“You have advented Yourself to minimize the overburden of the world, and in order to fulfill this mission, You have glorified the dynasty of Yadu, appearing in the family as one of its members. My dear Lord, today my home has become purified by Your presence. I have become the most fortunate person in the world.” (Akrura speaking to Lord Krishna, Krishna, The Supreme Personality of Godhead, Vol 1, Ch 47)
Lord Krishna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, glorifies any family that He appears in and any home that He visits. Regardless of a person’s cast, color, creed, or family history, the Supreme Lord acts as the supreme purifier, the one person worth associating with. Prahlada Maharaja, though born in a family of demons, liberated generations of family members by remaining a staunch devotee. Prahlada’s reward for remaining on the virtuous path despite every obstacle thrown his way was an appearance by the Lord in His half man/half lion incarnation of Narasimhadeva. If we want to make our family proud, if we want our ancestors to reap the highest reward of piety, we simply have to become devoted to the Supreme Lord and ask Him to kindly appear in our home.
The above referenced quote is part of a series of prayers and kind words offered by Akrura, Lord Krishna’s uncle. Shri Krishna, as the original Personality of Godhead, obviously doesn’t have any blood relatives or parents, but when He advents on earth, He gives the appearance of accepting family members. This is done for several reasons. He wants to show others how to behave towards elders; people in positions of authority and those worthy of respect. In the Vedic tradition, the parents and the guru are to be viewed as a person’s initial objects of worship. The aim of human life is to achieve an unbreakable attachment to the lotus feet of the Supreme Lord. Just as variety and sportive activity exists in the world that we live in, the same intricacies and nuances are seen in the spiritual world. If the material world were the only realm with variety, the spiritual world would become an inferior realm and thus one not worth entering. The variety and sportive inclinations of the Supreme Lord manifest through activities undertaken by His transcendental body. Devotees concentrate on the lotus feet of the Lord because feet act as the faithful servants of the body. By becoming a servant of the servant, the proper mindset of humility, kindness, and knowledge is adopted.
The original Personality of Godhead, the Supreme Absolute Truth who is eternally full of form, kindly appeared on earth around five thousand years ago in a prison cell in Mathura. This is certainly an odd setting for a Divine appearance, but then again, this entire world was created from one simple exhalation by Lord Vishnu. So in this sense, whenever and wherever the Lord appears, the time and circumstances automatically become favorable. Kindly accepting Devaki and Vasudeva as parents, Lord Krishna inherited the role of a kshatriya, or warrior prince. Since His family lineage traced back to King Yadu, the Lord was also known as Yadunandana.
Akrura, though Krishna’s uncle in terms of blood relation, was a pure devotee. He knew that Krishna was the original Personality of Godhead; thus he offered the Lord every respect imaginable. Krishna, however, did not like to break with standard etiquette, so He kindly played the role of a subordinate. Akrura’s predominant desire was to have Krishna visit his home. This desire shouldn’t surprise us. Who among us wouldn’t want the president of a country or any other famous figure to visit our home? The rich and famous have many tasks to perform and places to go. If they were to kindly take the time to visit our home, it would mean that they considered us important.
No one is more important than Lord Krishna, so when He visited Akrura’s home, there was great elation felt by both parties. Generally, the estimation of a family is determined by the acts performed by previous generations, or sometimes even just one figure. For example, any person who descends from one of the Founding Fathers of the United States of America surely will consider themselves fortunate. Taking birth in such a family means one becomes a descendant of a person who fought for independence and played a vital role in forming a new nation. Similarly, members of royal dynasties are given much attention simply because of their family ties to ruling monarchs of the past.
When the Lord comes to earth in human form, He usually chooses a very exalted family to appear in. When Krishna advented as Lord Rama during the Treta Yuga, He appeared in the famous Ikshvaku dynasty. This dynasty descends from the sun-god, Surya, while the Yadu dynasty traces back to the moon-god, Soma. In India, it is not uncommon to see devotees of Lord Rama observe specific fasts during the waxing period of the moon, the time associated with the sun-god. Similarly, devotees of Krishna often observe only the fasting periods during the waning period of the moon, since it is associated with the moon-god. The waning period is actually known as the Krishna, or blackish, period.
Needless to say, both the Ikshvaku and Yadu dynasties were already quite famous and well-respected even before the Lord appeared in them. Yet from Akrura’s statement, we see that the Lord fully glorifies any family He appears in. This is the power of pure spirit. It is said that Krishna is so beautiful that He actually beautifies the ornaments He wears, instead of the other way around. The same can be said of His appearances in high-class families. The Ikshvaku dynasty actually worshiped Lord Rama and His wife Sita Devi for thousands of years before their advent. A set of Sita-Rama deities was worshiped and passed down from generation to generation. It is said that these deities are still in existence today in India and are worshiped on a daily basis.
“I envy no one, nor am I partial to anyone. I am equal to all. But whoever renders service unto Me in devotion is a friend, is in Me, and I am also a friend to him.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 9.29)
When Krishna appears in a family or visits someone’s home, the event can be thought of as the culmination of all pious acts. The Supreme Lord is everyone’s well-wishing friend, so in this regard He doesn’t have any favorites. Yet the devotees are so pious and pure at heart that they manage to break the Lord’s neutrality. For the devotees, the Lord is always willing to pay special attention and grant benedictions. Whether one belongs to a wealthy or famous family is not really important. Any person, regardless of their parentage, can bring glory to their family by having Krishna visit their home.
So how can we get Krishna to pay us a visit? The process is actually quite simple. We just have to have a fervent desire to bring about such a visit, an attachment to the Lord that is so strong that not having Him in our lives becomes the unacceptable condition. Adopting this mindset of a devotee doesn’t really involve any type of formal conversion either. We don’t necessarily have to renounce our current spiritual ties, familial relationships, or occupations. Rather, we are already devotees at the core. It is the constitutional makeup of the spirit soul to be a lover of God. The Supreme Lord can be thought of as a giant powerhouse of spiritual energy and the individual spirit souls as sparks emanating from that fire. The sparks are already intrinsically at one with the original fire. In fact, there really is never any separation. Even while falling to the material world, the individual spirit soul is accompanied by a direct expansion of the Supreme Spirit. This direct copy of the Lord is known as the Supersoul, and it resides within the heart, adjacent to the individual soul. If there is any parting of ways, it is in the area of consciousness. The only conversion required from the individual relates to the object of focus, the shifting of our consciousness from matter to spirit. The ultimate objects of worship need to be converted, or at least justified.
Many of us already claim to be religious. We belong to a specific sectarian group that we inherited at the time of birth. Yet in order to be religious, one must practice the principles of religion. The highest religious principle is to always be thinking of God in a loving way. The narrow-minded sentimentalists will point their finger at others and demand that they surrender to such and such spiritual personality. Yet what does this surrender involve? Can we simply go through the motions of spiritual life, pledge allegiance to a specific personality, and then be done with everything? Surely there must be more to surrender. After all, we see that wedding vows are made and then broken not soon after. A wedding vow is nothing more than a pledge of allegiance to the new spouse. Yet if the marriage can be dissolved through the divorce process or through infidelity, what was the meaning to the wedding vow? It essentially amounted to nothing.
By the same token, simply saying we are Christian, Hindu, Muslim, etc. doesn’t really mean anything unless our consciousness is changed. Surrender equates to giving up our will to fight. But what are we fighting against? The Vedas tell us that in order to remain in the material world, where one is constantly tossed around in the wheel of suffering that is reincarnation, one must have a desire to imitate, forget, or challenge God. Through surrendering unto the Supreme Spirit, these desires borne out of ignorance are relinquished. Becoming a devotee of Krishna involves real surrender, the earnest desire to associate with the Personality of Godhead in one of His non-different forms. Krishna is not the only form of God, though He is the most attractive. The Lord kindly takes to many expansions so as to appeal to each individual’s natural mood of service.
Any person, regardless of their religious affiliation, can become a bona fide devotee by taking the principles of bhakti-yoga, or devotional service, to be their life and soul. Devotional service is known as yoga because it involves the purification of consciousness. Worshiping ourselves, our fellow man, or matter cannot be classified as yoga. For there to be yoga, there must be two distinct entities; two operands, if you will, that result in a sum. The two terms being added are the individual soul and the Supreme Soul. The resulting condition is that of pure bliss, where both parties are benefitted. This is precisely what occurred with Akrura. He became ever joyful through receiving Krishna at his home, and the Supreme Lord became pleased by seeing His nice devotee.
The unmatched benediction of the Lord’s association can be received by adhering to the regulated principles of freedom laid down by the great acharyas, those liberated souls who dedicated their lives to the service of the Supreme Spirit. The quintessential act of yoga, the easiest and most effective method for changing our consciousness, is the chanting of the holy names, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare”. Though this mantra contains Sanskrit words, they are not sectarian by any means. Krishna and Rama are transcendental sound vibration representations of the Supreme Absolute Truth. These names simply speak to God’s all-attractive, pleasure-giving nature. When one grows accustomed to chanting this mantra with love and affection, they can take the next step of formally worshiping the Lord in their homes. This worship is facilitated through the archa-vigraha, the worshipable body representation of the Lord. Those who view the Supreme Absolute Truth as formless can never understand the process of deity worship. Since they can’t imagine God having a form, or they imagine their own form of the Truth, they can’t understand how one can take earthly elements such as wood and stone and engage in direct worship of the Lord.
The mystery behind deity worship is the purification of material elements. Matter is viewed in a negative light for as long as it is used to further the consciousness of “I am God” or “I am greater than God”. When the same material elements are used to purify one’s consciousness, they become spiritualized. This shouldn’t be very difficult to understand. If we were to receive a new laptop computer as a gift, we wouldn’t be pleased unless we knew how to use it. To a person who is unfamiliar with computers, the laptop is merely a heavy hunk of metal that takes up space and energy. For the person in the know, however, the laptop serves as a great vehicle for productivity, something which saves time and energy. Just because we don’t know how to use something doesn’t mean that it’s worthless.
“The Supreme Personality of Godhead said: My dear Prahlada, O most pure, O great saintly person, your father has been purified, along with twenty-one forefathers in your family. Because you were born in this family, the entire dynasty has been purified.” (Shrimad Bhagavatam, 7.10.18)
In a similar manner, the earthly elements are useless when they are tied to sense gratification. When the same combinations of matter are used for service to God, they take on their true value. The deity becomes the most valuable possession to the sincere devotee, the one thing they can’t live without. Morning and evening, the humble sage, the aspiring transcendentalist, and the divine lover of God will offer prayers and food to this deity, taking the remnants of the offered items as prasadam. In this way, as the eyes of the sincere devotee become spiritualized, the Supreme Lord reveals Himself. As the Lord manifests in the home, the entire family becomes purified, as do generations of ancestors. The most fortunate family is the one that has a pure devotee take birth in it. With the devotee comes Krishna, and with Krishna come all fortune, opulence, and glory.
Categories: deity worship