TIME, PLACE, AND CIRCUMSTANCE
His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada
The method of worship — chanting the mantra and preparing the forms of the Lord — is not stereotyped, nor is it exactly the same everywhere. It is specifically mentioned in this verse that one should take consideration of the time, place and available conveniences. Our Krishna consciousness movement is going on throughout the entire world, and we also install deities in different centers. Sometimes our Indian friends, puffed up with concocted notions, criticize, “This has not been done. That has not been done.” But they forget this instruction of Narada Muni to one of the greatest vai avas, Dhruva Maharaja. One has to consider the particular time, country and conveniences. What is convenient in India may not be convenient in the Western countries. Those who are not actually in the line of ācāryas, or who personally have no knowledge of how to act in the role of ācārya, unnecessarily criticize the activities of the ISKCON movement in countries outside of India. The fact is that such critics cannot do anything personally to spread Krishna consciousness. If someone does go and preach, taking all risks and allowing all considerations for time and place, it might be that there are changes in the manner of worship, but that is not at all faulty according to śāstra. Srimad Viraraghava Acharya, an ācārya in the disciplic succession of the Rāmānuja-sampradāya, has remarked in his commentary that ca ālas, or conditioned souls who are born in lower than śūdra families, can also be initiated according to circumstances. The formalities may be slightly changed here and there to make them vai avas. (Purport to Bhāg. 4.8.54) Lord Chaitanya Mahaprabhu wanted to invent a way to capture the Māyāvādīs and others who did not take interest in the Krishna consciousness movement. This is the symptom of an ācārya. An ācārya who comes for the service of the Lord cannot be expected to conform to a stereotype, for he must find the ways and means by which Krishna consciousness may be spread. (Purport to Cc. ādi. 7.31-32) It is the concern of the ācārya to show mercy to the fallen souls. In this connection, deśa-kāla-pātra (the place, the time and the object) should be taken into consideration. (Purport to Cc. ādi 7.38) The teacher (ācārya) has to consider time, candidate and country. He must avoid the principle of niyamāgraha — that is, he should not try to perform the impossible. What is possible in one country may not be possible in another. The ācārya’s duty is to accept the essence of devotional service. There may be a little change here and there as far as yuktavairāgya, proper renunciation, is concerned…. The essence of devotional service must be taken into consideration, and not the outward paraphernalia. (Purport to Cc. madhya 23.105) These are the secrets of the ācāryas. Sometimes they conceal the real purpose of the Vedas and explain the Vedas in a different way. Sometimes they enunciate a different theory just to bring the atheists under their control. (Cc. madhya 25.42) Buddhist philosophy is incomplete, but that does not mean Lord Buddha did not know the complete truth. A teacher may have received his Master’s degree, yet he still teaches the ABC’s to his students. It is not that his knowledge is limited to the ABC’s. Similarly, any especially empowered incarnation (śaktyāveśa avatāra) will preach God consciousness according to time, place, and circumstances. The teacher holds his Master’s degree, but the students may not be qualified to receive the high instructions that the teacher is competent to teach. (A Second Chance, chapter 11) God, or a particular representative of God, comes to teach people in different circumstances. According to the circumstances there may be some difference in explanation, but the primary factor remains the same. (Lecture in Seattle, 2 October 1968) The Vedas instruct us that knowledge must always be considered in terms of deśa-kālapātra. Deśa means “circumstances,” kāla means “time,” and pātra means “the object”. We must understand everything by taking these three elements into consideration. (Life Comes from Life: The First Morning Walk, April 18, 1973) A vai ava who is preaching may do it in a different way. According to time, place and the party, some change is required. But we have to see the essence. … Just like we sometimes consult a dictionary, a small pocket dictionary, and a big international dictionary. Both are dictionaries. But, deśa-kāla-pātra, for a small child that small dictionary is sufficient. (Lecture in Mayapur, 8 October 1974) An ācārya gives some way for simple understanding. They give the same conclusion, but, according to the time and circumstances, they give a very easy method to understand. That is ācārya. Ācārya is one who strictly follows the previous ācārya, but according to the circumstances he may make little changes. However, they do not change the original idea. (Lecture in Mayapur, 19 February 1976) It is important that we preach the message of Krishna Consciousness exactly as we have heard it from our spiritual master. The same philosophy and spirit must be there exactly. Just like we preach in this country exactly as we have heard from our spiritual master, but there are changes due to the time, circumstances, and the trainees. The spirit of the disciplic succession may not be changed, but there may be adjustments made to suit the special circumstances.
(Letter to Sivananda, 23 January 1969)
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