Open Letter to the King of Puri
Posted November 23, 2008
The following letter was sent to His Royal Highness Gajapati Maharaja Dibyasingha Deb, king of Puri and chair of the Sri Jagannath Temple managing committee, due to the recent events in Puri involving burning an effigy of Srila Prabhupada by Puri priests.:
Please accept my obeisances.
I am a non-Hindu by birth who has been following Gaudiya Vaisnavism for years now and worship Sri Sri Jagannath-Baladeva-Subhadra on my home altar. Two years ago I happened to visit your city of Puri. I was very glad to visit the city of Lord Jagannath, and my stay was indeed pleasant by His mercy.
It had came to my attention that due to my non-Hindu bodily origin, it was preferred that I not attempt entry to the temple. I respected this policy and was satisfied by simply circumambulating the temple and witnessing it from outside. In an event held in the city by the International Society for Krishna Consciousness and which I attended that year, one of ISKCON's officials, His Holiness Jayapataka Swami, requested those who are not Hindus by birth to avoid attempting entry to the temple, showing respect to the temple's policy.
With great sadness I have recently come to hear of the matter of Puri priests burning the effigy of Srila Bhaktivedanta Swami, founder-acharya of ISKCON, whom I respectfully refer to as Prabhupada. According to the words you yourself have written, Lord Jagannath shall "inspire and guide all humanity to a new era of peace." Therefore, it is beyond my comprehension how priests who worship that same Lord can make such an act. I can only pray that this act was not part of the temple's official policy and that it does not represent the opinion of the temple's management.
Srila Prabhupada is perhaps the greatest propagator of the positive conception of Hinduism in the west in the 20th century, a modern age in which Hinduism is often considered by the west to be nothing more then a blend of superstitions and bigotry which lacks any spiritual or intellectual depth. I myself encounter such negative perceptions of Hinduism all the time and it is due to the tools given to me by Srila Prabhupada and his disciples that I am able to disprove such notions. Srila Prabhupada is indeed one of the greatest assets of Hinduism. Srila Prabhupada is my personal savior as well of the savior of millions of others within India and outside of it. Not only that; he's the savior of the reputation of sanatana-dharma.
Setting aside personal opinion, burning an effigy of another's acharya is hardly in line with the spirit of the Upanishadic verse om saha navavatu, saha nau bhunaktu, saha viryam karavavahai, tejasvi navadhitamastu ma vidvishavahai, om shantih shantih shantih ("Oh Lord, may You protect us both, my we both get nourishment, knowledge and enlightenment and may we not quarrel with each other.") Not only that; it makes Hinduism look bad in the eyes of the world, which — upon reading about such an act — finds approval for all its erroneous conceptions regarding India and Hinduism.
I understand there is a difference of opinion regarding certain matters, but these can indeed be discussed in a civilized manner. Burning the effigy of an acharya will not resolve anything and will only produce negative results. Therefore, I bow humbly at your feet begging that, despite all, you will do all in your power to prevent such acts in the future.
Hope this finds you in the best of health,
Jagannatha-swami nayana patha-gami bhavatu me.