Following is an excerpt from the lecture on Archanam – Loving Krishna by Worshiping His Form – Vraj Bihari Das
Archanam is the way we offer constant prayers and serve deities. It is one of the nine ways of Serving Lord that Prahalada Maharaj has explained. Deity worship and Archanam were different from Idol worship. Generally people offer three objections to deity worship.
First is that they say “Why do you worship idol?” Prabhupada explains that they have to understand that idol and deity are different. Idol is sculptured by someone but deity is sanctified by the God. And to differentiate between the two, we need education and practice to understand and reciprocate with deity.
Second is that they say “Why you have this form when god does not have a form?” Our answer is “Who says that God does not have form?” Scriptures say that God had both form and formless. God has three aspects – Bramhman, the formless aspect, Paramathma, the localized aspect and Bhagavan, the personalized aspect. In most religions and religious texts like Bible and Quran, all prophets hint that God has form. But the prophets did not reveal all the truths because of the time, place and circumstances and capability of the devotees. Bhagavad Gita explains that impersonal or formless aspect of god is hard and tough to understand. So only we use the deity worship.
Third objection people gives is “If deity is not different from Krishna, then why deity cannot protect himself from the danger?” For that we have to understand that the purpose of deity is not to perform miracles, it is to reciprocate with the devotees. Demolition of the deity does not state that the deity has no potency. Potency of the deity is the power to transform the heart of the deity.
Potency of Deity, Holy names and Prasad is not physical or material. It is revival of the love for Krishna in our hearts. However you can also find in the scriptures that deity can also do miracles. Like in one of the pastimes, When Mukunda told his small son Raghunandan to give Prasad to the deities of Ratha Gopinath, Raghunandan went to the deity and offered laddu. By his pure devotion, Gopinath came out of the alter and laddu offered by Raghunandan. Now when asked Mukund asked Raghunandan where is Prasad, Raghunandan simply replied lord ate it all, so Mukunda asked Raghunandan to offer laddu again to see what is the reality. Raghunandan again offered laddu to Radha Gopinath and cam out ate almost half of the laddu and when deity say that Mukunda was seeing him, Gopinath went back leaving half laddu, and this half laddu is still kept Srikanda.
Rupa Goswami who found and served Radha Govind Deities says that if we get attached to the deities and worship them whole heartedly, we will lose all material attachment. Also we will negate all the negativity from our hearts if we fall in love with Krishna. The main goal in deity worship is the Krishna’s enjoyment.
If you see in all other religions and in even traditional Hinduism, it is considered that God existence in relation to human being as if God is only there becuase of us from the context of God is to take care of us, feed us, save us when are we are surrounded with problem. But in our Vaishanava theology, God exist independent of us whether the material world or us as human being exist or not. Krishna is the supreme enjoyer. And we have to serve Krishna in by worshiping Krishna Deities.
Prabhupada says that one cannot know Krishna without being the lover of Krishna. When you fall in love with deity, you will go into ecstasy on seeing the deity. If you did not get reciprocation from deity, you can get reciprocation from other things also. Basically three things we will get if we attach to deities. We will get engagement, experience and expansion of preaching.
True happiness can be attained by pleasing the senses of Krishna. It is not for Krishna as he is not in need of anything. By pleasing Krishna, our hearts and our self will be happy and satisfied. When we approach Krishna through deity, we will recognize that we need something from Krishna. People now get attached to possessions and positions and that is what creates all the problems. Current modern life is based on misconception that our goal of life is to be happy. But from the Vedic life, goal of life is to dedicate your life to some worthy cause. So when we engage in Krishna, we will get happiness as by product. We become happy means we will get strength all the problems in this world.
Radhanath Swami Maharaj was once addressing secular audience and one person asked “I go to temple, church, mosque, gurudhuwara but I get the same feeling. So is ultimately all the feeling same?” Maharaj answered that “To whom you associate and are you sincere on the places of worship decide your feeling on that place”. Maharaj also says that “In temples only, deity and Krishna are here because of the way Acharyas installed deity”.
If we get attached to Krishna once and due to some issues give up the process of worship, we will come back to Krishna when we remember Krishna. This is exactly what Narada Muni explains that the Rasa the devotee experiences will always get him back to Krishna even if we left. We are continuously thrashed by Maya and in need of peace, so asks Krishna desperately for his causeless mercy. Whatever nature we have and we can do, always think of Krishna and do for Krishna.