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Thread: Touching feet at ISKCON

  1. #1

    Touching feet at ISKCON

    Namaste everyone,

    I have a question, as I'm puzzled by the reaction to my behavior. I was at the ISKCON temple in Dallas while I was working south of Dallas (as it was the closest temple to me, and I was visiting there for the time I was in the area). There was one time while in temple, I bowed down to touch the ācārya's (temple president's) feet, and he kept pulling his feet back, one at a time and said, "Don't touch my feet. I'm not a spiritual master." I thought you could do this for anyone you have reverence and respect for.

    Praṇāma,
    Puzzled
    Last edited by deafAncient; 13 August 2015 at 03:55 PM.

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    Re: Touching feet at ISKCON

    Vannakkam dA: Most humble teachers don't really like the custom, but bear it as part of tradition. Apparently it's too much for this acarya, so personally I'd just respect his wishes and forget it.

    But generally speaking, you are correct. I've walked up to unfamiliar swamis in airports and done it ... several times.

    Aum Namasivaya

  3. #3

    Re: Touching feet at ISKCON

    Namaste

    An acharya acting as a temple president . If he is a temple president its highly unlikely he is either a swami, a guru what to speak of an acharya, so why should he accept what is not meant for him.

    EM Ji, would you touch the feet of anyone who is practicing a hindu.

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    Re: Touching feet at ISKCON

    Quote Originally Posted by markandeya 108 dasa View Post
    Namaste

    EM Ji, would you touch the feet of anyone who is practicing a hindu.
    Vannakkam: No. Only those in orange, and on rare occasion (when giving dakshina after a major sponsored puja, for example) to our local priests. I'm just following my sampradaya's teachings on it. We prostrate to the Satguru, and touch the feet of renunciate swamis of any order.

    Aum Namasivaya

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    Re: Touching feet at ISKCON

    Namaskar,

    At the Swaminarayan temples I have visited everyone touched feet as a sign of respect to others, but anywhere else I've been they didn't do that. I figured it was only reserved for renunciates.

    Hari Om Namah Sivaya

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    अमृतेशाय शर्वाय महादेवाय ते नम: ll

    Sanātana Dharma Worldwide

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    Re: Touching feet at ISKCON

    Namaste,

    Traditions differ by geographical areas and by different sects. In our tradition, touching someone's feet is a mark of respect, generally reserved for an older person or for a more pious person. He does not have to be a renunciate. So, I used to touch the feet of my grandfather, my father and my uncles (and the wives of all of them too) when they were around. That was how we greeted them and got their blessings. As far as ISKCON goes, a temple president is the administrator, the head priest and the spiritual advisor for his congregation, all rolled into one. Some don't feel comfortable with this honor and discourage people from touching their feet, and their wishes should be respected. But many cherish that respect. So, I would do whatever the recipient feels comfortable with. BTW, I would not bow to some people who have all the external markings of a priest/guru/swami but I know them to be ordinary souls.

    Here is someone whose feet no one should touch,

    http://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-india-33906388

    Pranam.
    Last edited by Believer; 18 August 2015 at 01:26 AM. Reason: Added the link.

  7. #7

    Re: Touching feet at ISKCON

    Namaste,

    I agree that the temple president will have a multi functional role, and will have responsibility both in administration and some parts of the devotees spiritual life, it depends on how we define a guru, but in the strictest sense usually they will not be a guru, although they may act as shiksha guru. Among devotees in daily life usually one offers pranams or bows down to respect the other vaishnava, according to time and place we express different forms of respect, its odd to bow down upon seeing another devotee in the street, but in a more fitting surrounding it is a part of the custom to show respect and humility.

    Touching feet however is usually reserved for the Guru or Sannyasi, as far as I know this tradition or practice of touching feet is when the guru or sadhu will accept part of the karma of the one who touches his feet.

    Ultimately its more what is in the heart than in a convention, false humility often disguises itself in duplicity.

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    Re: Touching feet at ISKCON

    Namaste



    Different sect follow different customs and beliefs.In few traditions with in the temple premises no one is holier than GOD and the ones who strictly follow the codes and conduct of a Sanyasi or Head Guru(I won't define who is Guru and who is not). So to touch(including prostrate) the feet of even the priest is considered as an offense. Secondly, temple is abode of deities in that temple and hence by falling at ones feet including the idol is considered as an offence because your feet will / may be pointing to some other deity installed with in the temple premises. Thirdly Sanyasins tough practices that we cant put in practise. For eg, my grand mother being an orthodox devotee will not use toilet to relieve herself during the pooja period (around 6 to 8 hours or till moon rise) and if she cant control due to some reason(s) either some one else will continue or she will continue only a after complete bath. In that sense a touch by ordinary people like us is considered as an act of disturbance to their body purity.Some modern men might consider these practices as promotion of racism or un touchability. During the start of pooja we invoke / invite GOD and other deities by chanting specific slokah(s). Then we temporarily have become the abode of that visiting deity. And those who aren't PURE shouldn't disturb GOD resting place.
    Last edited by Anirudh; 15 August 2015 at 04:05 AM. Reason: Unable to add line space or anyother HTML code
    Anirudh...

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    Re: Touching feet at ISKCON

    Namaste

    I think I can explain this, in part there is a bigger story here.


    In the very early days of ISKCON in San Francisco, New York, and later Boston, Prabhupad became very concerned with a couple of "Temple Presidents" which were young American boys newly married to a devotee girl. The problem was, they were administrators, not the swamis or sanyasis, and frankly still a bit stuck in their Western ways. They also had too high of regard for their own importance instead of the Guru, they acted like their wife was the "queen of the temple" and started to think of themselves as "swamis" or "advanced yogis" even though they were very naive about many things Hindu. The wives of a couple of "Temple Presidents" even started to fight with other devotee women and then the end came when one wife was caught bring meat into the temple. Prabhupad was so angry he himself physically threw these "Temple Presidents" out into the streets with his own hands, literally. He really shouted at others and gave them the "mustard". So for a period of time there were no more "Temple Presidents" but direct management by sanyasis.


    But then the Western devotees started to learn better, and Prabhupad once again allowed "Presidents" but they would not allow "touching of feet" (viz the President's feet), only Guru and sanyasis and the elderly Indian guests.


    Then some became Gurus. But later, some of these first Gurus had caused big problems due to pompus attitude, they even started headaches for the sanyasis, it started with the "touching of the feet", especially the Westerners who got their feet touched it went to their heads, but also some Indians and then the Temple President in Calcutta - the problem, you see returned.


    Eventually major reforms were inacted and shocking news came out that some fools who were nutjobs and thinking they were the true "Vaishnavs" even tried to poison Prabhupad. Amazingly, Prabhupad wasn't very angry that they tried to kill him. He said, "you must be humble... if not, you will fail Krishna. I can only be a Guru if I am humble".


    The "touching feet" of anyone not Guru, not Sanyasi or elderly stopped. To this day, Temple Presidents are always suspect, and they are fully aware and conscious of this suspicion, and almost everyone today is an outstanding example of an administrator of a Hindu Temple, they are uncomfortable having someone touch their feet in case it brings up the suspicion that they are not humble or want to poison Prabhupad even though A.C. Bhaktivedanta is no longer in this world.


    Om Namah Sivaya

  10. #10

    Re: Touching feet at ISKCON

    Namskāra ShivaFan,

    Thank you for the explanation, as it explains the inexplicable, but honorable actions of the temple president at the Dallas location. He did the right thing in that situation.

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