Clothing and Refinement

Reading from Jaiva Dharma: Then the saintly sannyasi respectfully said, 'Oh, master, my heart  is filled with conviction that the Mayavada theory is shallow and unimportant. Any doubt I had about that is now thrown far away by your mercy. Still, I myself wear the garments of a Mayavada sannyasi. Now I yearn to rid myself of them.'

The saintly Babaji replied, 'Oh great soul, I do not teach that one should like or hate any particular kind of garments. When one's heart is purified, his garments will also become pure. When a person gives great respect to his outer garments, it shows that he does not give great attention to the condition of his heart.'

HH BVPS Maharaja: When a person is very very absorbed in what their dress and all that is and that then makes their position, that means they are not paying so much attention to what's inside.

Reading from Jaiva Dharma: 'In my opinion, one should first purify his heart. Then he may adopt the external activities and garments of a saintly person without committing an offence.'

HH BVPS Maharaja: It's also Manu makes the point, is one should dress according to one's position. According to one's age, one's position, one's occupation then one should do like that because then it matches, then people understand who you are, what is your nature. Like if you are elderly and then you try to dress like a young kid then it doesn't match what one is doing. If one is engaged in a special work, like let's say you are sweeping the street, you wouldn't dress up in a tuxedo or something. So just it should match what you are doing, then people can get the right idea.

So here his point is that you purify the heart, then naturally then the externals will change, because the external is coming from the internal, based on the internal is what the external manifests. Therefore that's why when one has faith in the devotees, one takes up that association of the devotees, then one sees the importance of the bhajana-kriya, so then one takes it up. Means, the heart has changed therefore one can take up bhajana-kriya and take up the dress and the activities of the Vaishnavas. Otherwise then if one doesn't have that faith and one just puts on that clothing then it doesn't really mean anything, doesn't have great importance.

But that doesn't mean that then one reads this and says, 'Oh, so then I don't need to change the dress.' Because  if one says that then one is admitting that one's heart hasn't changed. One is admitting that the condition of one's heart is for something else. 'Oh, I don't have to change, see here he says that it's not important, so therefore I can run around in my old T-shirt and my shorts with my stomach hanging out, and it's perfectly all right, because...' Then one is admitting is that's the condition of one's heart. Otherwise, if the heart was more pure one wouldn't do that. So therefore the emphasis is on how to purify the heart, not how to just leave it the way it is and that's fine. Devotional life means it must be progressive. So one is trying to see that he is progressing in spiritual life, therefore what is favorable one accepts, what's unfavorable, one gives up. So one accepts proper dress, gives up improper dress. Because one is accepting what is favorable, that means the heart has changed. And one has given up what's unfavorable, that means the heart has changed. If you can't see what's favorable and unfavorable, that means the heart has not changed.

Prabhu: Means, can we dress simply or only as Vaishnava?

HH BVPS Maharaja: It can be. Means, how are you going to... Ok, let's put it like this. You have on a pair of jeans and you are just standing somewhere, how are you going to stand? Where you are going to put your hands?

Prabhu: In pockets.

HH BVPS Maharaja: Ok. Now, if you are wearing a dhoti, where are you going to put your hands?

Prabhu: Nowhere.

HH BVPS Maharaja: Ok. So then? So these things have..., they create fineness, they create... But it's still, it's engaging the finer aspects of the material energy in the Lord's service for our purification, our upliftment. Means, in itself it's not perfection, but it's favorable.

Prabhu: Also the dress identify ourselves as Vaishnavas, others see us as Vaishnavas

HH BVPS Maharaja: Yeah. Means, if one figures it doesn't matter, but one will still dress...  'I will just be normal, I just dress normally, I don't worry about the Vaishnava dress.' But he will dress normally for the way he identifies himself. Normalicy for a Chinese may be a little different than the normalicy for an American. And the American let's say from Newing(?) will dress a little different than a hip from south. So the whole point is is one has to see then what is one's identifying? And if one is identifying as a Vaishnava, then naturally the Vaishnava dresses. If not, then one will be comfortable in other dresses. Vaishnava dress won't be comfortable, because it takes too much attention. You have to be refined to wear Vaishnava dress. To wear pants or these other Western clothes take no attention. Like you see so many times girls are very expert at wearing Western dress. Because it's cut to fit, and then you don't have to do anything, once it's put on, you just have to make sure it's on properly, but once it's on, you don't have to do anything, you can do anything and it stays on. So therefore you find many times, though seemingly on the material platform they are very developed, very sophisticated, you give them a saree to put on, and they look like slobs, they can't put them on at all, because they have no fineness, there is no refinement. Means, acting like a street girl is not refined. Therefore they can't dress nicely.

So the whole thing is how we identify, if we identify as a devotee, then we are comfortable in those clothes. And if we identify as a devotee, but with certain material attachments or conditioning, then we naturally will wear that kind of cloth. So what one will wear according to one's natural position. One is comfortable in how one identifies oneself. Because for practicality, people in India have been doing whatever people do in the West for longer than the Westerners were even around. You have to remember, America is about a little over 200 years old, and the scriptures we are reading about in India are 5000 years old, so you can mathematically work out, even just that much. And they have buildings, and they have vehicles, and they were fighting. Arjuna was on the battlefield, and you didn't find him in a pair of cargo jeans. Means, the pockets on cargo jeans comes from military office, they are the ones that have the pockets. So it's just something important from there. But you see in here, he was in a dhoti.

Mataji: With jewelry.

HH BVPS Maharaja: Yeah. Jewelry, crowns, and they could do all that. And that's Arjuna. And then, once Dronacarya was seeing something or explaining something about the armor. And I think it was Abhimanyu, I am not sure, I think Abhimanyu was the only one who learned how to  wear it that way. Generally the armor they put on very tight, so it just sits in place and you don't have to worry about it. But Abhimanyu, and also Drona could do it, is they would wear their armor loose, because when you wear it tight, there will be a gap between them, you know, between the chest and the shoulders and the armlets there will be some gap. So a very expert archer could shoot arrows that would go into the gap and prick you and make you feel uncomfortable. That was a very common trick Arjuna would use, he would constantly do that to Duryodhana and others like that. But Abhimanyu could wear the armor loosely. That way, if an arrow came where it would go to the gap he could move and close that gap, because the armor is loose, so you can close the gap. So when Arjuna asked why he wasn't shown that, then Dronacarya said, "You don't have the concentration, you don't..." And he is the most concentrated. He didn't have the awareness to be able to do that. So even though this is so much more, he is able to wear his cloth and his jewelry and deal with his armors and all these things, and the whole everything, still there is farther he can go, the Vedic culture is even more refined, still there is more refinement on the material platform. Drona could wear it, because he was the greatest of all. Same time is Abhimanyu, because he is the son of Soma, he is a demigod, he just happened to be there for a short time. So there is always more.

So the thing is is, the modern just means unrefined. It's not refined, it's so-called sophistication, it's one of the 64 arts mentioned that Krishna and Balarama learned, was the barbarian sophistications, it has always been there, barbarians always think they are sophisticated, that's a very common thing, they always think they are very special. Gita mentions that the demon thinks, "I am very aristocratic and I am surrounded by aristocratic family members," that's the way they think. So they think they are very refined and they develop their own refineness. But it's just they create it themselves.

So accordingly then, according to the nature then we dress, so we should be comfortable, so we can perform our service and this and that. But at the same time we have to understand that there are levels, standards set by Krishna. So therefore one can say that, yes, the Vaishnava dress is more refined than the Western dress. But if one finds one is comfortable in the Western dress and that matches his identification, he'll wear it. But don't claim that it's the same as the Vaishnava dress, or better or more practical, that's nonsense. That's cheating.

But the problem is is because of ego we don't want to feel that we are any less than anyone else. Therefore our Maya is normal and other people, if they are more strict than us in areas of our attachments, they are fanatic. And places where we are fanatic, that's normal and everybody else is in Maya. So this is the common disease of the conditioned living entities. Whatever they do is perfect, whatever everybody else does is nonsense. But if one accepts, yes, we are in this position, that's why in the Vedic culture it was so easy because people would accept their position. Therefore someone could be a brahmana, someone else could be a shudra, and there was no conflict. So one could accept. Someone else could be a Vaishnava, and a brahmana would accept that the Vaishnava was higher, and a shudra would accept that the other two were higher. But nowadays people cannot tolerate being anything less than anybody else, therefore in that environment you cannot establish Varnashrama, because you won't be allowed. Because everybody has to be the top, everybody has to be God, so therefore in control and enjoying, so how can you... it can't function. It's a strange phenomena.

So wearing whatever anybody wants to wear is fine, as long as they are not proud of it and they understand where it fits into the hierarchy of greater or lesser. Or even if they don't understand, as long as they don't make a philosophy themselves. They maybe a simple person and they dress whatever they dress and they are happy, fine. As long as they don't make a philosophy out of it. As soon as they make a philosophy out of it, then they are nonsense. Because philosophy is made by Krishna, no one else can make philosophy, so then that becomes the position. Does that make sense? So that accommodates, but at the same time sets standards. See, the modern idea of accommodating means there is no standards, or you lower the standards. Or non-accommodation means there is a standard, but you have to match that or you are nonsense. So broad-minded means that there is a standard, but you can accommodate people that are in various degrees of attaining that standard. So that makes a difference. But the standard is there.

So that's the thing is we have to understand what is standard and then what we are comfortable with. If we have problem fidling around in dhoti when we do work and don't have the inclination to learn, then we put on something to get the work done, because the service is important. By doing that service, whatever we wear, for Krishna, we will become purified. And then if we have the ability, then it will naturally just progress and the purification will be there, and if the heart is like that one will naturally want to wear like that. But if it doesn't then it doesn't really matter, but one shouldn't say that there is no difference. Otherwise, if there is no difference, then is there a difference between a marble floor and a cement floor? And if we can't tell the difference, then I will drop my point. But the same person will say there is no difference, they are generally the ones that are saying that they want a marble floor, so cement floor is too low class for them. So therefore the standards are being set, but not Krishna's standards, not Vedic standards, their own standards. They will say natural, the normal Western standard, but what is a Western standard?

You go to Europe, they would never do or dress or act like Americans. And Americans would never wanna act like them. So what is this West? East cost won't act like West coast, North is different than South, any country you go the North people are one way, south people are another way. Except Poland, they are all the same [laughter]. There is only one dialect in Polish, I mean there is some few small groups, but otherwise the whole of Poland, they speak the same dialect, they all have the same everything. Thy are the only country I've ever seen in the world that there is no difference. But most other countries you go the people in the north are different from the south, and they way the north people are different from the south is the same in every country. And the people who live in the mountains and the people who live in the cost, and the people who live in the planes. These differences are the same in every country, though they will have the flavor of that country.

Prabhu: What do you mean by differences, an example?

HH BVPS Maharaja: Generally you find that people who live in the south, they are generally more pleasant and mellow, while the ones in the north are a little bit more rigid. Even if you go to the next country, you just cross the border, so that was south in that country, go to the next, that's north of that country, somehow it switches. You can watch. You can't see it here as much, you can see in other places, if you go to Europe you will see very easy, you just try to cross the border, and you can see the whole mentality of the whole country just around you, how it's changed, the roads, the buildings, everything you can see, like that.

The point is is that Krishna sets the standard. And then we try to follow those standards, then it becomes nice. And how much and according to our realization and ability then we establish ourselves, so therefore then our dress will match that. If we are in not as advanced a position, we shouldn't claim it's as good or better. That's the thing, if one is always humble then everything is nice. Because other people, if they are humble then it works very nicely, then it doesn't matter how you dress. Like you see, up to now the Babaji hasn't said anything about the Mayavada dress. It doesn't matter, he is a sincere student who is trying to know Krishna consciousness, and so when his consciousness change to the point where he actually identifies with the Vaishnava things, then he will dress like that. But until then, who cares? It's not a big deal.

Prabhu: Identifying means...? If it's the body...

HH BVPS Maharaja: Means, if he identifies himself more as a Gaudiya Vaishnava, naturally he will dress as one, because the Gaudiya Vaishnava dress goes with the Gaudiya Vaishnava mentality. So therefore it just goes. Basic thing is just, he is making the point that he will dress according to your mentality.

Reading from Jaiva Dharma: In your heart become a sincere follower of Sri Krishna Caitanya. Then you will naturally desire to accept the external things that are appropriate for that following. Let that be the way you act. Always remember these words of Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu (Sri Caitanya Caritamrta, Madhya Lila 16.38-39), 'You should not make yourself a show-bottle devotee and become a false renunciant. In the time being, enjoy the material world in a befitting way and not become attached to it.'

HH BVPS Maharaja: In other words, according to your nature you perform your duties. And those results and all that, then you'll be happy in that environment and with the time you gain. And as you progress in devotional service then you will find attachments to other things, the attachments will be more to the Name, and then naturally you'll change, you'll get more into hearing, chanting and all these other things, it will just come automatically. But one shouldn't just do that and figure by changing the externals that therefore you have changed.

Reading from Jaiva Dharma: Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu continued, "Within your heart you should keep yourself very fatihful, but externally you may behave like an ordinary man. Thus Krishna will soon be very pleased and deliver you from the clutches of Maya."

HH BVPS Maharaja: So that was to Raghunatha Dasa Goswami.

Reading from Jaiva Dharma: Understanding, the saintly sannyasi did not say anything more about changing his garments. Folding his hands he said, "Oh master, I am your disciple and I have taken shelter at your feet. Whatever instruction you give, I will place it on my head without argument. By hearing your words I have understood that pure love for Krishna is the only Vaishnava religion. That love is the eternal religion of the soul, a religion that is perfect, pure and natural."

HH BVPS Maharaja: If there is any last things on this?

Mataji: What is the meaning of not wearing sown cloth?

HH BVPS Maharaja: Means, cloth that hasn't been sown, basically.

Mataji: Because I see that in the ashram the boys don't wear.

HH BVPS Maharaja: Not so much. Because we do a lot of Puja. But otherwise, some of them wear when they are not doing their Puja. Sown means sown. Except for the beadbag, but that's not ours, that's Tulasi's.

Unsown cloth is considered more pure. Because sown cloth then I think what happens is that in-between where it's sown it can keep some kind of dirt and other things, dust and things that get in-between the seams, things like that. I think that's the reason. It's just a standard for Deity worship. But main thing is that one should be clean, that's the principle, the detail within that is wearing sown or not wearing sown cloth, like that. But the main principle is cleanliness.

Prabhu: It's also much easier to wash unsown clothes.

HH BVPS Maharaja: Yeah, that's there, that's another thing. Means, life is simpler when you have unsown cloth, it's not so difficult. But sown cloth you have to be more careful with, how you wash it. Unsown you can treat any way you like, sown cloth you have to be more careful how you hang it, how you deal with it, so it requires more care, more resources to deal with. But otherwise, it's a fine point, it's not a major point.


(From Lecture on Jaiva Dharma, 28 December 2001, Bhaktivedanta Academy, Sri Mayapur Dhama)

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