Question: What is Devotional Dress?
Please accept my obeisances.
I have been studying the philosophy of Krishna Consciousness for a while now and have even began to practice it in the form of gradually following the principles and chanting the rounds But, as I contemplate a future progression on this path I find myself always stuck on the perceived obligation to wear “devotional dress”. I somehow find that this requirement to wear Indian clothing does not have the same philosophical strength as the explanation for the four principles, the obligation to find a spiritual master and the chanting of the mantras. Is it impersonal of me to think like this?
At the same time, on visiting some ISKCON temples I see some devotees that are initiated sometimes wearing, sometimes not wearing the Indian clothes. Are they falling from their duties or is it optional? Does it depend on the instructions of one’s spiritual master? Is there a discussion forum on this matter within the movement because I have not been able to find it?
I must say I am a bit confused and would be grateful if you could explain the matter further.
Answer: An Ecstatic Celebration of One’s Eternal Identity
Although Srila Prabhupada instructed the men to wear tilaka and sikhas, he never ordered them to wear dhotis. However when they spontaneously starting wearing dhotis out of their enthusiasm to become more Krishna conscious, he encouraged it. He even personally taught Hayagriva das how to put on a dhoti correctly.
Even though one can be Krishna conscious in any attire, Srila Prabhupada confirmed that saris and dhotis are standard dress for Vaisnavas. Srila Prabhupada calls them “Vaisnava dress.” Even though saris and dhotis are part of India’s fashion history, they are not originally Indian fashions. They are fashions of the spiritual world, as confirmed by Srila Prabhupada.
If it is sometimes necessary to dress as an ordinary gentleman, such as for preaching or for one’s job, one can do so because Krishna consciousness is transcendental to what kind of clothes you are wearing. But because dressing as a Vaisnava helps us to remember our transcendental identity as Vaisnavas, it is always better to dress as a Vaisnava as much as possible, both at home and at the temple. Our principle is to accept whatever is favorable for Krishna consciousness and to reject whatever is unfavorable for our Krishna consciousness. Therefore since wearing Vaisnava dress facilitates our Krishna consciousness, it is recommended and preferred whenever it is possible to dress in this way.
Everyone is welcome to come to our temples, chant Hare Krishna, take prasadam, and worship Krishna with us whether they wear ordinary dress or Vaisnava dress. But one who is serious to awaken his dormant Krishna consciousness will naturally do everything possible to maximize his Krishna consciousness. Such persons naturally adopt Vaisnava dress without any negative feeling of being compelled to do so. In short, dressing as a Vaisnava is an ecstatic celebration of one’s eternal identity as a citizen of the spiritual world. This is our culture! We lovingly embrace it!
Sankarshan Das Adhikari