Chapter Twenty-three




DEVOTEE: Rabbi, when we ate lunch in the ashram, you asked about the twelve clay markings on the bodies of the devotees. Srila Prabhupada explains them in a letter to one of his new disciples: "The TILOKA on the forehead and other parts of the body are symbolic representation of Radha Krsna temples. In other words, by marking TILOKA on all parts of our body we become protected by the Lord from all sides. Besides, Tilaka marking at once makes one known as a Vaishnava."
RABBI: The same idea is expressed in the Old Testament when Moses spoke to his people, saying "[These words] shall [also] be a sign on you arm and an insignia in the center of you head." Tefillin here refers to a kind of fourfold leather amulet that Moses instructed the Israelites to wear on their heads and on their left arms. Typically, an amulet is worn to protect one from some kind of evil or injury, and often contained some holy objects within. The amulet referred to here was to contain four chapters from the Torah written on parchment. These four chapters are mentioned in Exodus 13.9, Exodus 13.16, Deuteronomy 6.8 and Deuteronomy 11.18. [Torah, Notes 13:9, 13:16] Those who were actually obedient followers of God would follow the instructions given by God's representative Moses so as to be protected by God.
DEVOTEE: When the devotees of Lord Krsna apply Tilaka to their body, they chant different names of the Lord. I see that although Moses instructed the people to wear the Tefillin (amulet) rather than to make clay markings like the devotees of Lord Krsna, the amulet was to contain the holy instructions of God and His representative. In Vedic philosophy, the Lord is said to be Absolute. That means that He is equally present in the form of His holy names, His instructions, and His pastimes, etc. Therefore, although externally the devotees of Lord Krsna and Jews follow different customs in this regard, the goal of both is to seek God's protection by keeping God with them either in the form of His holy names or His holy instructions. Naturally, Israelites were not only expected to wear the Tefillin but to follow the instructions carried within. Similarly, the devotees should not only apply the Tilaka marks to their bodies but also should always chant the holy names of the Lord, follow His instructions, and act in an exemplary way as real followers of Lord Krsna.


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