“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 is mind-blowing stuff. No one told me this before. Why wasn’t I informed during school? There has always been the question of God’s existence, whether it is real or something of the imagination, used as a coping mechanism by those who aren’t well-versed in the discoveries of modern science.
No, this is different. I am told that God is a person, with identifiable attributes. The body-less version is simply a feature, something like the sun being covered up by clouds. There is still light outside on an overcast day, but the foolish person thinks the sun is not out. They don’t realize the effect is simply a cover, and that the sun is not impacted at all.
In the same way, the impersonal feature is simply an angle of vision, for those who are susceptible to the illusion of material life. Real happiness is from connecting directly with God, who is all-attractive and can thus be addressed as Krishna. The spiritual master has given the guidelines to follow to create a connection with Krishna and maintain it.
That connection is known as yoga, and there are difficulties along the path. Growing up in Vedic culture is an advantage, since acknowledgement of God’s existence is already a given. From the time of childhood it is taught that He has personal features and that He takes various incarnations to appear on earth and delight His devotees.
For those not growing up in Vedic culture there are impediments created based on just time and circumstance. The environment in the home may not be conducive and when the decision to implement various principles is made, others may not be so receptive. Nevertheless, perseverance along the path is rewarded. The sacrifices are neither forgotten nor overlooked.
1. Worshiping an idol has always been taboo
The depiction of Krishna is of a beautiful youth, with two hands, holding a flute. He is always in sweetness, madhurya. He is God in the complete, as He has nothing to do. Krishna simply enjoys, and with anyone He chooses. The embodiment of pure devotional love is Shrimati Radharani, who is often by Krishna’s side in places of worship.
To outsiders this is idol worship. Creating an image of God, placing it somewhere important and then regularly worshiping it. These things are not allowed. It is sacrilegious to consider that God can have a form, as forms are limiting and reserved only for the conditioned living entities.
Of course the object of worship is not based on imagination. It is crafted from authority; nullifying the idea of idol worship. Additionally, Shri Krishna can never be limited to a certain height, nor can He be in the control of anyone through an inanimate object like a statue. Yet the deity and its worship are there as signs of God’s mercy. He is impossible to know, so He arrives in a form that can be understood to some extent.
2. What to do about meat in the house
An integral part of bhakti-yoga practice in the regulative mindset is to offer food to Krishna. The deity helps to fulfill this voluntarily accepted obligation, as well. Krishna describes in the Bhagavad-gita that He accepts fruit, flower, leaves or water when offered to Him with love and devotion.
Meat requires unnecessary violence. It is not suitable for offering to Krishna, and so those serious about bhakti-yoga do not even keep it in the home. What to do, then, when relatives visit? Should not the parents be honored? Should not the host follow proper etiquette and provide to the guests what they like?
3. Pronouncing Sanskrit names might not be so easy
More merciful than the deity is the holy name. In this way someone can worship God wherever they are, in any circumstance, favorable or unfavorable. To make things even easier the holy name, of which there are many, comes in mantra form. This is a sequence of words meant to deliver the mind.
Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu popularized the maha-mantra: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare. His desire is that everyone chant these holy names, irrespective of their religious tradition inherited from the parents. After all, there is no contradiction. God is one. The names that represent Him are merely sound vibrations.
For someone not born into Vedic culture, the names might be difficult to pronounce at first. In this regard God’s mercy shines bright again. The hunter counseled by Narada Muni was too sinful at the time to pronounce the holy name of Rama. He tried anyway, using a trick of the reverse of the name. His effort bore the fruit of purification, eventually earning him the initiated name of Valmiki, who went on to become a saint.
Those who persevere despite the obstacles have their faith in bhakti and Krishna further strengthened. Then nothing can prevent them from continuing to worship, and Chaitanya’s mercy carries them to the spiritual world after the present lifetime concludes.
Birth and parents precluding,
So perhaps success eluding?
Since meat in house likely to find,
Deity prohibited, worship only in mind.
Opposition when bhakti choice to announce,
And Sanskrit words difficult to pronounce.
But Lord’s mercy and Chaitanya too,
Rewarding those persevering through.
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