Monday, January 14, 2013

Deities

Lord Nimai - main Deity of Nimaihuset



Srila B.A.Paramadvaiti Swami Maharaj


The appearance of the altar Deities follow a strict standard based on the descriptions in the Scriptures, and the artisans that make the Deities follow a very old tradition. When the artisan has completed his work, the full power of the Lord is however not considered there until a ceremony has been held, where a pure devotee of the Lord, through pran pratista ("decent of the mercy of the Lord"), invites the Lord to fill the Deity with His Divine Presence.



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His Holiness Jayadvaita Swami


Transcendental Appearance
The Lord’s form is eternally transcendental wherever He appears, even in the material world. When an ordinary living being comes to the material world, the material energy subjects him to many limitations. It covers him with a temporary material body that afflicts him with many miseries. Thus he has to get old and diseased and finally die and accept another body. But the Supreme Lord is not under the material laws of nature; He is beyond those laws, just as a king who visits a prison is beyond the laws that govern the prisoners. The transcendental form of the Supreme Lord has all opulence and power. Therefore the Lord has the power to appear in the material world in His transcendental form as the Deity but always remain the same transcendental Lord.

We may object that God cannot have a form made of ordinary matter like wood or stone. But we should consider that for the Lord there is no difference between matter and spirit, for the Lord can change spirit into matter and matter into spirit. Everything is God’s energy, and God is all-spiritual. Therefore all of God’s energy is also spiritual. We call it “material” or “spiritual” according to how it acts upon us, but in reality it is one spiritual energy. To draw another comparison, electricity is one single energy, although sometimes it works in a refrigerator to cool things and sometimes in a stove to make things hot. The expert electrician who can master electrical energy can use it to perform either function. Similarly, the Lord, the master of all energies, can turn matter into spirit at His will. Who can stop Him? So even if we accept the Deity as being stone or wood, we must admit that the Supreme Lord has the power to change stone or wood into spirit at any moment.

Eternal Omnipresence
In one sense, the Lord is already present in all stone and wood — as well as everywhere else — because everything is His energy. Wherever God’s energy is existing, God Himself is also existing, just as the sun is present wherever there is sunshine. A fully God conscious person can recognize God’s presence in His energy, and therefore He can see God everywhere. For the benefit of those who are not so advanced, however, the energy of God can be shaped into the transcendental form of God so that even in this material world we can see the transcendental form of the omnipresent Supreme Personality of Godhead.

Those who are addicted to the idea of a formless, impersonal God object to the worship of the Deity in the temple. “God is everywhere,” they say. “Why should we worship Him in the temple?” But if God is everywhere, is He not in the temple also? God is certainly everywhere, but we cannot see Him everywhere. We are all eternal servants of the Lord, but we have forgotten our relationship with Him. Therefore the Lord, by His causeless mercy, appears as the Deity in the temple so that even in this world of material forgetfulness we can see Him and revive our eternal relationship with Him.

How does the Lord change matter into spirit? He does so when He appears, by the grace of His devotee, as the transcendental form of the Deity. When a pure devotee paints or carves the form of the Deity and calls upon the Lord to kindly agree to accept his humble service, the Lord agrees to do so, provided everything is done according to the scriptural regulations. One’s sincere attitude of service to the Lord and strict adherence to the rules of the scriptures are the essential ingredients that make Deity worship vastly different from worship of an ordinary idol. If the form one worships is merely imaginary, then one’s worship is whimsical idolatry. But if one worships the authorized transcendental form of the Lord with a sincere desire to serve the Lord, and if one strictly adheres to the rules and regulations of the scriptures, his worship is transcendental, and the Lord will certainly accept it. The example is often given of a post office and an authorized mailbox. Because the post office may be far from our homes, the postal officials install authorized boxes in various neighborhoods so that we can use them to send our mail. One can paint any box blue and red and call it a mailbox, but it will have no value. However, when the postal officials install an authorized mailbox, that box is as good as the post office itself. Similarly, an imaginary form of God is nothing more than an idol; but the authorized form of the Lord is as good as the Lord Himself, and the Lord, in His transcendental form as the Deity, will accept the service we render to Him and will also reveal Himself to us more and more.

Now, we may see the Deity to be no more than wood or stone, but that is due only to our defective vision. The Lord cannot be seen with our blunt material senses. One has to purify his eyes by seeing through the vision of the scriptures and by rendering devotional service to the Lord. This is the process for developing our spiritual vision so that we will be able to see the Supreme Lord.




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Anonymous devotee in forum


The conception of matter being transformed into spirit is understood more in terms of function than category. For example, the analogy is given of an iron rod in a fire which acts as fire. In that case its category might still be said to be iron, but its function is fire. Distinguishing it as iron when it acts as fire becomes to some degree an exercise in pedantry. This point is an active principle in our philosophy so much so that in Padma Purana it is stated that to draw a distinction between the arca-vigraha and Krsna, between the Holy Name and Krsna, etc (the Deity is wooden or the Holy Name is composed of mundane syllables) is considered to be an atheistic or hellish mentality. arcye visnau sila-dhir... (See Chaitanya Caritamrta, Madhya 20.217 and Srimad Bhagavatam 4.21.12) Also see CC, Antya ch. 5 in which Svarupa Damodara Prabhu lambasts the poet who makes a distinction between the body of Lord Jagannatha and Lord Chaitanya.

Also consider the following: 


"Similarly, the material conception of a thing is at once changed as soon as  it is put into the service of the Lord. That is the secret of spiritual success... Everything is an emanation from the Supreme Spirit, and by His inconceivable power He can convert spirit into matter and matter into spirit. Therefore a material thing (so-called) is at once turned into a spiritual force by the great will of the Lord. The necessary condition for such a change is to employ so-called matter in the service of the spirit. That is the way to treat our material diseases and elevate ourselves to the spiritual plane where there is no misery, no lamentation and no fear. When everything is thus employed in the service of the Lord, we can experience that there is nothing except the Supreme Brahman. The Vedic mantra that "everything is Brahman" is thus realized by us." 
(Srimad Bhagavatam 1.5.33, purport by Srila Prabhupada)




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Srila B.V. Narayan Maharaj


Arupa-vat eva hi tat pradhanatvat. This is one of the sutras (verses full with meaning) of Vedanta-Sutra. Arupavat means "apparently without a form." "Rupa” means “form”, “a” means “not” and “vat” means “like”, or “in comparison”. This word, therefore, also means “it is not like the form.” The suffix “vat”, meaning “like” or “in comparison”, is also used in the word "naravat-lila", meaning Sri Krsna’s human-like pastimes. His pastimes appear like those of a human being, but they are not those of a human. “Nara” means “human”, and Krsna’s pastimes (lila) are described as “naravat” meaning “like those of a human”. So the meaning of arupa-vat is: “It is not that God’s form as the Deity is like Him. Rather it is Him. He is that very form. The arca-vigraha (Deity in the temple) is not a symbolic representation. It is directly Vrajandra-nandana Syamasundara Himself. By the process of worshipping that Deity, one can directly see Him. I may say “the painting of me is like my form”, but this is not the case with Lord Krsna.

Arupa-vat. It is not that God has no form. His Deity (vigraha) is not a symbolic representation of Him. The Deity is directly God Himself.





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Srila Sridhar Maharaj

(From a description of a Srila Sridhar Maharaj class)
Srila Sridhar Maharaj describes how Srila Gauri Das Pandit, being Subal Sakha in Krishna's lila, could recognise Sriman Mahaprabhu and Nityananda Prabhu when They presented Themselves in his quarters in Kalna. They lived there for a while, but when They wanted to go from there, Gauri Das Pandit couldn't tolerate the prospect of separation. So, the Lords promised They would stay with him. Two murtis were carved in wood according to Their figures. They installed the murtis and were about to take leave. Still Gauri Das Pandit couldn't accept that, so Mahaprabhu and Nityananda Prabhu took the murtis' places and the murtis took leave. Yet, that was also not tolerable by Gauri Das Pandit. Finally, the murtis stayed with him for his worship.



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Srila Sadhu Maharaj


If you look at the Deity and see a stone, it's because you have a heart of stone.




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Srila Prabhupada


 (Hurt, to one of his assistants) It's not idol worship... tell the rascals.




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