“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)
To the outsider something is off. Strange outfits. Non-traditional haircuts. Weird sounds. Sure, they are of Sanskrit origin, but who speaks that ancient language today? Waking up so early in the morning, a restrictive diet, and talking only of one topic. And all for what, pleasing someone that can’t be seen?
Perhaps the secret is in the activities themselves. Try similar things, without the God component, and maybe the same effect will be there.
As man has free will, the potential exists to try anything in a material existence. Proper bhakti-yoga practices are effective precisely because of authority. Guidelines and procedures passed down through the generations, making slight adjustments for time and circumstance, bring everything auspicious and favorable. Similar practices not based on authority don’t yield the same result.
1. Chanting any word, such as “water”
Heavy emphasis is there on the chanting of the holy names. It is said that the name of God the person is non-different from Him. Say the word “Krishna” and you will get Krishna. Say the word “Hare” and you will get the energy of Krishna.
It is seen that the devotees can chant the maha-mantra repeatedly: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare. There is repetition up to the thousandth factor on a daily basis through japa meditation, and then there is endless singing in kirtana.
The same attempt made with an ordinary word does not yield the same result. Saying “water” will not produce “water.” Nor is it likely that someone can repeat the word over and over, day after day, year after year. The transcendental taste is lacking. Moreover, there is no authority to support the activity.
2. Meditating on just any tree
Another practice in bhakti-yoga is worshiping the tulasi plant. This living being is considered a devi, or goddess. Though the plant can be in abundance, such as in the land of Vrindavana, the identity is singular. Worship of Tulasi is so powerful that the process alone can bring purification. Many celebrated saints of the past would chant the maha-mantra in front of a Tulasi plant; they did not necessarily engage in formal worship in a public dwelling designated for such a purpose.
3. Offering food to just any statue
The guidelines for this process come from the Bhagavad-gita. If there is going to be worship of God, then surely He must be a person. Worship of an abstract is not possible; the same result won’t be there. The Supreme Lord has spiritual attributes belonging to a spiritual form.
He says that if a person offers something simple like water, fruit or flowers, He will accept. There must be devotion, bhakti. The deity is there to help in the process, as in the conditioned state we have a difficult time finding God. Though He is everywhere, we don’t yet have the eyes to notice His presence.
The same process directed to any statue or object will not yield the same benefit. The comparison often made by His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada is to the mailbox. If you drop a letter in just any box, there is no guarantee that the intended destination will be reached. The mailbox is authorized by higher powers for picking up and delivering such letters and packages.
The deity is authorized to accept worship and grant the highest benedictions in life, to make it successful, saphala. In pure devotion the only desire is to continue in service, which is granted through placement in the ideal conditions going forward. Whether in heaven or hell, the devotee following authority always sees their beloved Lord, smiling and granting His endless mercy.
Watching bhakti with skeptical eye,
Maybe similar practices to try.
But the devotional component lacking,
Failure since not through authority tracking.
Like word “water” over and over repeat,
Or in front of any tree taking seat.
Food offered to just any statue resist,
To Krishna relationship must exist.
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