“…Rama used to be awakened with vocal and instrumental music, the tinkling of elegant ornaments, and the peals of goodly mrdangas…” (Bharata speaking to his mothers, Valmiki Ramayana, Ayodhya Kand, Sec 88)
This one passage describes the essence of deity worship, one of the central components of devotional service. God should be honored and praised at all times, especially in the morning. In His archa-vigraha form, the Lord bestows His mercy upon us by appearing before our very eyes. The same respect that was personally shown to Lord Rama thousands of years ago can also be shown to the deity by people today.
Bharata was one of Lord Rama’s younger brothers and was chosen to succeed their father, King Dashratha of Ayodhya, on the throne. Rama, being an incarnation of Lord Krishna, or God, was Dashratha’s eldest son and next in line for the throne, but due to the influence of Kaikeyi, Bharata’s mother, the system of precedent was overridden. Not only was Rama not chosen to be king, but He was also ordered to leave the kingdom and not return for fourteen years. These events took place a long long time ago during the Treta Yuga. By exiting the kingdom, Rama was forced to life in the wilderness as a hermit with no connection to the royal kingdom whatsoever. Sita Devi, Rama’s wife, and Lakshmana, His younger brother, insisted on accompanying Him for the duration of His exile term. Bharata was away attending to family business when these events transpired. Upon returning to the kingdom, He came to find that Dashratha had died due to separation pains and that Rama was no longer in the kingdom.
Being a pure devotee, Bharata immediately set out for the forest to search for Rama and to beg Him to come back. A large group of people accompanied Bharata, including Shatrughna, the fourth brother, and Dashratha’s wives. One of the first stops Bharata made was at the camp of the Nishada chief, Guha. Nishadas were forest dwellers considered uncivilized, but since Guha was a devoted soul, Rama and His group stopped and took hospitality from him early on in their journey. In talking with Guha, Bharata was shown the very spot where Rama and Sita slept for one night, with Lakshmana standing guard. The above referenced quote is part of a series of lamentations from Bharata, describing his utter dismay upon viewing Rama’s sleeping ground. Rama, aside from being God Himself, was loved and adored by all the citizens of Ayodhya. He was always given the royal treatment while living in the kingdom, so Bharata was appalled to see that his elder brother and His wife had to endure such horrible conditions.
Bharata gives a hint into how Rama was treated while living in Ayodhya. Upon waking up, Rama would be greeted with great pomp and pageantry. One can only imagine the religious merit the citizens of Ayodhya must have accumulated in their previous lives. They had the great fortune of being able to personally associate with God. They made the most of this opportunity by always glorifying Him, singing His praises, and treating Him like royalty. They may not have known of Rama’s divinity, but it didn’t matter. Just as the gopis of Vrindavana were always thinking of Krishna, the people of Ayodhya always thought of Rama.
“The Lord’s original form is that of Shri Krishna, and Shri Krishna expands Himself into an unlimited number of forms, such as Baladeva, Rama, Narasimha and Varaha. All of these forms are one and the same Personality of Godhead. Similarly, the archa-vigraha worshiped in temples is also an expanded form of the Lord. By worshiping the archa-vigraha, one can at once approach the Lord, who accepts the service of a devotee by His omnipotent energy.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Sri Isopanisad, 8)
Though God may not always be personally present before us, we still can worship Him in the same manner through the process of archanam, or deity worship. Not to be confused with idol worship, worshiping the Lord in His archa-vigraha form is as good as worshiping Him personally. God is the Supreme Absolute Truth, who is all-pervading and all-knowing. He can accept any form at will, so it is not such a wonderful feat for Him to appear in the form of a deity made out of stone or wood.
Just as Rama was always given a nice place to rest, so the deity should be treated in the same manner. Sometimes people display various pieces of artwork or they put up pictures that are important to them in their homes. While these decorations are certainly nice, the deity of the Lord should never be treated in this manner. God is the primary object of reverence and worship, so He should be treated as the most exalted guest in the home. There are many specific rules and regulations relating to deity worship, but the primary component is love and respect. Bharata loved Rama so much that just the thought of Rama having to sleep on the bare ground was like a dagger to Bharata’s heart. To avoid any transgressions, one should take great care to avoid offending the deity.
“I’m not a morning person” is a common phrase heard from people who have trouble waking up in the morning. As the law of inertia states, “A body at rest stays at rest”, the sleeping person has a hard time waking up in the morning after a long night’s rest. A new day means a return to the daily grind of work or school. Parents have an even tougher day ahead of them since they must make sure the kids wake up in time and are fed properly before going to school. The famous singer Shania Twain remarks in one of her songs, “If only I could sleep in, wake up on the weekend, oh what a dream that would be”. These are sentiments that many of us share. If we have something to do in the morning that excites us, then waking up becomes a lot easier. Herein lies one of the benefits of deity worship.
Serving God is the highest purpose in life since it is the eternal occupation of man to be Krishna or God conscious. This is the true meaning of sanatana-dharma. Waking up early and greeting the deity allows us to thank God for being in our life and blessing us with His presence. This human form of life is not easy to come by. Other animals such as cats, dogs, and hogs have no conception of God. Actually, they don’t even realize that they are cats or dogs. All they know is eating, sleeping, mating, and defending. It is the human being that has the brain capacity to understand that there is a higher power, a Supreme Controller, Ishvara, who is in charge of everything. The mission of human life is fulfilled by those who use their intelligence to know and love God. If we show respect to Krishna in the form of His deity, then we will automatically love and respect our fellow man.
The deity allows us to personally serve God. This is the reason that temples exist; they are a place where people can come and worship the Lord together. God has no limitations with His senses either. In His deity form, God can eat with His eyes, even though we can’t. Food that is offered to Him with love and devotion is accepted, and then turned into prasadam:
“If one offers Me with love and devotion a leaf, a flower, fruit, or water, I will accept it.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 9.26)
The deity can eat, sleep, and even talk. One must have firm faith and devotion, and then gradually these secrets will be revealed. So if we have the opportunity, we should all pay homage to the Lord every morning by chanting His name and offering Him our prayers in the same manner the citizens of Ayodhya did.
Categories: deity worship