Vaishnava Etiquette,
Behavior and Lifestyle
Introduction
"Always remember Krishna
Never forget Krishna"

"This is the most important rule, all others are subservient to this one!"
NOTE:  Vaishnava Etiquette, Behavior and Lifestyle in this writing is adapted from "A Manuel of
Vaishnava Etiquette and Lifestyle by the International Society For Krishna Consciousness and
inspired by His Holiness Radhanatha Swami of Sri Sri Radha Gopinatha Mandir, Chowpatty, Mumbai,
India.  14 January 1994, the Nectar of Devotion by Srila Prabhupada, Vaishnava Ke by Jaganatha
Swami, and texts from the Bhaktividanta Vedabase.
"Etiquette is the ornament of the Vaishnava".  But what does this mean?  In using material wealth as an
analogy, what are the opulences or benefits of having wealth?

Is it possible to have wealth but not possess the opulences that wealth brings?  What is the purpose of
having wealth if one cannot use it to one’s benefit?  Does a person who possesses vast riches live, dress
and behave like someone who is poor?  No, they don’t.  Individuals of wealth prove their status by
developing social skills, maintaining a lifestyle of extravagance and luxury, becoming educated.  
Someone who is wealthy lives in a large mansion, drives an expensive car, dresses in fine clothing and
eats exotic food.  They have every type of worldly comfort available that money can buy.  Wealth brings
the ability to live comfortably above the normal miseries of material life.

If those who possess wealth in the material world use it to adorn themselves in accordance to their social
status, the true devotee of the Lord will also adorn himself without limits with the ornaments of a
Vaishnava in every respect.  

So, what is “Etiquette”?

Etiquette is the observance of expect social behavioral norms as set forth by a community or profession.

One who serves the Supreme Personality of Godhead, follows Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu is called to a
higher etiquette and behavior than that of any worldly society.  The Vaishnava is to be mindful of his
behavior at all times.  We represent Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu and our Guru at all times, and to behave
like a non-devotee is considered to be crass and rude in the worse form.

Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu gave Srila Sanatana Goswami instruction in the behavior of a Vaishnava.  Sri
Caitanya was very stern in his behavior, and likewise demanded that all devotees follow Vaishnava
etiquette strictly.
yadyapio tumi hao jagat-pavana
toma-sparse pavitra haya deva-muni-gana
tathapi bhakta-svabhava---maryada-raksana
maryada-palana haya sadhura bhusana
“My dear Sanatana, although you are the deliverer of the entire universe and although even
the demigods and great saints are purified by touching you, it is the characteristic of a
devotee to observe and protect the Vaishnava etiquette.  Maintenance of the Vaishnava
etiquette is the ornament of a devotee.”
Caitanya-caritamrta Antya-lila 4.129-130
Maryada-langhane loka kare upahasa
iha-loka, para-loda----dui haya nasa
“If one transgresses the laws of etiquette, people make fun of him, and thus he is
vanquished in both this world and the next.”
Caitanya-caritamrta Antya-lila 4.131
Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu was so concerned about the etiquette of the Lords devotees that he instructed
Srila Sanatana Goswami to write Vaishnava Smrti (Hari-bhakti-vilasa) in Caitanya-caritamrta Madhya-
lila 24.324-345:

“Folding his hands, Sanatana Goswami said, “My Lord, You ordered me to write a directory about the
activities of Vaishnavas. (324)

“I am a most lowborn person.  I have no knowledge of good behavior.  How is it possible for me to write
authorized directions about Vaishnavas activities?” (325)

Sanatana Goswami then requested the Lord, “Please personally tell me how I can write this difficult book
about Vaishnava behavior.  Please manifest Yourself in my heart.  (326)

“If you would please manifest Yourself within my heart and personally direct me in writing this book,
then, although I am lowborn, I may hope to be able to write it.  You can do this because You are the
Supreme Personality of Godhead Yourself, and whatever You direct is perfect.”  (327)

Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu replied, “Whatever you want to do you will be able to do correctly by Lord
Krishna’s favor.  He will manifest the real purport.  (328)

“Because you asked Me for a synopsis, please hear these few indications.  In the beginning describe how
one must take shelter of a bona-fide spiritual master.  (329)

“Your book should describe the characteristics of the bona-fide guru and the bona-fide disciple.  Then,
before accepting a spiritual master, one can be assured of the spiritual master’s position.  Similarly, the
spiritual master can also be assured of the disciple’s position.  The Supreme Personality of Godhead,
Krishna, should be described as the worshipable object, and you should describe the bija-mantra for the
worship of Krishna, as well as that for Rama and for other expansions of the Supreme Personality of
Godhead. (330)

“You should discuss the qualifications necessary for receiving a mantra, the perfection of the mantra, the
purification of the mantra, initiation, morning duties, remembrance of the Supreme Lord, cleanliness and
washing the mouth and other parts of the body.  (331)

“You should describe how in the morning one should regularly brush his teeth, take his bath, offer prayers
to the Lord and offer obeisances to the spiritual master.  You should also describe urdhva-pundra [tilaka],
as well as how one should stamp one’s body with the Holy Names of the Lord, or the symbols of the
Lord, such as the disc and club.  (332)

“After this, you should describe how one should decorate his body with gopi-candana, wear neck beads,
collect tulasi leaves from the tulasi tree, cleanse his cloth and the alter, cleanse his own house or
apartment and go to the temple and ring the bell just to draw the attention of Lord Krishna.  (333)

“Also describe Deity worship, wherein one should offer food to Krishna at least five times daily and in
due time place Him on a bed.  You should also describe the process for offering arati and the worship of
the Lord according to the list of five, sixteen or fifty ingredients.  (334)

“The characteristics of the Deities should be discussed, as well as the characteristics of the
salagrama-
sila
.  You should also discuss visiting the Deities in the Temple and touring holy places like Vrindavana,
Mathura and Dvaraka.  (335)

“You should glorify the Holy Name and explain that one must carefully give up offenses when chanting
the Holy Name.  You should also describe the symptoms of a Vaishnava and explain that one must give up
or nullify all kinds of
seva-aparadha, offenses in Deity worship.  (336)

“The items of worship, such as water, conchshell, flowers, incense and lamp, should be described.  You
should also mention chanting softly, offering prayers, circumambulating and offering obeisances.  All
these should be carefully described.  (337)

“Other items you should describe are the method of performing purascarana, taking krishna-prasadam,
giving up unofferable food and not blaspheming the Lord’s devotees.  (338)

“You should describe the symptoms of a devotee, how to associate with devotees, how to satisfy a
devotee by rendering service, and ohw to give up the association of non-devotees.  You should also
explain the value of regularly hearing the recitation of Srimad-bhagavatam.  (339)

“You should describe the ritualistic duties to be performed every day, and you should also describe the
fortnightly duties—especially how to observe the fortnightly Ekadasi fast.  You should also describe the
duties to be observed every month, and you should especially describe the observance of ceremonies like
Janmastami, Rama-navami and Nrisimha-caturdasi.  (340)

“Ekadasi, Janmastami, Vama-dvadasi, Rama-navami and Nrisimha-caturddasi—all these should be
described.  (341)

“You should recommend the avoidance of mixed Ekadasi and the performance of pure Ekadasi.  You
should also describe the fault in not observing Ekadasi.  One should be very careful as far as these items
are concerned.  If one is not careful, one will be negligent in executing devotional service.  (342)

“Whatever you say about Vaishnava behavior, the establishment of Vaishnava temples and Deities, and
everything else should be supported by evidence from the Puranas.  (343)

“You should give general and specific descriptions of the behavior and activities of a Vaishnava.  You
should outline things that are to be done and things that are not to be done.  All this should be described as
regulations and etiquette.  (344)

“I have thus given a synopsis of the Vaishnava regulative principles.  I have given this in brief just to give
you a little direction.  When you write on this subject, Krishna will help you by spiritually awakening
you.”  (345)

As we can see, Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu was very concerned about the behavior and etiquette of the
Lord’s devotees.  The synopsis that He gave to Srila Sanatana Goswami is very concise and demanding.  
If the devotee desires to please Their Lordships, Sri Krishna and the Spiritual Master, then one must learn
how to behave properly at all times so that we will attain “the ornament around the neck” that Sri
Caitanya Mahaprabhu speaks of so sternly.

All devotees must learn how to behave, act and conduct themselves in every situation as not to bring
shame upon the Lord, the Lord’s devotee and Guru-maharaj.  This subject cannot be stressed enough.

I pray that all devotees will come to an understanding of the importance of this topic.  May the Lord bless
those who read, study and implement these topics in their devotional service, and may the Lord lead me,
guide me, as surely as He did Srila Sanatana Goswami in learning, teaching and also putting into practice
Vaishnava Etiquette.

Your eternal servant;
Nitaipada Maharaja
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