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Friday, July 25, 2008

Questions on Tilak and organ donation

I probed into some mysteries with the help of Śrīpād Satya Nārāyan Prabhu. Below is the first correspondence in a series of two blogs -

(AD) Revered Prabhuji,
Please accept my Rādhe Rādhe.
I hope you are well.
I have some questions:

It is said that all items of Kṛṣṇa 's appearance, including His dress and ornaments, are parts of His sandhinī- śakti and are eternal. However, there are many different types of tilak of Kṛṣṇa described in the Gosvāmīs' books - kumkum, candana, gorocana or musk (kasturī tilakaṁ lalāṭa paṭale). Does this mean that the sandhini śakti reveals different types of tilak, these svarūpas of Kṛṣṇa are all different, the tilaks are interchangeable or some of the ācāryas were just wrong?

(SND) "Dear Advaita Prabhuji,
Jai Śrī Radha Madanagopala!

NO, the ācāryas are not wrong. Bhagavan Kṛṣṇa can have different types tilaks on different occasions."

(AD) "I am having a discussion with various bhaktas on organ donation after death. This may become compulsory in the Netherlands so I need to know the Vaiṣṇava perspective on this -

Some say that one cannot get liberated if the entire body is not cremated or one becomes a ghost. Others say that it is an act of charity to donate organs and will create good karma. Again others say that organ donation may result in sin because sinful people may use your donated organs to digest alcohol, meat and drugs. What is your opinion on this or what can we find on this in śāstra?"

(AD:) "Some say that one cannot get liberated if the entire body is not cremated or one becomes a ghost."

(SND) "Liberation does not depend upon the cremation of the body. yaṁ yaṁ vāpi smaran bhāvam - that is the principle of rebirth or next destination. Devotees do not become ghosts just because the full body was not cremated. It will be an insult to bhakti even to think that a devotee became a ghost just because his/her whole body was not cremated. It would mean the holy name has no power. You know the verses speaking of the power of the name. Even Yamarāja instructs his servants not to approach the devotees. Choṭa Haridās drowned himself in Ganga. Did he become a ghost? His body was not burnt. In the Mahābhārat war so many soldiers from both sides lost their limbs and then their bodies were not always burnt, but sometimes eaten by vultures and jackals. It is not mentioned that they became ghosts. Moreover a devotee is not interested in liberation. His interest is in service in this or the next life, wherever he/she is born."

(AD) "Others say that it is an act of charity to donate organs and will create good karma."

(SND) "This is true if this is what one wants. In Gītā (17th ch.) Kṛṣṇa talks of charity in the three gunas and one can read there what is the effect of such charity. It also involves deśa-kāla-pātra (time, place and individual). But does a devotee want good karma? Is devotee interested in sevā or karma? What does a devotee has to do with good karma? Does he work to accrue good karma? Then how can such a person be called a devotee? In Śrīmad Bhagavata (SB 11.20.9) Lord Śrī Kṛṣṇa tells Uddhava:

tāvat karmani kurvīta na nirvidyata yāvata
mat-kathā-sravaṇādau vā sraddhā yāvan na jāyate.

“As long as one is not satiated by fruitive activity and has not awakened his taste for hearing and chanting topics of Me one should act according to the regulative principles of the Vedic injunctions.”

He categorically forbids devotees to engage in fruitive actions. This is an injunction and not an option."

(AD) "Again others say that organ donation may result in sin because sinful people may use your donated organs to digest alcohol meat and drugs."

(SND) "This should be answered by the above."

(AD) "What is your opinion on this or what can we find on this in shastra?"

(SND) "My opinion is that a devotee is interested in devotional service, not in altruistic activities. Even if he wants to do altruistic activities it should be dovetailed with devotion and not done independently. The best welfare to society lies in bhakti. This was the question posed by Śaunak Ṛṣi To Sūta Gosvāmī in the very first chapter of Śrīmad Bhāgavata - what is the best welfare for humanity? The answer was Kṛṣṇa Bhakti. All other solutions are ultimately useless and create another problem, as Śrī Prahlāda has said in Śrīmad Bhāgavata. A devotee hits at the root of the problem. That is why he is not appreciated by common person because they want an immediate solution ( which definitely leads to a problem). So if we donate our limbs to a devotee that is very good. If we donate to a non-devotee it does not matter. From our perspective it is neither good nor bad. Because in the ultimate sense it makes no difference. Therefore a devotee neither gets a good karma nor bad karma. He/she is not interested in it. Karma also depends on sankalpa and not on mere act. If there is a hungry person a devotee gives food not because it is an act leading to good karma. His compassion is not independent of devotion. King Bharata became deer because he became compassionate on deer cub independent of devotion. Otherwise it was not possible. He was such a great devotee. So a devotee is compassionate from devotional point of view and not independently. I hope I have thrown some light on the subject."
Satya Narayana Das.

(AD): "Revered Prabhujī,
Please accept my Rādhe Rādhe
Thank you for your enlightening answers.
Please allow me, however, to probe a bit more because I am very slow of understanding.
You said that donating organs to a non-devotee (thus a potential meat-eater and drinker) would not matter. Are we then not assisting in his sinful activities or do you consider us anyway free from sin because of our nāmāśray? But if we know in advance that the recipient of our organs is a sinner, would that not amount to nāmno balād pāpa buddhiḥ, as in the nāmāparādhas?"

Dear Advaita Prabhu
"Certainly a devotee is not interested in donating his/her limbs to a meat-eater non-devotee, at least I would not like to do that. But if it is a law, as you had written that in Netherlands it will be compulsory, then I have no choice. In that case I will not get sin. But if I donate to a sinner knowingly and then think I am free from sin because I am a devotee then that will be nāmāparādha. If it compulsory to donate even then I should think that my limbs are meant only to serve the Lord and may whoever gets them will use them only to serve the Lord. That I think is the proper attitude. Making a good use of a bad bargain , as the saying goes."
Satya Narayan Dasa


  1. Sri Sri Radha Krishna. Dandavat pranams.

    With interest I read you're discussion on organ donation with sripad Satya Narayan Prabhu. I kept wondering is it not so that all living creatures are worth our respect, not to mention a human being that can develop krishna consciousness. And is it not up to this individual and the grace of Sri Krishna that he or she finds the ultimate goal of live: Krishna seva. So if we prolong a life by organ donation, do we not give an opportunity to this individual (even if he or she is a meat-eater and drinker) to come to his or her senses and start a live of devotion, surrender and service to the supreme Lord?

    You're servant

    Aruna Kumar Das

  2. Arun, thanks for your comment.
    I think you should remember that the chances of just any recipient of organs becoming a Vaishnava is very slim. There is plenty of evidence for that - sudurlabha prasAntAtma koTiSvapi mahAmune, sa mahAtmA sudurlbha, manuSAnAm sahasreSu etc.
    Of course if the donor-Vaishnava is so pure that the organ transplantation infuses bhakti into the meat-eating recipient that would be wonderful, but also miraculous.