Thursday, February 19, 2009

Deity Worship

 CIMG0039 Deity worship is one of the central components of bhakti yoga, or devotional service. A deity is a physical representation of the Supreme Lord in the form of a statue, a figure, or even a picture.

Many people mistaken deity worship to be idol worship and that is not the case. Lord Krishna, God Himself, has authorized the process of worshipping Him in the form of a deity. Many of us hold on to and display pictures and posters of our loved ones or people that we admire. When viewing these pictures, we are immediately reminded of the person or people in them. We are reminded of the circumstances relating to the picture. We remember where we were, what we were doing, what our mindset was at the time, etc.

In a similar fashion, viewing and worshipping the deity of Krishna immediately brings our mind into Krishna consciousness. We see the Lord’s beautiful form and we pay our respects directly to Him. God can take any form He wishes to. Sometimes he incarnates through the body of a fish, a boar, a man, or even simply through the sound vibration of His name, as He does in this age. The deity is another one of the forms He agrees to take for our benefit. When Lord Krishna personally appeared on this earth five thousand years ago, He gave explicit instructions to His dear friend Uddhava just prior to His returning back to the spiritual world. Similar instructions are also found throughout the Vedic texts, and through these instructions, authorized deity worship or archanam, has been followed since time immemorial.

Lord Krishna’s deities can be worshipped in various methods depending on the advancement of the devotee. The most sophisticated form of deity worship occurs in temples. Lord Krishna is treated as the chief resident of the temple and so His deity is cared for day and night. Deities are provided beds to sleep in, awoken in the morning, dressed very elaborately, given baths (abhishek)CIMG0027 , offered flowers and foodstuff throughout the day, etc. Krishna doesn’t require any of these things, but He allows us to serve Him in order that we may purify ourselves and advance spiritually.

Devotional service is not meant exclusively for residents of temples. Any devotee can have a deity in their home and take care of it by setting up a home altar.CIMG0038 In the simplest method, just regularly offering prayers to the deity and keeping the altar clean is good enough. A special benefit of having a deity at home is the opportunity to offer food directly to the Lord and distribute the remnants as prasadam (please see “How to Offer Food”).

Lord Krishna is kind enough to give us the opportunity to always remember Him through His deity incarnation. Why not take advantage of this opportunity by worshipping Him? Home is where the heart is. Make Krishna the center of your home and your heart will be forever pure.

 

Krishna’s Mercy is a nonprofit organization dedicated to delivering Krishna prasadam to one and all.

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