Spiritual Greetings and Address in Gauranga Dharma -- By Swami Gaurangapada
Q. (by devotee):
I have seen various forms of greetings in Gauranga Dharma while writing or when meeting in person. Kindly tell me what greetings should be followed when we meet physically and greet another devotee.
A. (by Swami Gaurangapada):
All forms of greetings are nice if they are composed of the Holy Names of God because it gives both the greeter and greeted a chance to chant and hear the Holy Names.
In Gauranga Dharma, the basic and standard greeting is Nityananda! Gauranga! Hare Krishna! because it gives the essence of entire philosophy of Gauranga Dharma.
But since it is a little long, sometimes devotees may tend to shorten it to NG HK, GD etc. This is strictly prohibited because then they loose all the spiritual benefit in chanting the Holy Names. There is no spiritual benefit is saying NG, HK etc. Also we do not want ever that devotees talk about Gauranga Dharma by saying GD in short form or talk about Nityananda Gauranga by saying NG or Hare Krishna by saying HK or talk about us by saying SG. Please always use the full forms of the Names because the original purpose of chanting and making others hear the Holy Names is defeated. The name Gauranga Dharma is so that everyone gets the chance of chanting Lord Gauranga's Holy Name when they say Gauranga Dharma. So it should never ever be abbreviated to GD or similar short forms.
Each and every time when the devotees meet personally or each and every time when they talk to other devotees on the phone:
The devotees who greets first should say "Nityananda! Gauranga! Hare Krishna!" and the second devotee or a group of devotees who respond to this first greeting should also say "Nityananda! Gauranga! Hare Krishna!".
All other glorifications and pranams like aya Jaya Shrila Prabhupada! Jaya Shrila Bhaktisiddhanta! Jaya Shrila Bhaktivinoda! Jaya Swami Gaurangapada! Jaya Chaitanya Bhagavata! Jaya Navadvipa-Puri Dhama! Dandavats! Pranams! etc. can follow later after this main greeting as per the desire of the devotees but this basic main greeting is compulsory and should be done as many times we meet devotees even if we meet the same devotee a number of times in a day.
This is because without Nityananda Gauranga's Holy Names and Mercy, the offensive souls of Kali Yuga cannot factually utter Hare Krishna. Thus we have to give Their Lordships Shri Shri Nityananda Gauranga and Their Holy Names due credit and recognition.
What is the way to greet while addressing another devotee when writing to him/her.
A. (By Swami Gaurangapada):
When writing we can write the full basic standard greeting of Gauranga Dharma: Nityananda! Gauranga! Hare Krishna! to anyone and everyone we write to. We shoud not be ashamed to make others hear the Holy Names when we write even if they are not devotees.
This can be followed by other greetings like Jaya Shrila Bhaktivinoda! Jaya Shrila Bhaktisiddhanta! Jaya Shrila Prabhupada! Jaya Swami Gaurangapada! (Jaya means All Glories), Jaya to all Acharyas and Vaishnavas! etc...
Apart from the above basic greetings all other wonderful forms of greetings like Haribol, Jaya Nityananda, Jaya Gauranga, Gauranga bol, Nityananda bol, Jaya Radhe, Gaurahari bol etc. can be freely used as when desired in addition and not replacement to the above basic greetings of "Nityananda! Gauranga! Hare Krishna!"
The respects and obeisances to the devotees can be offered by stating: Pranams (means respects), Dandavat Pranams (means prostrated obeisances), Please accept my humble obeisances, Dandavats (means prostrations) etc.
For addressing male-bodied devotees with spiritual names, their spiritual names should end with prabhu. Like the devotee who has the spiritual initiated name Nityananda dasa should be addressed by everyone as Nityananda dasa prabhu. Please do not remove the word "dasa" which means that every soul is a servant of the Lord. If you remove the word "dasa" and just state "prabhu", it will become Nityananda prabhu for that devotee which is totally wrong and is Mayavada philosophy since we are calling him the same name as Lord Nityananda Prabhu, the origin of all Vishnu Tattvas. Also the "p" in the word prabhu should be small not caps because caps is used only for the Lord Nityananda Prabhu.
For the male-bodied devotees who have not yet got a spiritual name, like for example John Watts, they can be addressed as just John. The title "bhakta" is even higher than "dasa" and is used for advanced devotees not for new devotees.
The address "Nityananda dasa prabhu" is perfect and most appropriate because the devotee is a "dasa" or servant of the Lord and thus he becomes our "prabhu" or master whom we aspire to serve always. According to the Nityananda Gauranga philosophy, the highest perfection is spiritual life is to become the servant of the servant of the Lord's devotees since that is even a more glorious position then becoming His direct servant.
Female-bodied devotees should be addressed by adding the name "mataji" at the end of their spiritual name since according to the Vedas all women except our wife have to be seen as our mothers. So if the spiritual name of a female-bodied devotee is Nityananda dasi (dasi means maid servant of the Lord) then she should be addressed by everyone as Nityananda dasi mataji which means that since she is the maid-servant of the Lord, she becomes our mother (mataji). Again the word "dasi" should not be left out.
If a female-bodied devotee does not have a spiritual name, she can be just addressed by her normal first name or mataji can to be added after her first name. Regarding the names "devi dasi" and "dasi" which are added in the spiritual names, it is as follows: If the spiritual name is of Shrimati Radharani or of any of the spiritual female consorts of the Supreme Lords Gauranga-Krishna and Nityananda-Balarama or of any great female Vaishnavi devotee then "devi dasi" should be added after the name. Like instead of "Radha dasi" it will be "Radha devi dasi". The word "devi" or goddess applies to Radha.
But if the initiated name of the female-bodied devotee is from the Lords' Name that it should only have the suffix "dasi" to it and not "devi dasi". Like for example it should be Nityananda dasi, it cannot be Nityananda devi dasi. I hope this is clear.
Sometimes it is seen that senior devotees who have been practicing for many years fail to address other devotees with the titles of "prabhu" or "mataji" but this is not proper and should not be imitated or accepted as the standard. Infact they should be humbly requested to correct that habit. even Lord Gauranga Mahaprabhu used to address his devotees as prabhus.
For those devotees who have received the title "Maharaja", there is no need to use the title "prabhu" for them. But "dasa" can be used before Maharaja. Like for example Nimai dasa Maharaja rather than Nimai Maharaja which is a name for Lord Gauranga Himself.
For Gurus or Sannyasis, one should offer one's respects (Pranams or Obeisances) everytime daily one sees them or leaves their presence.
The Acharyas should be always be addressed very respectfully with the minimum title of "Shrila" before their name. Other titles like His Divine Grace, Om Vishnupada Paramhansa etc. should be used whenever possible. One should never utter the holy names of our Gurus and Acharyas without proper honorific titles.
For devotees the above titles of "prabhu" and "mataji" are the minimum titles required for proper address. Once can additionally use other honorific titles as appropriate.
Let us see only the good qualities in devotees and the fact that they have faith in Their Lordships Shri Shri Nityananda Gauranga and thus they are chanting Their Holy Names. Just this one spiritual quality overrides all the apparent shortcomings which the practicing devotee may be seen to have. Thus they should be respected by us because the devotees are so rare in this world.
Every day daily once in the morning, we should bow down to all the devotees in the creation in the past, present and future and chant the following Mantra to beg their mercy and forgiveness for any offenses knowingly or unknowingly committed at their lotus feet:
vancha-kalpatarubhyas ca krpa-sindhubhya eva ca patitanam pavanebhyo vaisnavebhyo namo namah
"I offer my respectful obeisances unto all the Vaishnava devotees of Lord Gauranga-Krishna who can fulfill the desires of everyone, just like desire trees, and who are unlimited oceans of compassion and mercy for the fallen souls always purifying them."