Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Home Deity Worship

Deity worship, even in the simplest form, puts Krishna in the center of one’s home and existence; all activities revolve around the Lord by working for Him, cooking for Him, singing for Him, etc. In this way there is a natural, continuous thought which keeps devotees in constant transcendental connection via His devotional service. It is what may be called "hands on" yoga.

"If one worships the Deity in the temple, one’s mind will naturally be absorbed in thought of the Lord and His form. There is no distinction between the form of the Lord and the Lord Himself. Therefore bhakti-yoga is the most easy system of yoga. Yogis try to concentrate their minds upon the form of the Supersoul, Vishnu, within the heart, but this same objective is easily achieved when one’s mind is absorbed in the Deity worshiped in the temple. In every temple there is a transcendental form of the Lord, and one may easily think of this form. By seeing the Lord during ärati, by offering bhoga and by constantly thinking of the form of the Deity, one becomes a first-class yogi." SB 6.2.41 purport

"The worshipable Deity in the temple of Vishnu is identical with Lord Vishnu by the inconceivable potency of the Lord. Therefore, a neophyte’s concentration or meditation upon the limbs of Vishnu in the temple, as contemplated in the revealed scriptures, is an easy opportunity for meditation for persons who are unable to sit down tightly at one place.--SB 2.9.19 purport

"Regarding worship of the form of the Lord, or Deity, Rüpa Gosvämi has written the following verse: 'My dear friend, if you still have any desire to enjoy the company of your friends within this material world, then don't look upon the form of Krishna, who is standing on the bank of Kesi-ghäta... He is known as Govinda, and His eyes are very enchanting. He is playing upon His flute, and on His head there is a peacock feather. And His whole body is illuminated by the moonlight in the sky.'

"The purport of this verse is that if someone becomes attached to the sri-mürti, or Deity of Krishna, by worshiping at home, then he will forget his relationships of so-called friendship, love and society. Thus it is the duty of every householder to install Deities of the Lord at home and to begin the process of worshiping along with all of his family members. This will save everyone from such unwanted activities as going to clubs, cinemas and dancing parties, and smoking, drinking, etc. All such nonsense will be forgotten if one stresses the worship of the Deities at home." -NOD13

"In one's home or in a temple, the Deity is considered the proprietor of everything, and everyone is considered the Deity's eternal servant." -SB 4.22.51p

"Rädhä-Mädhava is sitting on the throne. He is the enjoyer, and we are trying to serve Him so that He may very nicely enjoy... Bhoktäram yajna-tapasäm sarva-loka-mahesvaram [Bg. 5.29]. And if we understand this point, that Krishna is the center, He is the enjoyer, and we are meant for serving Him for His enjoyment, that is Krishna family." -lecture, CC Adi lila 1.16, Mayapur, 4/9/75

"Engagement in such worship of the Deity, under the direction of a bona fide spiritual master, will greatly help the householders to purify their very existence and make rapid progress in spiritual knowledge. Simple theoretical book knowledge is not sufficient for a neophyte devotee. Book knowledge is theoretical, whereas the arcana process is practical. Spiritual knowledge must be developed by a combination of theoretical and practical knowledge, and that is the guaranteed way for attainment of spiritual perfection...

"Only attention engaged in the service of the Lord, especially in dressing and decorating the temple, accompanied by musical kirtana and spiritual instructions from scriptures, can save the common man from the hellish cinema attractions and rubbish sex-songs broadcast everywhere by radios." --SB2.3.22p

“In Bhagavad gita, the Lord asks everyone to give up all other occupational duties and absolutely engage in arcana activity....There is no auspicious activity except arcana.” --SB 3.9.17 purport

"The best process for making the home pleasant is Krishna consciousness. If one is in full Krishna consciousness, he can make his home very happy, because this process of Krishna consciousness is very easy. One need only chant Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare/ Hare Räma, Hare Räma, Räma Räma, Hare Hare, accept the remnants of foodstuffs offered to Krishna, have some discussion on books like Bhagavad-gitä and Srimad-Bhägavatam, and engage oneself in Deity worship. These four things will make one happy. One should train the members of his family in this way. The family members can sit down morning and evening and chant together Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare/ Hare Räma, Hare Räma, Räma Räma, Hare Hare. If one can mold his family life in this way to develop Krishna consciousness, following these four principles, then there is no need to change from family life to renounced life." --Bg 13.8-12p

"Lord Caitanya Mahäprabhu requested them all to return home and begin chanting the holy name congregationally. He also requested them to worship Krishna, chant His holy name and discuss His holy pastimes." -Madhya 3.190
"It is not that everyone has to take sannyäsa like Sri Caitanya Mahäprabhu. Everyone can execute the cult of Krishna consciousness at home, as ordered by the Lord. Everyone can congregationally chant the holy name of Krishna, the Hare Krishna mahä-mantra. One can also discuss the subject matter of the Bhagavad-gitä and Srimad-Bhägavatam and install Deities of Rädhä-Krishna or Gaura-Nitäi or both and worship them very carefully in one’s own home. It is not that we have to open different centers all over the world. Whoever cares for the Krishna consciousness movement can install Deities at home and, under superior guidance, worship the Deity regularly, chanting the mahä-mantra and discussing the Bhagavad-gitä and Srimad-Bhägavatam. We are actually teaching in our classes how to go about this. One who feels that he is not yet ready to live in a temple or undergo strict regulative principles in the temple—especially householders who live with a wife and children—can start a center at home by installing the Deity, worshiping the Lord morning and evening, chanting Hare Krishna and discussing the Bhagavad-gitä and Srimad-Bhägavatam. Anyone can do this at home without difficulty, and Sri Caitanya Mahäprabhu requested all the devotees present there to do so." -Madhya 3.190p

The home altar is Krishna's personal residence. It should be always clean and nicely maintained, therefore, and kept in a prominent place for worship. Some homes are built to include a small altar room, otherwise a shelf or book case will do in case a handcrafted or purchased altar is unavailable.

Gradually one may include other items in their worship such as water cups for each picture or deity, candles and candle holders, a special plate reserved strictly for the Lord's food offerings, small asanas for the Lord and His associates to sit, a bell, incense and an incense holder, a curtain for privacy when the Lord eats or rests, and fresh garlands or scented flowers when they are available.

The main difference between temple and home worship is that home worship may not be as strict as what is required in the temple program. This is natural, although a sincere devotee will always think of ways he can make the Lord's stay in his home more comfortable and favorable for the Lord's service. Here's an inspiring article in this regard. The Lord should always be very gently and carefully looked after, and the rules and regulations are for good reasons, not to be overlooked as far as possible.  They help us to see the deity as none other than the Supreme Personality of Godhead Himself! That is why it's important to inquire and receive guidance from experienced devotees in the matter of worship, instead of relying on our own mental concoction. That is, the more we avoid offenses, the more we can see the Lord and His appearance in unlimited forms all around us. Then gradually we'll awaken our loving relationship with Him, by which avoiding the offenses will not be done out of fear, but out of great affection.

The more one becomes involved in deity worship, natural feelings for the deity will awaken. "Is Krishna eating sufficiently?", "Is He feeling hot?", "Cold?","Is He being taken care of nicely?"and so on.

Devotee: So, if we’re performing the deity worship and we get in anxiety how to make it nice...”
Srila Prabhupada: Yes, that is Krsna anxiety. If you become anxious how to worship the deity, how to dress Krsna nicely, how to do, if you remain, that will develop your anxiety for Krsna. This deity worship is essential.- morning walk, 4/26/76, Melbourne

This anxiety will cause one to think ahead, too. For example, after taking the last cup of mung beans out of the can in the deity kitchen, you'll want to refill it for the next person, so that they are not inconvenienced in their cooking of an offering, which in turn means not keeping the Lord waiting.

 “My dear Lord, You are not a statue; You are directly the son of Mahārāja Nanda." -CC Madhya 5.19

Actually, deity worship should be seen not as direct worship of the Lord, but as assisting the spiritual master as a servant of the servants of Srimati Radharani in the Lord’s service. She is the Supreme Guru in the matters of how to serve Krsna pleasingly. A mood of cooperating with and serving devotees develops,  so that Krishna's service goes on unimpeded.

"Above all, the offering should be made with an attitude of love. Krishna has no need of food, since He already possesses everything that be, yet He will accept the offering of one who desires to please Him in that way. The important element, in preparation, in serving and in offering, is to act with love for Krishna." -Bg 9.26 purport

In the beginning, we may follow the rules and regulations of worship to get relief from our suffering or some material benefit, but eventually we'll want to do our designated activities simply to please Krishna. In other words the question arises, "How much love do I have when I act? Am I doing it because I want God to bless my son, for example, so that he does well on his math exam today?" or "Am I listening to Srimad Bhagavatam so I can figure out how I can be happy? Or and I doing these things because I know doing so gives the Lord happiness?" It's when all that is left in the heart as the reason for being love.

This is how deity worship helps us. Especially if one is fortunate to have the time to perform it more in depth, the rituals on the altar help us to pay attention and become aware if we are spacing out. The same mouthwash or flower petals, for example, may be offered to the Lord each day, but some days we do it correctly and other days we make mistakes, sometimes more than a few, because the mind is disturbed and thoughts far away. Becoming aware of this helps bring the mind back to the present with Krishna. Instead of thinking about being somewhere else or waiting to do something else as soon as possible, there is surrender to the moment out of affection for the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Artik is offered fully conscious and happily, not expecting anything in return or eager to get on to other things. Deity worship wonderfully forces the mind to be fully in the present, so not to make mistakes. This overflows to all services, bringing the restless mind under control by focusing on how to do any service, at any moment, nicely for Krishna's pleasure rather than thoughtlessly and absentmindedly or mechanically carrying a service out, trying to get it over with or not doing it at all..

And this Krishna consciousness extends to everything and everyone. Instead of throwing that utensil that needs washing into the kitchen sink, it will get set down gently, remembering its connection to Krishna. Also, after offering the incense to Krishna during artik, each guest will next be worshiped for there is a deity of the Lord within every heart. And because one learns to be careful not to swear, etc. in front of the deity, that same courtesy will be extended in dealing with everyone else.

"(One) can worship Gaura-Nitai in his home. The most important element for their worship is the chanting of the Hare Krishna Mantra. They can have at least one arati and whatever foodstuffs are prepared can be offered. " -letter 2/15/75, Mexico City

"Gaura Nitai can be established anywhere, and it is simple to worship Them, simply chant before Their Lordships. He doesn't mind that you have not decorated very nicely, but if you chant and dance He is very pleased." - letter 4/21/76, Melbourne

"So far your deity-worship of Lord Jagannatha, don't bother with it for the time being, that is my opinion. Householders can have small altars, and Guru-Gauranga and Jagannatha may be worshiped, but you should not spend a lot of time in this way to try to make the worship "first-class" as you say. You cannot make it first-class. That requires much time and money and men, so better to leave the worshiping of deities very nicely to the temples, and you may go there and worship. A small Guru-Gauranga altar, offer incense and flowers in morning, offer all home-prepared foodstuffs there—that's enough for the time being. Better to spend time chanting and following the other regulative principles and preaching and selling books." - letter 2/22/72, Calcutta

"As for grhastha worshiping Gaura Nitai deities that is only for those who live far away from the temple and cannot attend. Otherwise such worship is redundant: there is already deity worship going on in the temple and they should attend the aratriks, not install their own deities. The householding community in Los Angeles or any of our temples is not meant to be independent from the temple program." -letter 5/1/74, Bombay

"Worship of Radha-Krishna Deities is the ultimate pinnacle of Deity worship, and it must be done with the utmost caution and attention to every detail of giving opulent service. I am not recommending more temples to install Radha-Krishna Deities until I have become more convinced that they can properly manage. At least five to ten persons must be engaged full time to worship Radha-Krishna properly, and for any small temple especially that is a detrimental factor to maintaining the highest standard in other temple activities besides, because there are not enough men." - letter7/3/72, NY

"In this age, in this age, Kali-yuga, there is incarnation of God. What is that, incarnation of God? Now He's tvisa-akrsnam, His bodily complexion is not black. Krishna is blackish, but He is Krishna, that Lord Caitanya...And what is His business? Now, Krishna-varnam. He's always chanting Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Räma... You see the picture. He's associated with four others. And in this picture also you see, associated. So you put this picture or form before you and just go on chanting and dancing. This is worship. Just go on chanting and dancing. This is worship. That we are doing every day. No more, no more going to anywhere. You just keep Lord Caitanya before you and go on chanting and dancing. Your all worship finished. It is very simple. Very simple. We are simply just demonstrating everything. You can do it. You can have a picture like this and you can chant with the tune. If you like, you can play the record and chant. That is very nice... So if you make this process, then you become fully in Krishna consciousness wherever you live and whatever you are, and your life is perfect. And there is nothing objectionable. This picture, anyone can have.
"This picture or small picture, whatever you can. Like this way, Caitanya Mahäprabhu's picture, and offer Him little fruits and little flower and little incense, and chant and dance. Never mind what you are, what is your condition. Everything will come later on. Yena tena prakarena manah krsne nivesayet. Somehow or other you engage your mind in this process. Then everything will come automatically. You'll know. You'll know what to do. And there is spiritual master guidance. This is the beginning of Krishna consciousness." SB 7.7.219-31 lecture, 3/15/67, San Francisco

Ideally, one's husband should be prepared to take the most responsibility for any worship that goes on, since often a wife is contaminated by her monthly period or the care of small children, babies in diapers, from housekeeping, etc. He should be in charge, therefore, leading the family worship, setting the right example for the children, and inviting guests to honor the prasadam, as in the perfect example set by Srila Prabhupada's father.

"That is found in, still in Hindu family: the man is worshiping the Deity and the woman is helping about the paraphernalia Deity worship, helping the husband so that he can immediately come into the Deity room and begin worshiping comfortably."- philosophy discussions, Srila Prabhupada on Auguste Comte

"If one is unable to maintain a temple at home, he should go to another’s temple where all the above performances are regularly executed. Visiting the temple of a devotee and looking at the profusely decorated forms of the Lord well dressed in a well-decorated, sanctified temple naturally infuse the mundane mind with spiritual inspiration." SB 2.3.23P

"Any householder devotee circumstantially unable to worship the Deity must at least see the Deity worship, and in this way he may achieve success also. The special purpose of Deity worship is to keep oneself always pure and clean. Grhastha devotees should be actual examples of cleanliness." --SB 7.5.23-24p

Deity worship and others processes of devotional service are closely connected. When the curtain opens for the Lord's darshan, for example, His devotees naturally begin to sing His glories, offer prayers and so on. The atmosphere created brings the home to a higher level.  "'My dear Närada, actually I do not reside in My abode, Vaikuntha, nor do I reside within the hearts of the yogis, but I reside in that place where My pure devotees chant My holy name and discuss My form, pastimes and qualities.' Because of the presence of the Lord in the form of the transcendental vibration, the Vaikuntha atmosphere is evoked. This atmosphere is without fear and anxiety. One living entity does not fear another. By hearing the holy names and glories of the Lord, a person executes pious activities...(SB 1.2.17). Thus his material hankerings immediately stop." - SB 4.30.35p

"Whenever pure topics of the transcendental world are discussed, the members of the audience forget all kinds of material hankerings, at least for the time being. Not only that, but they are no longer envious of one another, nor do they suffer from anxiety or fear." -SB 4.30.35

“Even from a material point of view, everyone should take to chanting the Hare Krishna mantra to be saved from all kinds of danger. This world is full of danger (padam padam yad vipadäm). Therefore we should be encouraged to chant the Hare Krishna mahä-mantra so that in our family, society, neighborhood and nation, everything will be smooth and free from danger. SB 10.6.3

"It is understood that Emperor Sväyambhuva Manu enjoyed his household life by following these principles. It is stated here that early in the morning there were musicians who used to sing with musical instruments about the glories of the Lord, and the Emperor, with his family, personally used to hear about the pastimes of the Supreme Person. This custom is still prevalent in India in some of the royal families and temples. Professional musicians sing with sahnäis, and the sleeping members of the house gradually get up from their beds in a pleasing atmosphere. During bedtime also the singers sing songs in relationship with the pastimes of the Lord, with sahnäi accompaniment, and the householders gradually fall asleep remembering the glories of the Lord. In every house, in addition to the singing program, there is an arrangement for Bhägavatam lectures in the evening; family members sit down, hold Hare Krishna kirtana, hear narrations from Srimad-Bhägavatam and Bhagavad-gitä and enjoy music before going to bed. The atmosphere created by this sankirtana movement lives in their hearts, and while sleeping they also dream of the singing and glorification of the Lord. In such a way, perfection of Krsna consciousness can be attained. This practice is very old, as learned from this verse of Srimad-Bhägavatam; millions of years ago, Sväyambhuva Manu used to avail himself of this opportunity to live householder life in the peace and prosperity of a Krsna consciousness atmosphere..." SB 3.22.33p

"Preparing nice, simple vegetable dishes, offering them before the picture or Deity of Lord Krishna and bowing down and praying for Him to accept such a humble offering enables one to advance steadily in life, to purify the body, and to create fine brain tissues which will lead to clear thinking." -Bg 9.26 purport

“The neophyte devotees’ ringing the bell even once during worship of the Deity of the Supreme Lord is a million times more valuable, spiritually and otherwise, than the charitable furtive workers’ building many hospitals, feeding thousands of the poor, or building homes, or even the empirical philosopher’s Vedic studies, meditation, austerities, and penances" --Srila Bhaktisiddanta

“From the body of any person who claps and dances before the Deity, showing manifestations of ecstasy, all the birds of sinful activities fly away upward.” Just as by clapping the hands one can cause many birds to fly away, similarly the birds of all sinful activities which are sitting on the body can be made to fly away simply by dancing and clapping before the Deity of Krishna.” NOD 9

"Advanced devotees can gain direct inspiration from the temple deity. Thus a devotee always takes shelter of a recognized temple in order to advance in transcendental knowledge." See SB 3.4.30

QUESTION: I have seen on your website that you have installed and worship Deities of Lord Narasimha in your ashram. When Gaudiya Vaisnavas are devotees of Sri Sri Radha-Krsna why do you worship Lord Narasimha?

ANSWER: The goal of a Gaudiya Vaisnava is to develop pure love for Sri Sri Radha-Krsna and all aspects of our practices lead to that end and to that end alone. Therefore, we worship Lord Narasimha who has the capacity to purify a heart filled with lust, to destroy the desire for fame and cunning behavior, to purify us from duplicitous dealings, to bestow fearlessness upon our weary souls and who's lotus feet bestow love for Sri Sri Radha-Krsna.