Friend1: They say a picture is worth a thousand words. I am reminded of that saying every time I enter a Vishnu-related temple.
Friend2: When seeing the deity?
Friend1: After the moment of the grand unveiling. The deity is not some cheap object to be treated as an artwork decoration. It is the chief resident in the establishment, and it is honored in a timely manner.
Friend2: With the proper respect shown. To the less intelligent, it is merely a statue. A collection of material elements meant for the purpose of remembering.
Friend1: When in truth it is an authorized way for the Supreme Lord, the one who is nirguna, to manifest, to show a saguna side for the purpose of our understanding. Just gazing at the deity brings so many positive thoughts to mind. Something I was wondering about the other day was the actual pose.
Friend2: You mean of the Supreme Lord and whoever else is on the altar with Him?
Friend1: Yes. What determines the positioning of the hands, feet, arms and so forth? With some poses, it is rather obvious to see what is going on. The deity depicts a particular scene, such as Krishna being bound to a mortar by mother Yashoda.
Friend2: Krishna as Damodara; the one bound at the belly. You see Narasimha with Lakshmi Devi seated on His lap.
Friend1: They are great images, for sure. Sometimes we see the Supreme Lord as Shri Rama. To His left is Sita Devi, the goddess of fortune. To Rama’s right is Lakshmana, the dedicated younger brother. To their side is a figure of diminutive stature, resembling a monkey.
Friend2: Shri Hanuman. He has the ability through yoga to expand his size to that of a mountain. But he chooses to remain humble in the presence of the Supreme Lord and family.
Friend1: Someone may wonder why Rama is worshiped like this? He is wearing a crown. A bow in one hand, maybe a sword in another. From the Ramayana poem we see that Dasharatha’s eldest son did so much. Why not worship Him as a child, as well?
Friend2: You certainly can.
Friend1: But I don’t see such deities in the temple.
Friend2: One explanation given by His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada is that the deity in the temple is treated like Lakshmi and Narayana. That is to say we worship with awe and reverence. The majesty of God the person. Treat them like royalty. We may go beyond that phase in the actual connection of yoga, but for the purposes of formal worship we tend to side with respectfulness.
Friend1: Oh. That is interesting. Rama is standing tall, ready to protect the devotees. He has His family with Him. Hanuman is like family, and with this image a person has all the protection they need.
Friend2: Going anywhere else is not required. Stay with that image. That is another amazing aspect to the deity. While it seems like a preliminary process, since God is actually everywhere, through perfection in a single area you can reach the objective of the human birth. This is the meaning of causeless mercy. If God were mean and vindictive, He would never appear as the deity and bless our eyes with transcendental goodness.
Deity in temple to see,
Instantly amazed to be.
Like Rama with wife standing,
And associates respect commanding.
Idea that through awe and reverence,
To this mood showing deference.
Surely a closer relationship can make,
But image also from pastimes to take.