in the 100th Street West, and he requested me, “Swamiji, if you move in this dress, nobody will respect you.” “It doesn’t matter.”

Prabhupada: [break] … keep hair. Look very beautiful by keeping hair. What is that explanation?

Bhagavat: I was advised that because I was going to the European countries for preaching for some time, that it would be required to keep these hairs.

Prabhupada: But they, they, they owned victory with the court [NY] by keeping shaven hair.

Hari-sauri: They won a victory in the court by keeping a shaved head.

Bhagavat: I asked their advice, whether I should shave or keep the hair.

Prabhupada: Who is that nonsense advice? Who is that rascal? “Advice.” By keeping hair you become beautiful and become victimized. “Advice.” This is… Without advice, this mentality is going on outside, to keep hair. We are known as shaven hair, whole society.

Hari-sauri: I’ve been shaving my head once every month. It’s just about three weeks since I’ve…

Prabhupada: Every fortnight. At least. Before going to Europe, six years ago, you were keeping hair: “I have to go to Europe.” That I have seen. Everywhere. Those who… You like to keep hair. That hippie mentality is going on. That’s right. That is good, very intelligent reasoning, actual, long hair by keeping…(?) Everyone is giving some advice. Gurudasa is giving. “He’s keeping. He’s…” Gargamuni. Everyone has some explanation. I do not know how you can give up this hippie mentality. Hippie. Lavanyam kesa-dharanam. Kali-yuga. Victim of Kali-yuga. It is… It is not yet whole, but weak men, victimized by Kali-yuga… There are so many things to victimize over the living entities in Kali-yuga, and one of the item is that he will take that “I have become very, very beautiful, attractive by keeping long hair.” Kesa. That is already stated there. You are victimized by that Kali-yuga. That’s all. No explaining. Our trademark is clean-shaven. We are known as shaven hair. Why you should be victimized? You are known as shaven hair. Are you not? Hm? They say that “Hare Krsna people, shaven hair”?

Hari-sauri: Shaven-headed.

Prabhupada: Shaven hair. So why you should be victimized by keeping hair? What victory you will gain? Conquer over the whole world, Roman Empire, by keeping hair? Hippie mentality, that’s all. That is within the core of the heart. As soon as get some opportunity… Just like during summer season the field appears to be dried up. And as soon as there is some rain, oh, it is green, immediately green. So things are already there. Hm? Is it not?

Hari-sauri: Yes.

Prabhupada: Now you see to the field. They’re all dry. But as soon as there will be rain in the village, all green. So the seeds are there, hippie seeds. As soon as there is some opportunity, come out, green: “Yes, I am beautiful. Come on.” But in the court room they never addressed. Judge never asked that “Why you are shaven-headed?” Was there any question like that?

Hari-sauri: Actually, when he first went to court, they were wondering why he had hair.

Prabhupada: Hm?

Hari-sauri: When Adi-kesava went to court the first time…

Prabhupada: Yes. Hari-sauri: … he had suit and hair, and they wondered why he was dressed like that.

Prabhupada: Yes. Then cheater. Hari-sauri: Yeah, they accused… Prabhupada: That means, of course, indirectly hinted that “Now you are cheating. You are known as shaven-headed. Now you have kept hair. What is the purpose except cheating?”

“Gaura bhaktas, who are the most worshipable entities in the entire world, have displayed the zenith of humility.”

Article entitled Dainya (Humility) by Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura, appearing in Rays of the Harmonist, Winter 2001, translated from Sri Gaudiya Patrika, issue 3/3:

Their resolve to wear a particular type of clothes, their bowed-down faces and meek words constitute the highest ideal and the supreme teachings of dainya.”

Guest: Is the exterior clothing important?

Prabhupada: Ah?

Guest: Is the exterior identification important?

Prabhupada: Yes, important. Just like officially the policeman must dress, but a policeman sometimes in ordinary cloth also, that’s his duty. But that is special case. But external, external dress is also required. By… In the dress of a police if he is a thief, that is very dangerous. That is very dangerous. Just like this dress of sannyasi, saffron cloth, one will respect that ” Here is a sannyasi.” But if he is a thief in a dress of a sannyasi, that is dangerous. That is dangerous. One must dress… (end)

Questions and Answers — January 17, 1974, Hawaii

Mr. Faill: Krishna consciousness seems to involve shaving the head and wearing saffron robes. How can an ordinary man caught up in family life practice Krishna consciousness?

Srila Prabhupada: The saffron robes and the shaven head are not essential, although they create a good mental situation, just as when a military man is dressed properly he gets energy— he feels like a military man. Does that mean that unless he is in uniform he cannot fight? No. In the same way, God consciousness cannot be checked— it can be revived in any circumstances— but certain conditions are helpful. Therefore we prescribe that you live in a certain way, dress in a certain way, eat in a certain way, and so on. These things are helpful for practicing Krishna consciousness, but they are not essential.

Mr. Faill: Then one can be a student of Krishna consciousness while going about normal daily life?

Srila Prabhupada: Yes.

SSR 5e: Meditation and the Self Within

Kirtanananda’s position is like that. Because he helped the society in starting the Montreal center I thought he is now able to start other branches & when he asked me to give him sannyasa I agreed taking the opportunity of his presence in Vrndavana. Simply by his Sannyas dress he thought himself as cured of all material diseases & all mistakes but under the influence of maya, he thought himself a liberated patient, just as the foolish patient thinks himself cured from the disease. Under the spell of maya, he deliberately disobeyed me by not going to London & consequently his disease has relapsed. Now in N. Y. he has began to dictate nonsense in my name— such as giving up robes, flags etc.

Letter to: Pradyumna — Calcutta 17 October, 1967

So far as your dress is concerned, that is immaterial. But as a soldier you know that every soldier has got a uniform dress according to the army etiquette of regulation. Therefore, the army of Krishna Consciousness must have at least the tilak on the forehead in all conditions. For your business you can wear your naval service uniform; similarly, if you have tilak on your forehead as a soldier of Krishna Consciousness, you may not have so much objection, because it is essential.

Letter to: Robert Hendry — Los Angeles 3 August, 1969

Atreya Rishi: When you first came, Srila Prabhupada, a lot of people probably presented you arguments such as If you call the movement God consciousness you’ll be more successful. If you not wear tilaka and do not shave your head and do not wear robes and do not go on sankirtana, you will be more successful. And people still tell us things like this, that You tell us the philosophy, we like the philosophy, but why do you go on sankirtana? So what were some of the arguments you presented to these type of people?

Prabhupada: This is the same argument, ardha-kukkuti-nyaya [Cc. Adi-lila

5.176]. You cut the mouth of the chicken because it eats, it is expensive, and keep the back side because it lays down egg. You see? Intelligent man said, I am getting every day one egg. So that side, the back side, is very good. But this side is expensive, eats. Cut it. So he does not know, he is such a foolish, that if I cut the head, then the egg-giving business will also stop. Similarly, if you accept this philosophy, then you must accept this also.

Atreya Rishi: Yes, that is difference…

Prabhupada: If you don’t accept this kirtana, then it will prove that you don’t accept the philosophy.

Room Conversation — June 29, 1972, San Diego

Prabhupada: Light. Catch it. But what… Why did you not have tilaka, both of you. You have no time for tilaka?

Devotee (3): Our tilaka was locked in the bathroom. The door got locked.

Prabhupada: Tilaka, why it is locked in bathroom?

Devotee (3): Somehow the door became locked from inside this morning, I don’t know how but we couldn’t go inside.

Prabhupada: You don’t get him my tilaka? All right. What is this?

Morning Walk — February 28, 1973, Jakarta

Prabhupada: No, I no… You cannot forget your duty. If, if there is some extra duty, that does not mean you shall forget your own duty. So now they

are selling books. You also join. Yes. And you have no tilaka. You are just like ordinary boy. Why?

Jaya Hari: I don’t have time to…

Prabhupada: No, no. This is not good. This is not good. You must be as our representative, with tilaka, as we are dressed. Yes. Don’t be deviated. You have got a good opportunity. Don’t be deviated by bad association. Yes. You are a good boy. So you must revive to your original position. All right.

Thank you.

Interviews with Macmillan and various English Reporters — September 12, 1973, London

Prabhupada: And I have no Indians to manage these big, big temples. Neither they are trained up. Trained up. I have trained up these American boys. They are doing nicely. But they cannot. They have taken a brahmacari dress, and they will come with pant. And they will argue, ” Why? What is the wrong there? Why should I give up pant? Why shall I have tilaka? Why shall I give up smoking?” Why, why… They will put so many ” whys” that my life will be spoiled. Because they have advanced. So many rascals swamis have told them, ” Yes…”

Room Conversation — March 20, 1974, Bombay

Better go and speak philosophy in your grihastha dress, not this dress, but you have nice coat, pants, gentleman. Who says no? I never said. Rather I shall be glad to see that up-to-date gentlemen with tilaka and sikha are speaking. That is very prestigious everywhere. Why this false dress? What is the wrong to become grihastha? I was grihastha, paka caliber grihastha. My Guru Maharaja was brahmacari, This is ever… Just see his character. Caitanya Mahaprabhu was grihastha, but when He took sannyasa: ” Oh, I am now…” For sober person. That is wanted. That is ideal. He married twice. Bhaktivinoda Thakura married twice. Caitanya Mahaprabhu married twice. What is the wrong there? One has to become pure devotee, that’s all. Other things, of course, are circumstantially favorable,

Room Conversation — January 7, 1977, Bombay

Prabhupada: And you must see that what you are doing, that is according to the principle which all other sadhus and devotees do. They have tilaka, and you say, ” I have no tilaka.” That is not sadhu-marganu. Sadhu-marganugamanam. They have kanthi. You say, ” I can avoid it.” That is not sadhu-marganugamanam. So, from very beginning, if you disobey, then how you’ll make progress? Then?

Room Conversation — January 27, 1977, Bhuvanesvara

Prabhupada: Ask him to have tilaka always.

Prithu-putra: That, that boy who came.

Prabhupada: No, that man who came. Ask that…

Prithu-putra: To wears always tilaka. He has the kanthi-mala, but I don’t…

Prabhupada: No tilaka.

Prithu-putra: No tilaka.

Satsvarupa: He does not wear tilaka.

Room Conversation — January 28, 1977, Bhuvanesvara

Prabhupada: Ten thousand dollars means one lakh of rupees. So we shall save from that luxury department. And this is solid work, yes. It must be done. Without any hesitation, without any impediment. That will increase our prestige of the movement. And go in good dress because people…

Svarupa Damodara: In suits.

Prabhupada: In suit, yes. You get first dress, then address. (laughter) But tilaka must be there. You dress like up-to-date gentlemen, but tilaka must be there. That is our trademark.

Tamala Krishna: Some hair for him is all right? Little bit of hair.

Prabhupada: I don’t think hair is required. Nowadays many gentlemen shaven.

Tamala Krishna: Shaved head.

Prabhupada: Yes. Many gentlemen. I have seen many Russian scholars and politicians, they shave clean.

Gopala Krishna: There is a very big American actor who always has a shaved head.

Prabhupada: That is now fashion, shaved head. But if you think it is impediment, you can have hair.

Room Conversation — March 31, 1977, Bombay

Svarupa Damodara: I would use tilaka many times when I was doing my thesis, also like this, but in giving lectures, especially amongst the scientists, sometimes if we come with head shaved, sometimes they think it very strange. We can do it when…

Prabhupada: No, no, no. Don’t disturb them, that ” These are strange people.” No, we don’t want that. But we must have our position. Tilaka is our position. That is Caitanya Mahaprabhu’s stricture. You will not see one face if there is no tilaka. He used to say it is cremation ground. Yes, without tilaka. Pasanta mukha.(?) Tilaka must be there. And so far dress is concerned, you can dress up to the taste of the modern people. So what is your breakfast time here?

Room Conversation — March 31, 1977, Bombay

Guest (1): Does the swami, once he has been installed in office, does he every…, wear a white long coat with a white hat?

Prabhupada: Of course, the real meaning of swami is one who has got control over his senses. It does not mean that by wearing a different colored garments one becomes master of senses. Neither it does mean that one, a man in gentleman’s dress with hat and coat, he cannot control his senses. Dress has nothing to do. But according to the Vedic system… Just like there is a particular uniform that this class of men, who have renounced this world, his robe or garment should be like this. That is simply… Just like policeman has got a particular type of uniform, but that does not mean that… That may be imitated even by a thief. So that is not very important thing, to dress. You can become a swami even with your this hats and coats. That doesn’t matter. Yes.

Srimad-Bhagavatam 5.5.3 — Boston, May 4, 1968

The dress is not sannyasa, but the attitude of service to Krishna is. The word paramatma nishtha means being a devotee of Lord Krishna. Paratma-vigraha. Paratma, the Supreme Person, is Krishna. Isvarah paramah krishnah sac-cid-ananda-vigrahah [Bs. 5.1]. Those who are completely dedicated to the lotus feet of Krishna in service are actually sannyasis. As a matter of formality, the devotee accepts the sannyasa dress as previous acaryas did. He also accepts the three dandas. Later, Vishnu Svami considered that accepting the dress of a tridanda was paratma-nishtha. Therefore sincere devotees add another danda, the jiva danda, to the three existing dandas. The Vaishnava sannyasi is known as tridandi-sannyasi.

Excerpt from Sannyasa Initiation of Viraha Prakasa Swami — Mayapur, February 5, 1976

So these marks and this symbolic representation reminds others to Krishna consciousness. Just like a policeman, as soon as he appears in his dress, ” Oh, here is a policeman,” so similarly, these things are also required to remind others. Our process is to raise persons to Krishna consciousness. So if by our symbolic representation one immediately remembers Krsna.

Interview — September 24, 1968, Seattle

So if you don’t accept this dress, that does not mean you cannot be in Krishna consciousness. Krishna consciousness can be achieved in any condition of life. It doesn’t matter whether you are dressed in this way or in your American way or any way. That doesn’t matter. It has nothing to do.

Woman (3): But I would think, sir, that that does make a little bit difference that you feel that way.

Prabhupada: Yes, it makes a psychological condition if you dress. Just like if you dress yourself just like a queen, sometimes you feel, ” I am queen.” You see? Just like an actor in a theatrical stage, or if you sit down on a car, you think that you are much elevated. These are temporary, but they are not very important. If you have no objection to accept this dress, that’s nice. But if you have got objection, then we have no objection. Krishna consciousness is different from this dress or that dress. Just like a policeman, police constable, he is dressed in a different type than ordinary gentleman. But that does not mean simply by dressing, he is a perfect policeman. Even without dress, he can become a perfect policeman.

Woman (4): It is motivation. It is just like policeman. He feels…

Prabhupada: Yes. Just to make others know that he is a policeman. But his business does not depend on that dress. Similarly, our this dress may be advertisement to others that ” We belong to the Krishna consciousness group.” That is another thing. But Krishna consciousness does not depend on dress. Ahaituky apratihata. Without any reason and without any impediment. Krishna consciousness can be executed without any material condition. There is no material condition for advancing in Krishna consciousness. (aside:) Why you are late? (chuckles)

Lecture at International Student Society — Boston, May 3, 1969

In my opinion, Clean shaved Brahmacharies & Grhasthas in saffron robes look like angels from Baikunta. Translation of prayers into English is good & if somebody dresses like nice American gentleman without any robes, I have no objection; but every one of my disciples must have the flag & marks of tilak on forehead. This is essential.

Letter to: Damodara — Calcutta 13 October, 1967

I have no objection if members of the Society dress like nice American gentlemen; but in all circumstances a devotee cannot avoid tilak, flag on head, & beads on neck. These are essential features of a Vaisnava.

Letter to: Brahmananda — Calcutta 14 October, 1967

When our devotees go outside I have no objection if he dresses as nice American or Canadian gentleman. Up to date gentlemen are all clean shaved so if we do not keep long hair & dress ourselves nicely with tilaka, flag & beads on the neck, apart from our devotional service, then certainly we shall be distinct from the Hippies. I think we should follow this principle rigidly & there is no question of giving up robes in the temple.

Letter to: Pradyumna — Calcutta 17 October, 1967

Householders may wear dhotis in the Temple, or as they like, but not of the saffron color. They may wear white, yellow, or whatever. Outside the Temple they may wear American gentleman’s dress, with Tilaka, flag, and beads. It is not required to wear dhotis, as this society does not understand, so outside the Temple dress suit is more socially acceptable. If they so desire, for ceremony, they can dress in dhotis for Kirtana.

Letter to: Balai — San Francisco 12 March, 1968

The next point is that you should dress just like perfect American gentlemen, but the sikha and tilak must be very prominent. Coat, pants, necktie, and everything, Brahmacari and Grhasthas, they can put on, because you are not Sannyasi. In the temple, you can dress as brahmacari, but in order not to become ridiculous in the eyes of others, outside you should dress just like a very nice perfect aristocratic American. So there is no objection. But we must have always our tilak and sikha and there is no compromise for this purpose.

Letter to: Brahmananda — Seattle 6 October, 1968

Our process of helping the misguided youth should remain the same. Namely, they should join the different services in the temple; chanting, dancing in ecstasy with Hare Krishna Mantra. They must be cleanly shaved, with tilak, have saffron robes, take prasadam, attend classes, chant 16 rounds of beads daily, etc. We are sure anyone who joins us will be free of all material disease including craziness and madness.

Letter to: Bhagavan — Bombay 24 March, 1971

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