The Importance of Deity Worship
(Srila Prabhupada offering arotika to Radha Gokulananda, 1973—click to enlarge)

"The Lord is transcendental to our mundane senses. He cannot be seen with our present eyes, nor can He be heard with our present ears. To the degree that we have entered into the service of the Lord or to the proportion to which our lives are freed from sins, we can perceive the Lord. But even though we are not free from sins, the Lord is kind enough to allow us the facility of seeing Him in His arca-murtis in the temple. The Lord is all-powerful, and therefore He is able to accept our service by presentation of His arca form. No one, therefore, should foolishly think the arca in the temple to be an idol. Such an arca-murti is not an idol but the Lord Himself, and to the proportion to which one is freed from sins, he is able to know the significance of the arca-murti. The guidance of a pure devotee is therefore always required."

(Srimad-Bhagavatam 3.1.17, Purport)

"In our present state of imperfect material existence, we cannot see the Supreme Lord, due to imperfect vision. Yet those devotees who want to see him by means of material vision are favored by the Lord, who appears in a so-called material form to accept His devotee's service."

(Sri Isopanisad Mantra 5, Purport)

"So you cannot see spirit, and God is the Supreme Spirit. Actually, He is everything—spirit and matter—but you cannot see Him in His spiritual identity. Therefore, to show kindness toward you, He appears out of His unbounded mercy in the form of a wooden or stone Deity so that you can see Him."

(Science of Self-Realization, Chapter 1)

"The Lord in the temple in the worshipable form is never to be considered to be made of stone or wood, for the Lord in His arca incarnation as the Deity in the temple shows immense favor to the fallen souls by His auspicious presence. By the hearing process, as mentioned hereinbefore, this realization of the presence of the Lord in the temple is made possible."

(Srimad-Bhagavatam 2.3.21, Purport)

"Just as by clapping the hands one can cause many birds to fly away, similarly the birds of all sinful activities which are sitting on the body can be made to fly away simply by dancing and clapping before the Deity of Krishna."

(Nectar of Devotion, Chapter 9)

"The devotees express their minds before the Deity, and in many instances the Deity also gives answers. But one must be a very elevated devotee in order to be able to speak with the Supreme Lord. Sometimes the Lord informs the devotee through dreams. These exchanges of feelings between the Deity and the devotee are not understandable by atheists, but actually the devotee enjoys them."

(Srimad-Bhagavatam 3.25.35, Purport)

"Worship Krishna with love. That is the qualification for Deity worship. If you love Krishna, you will worship Him very nicely."

(Srila Prabhupada Letter, October 7, 1974)

"This is very important business, Deity worship. The more the Deity is decorated, the more your heart will be decorated with Krishna consciousness."

(Srila Prabhupada Letter, November 10, 1975)

"If one is in full Krishna consciousness, he can make his home very happy because this process of Krishna consciousness is very easy. One need only chant Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare/ Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare, accept the remnants of foodstuffs offered to Krishna, have some discussions on books like Bhagavad-gita and Srimad-Bhagavatam, and engage oneself in Deity worship. These four will make one happy."

(Bhagavad-gita As It Is 13.8-12, Purport)

"Whoever cares for the Krishna consciousness movement can install Deities at home and under superior guidance, worship the Deity regularly, chanting the maha-mantra and discussing Bhagavad-gita and Srimad-Bhagavatam. We are actually teaching in our classes how to go about this. One who feels that he is not yet ready to live in a temple or undergo strict regulative principles in the temple—especially householders who live with wife and children—can start a center at home by installing the Deity, worshiping the Lord morning and evening, chanting Hare Krishna and discussing Bhagavad-gita and Srimad-Bhagavatam. Anyone can do this at home without difficulty, and Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu requested the devotees present there to do so."

(Caitanya-caritamrta Madhya 3.190, Purport)

"In the Naradiya Purana there is a statement about bowing down and offering respect to the Deity. It is said there: 'A person who has performed a great ritualistic sacrifice and a person who has simply offered his respectful obeisances by bowing down before the Lord cannot be held as equals.' The person who has executed many great sacrifices will attain the result of his pious activities, but when such results are finished, he has to take birth again on the earthly planet; whereas the person who has once offered respects, bowing down before the Deity, will not again come back to this world, because he will go directly to the abode of Krishna."

(Nectar of Devotion, Chapter 9)

"In the Nrsimha Purana it is stated: 'Any person who comes before the Deity of the Lord and begins to chant different prayers is immediately relieved from all the reactions of sinful activities and he becomes eligible, without any doubt, to enter into the Vaikuntha-loka.'"

(Nectar of Devotion, Chapter 9)

"There are offenses to be considered in chanting the Hare Krishna maha-mantra, but there are no such considerations in chanting the names Gaura-Nityananda. Therefore, if one chants the Hare Krishna maha-mantra but his life is still full of sinful activities, it will be very difficult for him to achieve the platform of loving service to the Lord. But if in spite of being an offender one chants the holy names of Gaura-Nityananda, he is very quickly freed from the interactions of his offenses. Therefore one should approach Lord Caitanya and Nityananda, or worship Guru-Gauranga, and then come to the stage of worshiping Radha-Krishna. In our Krishna consciousness movement, our students are first advised to worship Guru-Gouranga, and then, when they are somewhat advanced, the Radha-Krishna Deity is installed, and they are engaged in the worship of the Lord."

(Caitanya-caritamrta Madhya 8.31, Purport)

"The common man, if he has no time to worship the Lord, may at least engage his hands for a few seconds in washing or sweeping the Lord's temple. Maharaja Prataparudra, the greatly powerful king of Orissa, was always very busy with heavy state responsibilities, yet he made it a point to sweep the temple of Lord Jagannatha at Puri once a year during the festival of the Lord. The idea is that however important a man one may be he must accept the supremacy of the Supreme Lord. This God consciousness will help a man even in his material prosperity."

(Srimad-Bhagavatam 2.3.21, Purport)

"Sri-vigraha is the arca, or suitable worshipable form of the Lord, and the disciple should be engaged in worshiping the Deity regularly by srngara, by proper decoration and dressing, as also by mandira-marjana, 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."

(Srimad-Bhagavatam 2.3.22, Purport)

"The Deity is known as arca-vigraha or arca-avatara, an incarnation of the Supreme Lord in the form of material manifestation (brass, stone or wood). Ultimately there is no difference between Krishna manifest in matter or Krishna manifest in spirit because both are His energies. For Krishna, there is no distinction between matter and spirit. His manifestation in material form, therefore, is as good as His original form, sac-cid-ananda-vigraha. A devotee constantly engaged in Deity worship according to the rules and regulations laid down in the sastras and given by the spiritual master realizes gradually that he is in direct contact with the Supreme Personality of Godhead."

(Caitanya-caritamrta Madhya 13.139, Purport)

"If one is unable to maintain a temple at home, he should go to another's temple where all of 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."

(Srimad-Bhagavatam 2.3.22, Purport)

"Never think of the Deity as made of stone or wood. Every worshipper must remember that Krishna is personally present. He is simply kindly presenting Himself before us in a way that we can handle Him. That is His mercy, otherwise He is unapproachable."

(Srila Prabhupada Letter, November 10, 1975)

"Mayavadis and atheists accept the forms of the Deities in the temple of the Lord as idols, but devotees do not worship idols. They directly worship the Personality of Godhead in His arca incarnation. Arca refers to the form which we can worship in our present condition. Actually, in our present state it is not possible to see God in His spiritual form because our material eyes and senses cannot conceive of a spiritual form. We cannot even see the spiritual form of the individual soul. When a man dies we cannot see how the spiritual form leaves the body. That is the defect of our material senses. In order to be seen by our material senses, the Supreme Personality of Godhead accepts a favorable form which is called arca-vigraha. This arca-vigraha, sometimes called the arca incarnation, is not different from Him. Just as the Supreme Personality of Godhead accepts various incarnations, He takes on forms made out of matter—clay, wood, metal and jewels."

(Srimad-Bhagavatam 3.25.35, Purport)

"According to the Bhagavata school, the Lord's rasa dancing is the smiling face of the Lord. Since it is recommended in this verse that one should gradually progress from the lotus feet up to the smiling face, we shall not jump at once to understand the Lord's pastimes in the rasa dance. It is better to practice concentrating our attention by offering flowers and tulasi to the lotus feet of the Lord. In this way, we gradually become purified by the arcana process. We dress the Lord, bathe Him, etc., and all these transcendental activities help us purify our existence. When we reach the higher standard of purification, if we see the smiling face of the Lord or hear the rasa dance pastimes of the Lord, then we can relish His activities. In the Srimad-Bhagavatam, therefore, the rasa dance pastimes are delineated in the Tenth Canto (Chapters 29-34)."

(Srimad-Bhagavatam 2.2.13, Purport)

"The smiling face of the Deity in the temple is beheld by the devotees as transcendental and spiritual, and the decoration of the body of the Lord is very much appreciated by the devotees. It is the duty of the spiritual master to teach how to decorate the Deity in the temple, how to cleanse the temple and how to worship the Deity. There are different procedures and rules and regulations which are followed in temples of Visnu, and devotees go there and see the Deity, the vigraha, and spiritually enjoy the form because all of the Deities are benevolent."

(Srimad-Bhagavatam 3.25.35, Purport)

"Rupa Gosvami has stated that the five kinds of devotional activities—namely, residing in Mathura, worshiping the Deity of the Lord, reciting Srimad-Bhagavatam, serving a devotee, and chanting the Hare Krishna mantra—are so potent that a small attachment for any of these five items can arouse devotional ecstacy even in a neophyte.

Regarding worship of the form of the Lord, or Deity, Rupa Gosvami has written the following verse: 'My dear friends, if you still have any desire to enjoy the company of your friends within this material world, then don't look upon the form of Krishna, who is standing on the bank of Kesi-ghat [a bathing place in Vrindavana]. He is known as Govinda, and His eyes are very enchanting. He is playing upon His flute, and on His head there is a peacock feather. And His whole body is illuminated by the moonlight in the sky.

The purport of this verse is that if someone becomes attached to Sri Murti, or Deity of Krishna, by worshiping at home, then he will forget his relationship of so-called friendship, love and society. Thus it is the duty of every householder to install Deities of the Lord at home and to begin the process of worshiping along with all of his family members. This will save everyone from such unwanted activities as going to clubs, cinemas, dancing parties, smoking, drinking, etc. All such nonsense will be forgotten if one stresses the worship of the Deities at home."

(Nectar of Devotion, Chapter 13)

"If one attains perfection in Deity worship, that is called Arcana Siddhi. Arcana Siddhi means simply by Deity worship one goes back to Godhead, immediately after this life.

So this Arcana Siddhi program is given in the Narada Pancaratra especially for the householders. Householders cannot undergo strict disciplinary activities of austerity, therefore for every householder the path of Arcana Siddhi is very much recommended. According to Vedic system, all householders are ordered to keep Deity at home and follow strictly the worshipment process.

That makes the home pure, body pure, mind pure, and quickly promotes one to the pure platform of spiritual life. The temple is also specially meant for the householders. In India, in every town, in every village, in every neighborhood, still there are Visnu temples for the convenience of the surrounding householders."

(Srila Prabhupada Letter, March 18, 1969)

"I am not in favor of closing even a small temple. It is not a plaything to close a temple or to start a temple. When we open a temple we are inviting Krsna. So you can't say to Krsna, go away. You have no feeling what are the ideals of a temple. You should always consider that we have invited Lord Caitanya, Lord Jagannatha, and Radha Krsna, and if we close it, it is an insult. How can we call Them, and then say get out. We should always feel when we open a temple that the Deity is living and not dead stone or wood. It is a great offense. Before opening a temple it must be considered a hundred times, and after opening it cannot be closed. It must be maintained.

arcye visnau siladhir gurusu nara matir Vaisnave jati buddhih

'One who considers the arca murti or worshipable Deity of Lord Visnu to be stone, the spiritual master to be an ordinary human being, and a Vaisnava to belong to a particular caste or creed, is possessed of hellish intelligence.'"

(Srila Prabhupada Letter, September 12, 1974)

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