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Deity worship verses
om namo bhagavate maha-purushaya mahanubhavaya mahavibhuti-pataye saha maha-vibhutibhir balim upaharamiti; anenahar-ahar mantrena vishnor avahanarghya-padyopasparshana-snana-vasa-upavita-vibhushana-gandha-pushpa-dhupa-dipopaharady-upacaran susama-hitopaharet.
om—O my Lord; namah—obeisances; bhagavate—unto the Supreme Personality of Godhead, full with six opulences; maha-purushaya—the best of enjoyers; maha-anubhavaya—the most powerful; maha-vibhuti—of the goddess of fortune; pataye—the husband; saha—with; maha-vibhutibhih—associates; balim—presentation s; upaharami—I am offering; iti—thus; anena—by this; ahah-ahah—every day; mantrena—mantra; vishnoh—of Lord Vishnu; avahana—invocations; arghya-padya-upasparshana—water for washing the hands, feet and mouth; snana—water for bathing; vasa—garments; upavita—a sacred thread; vibhushana—ornaments; gandha—scents; pushpa—flowers; dhupa—incense; dipa—lamps; upahara—gifts; adi—and so on; upacaran—presentations; su-samahita—with great attention; upaharet—she must offer.
“My Lord Vishnu, full in six opulences, You are the best of all enjoyers and the most powerful. O husband of mother Lakshmi, I offer my respectful obeisances unto You, who are accompanied by many associates, such as Vishvaksena. I offer all the paraphernalia for worshiping You.” One should chant this mantra every day with great attention while worshiping Lord Vishnu with all paraphernalia, such as water for washing His feet, hands and mouth and water for His bath. One must offer Him various presentations for His worship, such as garments, a sacred thread, ornaments, scents, flowers, incense and lamps.
This mantra is very important. Anyone engaged in Deity worship should chant this mantra, as quoted above, beginning with om namo bhagavate maha-purushaya.
Chaitanya Bhagavata 1.1
vishvambharau dvijavarau yuga-dharma-palau
vande jagat priyakarau karuna-avatarau
ajanu-lambita-bhujau—those two personalities whose long arms extend to Their knees; kanaka-eva-datau—exuding a resplendent golden hue; samkirtanaika-pitarau—the fathers (progenitors, initiators) of the sankirtan movement; kamalaya-takshau—exquisite drawn-out eyes like lotus petals; vishvambarau—maintainer, sustainer of the cosmic creation; dvijavarau—best of the brahmanas, teachers imparting love of Godhead; yuga-dharma-palau—protectors (propagators) of the yuga dharma, krishna nama sankirtan; vande—I offer my obeisances; jagat-priyakarau—the benefactors of the entire universe, bringing unlimited good fortune; karuna-avatarau—the most munificent incarnations of Godhead.
I worship Their Lordships Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu and Nityananda Prabhu, whose long arms extend down to Their knees, whose beautiful complexions are radiant yellow like molten gold and whose elongated eyes are like red lotuses. They are the topmost brahmanas, the guardians of religious principles for this age, the most munificent benefactors of all living entities, and the most compassionate incarnations of Godhead. They initiated the congregational chanting of the names of Lord Krishna.
yatha kancanatam yati
dvijatvam jayate nrinam
yatha—as surely as; kancanatam—gold; yati—turns; kamsyam—bell-metal; rasa—quicksilver (mercury); vidhanatah—in the prescribed fashion (i.e. by the alchemical process); tatha—in the same way; diksha-vidhanena—by the proper process of initiation; dvijatvam—a brahmana; jayate—he becomes; nrinam—a person.
By chemical manipulation, bell metal is turned into gold when touched by mercury; similarly, when a person is properly initiated, he can acquire the qualities of a brahmana.
[Padyavali 74, quoted in the Chaitanya-caritamrita, Madhya 13.80]
naham vipro na ca nara-patir napi vaishyo na shudro
naham varni na ca griha-patir no vana-stho yatir va
gopi-bhartuh pada-kamalayor dasa-dasanudasah
I am not a brahmana, I am not a kshatriya, I am not a vaishya or a shudra. Nor am I a brahmacari, a householder, a vanaprastha, or a sannyasi. I identify myself only as the servant of the servant of the servant of the lotus feet of Lord Shri Krishna, the maintainer of the gopis. He is like an ocean of nectar, and He is the cause of universal transcendental bliss. He is always existing with brilliance.
arcye vishnau shila-dhir gurushu nara-matir vaishnave jati-buddhir
vishnor va vaishnavanam kali-mala-mathane pada-tirthe ’mbu-buddhih
shri-vishnor namni mantre sakala-kalusha-he shabde-samanya buddhir
vishnau sarveshvareshe tad-itara-sama-dhir yasya va naraki sah
arcye—the worshipable; vishnau—Deity of Lord Vishnu; shila-dhih—thinking Him to be mere stone; gurushu—the spiritual masters; nara-mati—thinking them to be mere men; vaishnave—a Vaishnava devotee of the Lord; jati-buddhih—thinking him to belong to a particular caste; vishnoh—of Lord Vishnu; va—or; vaishnavanam—of the Vaishnava devotees; kali—of the worst kind; mala—dire; mathane—churned up; pada-tirthe—in the water that washes the lotus feet, caranamrita or the Ganges; ambu-buddhih—the thought that it is ordinary water; shri-vishnoh—of Shri Vishnu, the Supreme Personality of Godhead; namni—the holy Name; mantre—the mantra; sakala-kalusha-he—which destroys all kinds of impurities; shabde—ordinary sound vibration; samanya-buddhih—the thought that they are equal; vishnau—Lord Vishnu; sarva-ishvara-ishe—the controller of all other controllers; tat-itara-sama-dhih—the thought that anything else can be equal to Him; yasya—of whom; va—or; naraki—a resident of hell; sah—he is.
That person who considers the Deity of the Supreme Lord to be dead matter made out of stone, wood or metal; or the spiritual master, who is an eternal associate of the Supreme Lord, to be an ordinary man who is prone to die or the Vaishnava to be coming from some caste; or the water which washes the feet of the pure devotee or the Supreme Personality of Godhead, to be ordinary water, although such water has the potency to destroy all evils of the age of Kali; or to consider the holy name of the Supreme Lord or mantras dedicated to Him which are able to destroy all sin to be ordinary sounds; or to consider the Supreme Lord of all, Lord Vishnu, to be equal with other demigods, is considered to possess a hellish mentality. A person who thinks in this way is certainly a resident of hell.
The Lord is Present in His Deity Form
Shrila Rupa Gosvami specifically enjoins devotees to worship the Deity with “full faith:
shraddha visheshatah pritih shri-murter anghri-sevane
‘One should have full faith and love in worshiping the lotus feet of the Deity.’
[C.c., Madhya 22.130, quoting Bhakti-rasamrita-sindhu]
This faith and love depend on a proper understanding of the Deity’s identity:
pratima naha tumi,—sakshat vrajendra-nandana
My dear Lord, You are not a statue; You are directly the son of Maharaja Nanda.
[C.c., Madhya 5.96]
Definition and Goal of Arcana
arcanam tupacaranam syan mantrenopapadanam
Arcana is defined as offering of articles of worship (upacaras) with mantra after having performed preliminary purificatory activities (purvanga-karmas) such as bhuta-shuddhi and nyasas.
vrindavane yoga-pithe kalpa-taru-vane
ratna-mandapa, tahe ratna-simhasane
shri-govinda vasiyachena vrajendra-nandana
madhurya prakashi’ karena jagat mohana
vrindavane—at Vrindavana; yoga-pithe—at the principal temple; kalpa-taru-vane—in the forest of desire trees; ratna-mandapa—an altar made of gems; tahe—upon it; ratna-simha-asane—on the throne of gems; shri-govinda—Lord Govinda; vasiyachena—was sitting; vrajendra-nandana—the son of Nanda Maharaja; madhurya prakashi’—manifesting His sweetness; karena—does; jagat mohana—enchantment of the whole world.
On an altar made of gems in the principal temple of Vrindavana, amidst a forest of desire trees, Lord Govinda, the son of the King of Vraja, sits upon a throne of gems and manifests His full glory and sweetness, thus enchanting the entire world.
Things to Learn
The Six Divisions of Purity (shad-shuddhi)
Purity and cleanliness are essential in Deity worship. The Hari-bhakti-vilasa describes six divisions of purity which must be established:
1. Purity of Place (sthana-shuddhi)
2. Purity of Articles (dravya-shuddhi)
3. Purity of Body (atma-shuddhi)
4. Purity of Mind (citta-shuddhi)
5. Purity of Mantra (mantra-shuddhi)
6. Purity of the Deity (murti-shuddhi)
Ashtanga-pranama and Pancanga-pranama
Shrila Prabhupada writes:
The word danda means rod or pole. A rod or pole falls straight; similarly, when a devotee offers obeisances to his superior with all eight angas (parts) of the body, he performs what is called dandavat. Sometimes we only speak of dandavats but actually do not fall down. In any case, dandavat means falling down like a rod before one’s superior. [Cc. Madhya 1.67, purport]
The Hari-bhakti-vilasa tells how to offer dandavat-pranama: Offer obeisances with eight angas—your feet, knees, chest, hands, head, sight, mind, and words. With your two feet, knees, chest, hands and head touching the ground, and with your eyes downcast and half open, recite a suitable prayer while meditating that your head is under the Lord’s lotus feet.
To make pancanga-pranama, offer obeisances with five angas—knees, arms, head, intellect, and words. (The chest does not touch the ground.) It is an offense to offer obeisances with only one hand—that is, with one hand extended in front of the head while the other holds a beadbag or other sacred item off the floor. Before offering obeisances, set down anything you are holding.
Men may perform either type of pranama, but women traditionally perform only pancanga-pranama, since their breasts should not touch the earth. The Hari-bhakti-vilasa, emphasizing the importance of pranama, states that whenever offering pranama, one should prostrate at least four times.
Specific injunctions regarding the direction to face when offering pranama in varying circumstances are minimal. The general rule is to point your head in the direction of the person you are respecting. In the temple, where it is understood that Garuda stands opposite the Deity, shastra enjoins offering pranama with your left side facing the Deity so that your feet are not in the direction of Garuda (or, in the case of many ISKCON temples, Shrila Prabhupada). While offering obeisances, first recite your own spiritual master’s pranama-mantra, then Shrila Prabhupada’s (if it is different), and then the pranama mantras for the Deities present on the altar.
Shastra states that one should enter the Deity room in a humble mood, slightly crouching and stepping inside with the right foot first. Whenever entering the Deity room to begin services, make some sound—either knocking, clapping the hands, or ringing a bell. It is not necessary to make a sound each and every time you enter in the course of service, but in the beginning this should be done.