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The Lord's Incarnation
1. What is the science of the Lord's incarnation? Why does the Supreme Lord appear in this world?
When the conditioned souls receive a body according to their nature, the Supreme Lord Krsna, by His inconceivable potency, agrees to accompany them by incarnating and enjoying pastimes with them. When the living entities accept the body of a fish, the Lord accepted His fish incarnation, Matsya. Matsya is without a danda or spine. When the living entities accept the body of vajradanda or half-grown spine, the Lord incarnates as Kurma. When vajradanda gradually becomes meru-danda or fully-grown spine, the Lord incarnates as Varaha. When the living entities accept the combined position of human and animal, the Lord accepts His incarnation of Nrsirhha. When the living entities are short, He appears as Vamana. When the living entities are uncivilized, He comes as Parasurama. When they are civilized, He appears as Ramacandra. When the living entities possess the wealth of practical knowledge, Lord Krsna Himself appears. When the living entities develop the tendency for argument, the Lord appears as Buddha. Moreover, when they are atheistic, the Lord comes as Kalki. These are well-known facts.
During the gradual development in the hearts of the living entities, the Lord incarnates in a form corresponding to the mood of the devotees. The source and activities of His forms are untouched by material contamination. After due consideration, the sages have divided the history of the living entities' advancement into ten divisions. Each one has different symptoms: each successive mood is superior to the previous one. The Lord's ten incarnations correspond to these ten moods. Some learned scholars have divided the living entities' advancement into twenty-four divisions and have stated that there are twenty-four incarnations. Yet others have divided it into eighteen and have stated eighteen incarnations.(Sri Krsna-samhita Chapter 3)
2. What is the scientific consideration about the truth of the Lord's incarnations?
From an invertebrate living entity up to a fully developed vertebrate human being, some sages have defined eight, eighteen, or twenty-four corresponding incarnations of the Lord. Most authentic sages agree that there are ten principle incarnations. From the conditional state up to the end of a living entities progress, the sages have defined ten stages. The first stage is life as an invertebrate, second a thin vertebrate, third a vertebrate, fourth a raised vertebrate or animalistic human being, fifth a small human being, sixth an uncivilized human being, seventh a civilized human being, eighth a knowledgeable human being, ninth a most knowledgeable human being. And the tenth stage is devastation. According to these stages of development of the living entities, the ten incarnations of the Supreme Lord appear and enjoy transcendental pastimes. The ten incarnations are Matsya, Kurma, Varaha, Nrsimha, Vamana, Parasurama, Rama, Krsna, Buddha, and Kalki.(Tattva-sutra 6)
3.Who is the original incarnation?
With a desire to create the material worlds, Sarikarsana, who is a plenary portion of Krsna, lies in the causal ocean as the original purusa and glances over may a. This act of glancing is the original cause of material creation.(Brahma-samhita 5/8 purport)
4.Why does the Supreme Lord incarnate?
The Supreme Lord has two kinds of pastimes. The first is to create the material world and to maintain it by establishing stringent laws. The dry speculators can understand these pastimes to some extent. The second is the Lord's pastimes within this material world, where the living entities are His companions. Because of their desire for material enjoyment, some living entities fall from their constitutional position. Whatever situation they go through in the association of matter, the Supreme Lord responds accordingly. The principle cause for the Lord's appearance is His causeless mercy toward the living entities.(Tattva-sutra 6) .
5.What is the necessity for worshiping the deity form of the Lord?
All formless truths have some representation. A representation, although different from the object it represents, symbolizes the mood of the object. Watches represent formless time, essays represent subtle knowledge, and pictures represent acts of mercy. In the same way, there is no doubt that one gets benefit in performing devotional service to the deity.(Prema Pradipa Chapter 5)
6.Is deity worship of the Vaisnavas idol worship?
The deity worshiped by the Vaisnavas is not an idol, which is separate from the Lord. The deity is a representation that invokes devotion to the Lord.
7.Is the deity the direct manifestation of the Lord?
The deity of the Lord cannot be anything other than the direct manifestation of the Lord. Just as in industry or in science, every unseen object has a gross image, the Lord, unseen by material eyes, has an image in the form of the deity. Because of their devotional propensity, the pure devotees constantly experience that the deity is truly the Supreme Lord. The connection between an electric light and a generator is understood only by seeing the result when the electric light is switched on. What will those who are ignorant of electricity understand when they see a generator? Similarly, what will those who have no devotion in their hearts say about the deity except "idol"?(Caitanya-siksarnrta 5/3)
8.What is the difference between the deity worshiped by the devotees and the symbols of the mental speculators?
At first, the Lord's form manifests in the spiritual consciousness of the living entities and thus He appears in their hearts. Then the devotees see no difference between the spiritual form within their hearts and the external deity form. However, the mental speculators do not worship the deity in this way. According to their opinion, Brahman is imagined within a deity made of material elements, and that image is there as long as the worship continues. Thereafter the form remains a material object and nothing else.
(Jaiva Dharma Chapter 5)
9.Is everyone qualified to worship the deity?
Worship of the Lord's deity is the foundation of religious principles for human beings. Great devotees have seen the form of the Supreme Lord by pure knowledge and they meditate on this pure spiritual form. When the hearts of the devotees spread toward the material world, a reflection of that spiritual form is illustrated in the material world. The form of the Supreme Lord has thus manifest as a deity by the mercy of the mahajanas. For uttama-adhikaris, the deity is always the spiritual form of the Lord. For madhyama-adhikdrls, the deity is the spiritual form in their heart. For kanistha-adhikdris, the deity at first appears material, but by gradual purification of their intelligence, they accept the deity as the spiritual form of the Lord. Therefore, it is the duty of all kinds of devotees to engage in the worship of the Lord's deity. There is no need to worship any concocted God. The worship of the eternal form of the Lord is auspicious. (Jaiva Dharma Chapter 11)
10.How do mental speculators, who do not accept the deity, worship the deity?
Some people establish with devotion the Supreme Lord's deity within their self, their mind, or the material world. They then worship that form considering it nondifferent from the Supreme Lord. The followers of some religions, due to attachment to argument, imagine the Lord's form within their mind and worship that form, but they do not accept the external deity form of the Lord. Actually, all these forms are His deities.
11.How do the swanlike Vaisnavas see Sri Jagannatha Deva?
The worship of Jagannatha is viewed in two ways. Superstitious and ignorant people think it is idolatry to worship God Almighty, who has appeared in the shape of carved wood for the salvation of the people of Orissa. However, the Saragrahi Vaisnavas accept the deities as eternal truth, as Vyasa has explained in Vedanta-sutra.(The Temple of Jagannatha at Purl)
12. How did Sri Bhaktivinoda refute the atheistic philosophy that is opposed to deity worship?
Some are startled at the idea of worshiping the deity (sri-murti). They say, "It is idolatry to worship the deity, which is an idol made by an artist and introduced by Beelzebub himself. Worshiping such an object would arouse the jealousy of God and limit His omnipotence, omniscience, and omnipresence."We reply to them in the following way. "Brothers! Candidly understand the subject and do not allow yourselves to be misled by sectarian dogma. God is not jealous—He is without a second. Beelzebub or Satan is only an imaginary figure or a being used in an allegory. An allegorical or imaginary person should not be allowed to act as an obstacle to bhakti. Those who believe God is impersonal simply identify Him with some power or quality of nature. In fact He is above nature, her laws, and her rules. His holy wish is law, and it is sacrilege to confine His unlimited excellence by identifying Him with such attributes as omnipotence, omnipresence, and omniscience— attributes which may exist in created objects, such as time and space. His excellence is such that He has mutually contradicting powers and qualities, which are ruled by His supernatural Self. He is identical with His all-beautiful person, and His powers of omnipresence, omniscience, and omnipotence cannot be found elsewhere. His holy and perfect person exists eternally in the spiritual world and is simultaneously existing in every created object and place in full. This understanding excels all other ideas about the deity.
"Mahaprabhu also rejected idolatry, but considered deity worship to be the only unexceptionable means of spiritual culture. It has been shown that God is personal and all-beautiful.Vyasa and other sages have seen God's beauty with their souls' eyes. They have left us descriptions. Of course, words carry the grossness of matter, but truth is perceivable in those descriptions. According to those descriptions one delineates a deity and sees the Supreme Lord of one's heart with intense pleasure. Brothers! Is that wrong or sinful? Those who say that God has no form either material or spiritual, and then imagine a false form of worship are idolatrous. But those who see the spiritual form of the deity in their souls' eyes carry that impression as far as possible to the mind and then frame an emblem for the satisfaction of the material eye and for the continual study of higher feelings. They are by no means idolatrous.
"When you see a deity, do not even see the image itself; see the spiritual form of the image. Then you are a pure theist. Idolatry and deity worship are two different things. But my brothers, you simply confound one with the other in hastiness. To tell you the truth, deity worship is the only true form of worship of the Lord, without which you cannot sufficiently cultivate your religious feelings. The world attracts you through your senses and as long as you do not see God in the objects of your senses, you live in an awkward position, which scarcely helps you secure your spiritual elevation.
"Place a deity in your house. Consider God the guardian of the house and the food that you take His prasdda. The flowers and scents are also His prasdda. The eyes, the ears, the nose, the tongue, and the sense of touch can be spiritually satisfied. Worship God with a holy heart. God will know and judge you by your sincerity. In this way, Satan and Beelzebub will have nothing to do with you.
"All sorts of worship are based on the principle of deity worship. Look into the history of religion and you will understand this noble truth. The Semitic idea of a patriarchal God, both in the pre-Christian period of Judaism and post-Christian period of Christianity and Mohammedanism, is nothing but a limited idea of deity worship. The monarchic idea of Jupiter among the Romans and Indra among the Aryan karma-kandis is also based on the same principle. The idea of a force and Jyotirmaya Brahma of the meditators and a formless energy of the Saktas is also a very faint view of the deity. In fact, the deity is the Truth differently exhibited by different people according to their beliefs. Even Jaimini and Compte, who were not prepared to accept a creating God, have prescribed certain forms of deity worship, simply because they were impelled by the soul. And we meet people who have adopted the cross, the sdlagrama-sila, the lihgam, and such emblems as indicators of the Lord within.
"Furthermore, if divine love, justice, and compassion can be portrayed by the pencil and expressed by the chisel, why shouldn't the personal beauty of the deity (embracing all other qualities) be portrayed in poetry and in pictures, and carved by the chisel for the benefit of man? If a word provokes thought, a watch indicates time, and a sign tells us of history, why shouldn't a picture or deity bring higher thoughts of and feelings for the transcendental beauty of the Divine Person?"(Caitanya Mahaprabhu's Life and Precepts)