How a devotee can live and serve the Lord:
"The Divine Form" by Sripad Sadagopan Iyengar of the Sri Vaishnava sampradaya:
Severe Austerities in Krishna Consciousness:
Deity Dressing by Jayananda dasa of Iskcon North American Deity Worship Ministry
Benedictions of building a Temple for the Lord, etc.
Stealing from the Deity:
Japangaseva (regulated temple worship) Bhaktyangaseva (personal / private Deity worship)
Different Styles conforming to same systems of puja
Number of Upacharas (items to be offered)
More ARTICLES on all aspects of puja
Srila A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami
Excert from lecture
Bhagavad-gétä 7.1 - Upsala University
Stockholm, September 8, 1973
If you are fond of meditation, then you meditate upon Kåñëa, on the form of Kåñëa, playing flute, bluish color, having a peacock on His head. The description is there. Barhävataàsam asitämbuda-sundaräìgam.
veëuà kvaëantam aravinda-daläyatäkñaà
govindam ädi-puruñaà tam ahaà bhajämi
Veëuà kvaëantam. Kåñëa is, you’ll see, Kåñëa’s picture, always a flute in His hand. Always joyful. Because He’s the Supreme Lord, there is nothing moroseness. Always joyful. That is the symptom of spiritual life. You’ll see Kåñëa always smiling, always playing on His flute. As you see in this material world also, somebody, he has got a flute and he’s playing, enjoying. So this is imitation. That enjoyment will not last. But Kåñëa’s flute-playing is eternal. He’s enjoying eternally. Veëuà kvaëantam aravinda-daläyatäkñam [Bs. 5.30]. And His eyes are just like lotus petals. Very beautiful. Veëuà kvaëantam aravinda-daläyatäkñam, barhävataàsam asitämbuda-su... Barhävataàsam, a peacock feather, He’s very fond of a peacock feather. So that is on His head. Barhävataàsam asitämbuda-sundaräìgam. Very beautiful body like new, blackish cloud. But very beautiful. Blackish cloud. Asitämbuda-sundaräìgam. Kandarpa-koöi-kamanéya. But, although he’s blackish, He is more beautiful than millions and trillions of Cupids. Kandarpa... Therefore, He’s all-beautiful.
veëuà kvaëantam aravinda-daläyatäkñaà
govindam ädi-puruñaà tam ahaà bhajämi
beautiful. Viçeña-çobhaà govindam ädi-puruñaà
tam ahaà bhajämi.
So this Deity, description of Kåñëa, is there in the temple, in the book. So if you always simply think of this beautiful form of Kåñëa, that is called perfect meditation. If you simply think of. That is very easy. If you... We are always attracted by beautiful things. So Kåñëa is the most beautiful. So if you meditate upon Kåñëa, then your meditation becomes very easy and perfect. Because Kåñëa has said that yoginäm api sarveñäà mad-gatenäntar-ätmanä [Bg. 6.47]. “Of all the yogis, one who is thinking of Me within himself,” mad-gatenäntar-ätmanä çraddhävän, “with devotion and faith,” bhajate yo mäm, “engaged in devotional...,” sa me yukta..., “he’s the first-class yogi.” So you can become a first-class yogi at home without any expenditure, without any loss. But you come, become the greatest yogi and achieve the result. Kåñëa consciousness movement is so nice. And we are distributing this system of yoga... We don’t charge anything. We are not business man, that we give you something and charge something. Of course, when we give you book, we take, because we have to pay to the printers, to the press man. That is another thing. So far our words are concerned, our service is concerned, we don’t charge anything. That is not our movement. That is free.
So Kåñëa says mayy äsakta-manäù pärtha. In this way, you can begin your attachment for Kåñëa. Mayy äsakta-manäù pärtha yogam... This is yoga. To increase attachment for Kåñëa is the first-class yoga system. But how it can be done? Mayy äsakta-manäù pärtha yogaà yuïjan mad-äçrayaù. You have to take shelter of Kåñëa or His representative. Äçraya. Äçraya means to take shelter. You cannot practice this yoga separately. You have to take shelter of Kåñëa or His devotee. That is called mad-äçraya. Or mad-äçraya means “one who has taken shelter of Me.” One may say that “How can I take shelter of Kåñëa? Kåñëa is not here present.” He’s present everywhere. It is a question of realization. Then you can take shelter of His representative. Mad-äçraya. Asaàçayaà samagraà mäà yathä jïäsyasi tac... [Bg. 7.1]. Asaàçayam, “without any doubt,” samagram, “in complete,” yathä, “as,” jïäsyasi, “you can understand,” tac chåëu, “you hear from Me.” Kåñëa is describing Himself, how you can increase your attachment for Kåñëa.
This will be very elaborately described. We have no time to read now, but one or two verses I can speak before you. Just like Kåñëa says: raso ’ham apsu kaunteya prabhäsmi çaçi-süryayoù. Raso ’ham. Rasa means the taste, or the attractive taste. Just like when you eat sweetmeat or any, any eatables, there is some nice taste for which you eat. Or you drink water. You are thirsty; you want water. But there is a good taste in the water. Otherwise, how you quench your thirst? There is taste. Everyone knows. So Kåñëa says, raso ’ham apsu kaunteya: “Any liquid thing, the taste, which attracts you, that is I am.” Even you are a drunkard, you are fond of tasting wine, I should recommend that you simply think that “This taste of wine is Kåñëa.” That will make a yogi of you. That will make you the greatest yogi. If you simply think this, that “I am tasting wine. Oh, very nice taste. This is Kåñëa.” Is there any loss if you think like that? This is Kåñëa consciousness. Raso ’ham apsu kaunteya prabhäsmi çaçi-süryayoù: “I am the shining of the sun and the moon.” Now, every day, morning, you see the sun shining. So as soon as you see the sun shining, if you think of Kåñëa: “Oh, this sun shining is Kåñëa,” you become a yogi. You become a yogi. At night also, as soon as you see the moonshine, so immediately, if you think, “This moon shining is Kåñëa...”
So you can become Kåñëa conscious in any circumstances. There is no limitation, that “You have to become Kåñëa conscious under this condition, that condition.” The condition will be enunciated later on. First of all, try to become Kåñëa..., that you, at least, you drink water and so many times in a day, you just try to think that the taste of the water is Kåñëa. That is the beginning of your Kåñëa yoga system. And then, if you chant Hare Kåñëa mahä-mantra, Hare Kåñëa, Hare Kåñëa, Kåñëa Kåñëa, Hare Hare/ Hare Räma, Hare Räma, Räma Räma, Hare Hare, then you’ll become, gradually, the greatest yogi without becoming very learned scholar, without becoming Vedantist, without becoming religionist or... Simply by this process you try to practice, and your life will be perfect.
Thank you very much. Hare Kåñëa.
(ACBSP. Bhagavad-gétä 7.1. Upsala University Stockholm, September 8, 1973.)
yoginäm api sarveñäà
çraddhävän bhajate yo mäà
sa me yuktatamo mataù
“Of all yogés, he who always
abides in Me with great faith, worshiping Me in transcendental loving service,
is most intimately united with Me in yoga and is the highest of all.” The
first-class yogé is he who controls his senses and detaches himself
from material activities by always thinking of the form of the Lord.
(ACBSP. Srimad Bhagavatam 6:2:41. purport.)
mandiraà kärayed dåòham
mat-arcäm—My Deity form; sampratiñöhäpya—properly establishing; mandiram—a temple; kärayet—he should construct; dåòham—strong; puñpa-udyänäni—flower gardens; ramyäëi—beautiful; püjä—for regular, daily worship; yäträ—special festivals; utsava—and yearly holidays; äçritän—set aside.
The devotee should more fully establish My Deity by solidly constructing a temple, along with beautiful gardens. These gardens should be set aside to provide flowers for the regular daily worship, special Deity processions and holiday observances.
Wealthy, pious persons should be engaged in constructing temples and gardens for the pleasure of the Deity. The word dåòham indicates that the most solid means of construction should be employed.
dattvä mat-särñöitäm iyät
püjä-ädénäm—of the regular worship and special festivals; praväha-artham—in order to assure the continuance; mahä-parvasu—on auspicious occasions; atha—and; anu-aham—daily; kñetra—land; äpaëa—shops; pura—cities; grämän—and villages; dattvä—bestowing as a gift to the Deity; mat-särñöitäm—opulence equal to Mine; iyät—he achieves.
One who offers the Deity gifts of land, markets, cities and villages so that the regular daily worship and special festivals of the Deity may go on continually will achieve opulence equal to My own.
By placing tracts of land in the Deity’s name, there will be regular income for opulent Deity worship, both from rent and from agricultural production. A worshiper who makes the arrangements mentioned above will certainly achieve opulence like that of the Personality of Godhead.
tribhir mat-sämyatäm iyät
pratiñöhayä—by having installed the Deity; särva-bhaumam—sovereignty over the entire earth; sadmanä—by building a temple for the Lord; bhuvana-trayam—rulership over the three worlds; püjä-ädinä—by worship and other service; brahma-lokam—the planet of Lord Brahmä; tribhiù—by all three; mat-sämyatäm—the status of equality with Me (by having a transcendental, spiritual body similar to Mine); iyät—he attains.
By installing the Deity of the Lord one becomes king of the entire earth, by building a temple for the Lord one becomes ruler of the three worlds, by worshiping and serving the Deity one goes to the planet of Lord Brahmä, and by performing all three of these activities one achieves a transcendental form like My own.
mäm eva nairapekñyeëa
bhakti-yogaà sa labhata
evaà yaù püjayeta mäm
mäm—Me; eva—indeed; nairapekñyeëa—by being free from motivation; bhakti-yogena—by the performance of devotional service; vindati—achieves; bhakti-yogam—devotional service; saù—he; labhate—receives; evam—thus; yaù—whom; püjayeta—worships; mäm—Me.
But one who simply engages in devotional service with no consideration of fruitive results attains Me. Thus whoever worships Me according to the process I have described will ultimately attain pure devotional service unto Me.
The previous two verses were spoken by the Lord to attract those interested in fruitive results, and now the ultimate purpose of worshiping the Lord is described. The ultimate goal in life is Lord Kåñëa Himself. Love for the Lord is the highest bliss, although ordinary people cannot understand this.
våttià sa jäyate viò-bhug
yaù—who; sva-dattäm—given previously by himself; paraiù—by others; dattäm—given; hareta—takes away; sura-viprayoù—belonging to the demigods or brähmaëas; våttim—property; saù—he; jäyate—takes birth; viö-bhuk—as a stool-eating worm; varñäëäm—for years; ayuta—ten thousand; ayutam—times ten thousand.
Anyone who steals the property of the demigods or the brähmaëas, whether originally given to them by himself or someone else, must live as a worm in stool for one hundred million years.
kartuç ca särather
anumoditur eva ca
karmaëäà bhäginaù pretya
bhüyo bhüyasi tat-phalam
kartuù—of the performer; ca—and; säratheù—of the assistant; hetoù—of the instigator; anumodituù—of the person who approves; eva ca—also; karmaëäm—of the fruitive reactions; bhäginaù—of the shareholder; pretya—in the next life; bhüyaù—more grievously; bhüyasi—to the extent that the action is grievous; tat—(must suffer) of that; phalam—the result.
Not only the performer of the theft but also anyone who assists him, instigates the crime, or simply approves of it must also share the reaction in the next life. According to their degree of participation, they each must suffer a proportionate consequence.
Stealing paraphernalia meant for worshiping the Supreme Lord or His authorized representatives should be avoided at all costs.
yuktasya bhaktäàç ca niyuïjato ’pi
vande guroù çré-caraëäravindam **
Çré-vigraha is the
arcä, or suitable worshipable form of the Lord, and the disciple should
be engaged in worshiping the Deity regularly by çåìgära,
by proper decoration and dressing, as also by mandira-märjana, the
matter of cleansing the temple. The spiritual master teaches the neophyte
devotee all these kindly and personally to help him gradually in the realization
of the transcendental name, quality, form, etc., of the Lord.
Only attention engaged in the service of the Lord, especially in dressing and decorating the temple, accompanied by musical kértana and spiritual instructions from scriptures, can save the common man from the hellish cinema attractions and rubbish sex-songs broadcast everywhere by radios. 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. People should visit holy places like Våndävana where such temples and worship of the Deity are specifically maintained. Formerly all rich men like kings and rich merchants constructed such temples under the direction of expert devotees of the Lord, like the six Gosvämés, and it is the duty of the common man to take advantage of these temples and festivals observed in the holy places of pilgrimage by following in the footsteps of great devotees (anuvraja).
One should not visit all these sanctified pilgrimage places and temples with sightseeing in mind, but one must go to such temples and sanctified places immortalized by the transcendental pastimes of the Lord and be guided by proper men who know the science. This is called anuvraja. Anu means to follow. It is therefore best to follow the instruction of the bona fide spiritual master, even in visiting temples and the holy places of pilgrimage. One who does not move in that way is as good as a standing tree condemned by the Lord not to move. The moving tendency of the human being is misused by visiting places for sightseeing. The best purpose of such traveling tendencies could be fulfilled by visiting the holy places established by great äcäryas and thereby not being misled by the atheistic propaganda of moneymaking men who have no knowledge of spiritual matters. (ACBSP. Srimad Bhagavatam 2.3.22 purport.)
Severe austerities in the practice
of devotional service are of many varieties. For example, in worshiping
the Deity in the temple there are certainly laborious activities.
Çré-vigrahärädhana-nitya-nänä çåìgära-tan-mandira-märjanädau **. One must decorate the Deity, cleanse the temple, bring water from the Ganges and Yamunä, continue the routine work, perform ärati many times, prepare first-class food for the Deity, prepare dresses and so on. In this way, one must constantly be engaged in various activities, and the hard labor involved is certainly an austerity. Similarly, the hard labor involved in preaching, preparing literature, preaching to atheistic men and distributing literature door to door is of course an austerity (tapo-yuktena). Tapo divyaà putrakä [SB 5.5.1]. Such austerity is necessary. Yena sattvaà çuddhyet. By such austerity in devotional service, one is purified of material existence (kämän çanair jahau). Indeed, such austerity leads one to the constitutional position of devotional service. In this way one can give up material desires, and as soon as one is freed from material desires, he is free from the repetition of birth and death, old age and disease. (ACBSP. Srimad Bhagavatam 9:4:26 purport.)
The Divine Form
A benign and beautiful countenance, a broad forehead capped by a long and glittering crown, eyes like fresh lotus blooms-long, broad and red-lined, truant locks of curly hair falling on the forehead, the body of a well-built wrestler but delicate beyond measure, two hands raised upwards and holding the discus and conch respectively, with two other hands held out in protective and munificent mudrAs respectively, the broad and manly chest adorned by the constant presence of the Consort and innumerable garlands of Tulasi, lotus feet which are the source of the sacred Ganga and the refuge of the righteous---this is how we know our Lord. Even if one of the aforesaid features is absent, we feel something lacking. On the rare occasions that people like me think of Emperuman, we picturise Him only thus. We think of Him as being a Rama or a Krishna, a Divine Being with unimaginable beauty and with countless adornments, with a divya mangala vigraham that is a delectable treat to the eyes, that is an unfailing source of solace and inspiration to the troubled heart, that compels the beholder to return again and again for a fleeting glance.
What gives us the idea that the Lord is indeed like this and not anything else? How can we be sure that this is indeed His form? From our childhood, we have stood before His image in various temples innumerable times, drinking in, willy nilly, all His extraordinary beauty, which imprints itself indelibly on our mind’s screen. It is this impression that throws up the aforesaid image of the Lord in His arcchAvatAra, whenever the mind has an occasion to think of Him, which, alas, is not often. Thus it is the Lord’s divine form as found in various temples, the arcchAvatAra, which is the source of our knowledge of His looks. This is reinforced by Scriptural descriptions, which wax eloquent on the subject at the least provocation, glad to recount once more the bewitching features of the Supreme Being.
All of us must have come across our “enlightened” brethren who are of the firm view that a God with four arms and all the paraphernalia mentioned above, is a mere figment of human imagination/ creation. To these people, all the temples, all the utsavams, all the scriptural recitations, and in short, the whole idea of the Lord having a form, is laughable. They accuse us of demeaning the Supreme Being by endowing Him with a human body and faculties, be they however extraordinary. Once we even think of Him as having a body, they say, we lower Him to our level, the level of mortals with perishable bodies and subject to the enshackling bonds of Karma. We may say that the Lord’s form that we have in mind is infinitely superior to that of mere mortals, but our friends are not convinced and insist that we do Him great injustice by even thinking of Him as having hands, legs and other body parts like us. Ipso facto, the entire practice of ritualistic worship, including offering Him a sacred bath, food, etc. become irrelevant and meaningless. If the Lord has no body, where is the need for bathing or feeding Him? It is ludicrous, they say, to treat Him as an ordinary mortal in need of all these attentions. Thus, along with the arcchAvatAra and the Lord’s images, these people would throw out of the nearest window, all modes of worship as known to and practiced by us for ages.
Our friends are not atheists, but believe firmly in a God who is all pervasive, all-powerful and all knowing, without any constricting form whatsoever, be it with two hands or four. The entire universe is His form, they say, and aver that temples, rituals and formalised congregationist worship are all wrong. What we have to meditate upon is a formless, attributeless, colourless Brahman, which is bereft of all features, whether redeeming or otherwise-an impersonal God who would be extremely difficult to relate to, to love and cherish, to worship and to remonstrate with in times of distress.
To us, used to temple worship with all its trappings, it appears as if our friends are talking through their hats. However, our knowledgeable friends come up with several authoritative scriptural texts in favour of a formless Lord. They quote the Shruti, which declares, “ na tasya pratimA asti, yasya nAma mahat yasha:”(He, whose glory knows no bounds, has no images-VAjasanEyi Samhita of Shukla Yajur Veda). This is fortified by another quote, which specifically denies the Supreme Being a body-“ na tasya kAryam karaNam cha vidyatE”.
In arriving at the true purport of Veda vAkyAs, the aid of upabrahmanas (clarificatory and supportive texts) like ItihAsAs ( Srimad Ramayana and Sri Mahabharata) and PurANAs (like the Sri Vishnu Purana), is indispensable. No scriptural text can be taken in isolation and its meaning arrived at on that basis. The Veda Purusha himself is reported to be afraid of those who misinterpret the Shruti based merely on superficial study (“bibhEti alpa shrutAt Veda: mAm ayam pratarishyati iti”).
The interpretation our friends place upon the text “ na tasya pratimA asti” belongs to the aforesaid category, and is without an appreciation of the true meaning of the word “pratimA”. Our friends take it to mean “image” and arrive at the erroneous conclusion that the Lord has no images, and hence deny sanctity to the numerous images of the Lord in various temples, making us all fools worshipping mere stones. Our Acharyas, on the other hand, favour the other meaning of the word, viz., “equal”. This leaves us with the more acceptable version, which reads, “He has no equals”. In English too, when we say “He is the spitting image of GOpAla”, we mean that he is equal in all respects, especially looks, to GOpAla. This interpretation is also more appropriate to the context, considering what follows-“yasya nAma mahat yasha:”. The whole sentence would now mean, “He, whose glory knows no bounds, has no equals”, which makes eminent sense. And the meaning of “equal” ascribed to the term “pratimA” is quite a popular usage, not something coined merely to reinforce one’s viewpoint. For instance, Sri Ramanuja uses the word to remind us that the Lord is without an equal in the three worlds-“lOkatrayEpi apratima prabhAva!”
Another oft-quoted Srimad Bhagavata sloka is as follows, which supposedly terms all worshippers of images immature, and accepts maturity only to those who are able to see Him everywhere.
“PratimAsu aprabuddhAnAm, sarvatra samadarsinAm”.
While we have no quarrel with the second half of the sloka ascribing wisdom to those who see everything as His form, it would be a travesty of the scripture to say that millions of faithful worshippers, who flock to countless temples and are moved beyond measure by the Lord’s divine form, are fools.
The inaccuracy in such an interpretation also comes to the fore, when we find Sri Rama worshipping in the temple of Sriman Narayana as a prelude to His Coronation. The night prior to the great event, Sri Raghava, along with Sri Mythily, visits the temple of Sriman Narayana within the palace precincts and, after a purifying bath and with a balanced mind, worships the Lord to His heart’s content, offering Him food and partaking of the same as bhagavat prasAdam. Here are the worthy words of Sri Valmiki-
“GatE purOhitE Rama: snAtO niyata mAnasa:
saha patnyA VisAlAkshyA NArAyaNam upAgamat.
Pragrihya shirasA pAtreem havishO vidhivat tadA
MahatE daivatAya Ajyam juhAva jvalitE analE.”
It is crystal clear from the aforesaid that during Sri Rama’s times, there were temples to the Lord, that ritualistic worship was indeed in vogue and the Lord was offered food, which was partaken of by the devotee later as “prasAdam”.
Similarly, in Sri Mahabharata too, the BhIshma Parva contains slokas, which comment with wonderment on the occasional strange behaviour of the Lord’s images in His temples. It appears that the divine vigrahAs used to shake, roar with laughter, spit blood and fall down by themselves-
“DEvatA pratimAschaiva kampantE hasanti cha
vamanti rudhiram cha asyai: svidyanti prapatanti cha”
Innumerable such texts can be found in the scripture to establish the sanctity of idol worship.
The Rigveda Samhita (eighth ashtaka, eighth adhyAya, 13th sarga, 3rd khanda) too provides more proof, if further proof were needed, by referring to the wooden image of the Lord which floats in the ocean, unsculpted by human hands, to which the devotee is exhorted to pay obeisance-
“adO yat dAru plavatE sindhO: pArE apourusham
tat Arabhasva durhaNO tEna gaccha parastaram”.
After racking our brains needlessly about the legitimacy of the arcchAvatAra, it finally occurs to us that all this exercise is indeed futile. All we have to remember is that Azhwars, endowed with unblemished wisdom (“mayarvara madinalam”) were enthusiastic votaries of the Lord in His arcchAvatAra, often travelling thousands of miles on foot to have a glimpse of the Lord ensconced on some remote mountain peak amidst inhospitable environs. And if Sri Kalian remarks, “ErAr muyal vittu kAkkai pin pOvadE”, expressing his preference for the easily worshippable Lord in the temples vis a vis the unseen and unknown Supreme Being reigning in Paramapadam, do we need further proof of the sanctity of idol worship? The thousands of pasurams poured out by Azhwars in praise of the Emperumans at various divyadesams stand as unshakeable testimony of the legitimacy of the arcchAvatAra and its worship.
Having successfully silenced our learned friends, we relax in the relief of not having to concentrate on a formless, colourless, odourless Brahmam, devoid of the ananta kalyANa guNAs like boundless love, infinite mercy, total accessibility, matchless magnificence, etc., secure in the Azhwars’ assurance that our Lord is indeed one with all auspicious attributes, ever ready to impress us with His exploits as a cowherd, a half-lion or a Delightful Dwarf, displaying a kaleidoscope of enthralling forms and features, all with the purpose of emancipating us and affording us eternal bliss in His exalted company.
Srimate Sri LakshmINrsimha divya paduka sevaka SrivanSatakopa Sri Narayana Yatindra Mahadesikaya Nama:
Date: Sat, 25 Jan 2003 21:28:19 +0530
Subject: [Oppiliappan] "The Divine Form"