“We may find some mailboxes on the street, and if we post our letters in those boxes, they will naturally go to their destination without difficulty. But any old box, or an imitation, which we may find somewhere, which is not authorized by the post office, will not do the work. Similarly, God has an authorized representation in the Deity form, which is called archa-vigraha. This archa-vigraha is an incarnation of the Supreme Lord. God will accept service through that form.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Bhagavad-gita, 12.5 Purport)
“Let me explain something that I witnessed. It is puzzling in a sense, but also understandable. I was looking for more insight. Perhaps you know the scientific basis for the phenomenon, at least as it pertains to the science of self-realization, sanatana-dharma.
“One of the integral aspects to the Vedic tradition is worship of the deity. Contrary to what outsiders might think, or what even the visuals present, this is not idol worship. It is not concocting some sort of honor ceremony for someone who might not even exist.
“Rather, it is like voting by proxy. It is working from home, connecting to someone else through a subtle medium. We don’t really know how the internet works, how the video and audio signals transmit in near real-time to someone living a distance away, but we take advantage of the facility.
“The deity is a way to understand God Himself or one of His dear associates. It is the authorized way to present offerings, to worship in earnest, to have a spiritual consciousness in an otherwise hectic and chaotic world of illusion.
“I noticed this one person whose main occupation it was to perform the worship every day. They lived in a temple their whole life. Though I see them on a weekly basis, they hardly spoke. They kept to themselves. They performed everything in a timely manner. They were responsible. They looked like they knew what they were doing.
“Anyway, one day the guest lecturer for the weekly program could not make it. There was an issue that arose, and so we had no one to give a talk on a verse from Bhagavad-gita. Well, the person doing the deity worship got called into duty. He reluctantly stepped up and gave the class.
“Let me tell you, it was just amazing. They knew so much. Both abstract and detail. They related stories from their own life as well as made references to historical accounts presented in Vedic literature. It was one of the best lectures I ever heard.
“I am wondering how this person became so skilled. They obviously did not practice much. This was not their profession. Rather, they were primarily engaged in a single task. They were not known to be a scholar.”
As Prahlada Maharaja explains in Shrimad Bhagavatam, there are nine principal outlets for service to God the person. In the discipline known as bhakti-yoga, there is hearing, chanting, worshiping, serving the lotus feet, and other activities in connection. Any one of the nine is enough to bring perfection in purification of consciousness.
This is because of the person on the other side. He is knowledge personified. He is the Absolute Truth. He is above duality, duplicity, dishonesty, fear, hesitancy, and other defects found in a temporary existence.
The individual soul has perfect knowledge, as well, but in the conditioned state everything is covered. Like the shade over the bright lamp in the bedroom, like the layers of dust covering the bright and shiny gold, like the beautiful woman inside of the exterior disheveled through pain, heartache, loss, and sorrow, the soul is brilliant on the inside.
His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada explains that worshiping the deity is like choosing the proper receptacle to send mail. If a letter gets dropped into just any old box, there is no guarantee that it will reach the proper destination.
The deity is authorized by both tradition and the representatives of the Supreme Lord to deliver a person. It bridges the gap between the understanding of nirguna and saguna, as it pertains to Parabrahman. It is a way to conceptualize God, who is beyond the greatness witnessed in this world.
The same potential for perfection is there in hearing or chanting. Therefore, if a person with too many questions to keep track of in relation to the Vedic tradition receives the advice to simply continue in the process, to “chant more diligently and attentively,” there is a scientific basis to the recommendation.
The idea is to connect as much as possible. From morning until night, and even while sleeping it is possible to think of the all-attractive one and His pleasure, being thankful for His blessings, and vowing to continue in the connection: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.
Just from worship routine,
Amazing intelligence seen.
That shlokas to know,
And wisdom to show.
Because authority behind,
Intelligence in bhakti to find.
Struggle but patiently move,
Through connection ignorance to lose.