Srimad Bhagavatam 11.27.45-48 - Faith giving Pastime of Deities (download mp3)
by Baladev Prabhu at ISKCON Chowpatty
stavair uccāvacaiḥ stotraiḥ
paurāṇaiḥ prākṛtair api
stutvā prasīda bhagavann
iti vandeta daṇḍa-vat
The devotee should offer homage to the Lord with all kinds of hymns and prayers, both from the Purāṇas and from other ancient scriptures, and also from ordinary traditions. Praying, “O Lord, please be merciful to me!” he should fall down flat like a rod to offer his obeisances.
śiro mat-pādayoḥ kṛtvā
bāhubhyāṁ ca parasparam
prapannaṁ pāhi mām īśa
Placing his head at the feet of the Deity, he should then stand with folded hands before the Lord and pray, “O my Lord, please protect me, who am surrendered unto You. I am most fearful of this ocean of material existence, standing as I am in the mouth of death.”
iti śeṣāṁ mayā dattāṁ
śirasy ādhāya sādaram
udvāsayec ced udvāsyaṁ
jyotir jyotiṣi tat punaḥ
Praying in this way, the devotee should respectfully place upon his head the remnants I offer to him. And if the particular Deity is meant to be sent away at the end of the worship, then this should be performed, the devotee once again placing the light of the Deity’s presence inside the light of the lotus within his own heart.
arcādiṣu yadā yatra
śraddhā māṁ tatra cārcayet
sarva-bhūteṣv ātmani ca
Whenever one develops faith in Me — in My form as the Deity or in other bona fide manifestations — one should worship Me in that form. I certainly exist both within all created beings and also separately in My original form, since I am the Supreme Soul of all.
The Supreme Personality of Godhead is worshiped according to the faith of a particular worshiper. The Deity form, arcā, is specifically mentioned here because Deity worship is essential for spiritual progress. Śrīla Bhaktisiddhānta Sarasvatī Ṭhākura mentions that inexperienced persons may think that the Deity is meant for the sense gratification of the worshiper, since superficially the Deity is made of external substances such as marble or brass. But through the process of installing the Deity by chanting of authorized mantras, one invites the Supreme Personality of Godhead to enter the Deity form. By regulated, faithful worship one gradually understands that the Deity is completely nondifferent from the Supreme Lord Himself. At that stage, on the strength of Deity worship, one rises to the second-class platform of devotional service. At this more developed stage one desires to make friendship with other devotees of the Lord, and as one becomes solidly established in the community of Vaiṣṇavas, one completely gives up material life and gradually becomes perfect in Kṛṣṇa consciousness.