Whenever I mention to another Iskcon devotee that I happen to worship a Goverdhana Sila, the first question they usually ask is, “How many do you have?” "One," I answer, and they invariably appear under-whelmed; "Oh....I saw on the internet that so an so Maharaja has over a hundred." Thus a major misunderstanding regarding the worship of the Sila exists in our movement that needs to be addressed.
It seems as if there is a sort of cold war going on in our movement, where devotees are stock-piling Silas of all sorts with an undue emphasis on quantity. The quality of our bhakti is what counts and there is no necessity of worshipping more than one in order to achieve love of God. In fact, I find serving only one small Goverdhana Sila to be the greatest asset in my life. Giriraja is incredibly merciful, certainly beautiful, and He has arrested my attention with His love for me. Indeed it would be difficult (and probably inappropriate) to mention here the many ways in which Giriraja reciprocates with my service, but those who worship the Lord in any of His forms will understand me.
Secondly, I do not have a Sila - my Sila has me. I belong to Him and not vice versa. While it is possible to purchase the Lord with one’s pure love for Him, I do not have an inkling of such devotion. At this point in my spiritual life I can only humbly worship Giriraja with as much attention and reverence as I can muster. He is not just a “pet rock,” but the Supreme Lord Himself who has made me His pet! Thinking of the Lord as a friend, son, or lover is not applicable to me; such emotions are on the spiritual plane while my consciousness is anchored to the sea of matter by endless desires for worldly enjoyment. Imitating the advanced sentiments of great Vaishnavas will not help, rather I should try and serve the Lord in deep adulation. We may be devotees of Radha and Krishna in Vrindavana, but we must serve in the mood of Vaikuntha where Sri Sri Laxmi-Narayana are attended by bhaktas endowed with the mood of awe and veneration. Proper honor of the Sila engenders great spiritual advancement whereby the aforementioned mellows become manifest to the faithful servant by the grace of the Lord.
Moreover, I can honestly say that my personal path to Krishna consciousness can be viewed as having two phases - before Giriraja and after. Once that 1 7/8” tall incarnation of Lord Krishna entered my life…well, let’s just say that the change has definitely for the better. I may still have a long way to go, but it feels great to be going there with Giriraja. Today (Annakuta) is the anniversary of the appearance of Giriraja in my otherwise wretched life and I can honestly say that this year has been the best ever. Although my consciousness still leaves much to be desired, it seems to be developing at an unprecedented rate. In addition, the mundane aspects of my life have improved as well; business has been good and I recently purchased a new home. Last week I also bought a new car.
The Sila incarnations of Lord Krishna/Vishnu are unique as there is no need to install the Deity in that form, for He is already present. Hence, there is a comforting feeling in the knowledge that Krishna is fully manifest in this uncommon incarnation. Lord Caitanya has clearly stated that the incarnation of the Goverdhana Sila is non-different from Krishna’s body. So if Krishna has personally incarnated and is present in my Deity room in such a potent form, is there really a need for two Krishnas? Twelve Krishnas? A hundred, a thousand, or even more?
If I were offered another Sila I would find it difficult to refuse as They are all so captivating, but I do not see a pressing need to collect more. Nor do I think that serving so many would somehow increase my Krishna consciousness. To care for one beautiful, shining Sila is sufficient. I am not exactly sure why some devotees feel it is necessary to adore so many; perhaps it is an odd western concept to somehow equate “more” with “better.” Maybe it feeds one’s false ego. It could be a form of subtle sex taken to the extreme, I don’t know. The puja of a Sila is no light matter. While elaborate ceremonies and Vedic mantras may be appropriate for temple worship, our personal service may be simple - but it must be performed with love above all else. We should be cultivating such a relationship with our Ishtadevas and not be so concerned with simply gathering more. If we are not feeling great ecstasy while honoring one Sila, should we really expect to suddenly develop Krishna prema by caring for so many that we do not even know all of Their names?
It is certainly true that the Vedas describe the great benefits of worshipping many Silas. However, it seems that this is specifically meant for puja performed in the temple. For example, in our sampradaya Gopal Bhatta Goswami was blessed with many Silas that came to him at the Kali Gandaki river. The Six Goswamis, however, had a standing order from Lord Caitanya to contruct temples in Vrindavana and those Silas were later enthroned at the Radha Ramana temple. Most importantly, Gopal Bhatta Goswami did not make much effort to obtain those Silas; when They repeatedly jumped into his water pot he took it as the fulfilment of Lord Caitanya's promise that by going to the Kali Gandaki river he would have the Lord's darshana there.
One will not find any example in the scriptures of a devotee caring for a hundred silas at his residence or of a sannyasi hiring a coolie to lug around a rucksack full of Them. We can see in the shastra however, that most of the devotees honored only one Sila in private: Jagganatha Misra worshipped Damodara, the brahmana whose offerings baby Nimai continually stole carried one Sila, and Sri Advaita Acarya invited Lord Caitanya to descend simply by offering Ganges water and Tulasi leaves to a single Narayana Sila. As Ganges water and Tulasi leaves are easily available in India, so the Narayana Sila was common in the homes of brahmanas until recent times. Indeed, the word "Narayana Sila" is often used interchangeably with "Salagram Sila." If there was such a thing as a “regular” Sila, the Narayana form would be it. The Vedas describe Him as having few unusual characteristics, round, black, etc. [N.B. you can see a photo of one worshipped as "Vasudeva" by my friend Janardana on this web-site] thus proving that worshipping the Lord with great love using items found in almost any devotee's home can create all auspiciousness.
Sometimes it seems as if Silas just “appear” to devotees. It is not uncommon to hear of a devotee already engaged in the worship of a Sila suddenly receiving another one unexpectedly and in the most surprising way. Many stories have been posted on this web-site describing such incidents. Silas may certainly experience happiness gathering and relishing the love of Their devotee together, but that is a different issue. If the Lord appears to us in his beautiful form of a Sila, we should honor Him and accept the responsibility of caring for Him. But on the other hand, we should not be so eager to just amass a hill of Silas in our homes in a vain attempt to obtain instant salvation or to impress anyone with our “devotion.” One can go to Kathmandu and collect a ton of Salagrama Silas from traders who try to sell Them by the kilo like the common brick, but that will not bring about the desired result. Proper veneration of even a pebble from the Kali Gandaki river or Goverdhana hill, however, can bring irrevocable bliss to the bhakta.
"Sri Shalagram Tirtha Pradarshani" is a great boon for the devotees of the Sila. Before this web-site was up and running, we (JTCd and I) discussed this project for some time and it seemed imperative that he post such a site. I wrote to him that “every single day 300 pornographic web-sites are created to propagate the most profound ignorance, so why should we not have at least one site to glorify these beautiful forms of the Lord?” He wanted to name it “Sri Salagrama Tirtha” and I had the idea to call it “Sila Pradarshani.” Eventually JTC Prabhu used a combination of both and by his valiant efforts has created this amazing site to increase the understanding of such puja in Iskcon (and probably out of it as well). Yet a number of the devotees with Silas featured have so many that a viewer could misunderstand and think that it is necessary to hoard hundreds of Them. The purpose of this web-site is to glorify the Lord's Deity in the form of the Sila and to increase our appreciation of those charming incarnations. It is also our duty to educate the devotees about the proper worship of Them. Some misunderstandings regarding the Sila exist in our movement and I am submitting this humble article in an attempt to rectify one.
The most humble of servants,
Parama Seva dasa
New Panihati Dhama
Atlanta, Georgia USA
Goverdhana Puja, 2001
Articles on amounts of Silas to serve: