Lectures Transcribed

Deity Worship at Home

03-07-2018 Deity Installation, ISKCON Murmansk, Russia

Bhakti Caitanya Swami: Let us say a few words about deity worship. We all know that in this kali yuga, the process is, the main process is to chant the holy names. Harer nama hare nama harer nama eva kevalam kalau nastyeva nastyeva nastyeva gatir anyatha. This is a famous verse which appears a few times in Caitanya Caritamrta. First time is when Lord Caitanya is given initiation by Isvara Puri and Lord Caitanya asks him “Now I am initiated what should I do?” And Isvara Puri speaks this verse. This is what you should do, you should chant the holy names. Because, particularly in this kali yuga there is just no alternative. Even if you do other of the devotional processes, they will not work so well. Everything in kali yuga has to be based on the chanting of the holy names. So Lord Caitanya started chanting. I think we mentioned about that yesterday wasn’t it? Or not?

Translator: A little bit

Bhakti Caitanya Swami: Still though, it is a fact the other devotional processes, they are important. And they help when they are supported by the chanting of the holy names. Therefore, we find that so many of the great devotees from Lord Caitanya’s time till now, they also worshipped deities. Lord Caitanya Himself worshipped a Govardhan Sila, at least for some time. Then His most famous follower, Rupa Goswami, also worshipped deities. He worshipped Radha Govinda. Sanatan Goswami worshipped Madan Mohan and all the six goswamis, they worshipped certain deities. What was the name of the deities worshipped by Jiva Goswami?

Devotees: Radha Damodar

And by Gopal Bhatta Goswami?

Devotee: Radha Gokulananda

Bhakti Caitanya Swami: Good try but not quite. Anyway, Gopal Bhatta Goswami is Radha Raman. And someone else then can tell us who worshipped Radha Gokulananda?

Devotee: Visvanath Cakravarti Thakur

Bhakti Caitanya Swami: So these are all very famous devotees, and leading devotees in our disciplic succession. And then Bhaktivinod Thakur also worshipped deities. Which deities did he worship?

Devotee: Radha Madhava

Bhakti Caitanya Swami: Ok. And Srila Prabhupada also worshipped deities. When Srila Prabhupada was first traveling in the western world he carried a small set of Radha Krsna deities with him. I think they are, as I understand, They are on the altar in our temple in New York. So like this the worship of deities is definitely going on even though the chanting of the holy names is definitely the main activity. So also in Srila Prabhupada’s ISKCON the worship of deities is going on. And therefore we have here, being looked after with great love and care, we have Sri Sri Dayal Nitai Gaurasundar and Prahlad Nrsimhadev. What would ISKCON Murmansk be if there were no deities? It just wouldn’t be the same. So yes, you go all over the world and you see that Srila Prabhupada wanted that devotees worship deities.

Of course the main deities should be the deities in the local temple. And here because Dayal Nitai Gaurasundar and Prahlad Nrsimhadev are very merciful. Therefore, and they’ve inspired Their dear servant, Paramananda Prabhu, to be very merciful. Therefore devotees, who only have first initiation are allowed to worship the deities. Shooo! What mercy! It is a bit inconceivable. And even it is not quite the right thing really. But anyway, Paramananda Prabhu is an ocean of mercy. We want that, that all of you, who have first initiation, you must help with the worship of the deities here in the temple. Yes.

In South Africa we have many devotees who have second initiation. And when devotees come forward and say I want second initiation, I am thinking of telling them that ok it is possible, but you must vow to do that, you must regularly worship the deities in the temple and if you don’t, I’m thinking of making them sign a contract, legal contract. They must pay a fine, one thousand ruble fine, seriously, it is not a joke. So here we also want the devotees to help with the worship. Good idea yes?
Devotees: Yes!

Of course it’s possible, if it’s difficult for you to get to the temple every time, its possible for you to have deities at home. But if you’re going to have deities at home you have to look after Them properly. You don’t treat them like they are just objects. They are people and you have those deities at home, they are now members of your family, they are very special members of your family. You must treat them like that. Of course deities, they are the Lord and the Lord can do anything, but in the form of the deity, at least externally, He appears to be dependant. It seems They can’t dress themselves, They can’t bath themselves, They cannot feed Themselves. All these things. At least it seems like that. Of course They can if They want but the fact that They are apparently in this limited restricted condition, it means they are giving us the opportunity to serve Them. When we have to bath the deities, dress the deities, feed the deities, all these different things. We should understand this is mercy for us to have opportunities for us to serve very personally. We shouldn’t see that Oh! it is inconvenient! I should do it everyday! Ohhh!!! and I have so much to do! All sorts of important things! I have to work! Etc etc. And now I have to worship deities! Ohhh! Therefore often times when devotees want to worship deities at home, they ask, not what is the maximum best standard of worship, they ask what is the most simple. What would be the worst standard?, but even though it’s bad the Deities will not walk off. I want that standard! as low as you can go. Do you understand? It happens sometimes, more than sometimes, it happens regularly! Rather we should think how can I make the service to the deities very nice and better.

Prabhupada explains about a really serious pujari, when they’re walking in the streets in the city and there are shops selling different things. Selling for example flowers, then the devotee thinks “Ah what nice flowers! it’ll be so nice to offer these flowers and these flowers and make garlands from some other flowers for our deities”. Not as we sometimes hear, not that when I offer arati is it alright if I only offer one flower? Because two flowers cost twice as much money! Then they are walking along the fruit shop and the vegetable shop and they see the nice fruit and veggies there, and they think “Oh, I would like to cook some special preparation and offer it to the deities”. You know thew story of Madhavendra Puri and Ksirachora Gopinath? He had this, well it’s a long story, but he found this lost deity of Gopal. Then he had to go away for sometime but when he was away he visited one temple of Gopinath and there he was told that this Gopinath is offered all sorts of nice food preparations. Particularly they offer Him one very special preparation, it is a special type of kheer, means basically a condensed very rich boiled down condensed milk product. It is very sweet. This was famous. He thought I’d like to offer that to Gopal, I must try the prasadam here and see and then understand how to make it for Gopal. But then he thought “wait a minute, why am I thinking like this?” “I’m just thinking of eating something tasty, it’s not good”. Like we said it’s a bit of a long story but when they offered the kheer that night in the temple, when they took…it comes in a number of pots, they offer some number of pots to the deity, when they took the pots away from the altar, one pot was missing. The pujari stole it!, no he didn’t actually. They were confused, what happened to the other pot? That night the pujari had a dream and the deity appeared in the dream and spoke to him, and said “I stole that pot of kheer, it is behind Me on the altar. Why did I do that? I did it because I want this one devotee, Madhavendra Puri, to taste the kheer. Please go out, his in the market place somewhere, go out and call out for him, get him to come back and give him the kheer.” This is sort of in the middle of the night now, anyway the pujari went out into the market place and he was calling out “Madhavendra Puri, where are you! The deity Gopinath has stolen something for you!” and Madhavendra Puri, he was astonished, so he went back with the pujari and the pujari gave him “Here, take the pot of kheer.” And Madhavendra Puri thought “Well, if the deity did it for me, I have to eat it.” So he did and he understood how to make it. And you know, Gopal was in Vrindavan, but now He is in a place called Nathadwar. It’s sort of western india. Everyday they make this kheer for Him. Have you been there? No? Why not? You should go there! You should go there and try it. Straight after mangal arati, about five in the morning you can get all this kheer. It really gives you energy for chanting your rounds(laughter). Anyway, yes, we were saying that Prabhupada was saying, how the serious pujari when he or she is moving around in places like the market place then when they see all types of things available, they think “Ah! It would be so nice to offer this to our deity”. Of course we should think like that about the deities here in the temple.

You know there is one tradition in India. Fasten your seatbelts! When you come to visit the temple, you must bring, every time, you must bring something for the deity. Yes. Should at least bring one fruit, bring a few flowers, it’s not good to come empty handed. Anyway you can think about that. Definitely, it’s a nice thing to do. Often, if you go to our temple, say for example in Vrindavan, I think many of you have been there. You see, the people are coming in all day, generally, so many they bring garlands, it’s for this reason, this is the practice, you should bring something nice.

We’re talking now about worshipping deities, on the altar here, but perhaps more at home. Prabhupada in the second canto, theres one verse, which says that the eyes, those eyes that do not look at the deity of the Lord they are like the eyes on the tails of a peacock. Those legs which do not walk to the temple, they are like, what? Tree trunks I think. You can find that verse(SB 2.3.22), it’s a kind of well known verse. In the purport there, Srila Prabhupada gives an extensive purport, talking particularly about deity worship at home. Prabhupada says an interesting thing “Any member of the family who is more than twelve years old should be initiated and should assist with deity worship at home”. There should be a full program of deity worship at home. You can find that and read it, it’s very interesting. If you have deities at home, you must know, you have now got extra family members. And you must look after Them like you look after your other family members. It means, you know, if you go away, like to a festival or some event elsewhere, you should as you take your children with you, usually, you should take the deities, and look after Them the same way you do at home, as much as possible. The idea of putting the deities to sleep for one week is not the best idea. It’s like if you go away somewhere and you leave the children at home, small children, and you tell them “OK, sleep for one week” “Don’t worry, we will feed you when we come back after one week”. Is it a good idea? Not really a good idea. So yes, it’s very important to look after deities properly, because they say if you look after Krishna He’ll look after you. You give mercy you’ll get mercy.

When you have deities at home, it’s a great opportunity, not just to enjoy looking at Them, although that’s there, but a great opportunity to render service. And also when you have deities in the temple. So our devotees whose deities we’ve done the abhisheik for today, you please remember that. All of you who are initiated, you all remember, you should serve the deities here in the temple.

Question: If I travel by train for two days then how do I maintain the worship of my deities in those circumstances like offering food etc?

Bhakti Caitanya Swami: Sometimes it’s possible to perform puja in the mind, manasa-puja. It’s best to perform physically but if it is too unusual for the people on the train then maybe you should perform the worship within the mind. Or you can leave the deities here with the devotees if they can take care of Them.

Question: You mentioned that when a devotee comes to the temple, as per the tradition, one should bring something to offer the Lord. What if the devotee doesn’t bring anything but wants to offer some practical service, any sort of service. Can he render some service instead of offering some item? To offer himself as service?

Bhakti Caitanya Swami: Both options are good but the point is we must think how to serve the deities. If it’s possible we should buy one bottle of milk foe example. It’s nice to bring flowers, one apple and so on. But if you don’t have the opportunity then it’s nice to offer some service.

Addition to the question: To bring foodstuffs for the general use in the temple or water, to offer service around the temple, like repairing something?

Bhakti Caitanya Swami: Yes, if you mean like that , it’s very nice.

We should really dream and we should really think, how can we make things nicer for Sri Sri Dayal Nitai Gaurasundar. And if we do dream and think like that then They will think how to help us.

Sri Sri Nitai Mayapurcandra ki jai!

Sri Sri Radha Shyamsundar ki jai!

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