The Importance of Deity Worship Along With Book Distribution

February 11, 1975; Mexico City, Mexico;
Camp: ISKCON, Mexico City

Touching down in Mexico City proved to be an extraordinary experience today. Srila Prabhupada, a transcendental emissary from Goloka Vrindavan was greeted with honor by his devotees here. Srila Prabhupada by-passed all the ordinary mundane customs check points and airport facilities and walked directly from the plane to a waiting limousine. Then to top it off the devotees also arranged a police escort to accompany Srila Prabhupada’s vehicle through the city as it went directly to the temple. This was an extremely pleasant change from our normal grueling airport experience. We were accustomed to being treated with suspicion like potential criminals as we went through customs at other international airports.

On the drive to the temple Srila Prabhupada expressed his appreciation for the VIP treatment. Eager to continue pleasing His Divine Grace, Hrdayananda Maharaja took this opportunity to report to Srila Prabhupada about all the exciting service the Spanish BBT had accomplished. Many books were being translated and distributed in the Spanish language. Srila Prabhupada was delighted to hear that the glories of the Lord were being spread.

When he arrived at the temple Srila Prabhupada took darshan of Their Lordships and later asked for the Deity maha. This was Srila Prabhupada’s standard practice as he travelled from temple to temple. He always took personal interest to see how the Deities were being worshipped. It was as if Srila Prabhupada was Krsna’s transcendental inspector making sure the Deity worship was being maintained nicely by his children.

After sampling some of the maha prasadam Srila Prabhupada said, “This prasadam is horrible. The Deity worship here is not up to standard. It is important to worship the Deities very nicely.” Srila Prabhupada again stressed, “It is as important to perform first class Deity worship as it is to distribute books.” I was shocked! I had never heard Srila Prabhupada criticise the Deity worship anywhere before. My heart went out to the devotees doing the cooking, but I knew it was their turn to get some merciful instruction. This would be something they would never forget.

I speculated about Srila Prabhupada’s relationship with the Deities. Being of mundane vision, I saw the beautiful forms of the Lord, but couldn’t recognise the innate principle of reciprocal interaction (lila). Sometimes, I tried to imagine what it might be like to take darshan of the Deities and see Krsna as Srila Prabhupada undoubtedly did. Srila Prabhupada emphasised that we must understand that Krsna is non-different from His form in the temple room. He kindly reminded us again and again, “Krsna is here in His Arca Vigraha form.” During this visit His Divine Grace let everyone know that it was imperative to perform first class Deity worship along with book distribution. After all, the purpose of all of Srila Prabhupada’s books was to understand that Krsna is the Supreme Personality of Godhead and we are His servants. Deity worship is the application of the principles delineated in Srila Prabhupada’s books. When it was time for Srila Prabhupada to leave Mexico City for Caracas the devotees arranged the same police escort to the airport hoping to alleviate the usual red tape caused by international travel. It didn’t work out very well. When Srila Prabhupada arrived at the airport in the car there was a delay before he could board the plane. He had to stay in the car for almost one hour. While sitting there he said, “It would have been better waiting in the lounge. I am having to wait in the car.” It was an uneasy time for all of us present realising that Srila Prabhupada did not have the opportunity for his disciples to see him off.

Srila Prabhupada transcendentally reciprocated with his many disciples at airports all over the world. For some devotees this constituted a large part of their personal association. Srila Prabhupada felt great separation from his disciples while being denied this pleasure. He understood a great opportunity to enliven us was being missed. I felt uneasy about Srila Prabhupada’s displeasure.

When Srila Prabhupada arrived at the temple in Caracas, Venezuela it was like an instant replay of his arriving in Mexico City. He took darshan of the Deities and later in his room sampled the maha prasadam. Again Srila Prabhupada said, “These puris are terrible, the vegetable is horrible. This prasadam is not good. Deity worship must be first class. You must worship the Deity very nicely!”

Again I was surprised as this was so unusual for Srila Prabhupada to reprimand his disciples saying they must improve the Deity worship. Either way, Srila Prabhupada very kindly encouraged his pious young disciples so that they could make advancement on the spiritual path.

It was never that Srila Prabhupada was upset with us and we were doomed. He would stress the importance of performing our service with care and attention. This is the example that our beloved Spiritual Master gave us. Everything Srila Prabhupada did was with the utmost of attention and devotion to the Lord. Srila Prabhupada enjoyed his stay very much in this part of the world and was impressed with the sincerity of the devotees. I also enjoyed being at the Caracas temple since I lived there for a few months when I first left Srila Prabhupada’s personal service in January of 1974. I knew most of the devotees well and it was like going home for me.

Srila Prabhupada, you have created a large family of Vaisnavas. You are the munificent father and grandfather of tens of thousands of devotees of Lord Krsna. You have very kindly made it possible for your followers to go anywhere in the world, take darshan of the Supreme Personality of Godhead and enjoy the association of friends and family. This is one of the great fringe benefits of being a member of your Iskcon Society.

Please allow this prodigal son to remain within your family, always.
You instructed us that “Book Distribution and Deity Worship” must go side by side. Your books inspire and give us knowledge to serve Krsna. Deity worship gives us the practice. Their Lordships are the original root source of this Vaisnava family, without Them we are all lost. Your books are like attractive cordial invitations to please come and personally serve the Deity. Our duty is to remind who so ever we meet that we are all servants of the Lord. Lord Krsna’s Deity worship takes place at your temples around the world. Your books invite everyone, “Please, you come and serve the Lord.” Deity worship is the zenith of loving service. Your books give us the knowledge to come to this platform. You are calling us all “Back to Godhead.”

– From the Srila Prabhupada Uvaca by HG Srutakirti Dasa


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