A new academic work by ISKCON scholar and guru Krishna Kshetra Das (Kenneth R. Valpey) aims to give both devotee practitioners and an educated general audience a deeper understanding of deity worship, specifically in the Chaitanya Vaishnava tradition.
Attending Krishna’s Image: Caitanya Vaisnava Murti-seva as Devotional Truth discusses how the ancient historical tradition was brought from India to countries all over the world. It shows how it has taken firm root today in both India and the West. And in a study comparing two temples – one Radharamana in the North Indian pilgrimage town of Vrindavana, the other Bhaktivedanta Manor just outside London – it paints a nuanced picture of deity worship and the theological reflection supporting it.
First released in 2006 by academic publisher Routledge and intended mainly for academic libraries, the hardbound edition of the book cost an astronomical $160. But this year, it has been published in a paperback edition priced just €20 (27 USD), making it decidedly more “affordable for the average mortal,” as author Krishna Kshetra jokes.
Krishna Kshetra intends his book to be an intellectually rigorous work that can be taken seriously by other scholars, as well as an answer to questions by educated people such as “What is the temple worship that Hare Krishnas do?”
“I wanted to be able to hand them a book that would satisfy them that this is a very rich tradition with a deep intellectual background,” he says. “It’s also for the wider devotee community, because I think there is room for deeper reflection and appreciation of our tradition.”
Krishna Kshetra is uniquely qualified to explain the topic of deity worship, as he is not only an academic scholar but also a long-time practioner of the ancient tradition of murti-seva himself.
He first began serving as a pujari, or priest, in Germany in 1975, two years after joining the International Society for Krishna consciousness, and did some of the society’s first research on how to worship the Deity of Nrsimhadeva.
In 1995, he produced the Deity worship manual Pancharatra Pradipa, which became an invaluable resource to temples all over the world. And soon after, he helped form the ISKCON Deity Worship Ministry and became its first Minister.
Meanwhile Krishna Kshetra also studied the Sanskrit language in depth and became an academic scholar of religion, receiving a Masters Degree on the subject at Graduate Theological Union in Berkely, California. He also received a D. Phil at Oxford, where he wrote the Doctoral Thesis Krishna-Seva: The Theology of Image Worship in Gaudiya Vaishnavism.
~ by Madhava Smullen, ISKCON