“Although the Lord was present in Vaikuntha, He was present also in the heart of the brahmana when he was meditating on the worshiping process. Thus, we can understand that things offered by the devotees even in meditation are accepted by the Lord, and they help one achieve the desired result.” (The Nectar of Devotion, Ch 10)
I don’t have time to visit a temple. There isn’t one near me. I can’t drive yet. My car is on its last legs. There was a massive snowstorm over the weekend, so the roads are closed. I’m too tired to get up. I ate a significant meal last night and I need more time to digest.
In a material existence there are plenty of miseries, and each one can serve as an impediment to doing important work. Nothing should take higher priority to devotional service, bhakti-yoga, which automatically incorporates realizing the self. But life happens. Other factors are at play, which makes it difficult to practice as desired.
The beneficiary of such service is so merciful that He allows for the fruit to result from just contemplating the activities. That is to say meditating on devotional activities can be just as potent as doing them in real life. The tale of a brahmana described in the Puranas is evidence.
1. Washing the temple
This is an otherwise menial task. Who wants to clean? It’s not straightforward work. If you haven’t tidied up in a while, the mission is daunting. There is the saying that you have to make a mess in order to clear a mess. You might have to pick everything up from an area, move it, and then work on organizing from there.
Cleaning for the Supreme Personality of Godhead qualifies as bhakti since the mood is right. There is the saying that cleanliness is next to godliness. Purity, both inside and out, helps to increase the potency of devotional practices.
This brahmana simply meditated on cleaning the temple of the Lord on a daily basis. He understood that though the deity representation resides there, it is just like God being at home in a palace. This should be the mood, which helps everyone involved.
2. Collecting water from the sacred rivers
Vedic literature identifies several important bodies of water. They each have some relationship to God, such as the Ganga emanating from His lotus feet, safely brought to this world by Bhagiratha, helped by Lord Shiva.
In rituals aimed at purification of the individual, water from these rivers is required. In ancient times people would physically travel to these places and collect the water in pots. Mantras can also suffice. During his meditation this particular brahmana imagined going to the different rivers and collecting the water necessary for offering to Bhagavan.
3. Offering fruits and flowers
You don’t have to be an expert cook. You don’t have to read cookbooks or watch reality television shows hosted by acclaimed chefs. Some fruit and water suffice to put a smile on the face of the Supreme Lord.
“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)
This brahmana imagined that he offered nice fruits and flowers to God. They say that some type of offering should be made when visiting the temple. Offered in the proper way the resultant items become prasadam, or the Lord’s mercy.
4. Preparing sweet rice with milk and sugar
Devotional service is ever increasing in scope, in terms of the bliss derived and also the level of the practice. Such as with this case, the meditating brahmana wanted to do more and more for Bhagavan. He was not looking to reach an end, where a benediction comes and then everything goes back to the ways of the past, i.e. material life.
He imagined preparing sweet rice with milk and sugar. The best taste is when the dish is cold, so the brahmana touched the rice with his finger to judge the temperature. It was still hot and there was a resultant burn. Upon breaking his meditation, the brahmana noticed that his finger was burned in real life.
In the Vaikuntha realm the Supreme Lord Vishnu took note of this worship and had the brahmana brought to His side. The devotee won liberation, just from meditation. The idea is that God can be seen face to face through meditation, provided the motives are sincere. Outside factors can help, such as good association and residing in a holy place, but when there is a will Vishnu helps the devotee to find a way.
Vishnu helping to find a way,
For devotee desiring to stay.
Even if far away from temple living,
Still chance through meditation giving.
Like brahmana fruits and flowers collecting,
Sacred waters too, Bhagavan not rejecting.
Testing sweet rice the finger to burn,
Spot in Vaikuntha immediately to earn.
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