Question:I have very basic question related to etiquette which we follow in ISKCON. Why do we keep deities or Srila Prabhupada on our left while offering ashtang obeisance?
Answer by Romapada Swami: (compliments of Gaura Kesava Prabhu): Hari Bhakti Vilasa says: “One should not chant japa, do homa, or offer obeisance too close in front of the deity (within the deity room garbha grha), at His back or on His left side.” HBV 8.391
Remember that the Lord’s LEFT side is the RIGHT side as we face Him. So we offer obeisance from the left as we face Him or His right as He faces us.
Circumambulation of the deity or Srila Prabhupada’s vyasasana applies a slightly different principle, having to do with the word ‘pradaksina’. When we circumambulate we go clockwise (pradaksina in Sanskrit, which literally means “[from the east] towards the South/right”). One who is facing east then turning towards the South would be turning right or clockwise. Going clockwise around something or someone would make our right side the side inside closest to them. Normally in Indian culture and sastras one keeps the right side of one’s body (because the left side is considered as not auspicious or clean) towards any respected person.
Directions have different meanings in Indian culture and sastras. Since the sun rises in the east, the eastern direction is generally considered as most auspicious.