“In the Skanda Purana there is the following description of the result of seeing aratrika (worship) of the Deity: ‘If someone sees the face of the Lord while aratrika is going on, he can be relieved of all sinful reactions coming from many, many thousands and millions of years past. He is even excused from the killing of a brahmana or similar prohibited activities.’” (The Nectar of Devotion, Ch 9)
His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada compares it to sending letters through the mail. If something has to be sent, it is not dropped in just any box. It must be put in a receptacle that is authorized to accept such items. There is a higher authority who makes the determination, and with dropping the letter there is security in knowing that the proper destination will most likely be reached.
Deity worship is similar. Prayers, fears, confessions, hopes, dreams, worries – everything the mind contemplates can be presented before the Supreme Lord. Where to find Him is not difficult. One place is the temple where He is the chief resident. There is a specific place, in a specific room. See with the eyes.
Since there are countless living entities in the world, each within different stages of maturity and different levels of familiarity with religion and irreligion, the reaction to seeing the deity in the temple will vary.
1. Just a statue
The deity looks like an ordinary statue. There is obviously something different. You can note where it is. It’s like the statue is put on display specifically for people to look at. Yet if a person has no familiarity with Vedic culture, there may not be much to appreciate.
Even if they are familiar with religion, it is possible they have been taught that God has no form. Fear Him instead, as He watches disapprovingly from above.
“Go to church to repent for everything you’ve done wrong. These other people worshiping a statue have created false gods. That’s what these statues really are.”
Unfortunately, this sentiment is entirely possible. After all, if everything is stripped away, the meeting is between a person and a statue. That truth cannot be denied
2. A nice piece of art
This person has more of an open mind, but the appreciation is limited to the artistic value. They like the craftsmanship. The paint has been applied in such a way that the statue looks beautiful. Whichever person this statue represents, they are peaceful. They are in bliss. They are inviting. It doesn’t look like they are angry at anyone. The statue can be gazed upon for hours and hours.
3. Complete loss of ego
In this situation the statue is known to be something special. The child instinctively has this reaction. They don’t need to be told that the statue is a physical representation of the transcendental features belonging to the Supreme Personality of Godhead. They don’t need to be told about awe and reverence, respecting that this statue is the boss of all bosses.
There can be a complete loss of ego. Whatever I thought of myself, now I am seen stripped of that. I am no longer a man or a woman, a father or a spouse, a leader of the company or a successful artist. It’s like this statue knows who I really am, and how I am so vulnerable. Even with this vulnerability, the statue seems to have the most compassion in the world. They are looking at me as if we have known each other for a long time. It is my fault for having forgotten. Now I have returned to make the relationship whole again.
4. Appreciation for God’s kindness to appear in such a form
As there is further maturity in practicing the science of self-realization, that same figure which is an ordinary statue to others becomes appreciated more and more. Looking at the deity, a person may think the following:
“I can’t believe God is so kind to appear in such a form. In truth, He is much larger. His influence is beyond comprehension. He is the entire universe and more. Yet He is allowing people here to dress Him. He is accepting wonderful food preparations brought for His enjoyment. Yes, the food will taste very good when eaten later on, but it’s like the cooks don’t even think about that. If there was no food to eat later, if it somehow all vanished after the offering, they would continue the process. Everything is done out of love. That is who God is. He is complete love. It is to a degree that is impossible to know in truth, but the deity helps me to understand a little.”
Like authorized box for letter sending,
Deity process from authority descending.
Many people, so of varying view,
To one just a statue, unfamiliar and new.
Another the artistic value appreciation,
For other complete ego’s emancipation.
At highest mercy of Lord understanding a bit,
The whole universe, but so kind here to sit.
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