How do we understand different devotees interpreting the moisture on the Pancha Tattva Deities differently?
Question: You explained that it was a result of condensation, but Jananivas Prabhu has stated that it is a miracle.
Answer Summary in text followed by a detailed audio answer:
I called His Grace Jananivas Prabhu to discuss this. I have great respect for him; he has been a shiksha-guru for me, answering many of my questions with his profound erudition and devotion. In our discussion, he essentially said that he has no problem with different devotees taking different positions on this issue.
In fact, he confirmed to me that his own brother His Grace Pankajanghri Prabhu has taken the position that the moisture was due to condensation. When I was asked to comment on this issue, I had read the available statements of Vaishnavas at that time and the only statement from someone in authority was the below mail of Pankajanghri Prabhu that was circulated on social media:
[2/21, 6:22 PM] +91 75082 70259: Dear Vilasini Mataji,
Hare Krishna. Greetings from the Holy Dham. Please accept my respects and good wishes. All glories to Srila Prabhupada.
Due to so many people being together in the temple room during the kirtan mela, a lot of heat is generated and this causes condensation on the Deities. We have to wipe them with towels in the evening to dry it off.
That does not mean that the Deities can’t cry, or perspire with ecstacy, but condensation is a simple explanation.
[2/21, 6:50 PM] +91 75082 70259: Once i had asked one Brajvasi in Nandgaon whether he has seen Krishna Balram. He had a very honest and practical answer for this. He said “jinko dikhte hain woh kehte nahin aur jo kehte hain unko dikhte hi nahin”
This position was what I elaborated systematically in my answer, using a logical three-point analysis for evaluating those miracle claims where there is no explicit scriptural verdict.
How do we understand such contradictory positions among senior Vaishnavas?
- We need to understand that there is no contradiction between the two positions on siddhanta – no one is questioning whether Krishna can perform miracles. The contradiction is only in the meaning of what happened in this particular circumstance.
- There are many precedents within our tradition, as I have mentioned in my earlier answer, of careful, even critical, evaluation of miracle-claims. Of course, there are precedents of miracles being accepted too. So, we could say that these two positions – reservation about miracle claims and acceptance of those claims – are two enduring strands within our tradition. The current multiple positions on miracle-claims demonstrate that the tradition is alive and vibrant.
- Disagreement doesn’t have to degenerate into disrespect. Krishna in the Gita (18.3) addresses respectfully as manishinah (great thinkers) those who recommend renunciation of work – a position that he clearly disapproves later (18.5-6). I have explained this point of respectful difference here: Don’t let disagreement degenerate into disrespect. Devotees who feel inspired by the miracle-claim can accept it as a miracle. And devotees who feel reservations about the miracle-claim also have a right to continue as devotees in a way that works for their head and heart. In fact, Jananivasa Prabhu told me on phone that on hot afternoons when they (the pujaris) would go to wake the Deities at 4 pm, there would be a lot of condensation on Their faces, similar to what was seen now – so the condensation explanation is defensible too.
Is the house that Srila Prabhupada built, which is meant to be big enough for the whole world to live, too small to accommodate devotees with different positions on one miracle-claim? Certainly not. So, let’s resist the temptation to label devotees as sentimental / sahajiyaic or skeptical / atheistic. Instead, let’s humbly accept the understanding that inspires us in our devotional service (anukulyasya sankalpa) and respectfully let other devotees accept the understanding that they find anukula for their bhakti.
- The main point of my answer was not to question the miracle claim itself, but to question the hype surrounding it and the potential distraction that it may cause from dedicated devotional service, which is the basis for the most consequential miracle – the transformation of the heart. H G Jananivas Prabhu is a living example of such dedication and I seek his blessings so that I can get a drop of his dedication.
To conclude, the kirtan of the Lord is supremely potent, eminently capable of inducing miracles without and within. So rather than agonizing any more on an issue where different positions are possible, let us dedicate ourselves to the thing we all agree on: glorifying the Lord of our heart.