DEMIGOD WORSHIP PRABHUPADA’S STYLE
Around 1973, Shrila Prabhupada went to Hyderabad. The population of the city was in majority Muslim. The Hindus, somewhat suffering from their minority status, warmly welcomed Shrila Prabhupada and his foreign disciples. They were proud to show that their religion had such an impact in America and all over the world.
One rich businessman donated a plot of land situated right in the middle of town. As expected, Prabhupada immediately desired to establish a Radha Krishna temple on the vacant piece of land. A few of us were sent to help start the project.
After some time, Shrila Prabhupada made another visit to Hyderabad. As was generally the case, we were invited for lunch at a rich man’s house. We were fed sumptuous food with our guru presiding the meal.
When everybody was fully satiated, the head of the household invited us to go upstairs and have “darshan” of his family deity. The home temple was set in a big recess in the wall with large wooden doors. Inside one could see all kinds of pictures, photographs, statues of various personalities; gurus, demigods, etc…decorated in the indian usual style. The main deity, prominently displayed in the form of a large murti, though, was…Lord Shiva.
The crowd, comprised of Shrila Prabhupada, his disciples, and our host’s large family members, plus some friends and neighbours, was standing in front of the shrine. We were all given flower petals and told that we would throw them at the end of the mantras that were starting to be chanted.
Having read and heard so many times Shrila Prabhupada’s strong opinions about Demigod worship, I was feeling quite uncomfortable. Prabhupada had started the program with a speech to the assembly. My memory does not allow me to guarantee it, but there is every chance that he had made his points about the matter a couple of hours ago. I did not know what to expect and at the same time, I was really curious to find out how he was going to handle the situation. Anything could happen!
At the given signal, everybody threw their flower petals straight at the Shiva murti. Except for Shrila Prabhupada. As I was watching him, I noticed that he had thrown his petals to the right side of the altar. From where I was standing, I could not see where his petals had landed. As the crowd dispersed, I checked the spot where I had seen him send his flowers. They were in front of a small picture of Lord Vishnu.
Madhavendra Puri dasa