Kinds of Deities & Kinds of Deity Worship

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Related pages:
Sri Murti Worship vs. Idolatry - Srila Bhaktivinod Thakur
Establishing God's Eternal Form by Bhaktivinoda Thakur

Eyes to see God - Srila A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami
Some facts about brahminical initiation and Deity worship - Srila A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami
Deity Worship -- Not Idol Worship - Srila A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami
"A Most Moving 'Statue'" - Srila A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami

The Worship of Sri-Murti and Idolatry - by Haridasa Babaji Maharaja

Krishna Deities and Their Miracles - How the Images of Lord Krishna Interact with Their Devotees - By Stephen Knapp (Sri Nandanandana dasa ACBSP)

What Is The Essence Of Deity Worship? - Pankajanghri prabhu ACBSP

"The Divine Form" by Sripad Sadagopan Iyengar of the Sri Vaishnava sampradaya:

Japanga seva (regulated service done usually in the temple environment)
Bhaktyanga seva (more flexible seva that is done at home serving the Deity as a guest)

Deity worship is just as important as book distribution. - Srila A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami
Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Thakura Prabhupada and Raganuga Bhakti


More ARTICLES on Deity worship

There are three varieties of arcana, Deity worship, based on either the original Vedas, the secondary tantras, or a combination of these. The Deity image, the ground, the fire, the sun, the water and the heart of the worshiper are all true locations of the Deity's presence. The Deity form to be worshiped may be constructed of any one of eight substances-stone, wood, metal, clay, paint, sand (drawn upon the ground), the mind or jewels. These categories are further subdivided into two: temporary and permanent. (Srimad Bhagavatam 11:27 summary introduction - Lord Krishna's Instructions on the process of Deity Worship.)

arcäyäà sthaëòile 'gnau vä
sürye väpsu hådi dvijaù
dravyeëa bhakti-yukto 'rcet
sva-guruà mäm amäyayä

"A twice-born person should worship Me, his worshipable Lord, without duplicity, offering appropriate paraphernalia in loving devotion to My Deity form or to a form of Me appearing upon the ground, in fire, in the sun, in water or within the worshiper's own heart." (Srimad Bhagavatam 11:27:9.)

çailé däru-mayé lauhé
lepyä lekhyä ca saikaté
mano-mayé maëi-mayé
pratimäñöa-vidhä småtä

"The Deity form of the Lord is said to appear in eight varieties—stone, wood, metal, earth, paint, sand, the mind or jewels." (Srimad Bhagavatam 11:27:12.)

Çréla Jéva Gosvämé explains that certain Deity forms, such as those made of sand, are manifested for a brief time to fulfill a personal desire of the worshiper. Those, however, who desire to attain pure love of God should worship the permanent form of the Deity (made, for instance, of marble, gold or brass), and they should maintain continual worship. In Kåñëa consciousness there is no scope for neglecting the worship of the Supreme Personality of Godhead.

caläcaleti dvi-vidhä
pratiñöhä jéva-mandiram
udväsävähane na staù
sthiräyäm uddhavärcane

The Deity form of the Lord, who is the shelter of all living entities, can be established in two ways: temporarily or permanently. But a permanent Deity, having been called, can never be sent away, My dear Uddhava. (Srimad Bhagavatam 11:27:13.)

The devotees of the Lord understand themselves to be the Lord's eternal servitors; recognizing the Deity to be the Lord Himself, they permanently install the Deity and engage in perpetual worship. The impersonalists, however, regard the eternal form of the Lord as a temporary manifestation of illusion. In fact, they regard the Deity form as a mere stepping—stone in their ambitious program to become God. Materialistic persons of whatever stripe consider the Lord to be their order supplier, and so they make temporary arrangements for religious ceremonies to achieve temporary material sense gratification. This temporary mode of worship is favored by those desiring to exploit the Personality of Godhead for their personal ends, whereas the loving devotees in Kåñëa consciousness eternally engage in worship of the Personality of Godhead. They install permanent Deities meant to be worshiped perpetually.

asthiräyäà vikalpaù syät
sthaëòile tu bhaved dvayam
snapanaà tv avilepyäyäm
anyatra parimärjanam

The Deity that is temporarily established can optionally be called forth and sent away, but these two rituals should always be performed when the Deity is traced upon the ground. Bathing should be done with water except if the Deity is made of clay, paint or wood, in which cases a thorough cleansing without water is enjoined.(Srimad Bhagavatam 11:27:13.)

Various classes of devotees worship the Deity of the Personality of Godhead according to their various stages of faith in the Lord. An advanced devotee of Lord Kåñëa understands his eternal loving relationship with the Lord and, seeing the Deity as the Lord Himself, establishes an eternal relationship with the Deity based on loving servitude to Him. Understanding Lord Kåñëa to be the eternal form of bliss and knowledge, a faithful devotee makes a permanent arrangement for Deity worship, installing the Lord's form made of, for example, stone, wood or marble.
The çälagräma-çilä is considered to be automatically installed even without the formal ceremony, and so it is forbidden to call the Deity with mantras or ask the Deity to leave. On the other hand, if one prepares a Deity form by drawing on sanctified ground or by constructing a sand image, one must call the Deity with mantras and then ask the Deity to leave the external form, which will soon be demolished by the natural elements.
The general principle is that a pure devotee of the Lord understands his relationship with the Deity to be eternal. The more one surrenders in loving devotion to the Deity, the more one can understand the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Lord Kåñëa is a person, but He is the Supreme Person, possessing His own unique feelings. One can easily please the Lord by devotional service offered to His Deity form. By pleasing the Lord one can gradually progress in the mission of human life and eventually go back home, back to Godhead, where the Deity personally appears before the devotee and welcomes the devotee to His personal abode, known throughout the world as the kingdom of God.

snänälaìkaraëaà preñöham
arcäyäm eva tüddhava
sthaëòile tattva-vinyäso
vahnäv äjya-plutaà haviù
sürye cäbhyarhaëaà preñöhaà
salile salilädibhiù
çraddhayopähåtaà preñöhaà
bhaktena mama väry api

In worshiping the temple Deity, my dear Uddhava, bathing and decoration are the most pleasing offerings. For the Deity traced on sacred ground, the process of tattva-vinyäsa is most dear. Oblations of sesame and barley soaked in ghee are the preferred offering to the sacrificial fire, whereas worship consisting of upasthäna and arghya is preferred for the sun. One should worship Me in the form of water by offering water itself. Actually, whatever is offered to Me with faith by My devotee—even if only a little water—is most dear to Me.(Srimad Bhagavatam 11:27:16 - 17.)

The Supreme Personality of Godhead is present everywhere, and Vedic culture prescribes various ritualistic methods for worshiping the Lord in His various manifestations. The principal item is the faith and devotion of the worshiper, without which everything else is useless, as the Lord describes in the next verse.

bhüry apy abhaktopähåtaà
na me toñäya kalpate
gandho dhüpaù sumanaso
dépo 'nnädyaà ca kià punaù

Even very opulent presentations do not satisfy Me if they are offered by nondevotees. But I am pleased by any insignificant offering made by My loving devotees, and I am certainly most pleased when nice presentations of fragrant oil, incense, flowers and palatable foods are offered with love. (Srimad Bhagavatam 11:27:18.)

The Lord has stated in the previous verse that even a little water offered with love and devotion gives Him great pleasure. Therefore the words kià punaù indicate the Lord's complete happiness when a suitably opulent offering is made with love and devotion. But an opulent offering made by a nondevotee cannot please the Lord. As Çréla Jéva Gosvämé explains, the rules and regulations concerning Deity worship and the listing of offenses against the Deities are all meant for helping one avoid precisely this kind of disrespectful or neglectful attitude toward the Personality of Godhead in His Deity form. In fact, all offenses against the Deity are based upon irreverence and disregard for the Lord's position as master, and thus upon disobedience to His orders. Since one must worship the Deity with reverence, one should offer opulent presentations to the Deity with love, for such presentations both enhance the respectfulness of the worshiper and help him avoid offenses in his worship.

arcädiñu yadä yatra
çraddhä mäà tatra cärcayet
sarva-bhüteñv ätmani ca
sarvätmäham avasthitaù

Whenever one develops faith in Me—in My form as the Deity or in other bona fide manifestations—one should worship Me in that form. I certainly exist both within all created beings and also separately in My original form, since I am the Supreme Soul of all.(Srimad Bhagavatam 11:27:48.)

The Supreme Personality of Godhead is worshiped according to the faith of a particular worshiper. The Deity form, arcä, is specifically mentioned here because Deity worship is essential for spiritual progress. Çréla Bhaktisiddhänta Sarasvaté Öhäkura mentions that inexperienced persons may think that the Deity is meant for the sense gratification of the worshiper, since superficially the Deity is made of external substances such as marble or brass. But through the process of installing the Deity by chanting of authorized mantras, one invites the Supreme Personality of Godhead to enter the Deity form. By regulated, faithful worship one gradually understands that the Deity is completely nondifferent from the Supreme Lord Himself. At that stage, on the strength of Deity worship, one rises to the second-class platform of devotional service. At this more developed stage one desires to make friendship with other devotees of the Lord, and as one becomes solidly established in the community of Vaiñëavas, one completely gives up material life and gradually becomes perfect in Kåñëa consciousness.

evaà kriyä-yoga-pathaiù
pumän vaidika-täntrikaiù
arcann ubhayataù siddhià
matto vindaty abhépsitäm

By worshiping Me through the various methods prescribed in the Vedas and tantras, one will gain from Me his desired perfection in both this life and the next.(Srimad Bhagavatam 11:27:49.)

mad-arcäà sampratiñöhäpya
mandiraà kärayed dåòham
puñpodyänäni ramyäëi

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. (Srimad Bhagavatam 11:27:50.)

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.

pratiñöhayä särvabhaumaà
sadmanä bhuvana-trayam
püjädinä brahma-lokaà
tribhir mat-sämyatäm iyät

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. (Srimad Bhagavatam 11:27:52.)

mäm eva nairapekñyeëa
bhakti-yogena vindati
bhakti-yogaà sa labhata
evaà yaù püjayeta mäm

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.(Srimad Bhagavatam 11:27:53.)

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.


(HARI BHAKTI VILASA 8/503 from SKANDA PURANA Yamaraja instructs his messengers)

 "When someone worships the Supreme Lord in the temple, he must follow rules and regulations properly,
but when he worships the Lord in his house, he can worship as he likes, but he should not break his vows."

 Srila Sanatana Gosvami gives his Digdarsani commentary on this verse saying that when somebody worships the Supreme Personality of Godhead in the temple he has to observe special rules of worship such as instructions laid down for worship, the proper time, ingredients, and the worshipper (the worshipper should be a twice born person). It is stated in the Srimad Bhagavatam, 11.11.41, (see this verse and accompanying verses)

One should offer the proper ingredients to the Supreme Lord punctually, daily, according to the rules and regulations, and offer the Lord his respectful obeisances at least three times a day according to the rules and regulations, from the front, from the back, from the left side of the Lord. A devotee should not see Krsna in forbidden moments, his eating time etc. Lord Varaha has spoken regarding making offenses in the temple, if someone avoids these offenses, then he will attain the positive perfection.

He also said that even on fasting days he should offer food to the Supreme Lord and on the day after Ekadasi (the Dvadasi day), he should put the Lord to sleep in the daytime as well. (On the day after Ekadasi, sleeping is not allowed). But in his own house, he can worship the Lord as he likes. Whatever ingredients, according to rules and regulations which he can get and according to his ability to afford to worship the Lord, that much he should use for worshipping. In the temple, he must concern himself with following many rules, but in his own house, he has his family to support, he has his business, and above that he has is own servants, and respectable guests and relatives. Therefore the temple rules and regulations do not govern. Due to his own family and unexpected Vaisnava guests, sometimes in the house, the quantity of food offering to the Lord is reduced and sometimes it is increased. (In the temple, there is a fixed amount of food cooked every day regardless of extra guests or otherwise.)

Whatever vows he is following, these rules should be added to them, such as eating of eggplants and pink dahl should be given up daily, not shaving on dasami day (the day before Ekadasi). In Caturmasya he should give up eating green leafy vegetables and uprooted plants, etc. and on dvadasi day he should give up sleeping in the daytime, etc. One should protect himself from breaking these rules and to follow proper rules. One should not offer food grains to anybody on fasting days. Whatever ingredients he uses to please himself, all of these should be offered to the Lord. Due to specific devotional laws, whatever is offered to the Lord due to not breaking his fasting vows, he should not use it for himself. He should give them to other Vaisnavas or throw it in the water. (Like on Ekadasi, he may offer grains but not eat them himself. He may give them to Vaisnavas because they will save them until the next day or he may throw them in the water).

One should try to engage himself in unalloyed devotion to the Lord. If there are some laws which he fails to follow according to his vows, the fault of offence is decreased. Sometimes while worshiping, some specific devotional rules of temple worship can be used. Traditional service to the Supreme Lord should be properly executed although one should protect the breaking of his own vows, sometimes somebody's special devotion should be accepted without caring for his own vows, but one should not act against Lord Krsna etc. One should fast during Karttika. One should not speak about his own fasting vows to others. By doing so one becomes greatly offensive. Furthermore, although even in the house many offenses of worship are forgiven yet, one should not talk too loudly, engage in idle talks, etc. Such offences should be generally given up. These rules should be known properly. At least once or twice a day, worship of the Lord should be done within the house and pay obeisances to the Lord. One can eat sitting near the Lord. There are many other laws which are difficult to follow in the house which are forgiven. Otherwise, there are thirty-two offenses. One should avoid eating in front of the Lord. One should not offer food without Tulasi leaves, etc. which can be avoided because it is worship within the house.

paricaryä stutiù prahva-

mat-kathä-çravaëe çraddhä
mad-anudhyänam uddhava

mama parvänumodanam
goñöhébhir mad-gåhotsavaù

yäträ bali-vidhänaà ca
vaidiké täntriké dékñä

mamärcä-sthäpane çraddhä
svataù saàhatya codyamaù

gåha-çuçrüñaëaà mahyaà
däsa-vad yad amäyayä

amänitvam adambhitvaà
api dépävalokaà me
nopayuïjyän niveditam

yad yad iñöatamaà loke
yac cäti-priyam ätmanaù
tat tan nivedayen mahyaà
tad änantyäya kalpate

mat-liìga—My appearance in this world as the Deity, etc.; mat-bhakta jana—My devotees; darçana—seeing; sparçana—touching; arcanam—and worshiping; paricaryä—rendering personal service; stutiù—offering prayers of glorification; prahva—obeisances; guëa—My qualities; karma—and activities; anukértanam—constantly glorifying; mat-kathä—topics about Me; çravaëe—in hearing; çraddhä—faith due to love; mat-anudhyänam—always meditating on Me; uddhava—O Uddhava; sarva-läbha—all that one acquires; upaharaëam—offering; däsyena—by accepting oneself as My servant; ätma-nivedanam—self-surrender; mat-janma-karma-kathanam—glorifying My birth and activities; mama—My; parva—in festivals such as Janmäñöamé; anumodanam—taking great pleasure; géta—by songs; täëòava—dancing; väditra—musical instruments; goñöhébhiù—and discussions among devotees; mat-gåha—in My temple; utsavaù—festivals; yäträ—celebrations; bali-vidhänam—making offerings; ca—also; sarva—in all; värñika—annual; parvasu—in the celebrations; vaidiké—mentioned in the Vedas; täntriké—mentioned in literatures such as the Païcarätra; dékñä—initiation; madéya—in relation to Me; vrata—vows; dhäraëam—observing; mama—My; arcä—of the Deity form; sthäpane—in the installation; çraddhä—being faithfully attached; svataù—by oneself; saàhatya—with others; ca—also; udyamaù—endeavor; udyäna—of flower gardens; upavana—orchards; äkréòa—places of pastimes; pura—devotional cities; mandira—and temples; karmaëi—in the construction; sammärjana—by thoroughly sweeping and dusting; upalepäbhyäm—then by smearing water and cow dung; seka—by sprinkling scented water; maëòala-vartanaiù—by construction of maëòalas; gåha-of the temple, which is My home; çuçrüñaëam—service; mahyam—for My sake; däsa-vat—being like a servant; yat—which; amäyayä—without duplicity; amänitvam—being without false prestige; adambhitvam—being prideless; kåtasya—one's devotional activities; aparikértanam—not advertising; api—moreover; dépa—of lamps; avalokam—the light; me—which belong to Me; na—not; upayuïjyät—one should engage; niveditam—things already offered to others; yat yat—anything; iñöa-tamam—most desired; loke—in the material world; yat ca—and anything; ati-priyam—most dear; ätmanaù—of oneself; tat tat—that very thing; nivedayet—one should offer; mahyam—unto Me; tat—that offering; änantyäya—for immortality; kalpate-qualifies one.

My dear Uddhava, one can give up false pride and prestige by engaging in the following devotional activities. One may purify oneself by seeing, touching, worshiping, serving, and offering prayers of glorification and obeisances to My form as the Deity and to My pure devotees. One should also glorify My transcendental qualities and activities, hear with love and faith the narrations of My glories and constantly meditate on Me. One should offer to Me whatever one acquires, and accepting oneself as My eternal servant, one should give oneself completely to Me. One should always discuss My birth and activities and enjoy life by participating in festivals, such as Janmäñöamé, which glorify My pastimes. In My temple, one should also participate in festivals and ceremonies by singing, dancing, playing musical instruments and discussing Me with other Vaiñëavas. One should observe all the regularly celebrated annual festivals by attending ceremonies, pilgrimages and making offerings. One should also observe religious vows such as Ekädaçé and take initiation by the procedures mentioned in the Vedas, Païcarätra and other, similar literatures. One should faithfully and lovingly support the installation of My Deity, and individually or in cooperation with others one should work for the construction of Kåñëa conscious temples and cities as well as flower gardens, fruit gardens and special areas to celebrate My pastimes. One should consider oneself to be My humble servant, without duplicity, and thus should help to clean the temple, which is My home. First one should sweep and dust thoroughly, and then one should further cleanse with water and cow dung. Having dried the temple, one should sprinkle scented water and decorate the temple with mandalas. One should thus act just like My servant. A devotee should never advertise his devotional activities; therefore his service will not be the cause of false pride. One should never use lamps that are offered to Me for other purposes simply because there is need of illumination, and similarly, one should never offer to Me anything that has been offered to or used by others. Whatever is most desired by one within this material world, and whatever is most dear to oneself—one should offer that very thing to Me. Such an offering qualifies one for eternal life. (Srimad Bhagavatam 11:11:34-41)

Japanga seva (regulated service done usually in the temple environment)
Bhaktyanga seva (more flexible seva that is done at home serving the Deity as a guest)

The two schools of seva pujan are Japangam (regulated) and Bhaktyangam (out of love) goal is to render loving service to Krishna that will give the maximum benefit to the sadhaka too. In japanaga seva we have to be very careful here, so that the required principles of puja are adhered to as clearly defined in the Nectar of Devotion, especially regarding the kinds of offences to be avoided.

In bhaktyanga seva we welcome the Deity into our abode as a guest, and as we know, if one doesn't look after a guest nicely the guest will go away. Srila Prabhupad mentions in regard to disease, that disease is like an unwanted guest, if you don't feed it it will go away, and thus recommends fasting.... So similarly, here we want to keep our guest, and keep Them/Him happy, chearful, well fed, and well looked after and in a benedictory mood, for the wellbeing of the family et al. Therefore all arrangements are made out of love for our guest.

Shastra tells us: (Krishna Yajur Veda, Taittriya Upanishads 1:11:1 .)
    "Let there be no neglect of the duties to the Gods and the fore-fathers. We should treat and keep it that the mother is  respected as a God. Be it also that the father is to be treated and  respected as a God. Be it also that the teacher/guru is also respected as good as God. As also the guest in the home is also respected as an aspect of God."

In the temple envoronment in our experience most persons seem more concerned about what others do than what they personally do, even though it is not meant to be like that. Therefore the need for rules and legislation to keep everything on track is very important. Managing a small or large temple, or community takes a lot of co-ordination, resources, money, time, and so on. For the temple or community members all being engaged in the service of the Deity they can all make advancement and stave off the pushes of the material energy.

In bhaktyanga, generally there might only be one or even two or so persons performing the seva. The seva is so intrinsically focused around the personal interaction and mutual co-dependency in relation to the life of the sevak and the seva of the devotee that bhaktyanga seva the only concern and meditation is for the service and comfort of our guest.

Some of you reading this may of had the experience of a great personality coming to your temple, some big guru, sannyasin or other VIP. The focus upon the needs of the guest is so intent that everyone in the community is busy making arrangements, organising, preparing and interacting with the guest, to make sure all his needs are taken care of. So similarly for the devotees engaged/engrossed in bhaktyanga seva the guest is the sole object of meditation and service.

In Japanga seva the most important factors are punctuality, cleanliness, opulence, decoration, resources and functionality of the institution. Whereas in bhaktyanga seva the most important aspect is the mood, from the swagatam - greeting, the attentivness, and the offering of nice foodstuffs. Of couse these would be offered in japanga also. In japanga again we have seen that as the community is rostered on to perform the seva, and various arangements are made and it's not always as desired, and that those who are filling in the roster are doing so not always out of enthusiasm or ecstatic love as often they render their time and service as a duty - and that is good (sometimes out of force). Yet, in bhakyanga seva where we serve not out of duty but out of love.

In bhaktyanga seva the most important aspect is the mood, the swagatam - greeting, the offering of nice foodstuffs, and the making the "guest" feel most welcome and wanted. In that way we offer all that we possibly can without reserve to please the guest. Bhaktyanga as the name infers is seated in the development of love.

What were doing here is not some ritualistic drama, it's very practical and tangible service, and blissfully performed.

Those of us who have the good fortune to have been honoured as a guest in the homes of cultured Indian families will have experienced bhaktyanga seva directly themselves. Even if the family is not wealthy, or no vast array of facilities are at one's disposal, still the charm, warmth, doting of kindness and love inundate the recipient to keep them/Them residing at that place, and making sure the stay is a pleasent one.

From time to time we are greeted with kind words of concern that all our comfort and needs are being looked after to the initial refreshment, to the bringing of palatable items that slake the thirst of each individual sense and rekindle the spirit, invigourating the guest into benedictory mood of Krishna consciousness. All of the limbs of this fine ancient culture are so designed to make us grateful.

Especially in bhaktyanga there's a powerful emphasis on feeding the "guest", and all stops are pulled out in providing the best of what is available. Of course, variations from one place to another is expected, certainly it is not all one. The best that Sanatan Goswami could offer his Deities were dried chappattis without even butter or ghee, but it was all he had....... What is however, unified is that of the selfless devotion under which everything is done, even if the host feels greatly inadiquate in the provision of what is being offered.

A good example of this is Sudama Vipra, a simple brahmin, who was a school friend of the Lord. Due to his natural detachment and simplicity from the material realm around him he, and consequently his wife too, had little as far as material possessions or provisions that could be engaged in the service of  his friend Lord Krishna but they offered Him the very best that they could muster. Sudama's wife asked him to go to Krishna and as they were friends to ask for some benediction, as they were very poor and much in need. Being propositioned by his wife like this he agreed to approach Krishna, and going there to see his old friend, he had to take some nice offering from home, as thoughfulness of the Vedik culture. So wrapped in a small cloth Sudama brought his humble offering of love some chipped rice for his dear friend.

Srila Prabhupad writes in the Krsna Book (81st chapter)(you'll need the Balaram FONT installed to read this properly):

Lord Kåñëa, the Supersoul, knows everything in everyone’s heart. He knows everyone’s determination and everyone’s want. He knew, therefore, the reason for Sudämä Vipra’s coming to Him. He knew that, driven by extreme poverty, he had come there at the request of his wife. Thinking of Sudämä as His very dear class friend, He knew that Sudämä’s love for Him as a friend was never tainted by any desire for material benefit. Kåñëa thought, “Sudämä has not come asking anything from Me; being obliged by the request of his wife, he has come to see Me just to please her.” Lord Kåñëa therefore decided that He would give more material opulence to Sudämä Vipra than could be imagined even by the King of heaven.

He then snatched the bundle of chipped rice which was hanging on the shoulder of the poor brähmaëa, packed in one corner of his wrapper, and said, “What is this? My dear friend, you have brought Me nice, palatable chipped rice!” He encouraged Sudämä Vipra, saying, “I consider that this quantity of chipped rice will satisfy not only Me but the whole creation.” It is understood from this statement that Kåñëa, being the original source of everything, is the root of the entire creation. As watering the root of a tree immediately distributes water to every part of the tree, so an offering made to Kåñëa, or any action done for Kåñëa, is to be considered the highest welfare work for everyone, because the benefit of such an offering is distributed throughout the creation. Love for Kåñëa is distributed to all living entities.

While Lord Kåñëa was speaking to Sudämä Vipra, He ate one morsel of chipped rice from his bundle, and when He attempted to eat a second morsel, Rukmiëédevé, the goddess of fortune herself, checked the Lord by catching hold of His hand. After touching the hand of Kåñëa, Rukmiëé said, “My dear Lord, this one morsel of chipped rice is sufficient to cause him who offered it to become very opulent in this life and to continue his opulence in the next life. My Lord, You are so kind to Your devotee that even this one morsel of chipped rice pleases You very greatly, and Your pleasure assures the devotee opulence both in this life and in the next.” This indicates that when food is offered to Lord Kåñëa with love and devotion and He is pleased and accepts it from the devotee, Rukmiëédevé, the goddess of fortune, becomes so greatly obliged to the devotee that she has to go personally to the devotee’s home to turn it into the most opulent home in the world. If one feeds Näräyaëa sumptuously, the goddess of fortune, Lakñmé, automatically becomes a guest in one’s house, which means that one’s home becomes opulent. The learned brähmaëa Sudämä passed that night at the house of Lord Kåñëa, and while there he felt as if he were living in a Vaikuëöha planet. Actually he was living in Vaikuëöha, because wherever Lord Kåñëa, the original Näräyaëa, and Rukmiëédevé, the goddess of fortune, live is not different from the spiritual planets, Vaikuëöhaloka.

The learned brähmaëa Sudämä did not appear to have received anything substantial from Lord Kåñëa while at His palace, yet he did not ask anything from the Lord. The next morning he started for his home, thinking always about his reception by Kåñëa, and thus he merged in transcendental bliss. All the way home he simply remembered the dealings of Lord Kåñëa, and he felt very happy to have seen the Lord.

The brähmaëa thought, “It is most pleasurable to see Lord Kåñëa, who is most devoted to the brähmaëas. How great a lover He is of the brahminical culture! He is the Supreme Brahman Himself, yet He reciprocates with the brähmaëas. He also respects the brähmaëas so much that He embraced to His chest such a poor brähmaëa as me, although He never embraces anyone to His chest except the goddess of fortune. How can there be any comparison between me, a poor, sinful brähmaëa, and the Supreme Lord Kåñëa, who is the only shelter of the goddess of fortune? And yet, considering me a brähmaëa, He embraced me with heartfelt pleasure in His two transcendental arms. Lord Kåñëa was so kind to me that He allowed me to sit down on the same bedstead where the goddess of fortune lies down. He considered me His real brother. How can I appreciate my obligation to Him? When I was tired, Çrématé Rukmiëédevé, the goddess of fortune, began to fan me, holding the cämara whisk in her own hand. She never considered her exalted position as the first queen of Lord Kåñëa. I was rendered service by the Supreme Personality of Godhead because of His high regard for the brähmaëas, and by massaging my legs and feeding me with His own hand, He practically worshiped me! Aspiring for elevation to the heavenly planets, liberation, all kinds of material opulence, or perfection in the powers of mystic yoga, everyone throughout the universe worships the lotus feet of Lord Kåñëa. Yet the Lord was so kind to me that He did not give me even a farthing, knowing very well that I am a poverty-stricken man who, if I got some money, might become puffed up and mad after material opulence and so forget Him.”

The statement of the brähmaëa Sudämä is correct. An ordinary man who is very poor and prays to the Lord for benediction in material opulence, and who somehow or other becomes richer in material opulence, immediately forgets his obligation to the Lord. Therefore, the Lord does not offer opulences to His devotee unless the devotee is thoroughly tested. Rather, if a neophyte devotee serves the Lord very sincerely and at the same time wants material opulence, the Lord keeps him from obtaining it. Thinking in this way, the learned brähmaëa gradually reached his own home. But there he saw that everything was wonderfully changed. He saw that in place of his cottage there were big palaces made of valuable stones and jewels, glittering like the sun, moon and rays of fire. Not only were there big palaces, but at intervals there were beautifully decorated parks, in which many beautiful men and women were strolling. In those parks there were nice lakes full of lotus flowers and beautiful lilies, and there were flocks of multicolored birds. Seeing the wonderful conversion of his native place, the brähmaëa began to think to himself, “How am I seeing all these changes? Does this place belong to me or to someone else? If it is the same place where I used to live, then how has it so wonderfully changed?”

While the learned brähmaëa was considering this, a group of beautiful men and women with features resembling those of the demigods, accompanied by musical chanters, approached to welcome him. All were singing auspicious songs. The wife of the brähmaëa was very glad on hearing the tidings of her husband’s arrival, and with great haste she also came out of the palace. The brähmaëa’s wife appeared so beautiful that it seemed as if the goddess of fortune herself had come to receive him. As soon as she saw her husband present before her, tears of joy fell from her eyes, and her voice became so choked up that she could not even address her husband. She simply closed her eyes in ecstasy. But with great love and affection she bowed down before her husband, and within herself she thought of embracing him. She was fully decorated with a gold necklace and ornaments, and while standing among the maidservants she appeared like the wife of a demigod just alighting from an airplane. The brähmaëa was surprised to see his wife so beautiful, and in great affection and without saying a word he entered the palace with her.

When the brähmaëa entered his personal apartment in the palace, he saw that it was not an apartment but the residence of the King of heaven. The palace was surrounded by many columns of jewels. The couches and the bedsteads were made of ivory and bedecked with gold and jewels, and the bedding was as white as the foam of milk and as soft as a lotus. There were many whisks hanging from golden rods, and many golden thrones with sitting cushions as soft as lotus flowers. In various places there were velvet and silken canopies with laces of pearls hanging all around. The structure of the building stood on excellent transparent marble, with engravings made of emerald stones. All the women in the palace carried lamps made of valuable jewels. The flames and the jewels combined to produce a wonderfully brilliant light. When the brähmaëa saw his position suddenly changed to one of opulence, and when he could not determine the cause for such a sudden change, he began to consider very gravely how it had happened.

He thus began to think, “From the beginning of my life I have been extremely poverty-stricken, so what could be the cause of such great and sudden opulence? I do not find any cause other than the all-merciful glance of my friend Lord Kåñëa, the chief of the Yadu dynasty. Certainly these are gifts of Lord Kåñëa’s causeless mercy. The Lord is self-sufficient, the husband of the goddess of fortune, and thus He is always full with six opulences. He can understand the mind of His devotee, and He sumptuously fulfills the devotee’s desires. All these are acts of my friend Lord Kåñëa. My beautiful dark friend Kåñëa is far more liberal than the cloud, which can fill the great ocean with water. Without disturbing the cultivator with rain during the day, the cloud brings liberal rain at night just to satisfy him. And yet when the cultivator wakes up in the morning, he thinks that it has not rained enough. Similarly, the Lord fulfills the desire of everyone according to his position, yet one who is not in Kåñëa consciousness considers all the gifts of the Lord to be less than his desire. On the other hand, when the Lord receives a little thing in love and affection from His devotee, He considers it a great and valuable gift. The vivid example is me. I simply offered Him a morsel of chipped rice, and in exchange He has given me opulences greater than the opulence of the King of heaven.”

What the devotee actually offers the Lord is not needed by the Lord, for He is self-sufficient. If the devotee offers something to the Lord, it acts for his own interest because whatever a devotee offers the Lord comes back in a quantity a million times greater than what was offered. One does not become a loser by giving to the Lord; he becomes a gainer by millions of times.
    The brähmaëa, feeling great obligation to Kåñëa, thought, “I pray to have the friendship of Lord Kåñëa and to engage in His service, and to surrender fully unto Him in love and affection, life after life. I do not want any opulence. I only desire not to forget His service. I simply wish to be associated with His pure devotees. May my mind and activities be always engaged in His service. The unborn Supreme Personality of Godhead, Kåñëa, knows that many great personalities have fallen from their positions because of extravagant opulence. Therefore, even when His devotee asks for some opulence from Him, the Lord sometimes does not give it. He is very cautious about His devotees. Because a devotee in an immature position of devotional service may, if offered great opulence, fall from his position due to being in the material world, the Lord does not offer opulence to him. This is another manifestation of the causeless mercy of the Lord upon His devotee. His first interest is that the devotee not fall. He is exactly like a well-wishing father who does not give much wealth into the hand of his immature son, but who, when the son is grown up and knows how to spend money, gives him the whole treasury house.”

The learned brähmaëa thus concluded that whatever opulences he had received from the Lord should be used not for his extravagant sense gratification but for the service of the Lord. The brähmaëa accepted his newly acquired opulence, but he did so in a spirit of renunciation, unattached to sense gratification, and thus he lived very peacefully with his wife, enjoying all the facilities of opulence as prasädam of the Lord. He enjoyed varieties of food by offering it to the Lord and then taking it as prasädam. Similarly, if by the grace of the Lord we get such opulences as material wealth, fame, power, education and beauty, it is our duty to consider that they are all gifts of the Lord and must be used for His service, not for our sense enjoyment. The learned brähmaëa remained in that position, and thus his love and affection for Lord Kåñëa increased day after day; it did not deteriorate due to great opulence. Material opulence can be the cause of degradation and also the cause of elevation, according to the purposes for which it is used. If opulence is used for sense gratification it is the cause of degradation, and if used for the service of the Lord it is the cause of elevation.

It is evident from Lord Kåñëa’s dealings with Sudämä Vipra that the Supreme Personality of Godhead is very, very much pleased with a person who possesses brahminical qualities. A qualified brähmaëa like Sudämä Vipra is naturally a devotee of Lord Kåñëa. Therefore it is said, brähmaëo vaiñëavaù: a brähmaëa is a Vaiñëava. Or sometimes it is said, brähmaëaù paëòitaù. Paëòita means a highly learned person. A brähmaëa cannot be foolish or uneducated. Therefore there are two divisions of brähmaëas, namely Vaiñëavas and paëòitas. Those who are simply learned are paëòitas but not yet devotees of the Lord, or Vaiñëavas. Lord Kåñëa is not especially pleased with them. Simply the qualification of being a learned brähmaëa is not sufficient to attract the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Not only must a brähmaëa be well qualified according to the requirements stated in scriptures such as Çrémad Bhagavad-gétä and Çrémad-Bhägavatam, but at the same time he must be a devotee of Lord Kåñëa. The vivid example is Sudämä Vipra. He was a qualified brähmaëa, unattached to all sorts of material sense enjoyment, and at the same time a great devotee of Lord Kåñëa. Lord Kåñëa, the enjoyer of all sacrifices and penances, is very fond of a brähmaëa like Sudämä Vipra, and we have seen by the actual behavior of Lord Kåñëa how much He adores such a brähmaëa. Therefore, the ideal stage of human perfection is to become a brähmaëa-vaiñëava like Sudämä Vipra.
Sudämä Vipra realized that although Lord Kåñëa is unconquerable, He nevertheless agrees to be conquered by His devotees. He realized how kind Lord Kåñëa was to him, and he was always in trance, constantly thinking of Kåñëa. By such constant association with Lord Kåñëa, whatever darkness of material contamination remained within his heart was completely cleared away, and very shortly he was transferred to the spiritual kingdom, which is the goal of all saintly persons in the perfectional stage of life.

Çukadeva Gosvämé has stated that all persons who hear this history of Sudämä Vipra and Lord Kåñëa will know how affectionate Lord Kåñëa is to the brähmaëa devotees like Sudämä. Therefore anyone who hears this history gradually becomes as qualified as Sudämä Vipra, and he is thus transferred to the spiritual kingdom of Lord Kåñëa. (A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada. excerpt taken from the Eighty-first chapter of Kåñëa, “The Brähmaëa Sudämä Blessed by Lord Kåñëa”.)

In this way His kindness melts our hearts being obliged to accept our humble offerings saturated with love presented at His feet for His pleasure. His kindness is completely causeless, but knowing the heart of the devotee, and understanding the dependency of the devotee for His mercy in even taking our very next breath what to speak of doing more, our "guest" Who is in reality the Landlord, Father, Provider, Enjoyer of everything such a dependent householder does blesses us with His continued presence.

prasida paramananda
prasida paramesvara
dastam mam uddhara prabho

"O Supreme Lord, O reservoir of the highest pleasure, be pleased upon me.  I have been bitten by the poisonous snake of mental and bodily miseries.  Therefore, O Lord, please deliver me."

sri-krsna rukmini-kanta
samsara-sagare magnam
mam uddhara jagad-guro

"O Lord Krsna, O lover of Rukmini, O attractor of the minds of the gopis, please uplift me, for I am immersed in the ocean of birth and death, O spiritual preceptor of the universe."

keshava klesa-harana
narayana janardana
govinda paramananda
mam samuddhara madhava

"O Lord Kesava, O destroyer of the threefold miseries, O only refuge of all souls, O destroyer of the Jana demons, O Govinda, O reservoir of pleasure, please uplift me who am fallen, O husband of the goddess of fortune."

he krsna karuna-sindho
dina-bandho jagat-pate
gopesa gopika-kanta
radha-kanta namo 'stu te

"O my dear Krsna, You are the friend of the distressed, the ocean of mercy, and the Lord of creation.  You are the master of the cowherdsmen and the lover of the gopis, especially Radharani.  I offer my respectful obeisances unto You."


samsara-sagaran natha
goptarau me yuvam eva

"O Radha-Krsna, You are my protectors from the ocean of material existence which is characterized by sons, friends, household and land.  Therefore You are known as the destroyers of the fear of those who are surrendered unto You."

yo 'ham mamasti yat-kincid
iha loke paratra ca
tat sarvam bhavato 'dyaiva
caranesu samarpitam

"O Your Lordships, myself and whatever little bit is mine in this world and in the next, all that, I now offer unto Your lotus feet."

aham apy aparadhanam
alayas tyakta sadhanah
agatis ca tato nathau
bhavantau me para gatih

"O Your Lordships, I am certainly the abode of many offences and am completely devoid of the practice of devotional service;  neither do I have any resort or shelter.  Therefore, I am taking You as my ultimate goal."

tavasmi radhika-natha
karmana manasa gira
krsna-kante tavaivasmi
yuvam eva gatir mama

saranam vam prapanno 'smi
prasadam kuru dasyam bho
mayi duste 'paradhini

"O Lord of Srimati Radharani, I am Yours, my actions, mind and words.  O lover of Sri Krsna, Srimati Radharani, I belong to You alone.  You both are my only shelter.  O Radha and Krsna, ocean of mercy, I am taking shelter of You.  Please be pleased upon me and make me Your servant, although I am such a fallen offender."


mat-samo nasti papatma
naparadhi ca kascana
parihare 'pi lajja me
kim bruve purusottama

yuvatinam yatha yuni
unam ca yuvatau yatha
mano 'bhiramate tadvan
mano me ramatam tvayi

"O Purusottama, there is no sinful person or offender who is equal to me.  How can I describe my shame?  Just as the minds of young ladies take pleasure in a young man and the minds of young men take pleasure in a young woman, kindly let my mind take pleasure in You, alone."

bhumau skhalita-padanam
bhumir evavalambanam
tvayi jataparadhanam
tvam eva saranam prabho

"Just as the ground is the only support for those whose feet have slipped, so also You alone are the only shelter, even for those who have committed offence to You."

Such dependence in the bhaktyanga realm of seva gives way to flexibility set in the understanding that the sadhaka will offer everything available in their resources to the service of the Lord, there's no question of holding back or minimising facilities, the guest enjoys all the facility that the host can provide, and if little or no facilities are available the guest shares in what is avaliable. again the perfect example of Sanatan Goswami is there.....when finally he was given assistance to build a fine temple for Madan Mohan by one wealthy merchant he didn't refuse it or use it for his own sense gratification while the Lord remained in a tree, no, he established a wonderful temple and with the devotees around him then established the formal japanga guidelines to look after the needs of the Lord in His new temple.