Puja and Seva

ASK BVKS | March 18, 2016 |

English; Salem, Tamil Nadu, India


From Srila Prabhupada's lecture on Srimad-Bhagavatam 5.5.1 — October 22, 1976, Vrndavana

Puja means I call you and offer you some respectable [indistinct], some foodstuff, and then very much seated very comfortably. Naturally I may ask, "What do you want?" Then I'll expect, "Give me this. Give me that. Give me that." That is going on. That is called puja. But those who are worshiping the Supreme Personality of Godhead, that is not called puja; that is called seva, krsna-seva. We never say krsna-puja. Nobody... Never says like that. Seva. Seva means it is my duty. I am eternal servant of Krsna. Seva is my duty. So there is difference between puja and seva. Puja means I flatter you to satisfy you, and after being satisfied, you may offer me something, or I'll ask you something and you offer me. That is called puja. That is devata-puja. But, so when you come to Krsna, or Visnu, that is not puja; that is seva. Seva. So as Krsna is offered seva, service, similarly His representative, he is also offered seva.

(end of quote)


Srila Prabhupada writes in the purport to BG 6.47:

The word bhajate is significant here. Bhajate has its root in the verb bhaj, which is used when there is need of service. The English word "worship" cannot be used in the same sense as bhaj. Worship means to adore, or to show respect and honor to the worthy one. But service with love and faith is especially meant for the Supreme Personality of Godhead. One can avoid worshiping a respectable man or a demigod and may be called discourteous, but one cannot avoid serving the Supreme Lord without being thoroughly condemned.

(end of quote)


However we use the word "puja (worship)" in relation to guru. Guru-puja, Vyasa-puja etc. Also Krsna says to Uddhava: mad-bhakta-pujabhyadhika. What is a context in these cases where the word "puja" is used?

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I am sure you are aware of one of the great devotees in our ISKCON movement, Srila Aindra Prabhu, recently I have heard some of his recordings, lectures, conversations, and he is always giving emphasis on that one of the biggest problems in ISKCON is that the performance of (nagar) Harinama Sankirtan is on the decline and that is the reason for many problems in ISKCON. It is now often sidelined and marginalised as a token activity that is performed once in a while. He feels that it is more important than book distribution.

If we look historically at ISKCON, the times when most people joined the movement was when there was ample regular Harinama Sankirtan being performed everyday. Similarly many great saints in our movement were engaged in regular Harinama Sankirtan, such as Vishnujana Swami, etc.

I am also aware that book distribution brhad mrdanga has been promoted as our kirtan by Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Thakur as being equal to Harinama Sankirtan. Book distribution is still emphasised quite nicely in most of our temples in ISKCON.

But often when there was difficulty in ISKCON, lots of kirtan and 24 hour kirtans should be held. Now I see a huge popularity in kirtan in the temples, in Europe and America, regularly large and long kirtans are held, although I still do not see the results fully manifesting yet, I believe it may do soon.

Here are my questions -

Is book distribution a means for replacing (Nagar) Harinama Sankirtan, or that they should both be the main focus of our movement side by side?

Do you feel (Nagar) Harinama Sankirtan should be promoted to regular daily activity, or should it be kept as a weekend activity?

Looking forward to hear your authoritative view on this point.

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