Vaishnava Etiquette Questions:
Question regarding “dandavat pranams”
If one is granted a physical audience with the spiritual master, what is the proper way of greeting him, and what are "dandavat" pranams? Is that when you stretch your whole body out like a stick before him?
Answer (Dhira Nitai das - BTS list):
Very technicaly: if it is your spiritual master and you have received his pranam-mantra from him (like that of Srila Prabhupada nama om visnupadaya..., but with the name of your spiritual master) and if the time, place and circumstances are OK, then you do whole dandavat to the ground with all limbs of your body chanting his pranama.
If you have been accepted by a spiritual master but he didn't give you his pranama-mantra yet, then you can offer him your obeisances with the vaishnava-pranama “vanca kalpa...” as you would offer it to any other swami, spiritual master or high vaishnava. One should technicaly offer his pranama every time one sees his spiritual master, enters or leaves his room etc. The other swamis are to be greeted first and last time you see them on that day. That is how I understood it.
Brahma Muhurta das - BTS list
My understanding is quite similar to Dhira Nitai's. I also heard on a tape the other day by Bhakti Vidya Purna Swami. That one should offer obeisances upon seeing the spiritual master and then again when he sees you in case it is sometime later.
Although it is a point of some controversey men generally offer full dandavats or the 'half' dandavat, where as women offer then later, that is a whole story in and off itself, but my understanding is it is basically about the sanctity of the chest of the woman and not touching it to the ground. If one is capable one should offer full dandavats, for men, to the spiritual master as much as possible, but sometimes it is not so practical so the other is there and is quite acceptable, but the first definitely helps you cultivate the mood of the dandavat better.
Kaisori Dasi: I can only add what I heard in a seminar of Vaisnava Etiquette I took, that offering obeisances, or dandavats, in the case of the Prabhujis, mean full surrender to the spiritual master, in body and mind. So it is not an external thing, but a way to remind ourselves that we are servants.
Pariksit Dasa - BTS list