Offering Obeisances with Body - Part 1

Offering Obeisances with Body - Part 1

Narahari Krishna Dasa

Hare Krishna Prabhujis and Matajis,

Please accept my dandavat pranams. All glories to Srila Prabhupada and Srila Gurudeva. 

One of the important activities in devotional service is offering obeisances to the Lord and His devotees (especially the spiritual master). Even when devotees meet, they greet each other by saying "Haribol" or "Hare Krishna" and mutually offer obeisances. One also is advised to offer obeisances to elders, devatas, people who are learned in Vedas, saintly persons etc., Offering obeisances to the Lord is one of the nine types of bhakti and technically called 'vandanam'. Srila Prabhupada explains in the commentary to the verse 7.5.23 as "Vandanam means offering respectful obeisances. man-manaa bhava mad-bhakto mad-yaaji maam namaskuru [Bg. 18.65]. Vandanam means namaskuru — offering obeisances or offering prayers."

When we offer obeisances to some one, we acknowledge that they are superior to us in some respect and accept our inferior position and this helps in cultivating humility. When offering obeisances to the Supreme Lord, it expresses our acknowledgement of Lord's Supremacy and our eternal subordination to Him. This action very much pleases the Lord. The shruti mantras (Narasimha Tapaniya Upanishad - (2.10) states that the Lord is called as "namaami" since He is offered obeisance by everyone.

yasmaadyam sarve devaa namanti mumukshavo brahmavaadinashca
pra nunam brahmanaspatir mantram vadatyuktam

yasmin indro varuno mitro aryamaa devaa okaamsi cakrire

tasmaaducyate namaamiti 

"Bhagavan Narasimha is called 'namaami', because He is being offered obeisance by all devas, all those who aspire for liberation and all those who are self realized and liberated. The Lord of the Vedas worship Him by chanting 'namaami' (I offer my obeisances to Him) and Indra, Mithra, Aryama and all other devas are supported by Him."

The Bhagavata Purana advises that one should offer obeisances to the Lord with his body, mind and words and one who does this even in most difficult circumstances of his life becomes a rightful heir for entering the spiritual world. 

tat te 'nukampaam su-sameekshamaano
bhunjaana evaatma-krtam vipaakam

hrd vaag vapubhir vidadhan namas te

jiveta yo mukti pade sa daaya bhaak

"My dear Lord, one who earnestly waits for You to bestow Your causeless mercy upon him, all the while patiently suffering the reactions of his past misdeeds and offering You respectful obeisances with his heart, words and body, is surely eligible for liberation, for it has become his rightful claim."

One can offer obeisances with the body by falling flat like a rod in front of the Lord's deity or picture. One can offer obeisances to the Lord with his words by uttering the word 'namah' or chanting mantras which contain 'namah' like 'Om namo bhagavate vasudevaaya' or 'Om namo Narayanaya' etc. One can offer obeisances in mind also and cultivate a sense of detachment and understanding that everything belongs to the Lord. As for as offering obeisances with body we should make it as a practice when the body is fit. Because in old age we may not be able to offer obeisances as our body may not co-operate. As our beloved Guru Maharaj says, "We must to bow down to the Lord voluntarily. Otherwise, when we grow old it will bend automatically because of old age." Bowing down to the Lord can be done by anyone regardless of the qualification and it is an easy way to attract the Lord's blessings. 

Krishna willing, we will see in detail how different personalities attained the Lord's grace by offering obeisances by bowing down to the Lord.  

Thank you very much.

Yours in service of Srila Prabhupada and Gurudeva,
Narahari Krishna dasa,