(Jiva.org) – Observing Proper Rules of Deity-worship
Question: I have questions regarding offenses to uninstalled Deities. Recently I informed a devotee that keeping dogs in the home is an offense to the Deity, because the dog contaminates the entire house. It is impossible to maintain basic sadācāra with a cat or dog inside the home. Then another devotee said that most devotees have not installed their Deities at home so they cannot commit sevā-aparādhas. Is it true that if a Deity is not installed, then we cannot commit sevā-aparādhas?
Hari-bhakti-vilāsa describes how to install a Deity. It is a very elaborate and complicated process; hardly someone does this. In the West, it’s hardly possible to do so because certain ingredients for the installation are only available in India.
Some gurus say that receiving mantra-dīkṣā is an automatic installation of the home Deity. If you are initiated, then your Deities are installed as well at the same time.
Can you comment on these topics?
Answer: A dog and the Deity do not go together. The dog has to be kept out of the Deity area. If there is a dog in the house, the Deity must have its own place, where the dog is not allowed to go. The dog should also be not allowed in the kitchen where the Deity’s bhoga is prepared.
If a Deity is being worshiped, whether installed or not, it is offensive not to observe the rules of worship.
The installation of a Deity can be elaborate, as described in Hari-bhakti-Vilāsa, or it can be abridged as per one’s means and the availability of ingredients. Both are fine. Receiving dīkṣā-mantra does not install the Deity automatically.
Question: Is there a specific verse to verify that worshiping an uninstalled deity and not following the rules is an offense?
Answer: You cannot expect a verse for everything. Certain things or customs did not exist in the past. For example, there were no markets to sell and buy Deities. Deities were made on order. Therefore, people did not worship uninstalled Deities. Thus there may not be any reference to offenses or no offenses to uninstalled Deity worship in śāstra. At least I have not come across it. One should also apply one’s intelligence and logic based on śāstric knowledge. If you are worshiping an uninstalled deity, then you have accepted that Deity as Bhagavān. Otherwise, why would you worship that Deity? You accept the worship as part of bhakti and expect to get spiritual benefit from it. Otherwise, you would not do so.
But you do not want to follow the rules of worship and therefore you suggest that there is no offense in not following the rules because the Deity is not installed. Moreover, you also cannot give any śāstric evidence that no offense is involved. You also cannot give any logic for it.
But I have the logic. If you expect a benefit from your worship, then you should also expect harm if you commit an offense because you accept the Deity (uninstalled) as Bhagavān. If you act wrongly towards a person whom you consider worshipable, would he not feel offended if you misbehave? Otherwise, it is called ardha-kukkuṭī-nyāya—the half-hen logic. This means to accept only the back part of the hen, which delivers eggs, but not the front part, which needs to be fed. The meaning is that I only want the benefit but not to pay the price.
If there is no offense done to an uninstalled Deity but you can still worship it, then everyone should only worship an uninstalled Deity. In this way, there is no chance to commit offenses. You may say that logic is not a pramāṇa. But Kṛṣṇa Himself accepts anumāna as one of the pramāṇas. See SB 11.28.9, 11.19.17, and Manu-smṛti 12.105–106.
Moreover, in his commentary to HBV 19.2, Sanātana Gosvāmī writes that Bhagavān is manifest in every mūrti as soon as the mūrti is ready. By installing the Deity, He becomes more specifically manifest. Even otherwise, Bhagavān is omnipresent. So He is also present in the deity.
Question: Many temples use chemical colors to perform aṅgarāga-seva. Is this permissible?
Answer: It is common sense not to use chemical colors for aṅgarāga-seva, just as we would prefer not to apply chemicals to our bodies.
Question: Isn’t it offensive to bring a coffin with the corpse of a devotee into a temple in front of the Deities?
Answer: Personally, I see no purpose in bringing the dead body in front of the Deity. I understand that a Vaiṣṇava’s body is not material and thus not impure, still what is the point in bringing it in front of the deities? The body cannot see the deities and I am not sure if the deities are keen to see it. So I really see no purpose behind it. But somehow, it seems to have become the norm for some.