Srila Prabhupada on required standards for Deity Worship
So far keeping Deity in your separate house, I think there is no need for this. Because if you keep Him there, you have to take proper care, with aratis and attention, and thus divert attention from the Deity in the temple, and from chanting and so many other forms of service, like your writing and sewing, etc. So I think it best if everyone centers his attention on the Deity in the temple, and in that way the temple worship will pull on nicely. Of course, if the temple is unapproachable, or too far, or something like that, that is different thing, but if the temple is easily accessible then this is the best program—for all to go there and attend arati and kirtana etc.
Letter to: Satyabhama — Hawaii 30 March, 1969
Worship of Radha and Krishna is no cheap thing. It cannot be done whimsically, but it must be very carefully executed under strict regulation. Not that there can be LSD taking and all sinful activities, and then Deity worship. I have made it a point that unless one is able to keep to the same standard that is kept here at the temple, he should not worship the Deity separately. Best thing is to keep a Guru-Gauranga altar at home and take part in the Deity worship program at the temple.
Letter to: Caitanya — Los Angeles 25 April, 1973
I am very glad to learn of you eagerness to help open new centers in Munich, Amsterdam, and Berlin. But unless some responsible devotee takes charge of the Deities, you should remain in Hamburg. Hamsaduta may alone go for preaching work with the others. I think there are enough brahmanas there, so if one cannot be engaged full time, they should divide the duties amongst themselves—one takes the morning, another one at noon, and another in the evening, or like that. So unless they are trained up, you should not go. Deity worship is for old and experienced students; it is not good for new students to be given sacred thread. This Deity worship is exclusively for advanced students.
Regarding taking Lord Jagannatha to your next center, that will not be very good because you already do not have enough devotees to engage in Arcana. Unless there is a Deity worshipper available, we may worship Panca-tattva and Guru. That can be done by all initiated students whether they are once or twice initiated. Before an altar with pictures of Lord Caitanya, Pancatattva and Acaryas, everyone can offer Aratrik and Bhoga.
Letter to: Himavati — Los Angeles 1 April, 1970
There is no need of installing Deities immediately. New temples may be opened by placing Pancatattva and Acarya pictures. Unless we have got sufficient experienced devotees we shall not install Radha Krsna or Jagannatha Deities. Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu is very kind and lenient. Simply chanting of Hare Krsna will please Him. But when we have Deities like Radha Krsna or Jagannatha we must strictly follow the regulative principles of Arcana. These things are elaborately described in the Nectar of Devotion which is already published. Order some from Boston and later on translate it into French and German. It is very important book for our guidance.
Letter to: Hamsaduta — Los Angeles 22 June, 1970
Regarding Deity worship, Silavati and Yamuna Devi may be considered expert, so if some new hands come and take their help, that is a good proposition. Once established, however, Deities should not be removed. We should treat the Dieties as the Personality of Godhead, and to invite Him to come to your home you must worship regularly. You cannot remove. If there is scarcity of pujaris, then Deities should not be installed, only pictures of Guru and Gauranga should be worshiped. Irregularity in worshiping Guru and Gauranga can be tolerated, as they are always kind and forgiving, but irregularity in worshiping Lord Jagannatha and Sri Sri Radha Krishna is not good.
Letter to: Karandhara — Calcutta 19 September, 1970
Prabhupāda: That is yajña. Yajñaiḥ saṅkīrtana-prāyair yajanti hi sumedhasaḥ [SB 11.5.32]. This is the way of delivering them: Let them worship Gaura-Nitāi by chanting Hare Kṛṣṇa mahā-mantra or Śrī Kṛṣṇa Caitanya Prabhu Nityānanda, if not two, but one, Hare Kṛṣṇa Hare Kṛṣṇa Kṛṣṇa Kṛṣṇa, and let them take prasādam. These two things will make them advance very quickly, the spiritual life.
Yugadharma: Because they are very interested in these little figures
Prabhupāda: Yes. So if you can do that, it will be very nice.
Yugadharma: How about Rādhā-Kṛṣṇa also?
Prabhupāda: Rādhā-Kṛṣṇa not now
Yugadharma: Not now
Prabhupāda: No. When they have actually advanced and initiated and following strictly the Vaiṣṇava principles, then Rādhā-Kṛṣṇa. And Gaura-Nitāi, they can worship in any condition.
Room Conversation -- February 2, 1977, Bhuvaneśvara
If there is the possibility of regular worship then you can install Jagannatha Deity. Otherwise don't do it. Not that there should be a repeat of the situation in Hamburg that the Deities were taken away. Unless there is solid temple arrangement I don't advise you to install the Deity. Deity installation means regular worship without fail and for good. Just like in Jagannatha Puri. That temple was established over thousand of years ago and it is still going on. Always they have prasadam ready for at least a thousand people and bhoga is offered 56 times in a day.
Letter to: Sivananda — London 2 September, 1971
Worship of Radha-Krishna Deities is the ultimate pinnacle of Deity worship, and it must be done with the utmost caution and attention to every detail of giving opulent service. I am not recommending more temples to install Radha-Krishna Deities until I have become more convinced that they can properly manage. At least five to ten persons must be engaged full time to worship Radha-Krishna properly, and for any small temple especially that is a detrimental factor to maintaining the highest standard in other temple activities besides, because there are not enough men. You may worship Lord Jagannatha, or if you like to install Gaura-Gauranga, Gaura-Nitai, or simply Gaura Deity, He is also very liberal and will forgive and tolerate any service offered to Him even by Jagai and Madhai.
Letter to: Gunagrahi: — New York 3 July, 1972
You should not install the Deities until you have a complete program to see that regulated worship may go on nicely. Until then, simply worship Guru and Gauranga in pictures.
Letter to: Mahendra — Los Angeles 11 December, 1973
Devotee 8: Śrīla Prabhupāda, many people who live outside the temple have Jagannātha Deities and Gaura-Nitāi Deities.
Devotee 8: Śrīla Prabhupāda, many people who live outside the temple have Jagannātha Deities and..
Prabhupāda: Better Gaura-Nitāi Deities.
Devotee 8: Huh?
Prabhupāda: Better Gaura-Nitāi.
Devotee 8: So they have to do full Deity worship when they have these Deities?
Devotee 8: They have to do full Deity worship to have these Deities? Dress the Deities every day?
Prabhupāda: They are supposed to do so, but whether they are able to do so, that is the point. If you can worship properly, that's all right. But whether you are able to worship?
Morning Walk -- May 22, 1975, Melbourne
Regarding Adelaide, unless you are sure that the Deity worship will go on nicely, do not install the Deity. Simply have kirtana and keep the Panca-tattva picture, that's all.
Letter to: Madhudvisa: — Detroit 4 August, 1975
15 August, 1973
My Dear Jagadisa,
Please accept my blessings. I beg to acknowledge receipt of your letter dated August 1, 1973 and I have noted the contents carefully.
The book fund debts should always be cleared very quickly, otherwise how books will come out, so always pay regularly as you collect.
To install Deities in a moving vehicle is not very good. There is always danger of falling and breaking. Sudama already has experience of this. Why is Deity worship being introduced? It should not be introduced because it is very difficult to maintain the standard under such circumstances. If you have picture of Guru Gauranga that is sufficient. You are wondering if you did the right thing by giving the Deities to Sudama, so the answer is no. The deities may be brought back and worshiped in the temple as before. The idea of traveling Sankirtana is to distribute books not to do Deity worship, it is very difficult to maintain the standard of Deity worship in the temple, how will it be maintained in a truck?
Another thing is that opening temples should not be encouraged at this time. Subala did the same thing in Santa Fe years ago, why again he is doing the same thing? Hamsaduta in Germany instead of increasing the temples and Deity worship he has increased the Sankirtana parties. He is running on 8 New buses and distributing large quantities of literature, this is more important. Neglectful Deity worship means offense. So make propaganda in this way, but in the bus there should not be Deity worship, simply the picture of Guru Gauranga.
I hope this letter meets you in good health.
Your ever well wisher
A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami
18 March, 1969
My Dear Himavati,
Please accept my blessings. I thank you very much for your letter dated February 21, 1969, along with the Deity dress. It has come to me late on account of changing places so quickly and the statement given by you in the matter of worshiping the Deity is super excellent. Please continue this system and Krishna will bestow upon you all blessings.
If one attains perfection in Deity worship, that is called Arcana Siddhi. Arcana Siddhi means simply by Deity worship one goes back to Godhead, immediately after this life. So this Arcana Siddhi program is given in the Narada Pancharatra especially for the householders. Householders cannot undergo strict disciplinary activities of austerity, therefore for every householder the path of Arcana Siddhi is very much recommended.
According to Vedic system, all householders are ordered to keep Deity at home and follow strictly the worshipment process. That makes the home pure, body pure, mind pure, and quickly promotes one to the pure platform of spiritual life. The temple is
also specially meant for the householders. In India, in every town, in every village, in every neighborhood, still there are Visnu temples for the convenience of the surrounding householders. So I am pleased that you are ideal householder. And you
are doing very nicely combined together husband and wife. Please do it as you are doing and gradually Krishna will give you all facility.
4 January, 1973
My Dear Dhruvananda,
Please accept my blessings. I beg to acknowledge receipt of your letter dated December 17, 1972, and I have noted the contents with care. You have asked me several questions about the deity worship in Los Angeles, so I shall answer them one after another: Your first question, shall Srimati Radharani's feet be showing, the answer is no, they should never be seen. Krsna's feet, however, should be showing.
I do not know when I have said to anyone that Krsna should not wear anything black color, nor I know where I have given any permission to wear black color, but there is no harm if sometimes Krsna dresses something black. Sometimes in Vrndavana they
dress Him in black.
Yes, the leaves of Srimati Tulasi Devi may be offered to all Visnu-tattva expansions of Krsna, including Nityananda and Balarama.
You may dress Lord Caitanya in the standard way, main things is do it nicely, don't make it funny. In your Western countries Lord Caitanya should be entirely covered, He should not appear bare-chested.
Why you are pouring water over the head of Radha and Krsna deities? Big deities should not be bathed in this way, using water or other things. Rather they are bathed daily by mantra, do you not know these things? Under no circumstances shall we bathe
the Jagannatha deities with anything water or liquid, they should be bathed with mantra also. Now you are asking if Lord Jagannatha carries flute? Why this nonsense question? You are asking me so many concoctions and manufactured nonsense. Don't bother
my head in this way any more. From now on unless I order you do something change or in addition, go on with the usual standard way. You manufacture ideas and then I have to waste my time. I have given you everything already, there is no need for you
to add anything or change anything. Why you are asking these things? Who has given you such freedom? Pujari should operate entirely under the supervision of temple president and GBC, not independently. The greatest danger to our movement will come
when we manufacture and create our own process for worshiping the deities. So don't ask any more new questions, whatever is going on, follow it just to the exact standard as I have given you, that's all.
Srila Prabhupada on standards of worship with flowers etc.
I hope in L.A. the Deity worship is going on very nicely; dress, flowers, ornaments, arati, cleanliness, foodstuffs, all of them must be regular, accompanied by kirtana, street sankirtana, distribution of literature, etc. (Letter to Karandhara -- Nairobi 16 October, 1971)
You can make a sign-board that says "Guests are requested to offer a flower to the Deity". The flower market is near-by and any gentleman will bring flowers, and give them prasadam. A gorgeous temple means many flowers, beautiful decorations, and prasadam distribution. Some sort of kirtana must go on continuously. Further, chanting 16 rounds must be completed, that is our spiritual strength. And I am very much stressing nowadays that my students shall increase their reading of my books and try to understand them from different angles of vision. Each sloka can be seen from many, many angles of vision, so become practiced in seeing things like this. (Letter to Tribhuvanatha -- Los Angeles, June 16, 1972)
Srila Prabhupada on Deity worship must be together with hearing and preaching
I am very pleased. Another temple opened, another book published, that is the success of this Movement. Without book distribution the temple worship standard will also diminish. Therefore both of them should go side by side. I can see in the pictures so many outsiders offering respect with awe and veneration. This Deity worship is very important. As soon as you get sufficient initiated brahmanas try to open another center. (SPL to Kurusrestha dasa, 28th December, 1976)
The thing is, we should have a little common sense in all activities. The example can be given that women by nature do not forget to dress very nicely although always engaged in household affairs. Deity worship or lecturing in the colleges is just as important as book distribution. So, these things must be done very nicely and at the same time, book distribution should be done. Not that we should do one thing at the sacrifice of another. (Letter to Adi Kesava dasa, 2nd January, 1975)
Therefore along with the worship of Kṛṣṇa in the temple, this hearing should be. Śravaṇaṁ kīrtanam. Just like we are doing. We do not engage only the devotees to the temple worship, but there must be program for hearing Bhagavad-gītā, Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam, the science of God. Otherwise, after some time, simply if you ring the bell, after time you'll be disgusted and the whole thing will be lost, as it has become now in India. There was no instruction about Kṛṣṇa consciousness; they simply attached to the temple and belling. And now it is now zero. Devotion is zero. (Lecture BG 07.01 - Ahmedabad - December 13, 1972)
Of course, we must know that any devotee, either in the lower platform or in the second platform or on the first platform, they are to be considered as devotees. Not that because one is in the material platform, he's not devotee. He is also devotee. But he has to improve. The improvement means he must know what is Kṛṣṇa. Simply if he remains attached to the temple worship and does not try to understand who is a Kṛṣṇa devotee and how he has to deal with others... Na tad-bhakteṣu cānyeṣu. We have got some duty to others. This is preaching work. This is preaching work. One should not be satisfied simply by worshiping in the temple. Then he'll remain a neophyte. He must become a preacher, Kṛṣṇa consciousness. Then he comes to the second platform. (Lecture BG 07.01 - Ahmedabad - December 13, 1972)