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The Desire To See God

Saturday, 14 March 2020 / Published in Articles / 6,048 views

Krishna sundari Dasi performing arati to Radha-Madhava dressed in Holi-style outfit

By Caitanya candrodaya dasa

The desire to see God, to touch God, to talk to God is in itself probably the strongest argument for His existence; besides the logic and evidences from the scriptures, this direct experience is very significant indeed. Bringing Deity Worship from the insiders circle of elderly pujari-priests and making it part of the congregational development is probably the only way it may become part of the positive future for many places in ISKCON. While everyone hankers for direct experience of God in person, it is rarely attained, even for great souls like Sri Narada of Srimad-Bhagavatam, what to speak of the beginners like us. Yet Srila Prabhupada and the acaryas place the arcana, or Deity Worship, in the realm of service opportunities for neophytes. It is true that the worship of God in His deity form may attract neophytes, but it will also promote us to the next level of advancement, if done properly. Thus expanding the scope of Deity worship is a direct preaching, especially if done in an attitude of care and encouragement to the aspiring devotees. The “proof of the pudding is in the tasting” (sometimes misquoted as “proof is in the pudding”, which is not true..) and the practical experience of God via processes of bhakti-yoga provides that conclusive personal proof of His existence, yet the arcana process of tasting requires and demands the community expansion to survive these days.

While attending the Srila Prabhupada on Deity Worship ILS seminar in Mayapur this year a question was asked by the facilitator on the possible strategy for Deity Worship in ISKCON for decades to come. Times do change, and those who joined in the ’80s may notice a change of direction or even a decline in arcana standard. Yet it is exactly the way one deals with the difficulties that provides one with a possible and a positive answer. Increasing community participation is not only inline with Srila Prabhupada’s instructions it is also a strategic development in arcana, considering the movement he started becomes more and more based in congregation.

When concluding this Sunday feast video presentation, that was showed an hour-long feature film of our yatra in the late ’90s, I put the question to the congregation and asked for volunteers to take up the evening services to the Deities during the week. I was really pleased with a positive response. When given a chance to see and serve the Lord directly, devotees usually do not resent. Only an hour or two after-work is an affordable option for many householder devotees or even students. It provides one with an opportunity of a lifetime and a way to become more qualified. A senior pujari, who has been living outside of the temple for some 18 years, also came forward to offer a part of the evening programme, another Prabhupada disciple already offered a day during the week. These are very positive and encouraging news, and I can only hope that devotees will take it up more and more, considering that the evening schedule was custom tailored to suit the needs of the congregation, to make it more manageable and compact.

Would you not want to have a direct sensual perception of God? Is it not an attractive proposal? Why not take a break from daily routine and material role? Besides being able to hear His name (nama) and His glories (sastra-pramana), worshiping His form (rupa) is probably the quickest and most affordable way, for a beginner, to proceed in the process of pleasing God. Nothing may come close to the constant absorption of an advanced devotee, yet even for neophytes like us, even an evening or an hour a week can provide an opportunity and the blessings of purification. I would like to ask Vasnavas to bless the efforts of congregational involvement in the Deity worship, as with everything else in this imperfect world, the most difficult of tasks will become possible with the blessings of the devotees of the Lord; so please bless these five congregational devotees who started their part time involvement this week in the Belfast temple; and please pray that even a neophyte will be given a chance to experience the blissful transcendent form, rupa, of God by direct perception, or at least get a glimpse and meditation on His mercy.

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9 Responses to “The Desire To See God”

  1. shantasyadd says :

    I was very upset to read your article, Caitanya Chandra doya prabhu. The first thing that I want to know is, who did you checked with before you went ahead and offered an untrained congregation with an undisclosed devotional standards the opportunity to take part in direct deity worship to the installed scared forms of Their Lordships Sri Sri Radha Madhava?

    Second thing, on what are you basing your various assumptions that the future of deity worship can only be advanced if its open to any congregation member that had not been washed or dressed in clean clothes or followed the regulative principals, or been initiated? but raised his hand in the sunday feast when you asked who wants to worship the deities?

    Have you disclosed to your authority that you picked a 3 week visitor to the temple after a sunday feast gave him ‘a mantra wash’ and put him on the altar and if Krsnasundari prabhu woyld not interfere you would have let that person dress Their Lordship?

    I found your article upsetting indeed and your course of action following from it highly disturbing.

  2. Puskaraksa das says :

    Thank you very much Prabhuji for this kind article of yours and the encouraging mood pervading through it.

    In it you underline that Arcanam, Deity worship, is suitable and appropriate for neophytes… So, I have one question:

    Considering, on one hand, the fact that one is supposed to be a brahmana to act as a pujari and, on the other hand, the qualities, laksana, which define a brahmana, do you really think that a real brahmana Vaishnava is to be assimilated to a neophyte?

    Let us examine what a brahmana is, by stating the qualities of a brahmana. According to Sri Krsna in Bhagavad-gita (18.42), the qualities of a brahmana are as follows:

    samo damas tapah saucam
    ksantir arjavam eva ca
    jnanam vijnanam astikyam
    brahma-karma svabhava-jam

    “Peacefulness, self-control, austerity, purity, tolerance, honesty, knowledge, wisdom and religiousness — these are the natural qualities by which the brahmanas work.”

    In the Mahabharata it is stated:

    dharmas ca satyam ca damas tapas ca
    amatsaryam hris titiksanasuya
    yajnas ca danam ca dhrtih srutam ca
    vratani vai dvadasa brahmanasya

    “A brahmana must be perfectly religious. He must be truthful, and he must be able to control his senses. He must execute severe austerities, and he must be detached, humble and tolerant. He must not envy anyone, and he must be expert in performing sacrifices and giving whatever he has in charity. He must be fixed in devotional service and expert in the knowledge of the Vedas. These are the twelve qualifications for a brahmana.”

    Elsewhere in the Mahabharata (Vana Parva Chapter 180) Yudhisthira explains —

    satyam danam ksama-silam
    anrsyamsam tapo ghrna
    drsyante yatra nagendra
    sa brahmana iti smrtah

    “A person who possesses truthfulness, charity, forgiveness, sobriety, gentleness, austerity and lack of hatred is called a brahmana.”

    So, it doesn’t look that easy and simple to be a brahmana, does it?

    Now, the question is whether one becomes a brahmana by acting as a pujari, or whether should become a real brahmana, prior to acting as a pujari?

    Besides, is “arcanam” meant to be a means of purification or an act of worship?

    One may be tempted to say both. But when does real worship start?

    If one considers that one has to raise one’s personal standard and become pure, so as to become eligible to touch the Lord, then there may be some hope.

    But what if one simply pretends to be a brahmana, while maintaining material attachments and simply moves some ghee lamps in front of some “dolls”…?

  3. ccd says :

    Prabhupada somewhere mentioned that children from the age of 11 are to be taking training and service in worshiping the arcanam (in the temple). So I am completely taking it as a practical and down-to-earth kind of decision and process. If someone is clean, steady and brahminical, he is a brahmana type and should be trained up. If someone is on the other hand is initiated but is a cheat and unclean, he needs to shape up.

    If you are asking me about my own qualifications, or the lack of it, I just try to follow the programme left by Srila Prabhupada. It is simple and keeps you engaged. If at any stage of my life I do get to the point of the perfection of Deity worship, you will probably hear from me. I will not be shy.

    One definition of fanatism is un-ability to distinguish the theory and it’s literal requirements from the real life application of the same and the gap of adjustment. I am a bit fanatical, they say, but I am working on it to become a bit more realistic.

    Thank you very much for your comment and all the time you took to put it together. It is valuable. It is full of information on requirements. We all need to know what are the adhikara of brahmana, in order to not be cheated.

    How would you, Puskaraksa prabhu, describe, in which select words, your favorite devotee pujari-brahmana? How does he sit, how does he walk, how does he talk and does his service?

  4. Puskaraksa das says :

    Thank you for asking such a good question, Prabjuji, at the end of your comment, in the line of Arjuna who also questioned Krishna in a similar way:

    “What are the symptoms of one whose consciousness is thus merged in Transcendence? How does he speak, and what is his language? How does he sit, and how does he walk?” B.g. 2.54

    These points may seem irrelevant to some, but actually all this belongs to the same coherence, and represents so many symtoms corresponding to one situated on the absolute platform, i.e. in Transcendence, that is to say beyond the three gunas…

    As a matter of fact, as your question induces it, you have understood that the ideal pujari-brahmana is a pure devotee of the Lord! As a matter of fact, unless there is pure love, how can there be genuine and absolute love and care for the Lord, in His Deity form?

    In the first place, unless one is situated on the transcendental platform, how can one really relate with Sri Krishna and Srimati Radharani or other manifestations of Godhead and their eternal entourage? As a matter of fact, as long as one is attached to matter and identifies with his gross or subtle material body, one will not be able to transcend and really see beyond the material elements which the Arca vigraha is externally made of.

    Beyond, we know that Krishna reveals Himself to us in proportion of our surrender. Moreover, He reveals Himsel by His causeless mercy only to whoever He chooses to.

    In this line, maybe some of you have already had a glimpse of Who the Deity really is. You might have had a dream in which the Deities moved, danced, sat to take prasad or some other transcendental experience.

    But actually to have the permanent darshan of Krishna, one has to have the eyes anointed with the balm of pure love, prema…

    Premanjana bhakti vilocanena santah sadaiva hridayesu vilokayanti yam Shyamasundaram acyntia guna svarupam Govindam adi Purusam Tam aham bhajami (Brahma samhita V.38)

    Srila Prabhupada is such a pure devotee, that he was conversing with Krishna in His Arca vigraha, speaking, listening to Krishna and then speaking again.

    Actually, all our previous Acaryas were pure devotees. One such famous one is Madhavendra Puri, the Spiritual Master of Advaita Acarya. Because of his pure desire to offer some khira to Gopal, Gopinath put aside some of the preparation that had been offered to Him, for His pure devotee to taste it.

    This is such exchanges of pure love which charectarizes pure Deity worship…

  5. ccd says :

    I know it is a common theme I find, that devotees do not draw a line between sadhakas (trying for pefection) and siddhas (those who are already perfect). I always felt that there is a difference in how one worships the Deity on these stages. I also found it very encouraging that Deity worship IS for purification of neophytes.

    Visvanath Cakravarti Thakura makes an interesting observation in his tika quoting Gopala Tapani —

    Gopal tapani upanisad (12.1) says:

    sat pundarika nayanam meghabham vaidyutambaram dvbhujam mauna mudradyam vanamalinam isvaram

    Govinda has lotus eyes, complexion like a cloud, and cloth like lightning. He has two hands in the position of mauna and wears a forest flower garland.

    Because of the siddha devotee being able to grasp the spiritual lotus cloud and lightning by spiritual intelligence and senses, the spiritual Upanisada easily conveys the Lord’s eyes, body and cloth which are
    compared to these things. However, the sadhaka devotee, though he cannot grasp these things with his intelligence and senses, by applying the concepts of a material lotus, cloud and lightning to the Lord he can
    make them enter his intelligence. By concenterating his mind in this way, he then becomes joyful, under the impression that he is meditating on the Lord, though not even touching the Lord’s effulgence.

    But the Lord, controlled by waves of unlimited mercy, thinks “My devotee is meditating on me.” The Lord brings that devotee to His feet for service when his bhakti reaches maturity.

    This is the nature of the Lord, He is bhava-grahi — he sees good and devotion even in those of us who are not liberated or not transcendent to the modes, certainly me included.

  6. ccd says :

    Srila Madhvacarya has brought to our attention to this quotation from the Narayana-samhita:

    dvapariyair janair vishnuh pancaratrais tu kevalaih
    kalau tu nama-matrena pujyate bhagavan harih

    “In the Dvapara-yuga one could satisfy Krishna or Vishnu only by worshiping opulently according to the pancaratriki system, but in the Age of Kali one can satisfy and worship the Supreme Personality of Godhead Hari simply by chanting His holy name.”

    Deity worship therefore is part of preaching, not a separate department. Of course rules, such as non-initiated not touching the Deity form, are to be followed. Yet the process of arcanam is subservient to chanting the names, and anything that makes a neophyte, like myself, become more inspired in chanting, anything that makes me want to chant more with a pure desire to please the Lord, is most welcome and is essentially true. In our temple we had a long tradition of engaging first initates on the altar, this is a common feature of ISKCON. Even less than that had become not a norm, but an acceptable exception and it is part of the differences seen by devotees who joined in 80s, during the period of inflated standards that nowhere are maintained exactly. So, with an aspiration to rise above pure kanistha level of judging others, I see devotees who did not undergo the purificatory rites are often more qualified and more brahminical than those who have been around and have neglected the vows of initiation. Yet all of them are to shown mercy, and the deity worship is exactly that — mercy of the Lord, not His punishment.

  7. Puskaraksa das says :

    Lack of so called “manpower” may explain your stand at the Belfast temple…
    Is that the case, as you seem to indicate that first initiates and even less than that, are going on the altar?
    Even more so, you say that this is, if not completely a norm, very common in ISKCON…!

    To be quite frank with you, I have been a member of IKCON for over thirty years and have travelled the world (even though I have to admit I never came to Belfast), and during all these years I have never witnessed and had never even heard of such practices…

    However, it would be interesting to know what is the opinion of other senior devotees on this, and all the more, what is the official stand of the Ministry of Puja and Deity Worship?

    Did you consider, on your side, whether these local practices were in line with Srila Prabhupada’s teachings and the standard he established for the worship of the Arca Vigraha in his ISKCON temples?

    On the other hand, you seem to be raising the importance of preaching?
    So why is it, that this “preaching” doesn’t attract more souls to surrender to Krishna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead and abide by Srila Prabhupada’s teachings and precepts…?

    If it did, there would be no scarcity of second initiates to go on the altar in your temple…!

    Anyhow, since it is neither a matter of personal opinions, nor an issue where one can implement one’s own speculations, I think it would be appropriate at this point that ISKCON authorities including your GBC and the Puja Ministry, tell you what you are allowed to do or not.

    Hare Krishna

  8. ccd says :

    It is nice to have such encouragement from you Puskaraksa prabhu, and certainly you are most welcome to come over to Belfast when you are here. So is Santasya and Japa yajna, most welcome to come, sorry for not noticing your kind words.

    When I say it is a common practice in ISKCON, I do not quote from my own experience, but from what I was presented at the official Deity Worship seminar in Mayapur and the situation as it stands (not how it was 20 years ago). Surely you have not been travelling for the last ten years as intensely, or maybe I am wrong. I can only uphold the standard as it is and use it for preaching. And yes it is Prabhupada’s standard (at least at the very beginning), that he constantly tried to raise, be it in the early days of Australia preaching or be it other parts of the world.

    Going Congregational is just natural, since we are now a Congregational movement. Participation of householder devotees, all of whom we talk now are with 10 or more years in KC and chanting the Harinama, is commendable and should be encouraged and balanced with the right attitude. Right attitude is attitude of a preacher (madhyama) not of a kanistha. Garuda Purana confirms that:

    brahmananam sahasrebhyah satra-yaji vishishyate
    satra-yaji-sahasrebhyah sarva-vedanta-paragah
    sarva-vedanta-vit-koöya vishnu-bhakto vishishyate
    vaishnavanam sahasrebhya ekanty eko vishishyate

    “A brahmana qualified to offer sacrifices is better than an ordinary brahmana, and better than such a brahmana is one who has studied all the Vedic scriptures. Among many such brahmanas, one who is a devotee of Lord Vishnu is the best, and among many such Vaishnavas, one who fully engages in the service of the Lord is the best.”

  9. Puskaraksa das says :

    As far as I am concerned, I have nothing against the fact that brahmana grihastas come to the temple, take a shower, wear a clean dhoti or sari and serve the Deities, by cooking for them, performing arati, etc.

    This is all very nice…

    However, if there is shortage of brahmanas in the temple and amongst the local congregation, I think the best option is to invite brahmanas from other parts of the world to come and join forces with you, for some time.

    On their side, first initiates may start their training, as future brahmanas, at home, by offering their food, performing arati and singing bhajans in front of some pictures of the Deities. They may even acquire a small murti of laddhu Gopal and/or some Gour-Nitai Deities and hence develop a real taste for Arcanam…

    However, I am no authority on you. So, please kindly excuse me for having voiced my personal outlook on this topic.

    I can see that you have good intentions and like to quote slokas. This is all very nice.

    Therefore, I just pray that you may meet with all success in your preaching and seva.

    May Srila Prabhupada and Sri-Sri Radha-Madhava be satisfied by your service and grant you Their mercy.

    Hare Krishna
    Yours in service

    Das dasanudasa
    Puskaraksa das

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