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arcanaṁ vandanaṁ dāsyaṁ
bhaktiś cen nava-lakṣaṇā
kriyeta bhagavaty addhā
tan manye ’dhītam uttamam
When Prahlāda Mahārāja was asked by his father to say something from whatever he had learned, he considered that what he had learned from his spiritual master was the best of all teachings whereas what he had learned about diplomacy from his material teachers, Ṣaṇḍa and Amarka, was useless. Bhaktiḥ pareśānubhavo viraktir anyatra ca (Bhāg. 11.2.42). This is the symptom of pure devotional service. A pure devotee is interested only in devotional service, not in material affairs. To execute devotional service, one should always engage in hearing and chanting about Kṛṣṇa, or Lord Viṣṇu. The process of temple worship is called arcana. How to perform arcana will be explained herein. One should have complete faith in the words of Kṛṣṇa, who says that He is the great well-wishing friend of everyone (suhṛdaṁ sarva-bhūtānām). A devotee considers Kṛṣṇa the only friend. This is called sakhyam. Puṁsārpitā viṣṇau. The word puṁsā means “by all living entities.” There are no distinctions permitting only a man or only a brāhmaṇa to offer devotional service to the Lord. Everyone can do so. As confirmed in Bhagavad-gītā (9.32), striyo vaiśyās tathā śūdrās te ’pi yānti parāṁ gatim: although women, vaiśyas and śūdras are considered less intelligent, they also can become devotees and return home, back to Godhead.
After performing sacrifices, sometimes a person engaged in fruitive activity customarily offers the results to Viṣṇu. But here it is said, bhagavaty addhā: one must directly offer everything to Viṣṇu. This is called sannyāsa (not merely nyāsa). A tridaṇḍi-sannyāsī carries three daṇḍas, signifying kaya-mano-vākya — body, mind and words. All of these should be offered to Viṣṇu, and then one can begin devotional service. Fruitive workers first perform some pious activities and then formally or officially offer the results to Viṣṇu. The real devotee, however, first offers his surrender to Kṛṣṇa with his body, mind and words and then uses his body, mind and words for the service of Kṛṣṇa as Kṛṣṇa desires.
Śrīla Bhaktisiddhānta Sarasvatī Ṭhākura gives the following explanation in his Tathya. The word śravaṇa refers to giving aural reception to the holy name and descriptions of the Lord’s form, qualities, entourage and pastimes as explained in Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam, Bhagavad-gītā and similar authorized scriptures. After aurally receiving such messages, one should memorize these vibrations and repeat them (kīrtanam). Smaraṇam means trying to understand more and more about the Supreme Lord, and pāda-sevanam means engaging oneself in serving the lotus feet of the Lord according to the time and circumstances. Arcanam means worshiping Lord Viṣṇu as one does in the temple, and vandanam means offering respectful obeisances. Man-manā bhava mad-bhakto mad-yājī māṁ namaskuru. Vandanam means namaskuru — offering obeisances or offering prayers. Thinking oneself to be nitya-kṛṣṇa-dāsa, everlastingly a servant of Kṛṣṇa, is called dāsyam, and sakhyam means being a well-wisher of Kṛṣṇa. Kṛṣṇa wants everyone to surrender unto Him because everyone is constitutionally His servant. Therefore, as a sincere friend of Kṛṣṇa, one should preach this philosophy, requesting everyone to surrender unto Kṛṣṇa. Ātma-nivedanam means offering Kṛṣṇa everything, including one’s body, mind, intelligence and whatever one may possess.
One’s sincere endeavor to perform these nine processes of devotional service is technically called bhakti. The word addhā means “directly.” One should not be like the karmīs, who perform pious activities and then formally offer the results to Kṛṣṇa. That is karma-kāṇḍa. One should not aspire for the results of his pious activities, but should dedicate oneself fully and then act piously. In other words, one should act for the satisfaction of Lord Viṣṇu, not for the satisfaction of his own senses. That is the meaning of the word addhā, “directly.”
śīlanaṁ bhaktir uttamā
“One should render transcendental loving service to the Supreme Lord Kṛṣṇa favorably and without desire for material profit or gain through fruitive activities or philosophical speculation. That is called pure devotional service.” One should simply satisfy Kṛṣṇa, without being influenced by fruitive knowledge or fruitive activity.
The Gopāla-tāpanī Upaniṣad says that the word bhakti means engagement in the devotional service of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, not of anyone else. This Upaniṣad describes that bhakti is the offering of devotional service unto the Supreme Personality of Godhead. To perform devotional service, one should be relieved of the bodily conception of life and aspirations to be happy through elevation to the higher planetary systems. In other words, work performed simply for the satisfaction of the Supreme Lord, without any desire for material benefits, is called bhakti. Bhakti is also called niṣkarma, or freedom from the results of fruitive activity. Bhakti and niṣkarma are on the same platform, although devotional service and fruitive activity appear almost the same.
The nine different processes enunciated by Prahlāda Mahārāja, who learned them from Nārada Muni, may not all be required for the execution of devotional service; if a devotee performs only one of these nine without deviation, he can attain the mercy of the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Sometimes it is found that when one performs one of the processes, other processes are mixed with it. That is not improper for a devotee. When a devotee executes any one of the nine processes (nava-lakṣaṇā), this is sufficient; the other eight processes are included. Now let us discuss these nine different processes.
(1) Śravaṇam. Hearing of the holy name of the Lord (śravaṇam) is the beginning of devotional service. Although any one of the nine processes is sufficient, in chronological order the hearing of the holy name of the Lord is the beginning. Indeed, it is essential. As enunciated by Lord Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu, ceto-darpaṇa-mārjanam: by chanting the holy name of the Lord, one is cleansed of the material conception of life, which is due to the dirty modes of material nature. When the dirt is cleansed from the core of one’s heart, one can realize the form of the Supreme Personality of Godhead — īśvaraḥ paramaḥ kṛṣṇaḥ sac-cid-ānanda-vigrahaḥ. Thus by hearing the holy name of the Lord, one comes to the platform of understanding the personal form of the Lord. After realizing the Lord’s form, one can realize the transcendental qualities of the Lord, and when one can understand His transcendental qualities one can understand the Lord’s associates. In this way a devotee advances further and further toward complete understanding of the Lord as he awakens in realization of the Lord’s holy name, transcendental form and qualities, His paraphernalia, and everything pertaining to Him. Therefore the chronological process is śravaṇaṁ kīrtanaṁ viṣṇoḥ. This same process of chronological understanding holds true in chanting and remembering. When the chanting of the holy name, form, qualities and paraphernalia is heard from the mouth of a pure devotee, his hearing and chanting are very pleasing. Śrīla Sanātana Gosvāmī has forbidden us to hear the chanting of an artificial devotee or nondevotee.
Hearing from the text of Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam is considered the most important process of hearing. Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam is full of transcendental chanting of the holy name, and therefore the chanting and hearing of Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam are transcendentally full of mellows. The transcendental holy name of the Lord may be heard and chanted accordingly to the attraction of the devotee. One may chant the holy name of Lord Kṛṣṇa, or one may chant the holy name of Lord Rāma or Nṛsiṁhadeva (rāmādi-mūrtiṣu kalā-niyamena tiṣṭhan). The Lord has innumerable forms and names, and devotees may meditate upon a particular form and chant the holy name according to his attraction. The best course is to hear of the holy name, form and so on from a pure devotee of the same standard as oneself. In other words, one who is attached to Kṛṣṇa should chant and hear from other pure devotees who are also attached to Lord Kṛṣṇa. The same principle applies for devotees attracted by Lord Rāma, Lord Nṛsiṁha and other forms of the Lord. Because Kṛṣṇa is the ultimate form of the Lord (kṛṣṇas tu bhagavān svayam), it is best to hear about Lord Kṛṣṇa’s name, form and pastimes from a realized devotee who is particularly attracted by the form of Lord Kṛṣṇa. In Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam, great devotees like Śukadeva Gosvāmī have specifically described Lord Kṛṣṇa’s holy name, form and qualities. Unless one hears about the holy name, form and qualities of the Lord, one cannot clearly understand the other processes of devotional service. Therefore Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu recommends that one chant the holy name of Kṛṣṇa. Paraṁ vijayate śrī-kṛṣṇa-saṅkīrtanam. If one is fortunate enough to hear from the mouth of realized devotees, he is very easily successful on the path of devotional service. Therefore hearing of the holy name, form and qualities of the Lord is essential.
In Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam (1.5.11) there is this verse:
yasmin prati-ślokam abaddhavaty api
nāmāny anantasya yaśo-’ṅkitāni yat
śṛṇvanti gāyanti gṛṇanti sādhavaḥ
“Verses describing the name, form and qualities of Anantadeva, the unlimited Supreme Lord, are able to vanquish all the sinful reactions of the entire world. Therefore even if such verses are improperly composed, devotees hear them, describe them and accept them as bona fide and authorized.” In this connection, Śrīdhara Svāmī has remarked that a pure devotee takes advantage of another pure devotee by trying to hear from him about the holy name, form and qualities of the Lord. If there is no such opportunity, he alone chants and hears the Lord’s holy name.
(2) Kīrtanam. The hearing of the holy name has been described above. Now let us try to understand the chanting of the holy name, which is the second item in the consecutive order. It is recommended that such chanting be performed very loudly. In Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam, Nārada Muni says that without shame he began traveling all over the world, chanting the holy name of the Lord. Similarly, Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu has advised:
tṛṇād api sunīcena
taror api sahiṣṇunā
kīrtanīyaḥ sadā hariḥ
A devotee can very peacefully chant the holy name of the Lord by behaving more humbly than the grass, being tolerant like a tree and offering respects to everyone, without expecting honor from anyone else. Such qualifications make it easier to chant the holy name of the Lord. The process of transcendental chanting can be easily performed by anyone. Even if one is physically unfit, classified lower than others, devoid of material qualifications or not at all elevated in terms of pious activities, the chanting of the holy name is beneficial. An aristocratic birth, an advanced education, beautiful bodily features, wealth and similar results of pious activities are all unnecessary for advancement in spiritual life, for one can very easily advance simply by chanting the holy name. It is understood from the authoritative source of Vedic literature that especially in this age, Kali-yuga, people are generally short-living, extremely bad in their habits, and inclined to accept methods of devotional service that are not bona fide. Moreover, they are always disturbed by material conditions, and they are mostly unfortunate. Under the circumstances, the performance of other processes, such as yajña, dāna, tapaḥ and kriyā — sacrifices, charity and so on — are not at all possible. Therefore it is recommended:
harer nāma harer nāma
harer nāmaiva kevalam
kalau nāsty eva nāsty eva
nāsty eva gatir anyathā
“In this age of quarrel and hypocrisy the only means of deliverance is chanting of the holy name of the Lord. There is no other way. There is no other way. There is no other way.” Simply by chanting the holy name of the Lord, one advances perfectly in spiritual life. This is the best process for success in life. In other ages, the chanting of the holy name is equally powerful, but especially in this age, Kali-yuga, it is most powerful. Kīrtanād eva kṛṣṇasya mukta-saṅgaḥ paraṁ vrajet: simply by chanting the holy name of Kṛṣṇa, one is liberated and returns home, back to Godhead. Therefore, even if one is able to perform other processes of devotional service, one must adopt the chanting of the holy name as the principal method of advancing in spiritual life. Yajñaiḥ saṅkīrtana-prāyair yajanti hi sumedhasaḥ: those who are very sharp in their intelligence should adopt this process of chanting the holy names of the Lord. One should not, however, manufacture different types of chanting. One should adhere seriously to the chanting of the holy name as recommended in the scriptures: Hare Kṛṣṇa, Hare Kṛṣṇa, Kṛṣṇa Kṛṣṇa, Hare Hare/ Hare Rāma, Hare Rāma, Rāma Rāma, Hare Hare.
While chanting the holy name of the Lord, one should be careful to avoid ten offenses. From Sanat-kumāra it is understood that even if a person is a severe offender in many ways, he is freed from offensive life if he takes shelter of the Lord’s holy name. Indeed, even if a human being is no better than a two-legged animal, he will be liberated if he takes shelter of the holy name of the Lord. One should therefore be very careful not to commit offenses at the lotus feet of the Lord’s holy name. The offenses are described as follows: (a) to blaspheme a devotee, especially a devotee engaged in broadcasting the glories of the holy name, (b) to consider the name of Lord Śiva or any other demigod to be equally as powerful as the holy name of the Supreme Personality of Godhead (no one is equal to the Supreme Personality of Godhead, nor is anyone superior to Him), (c) to disobey the instructions of the spiritual master, (d) to blaspheme the Vedic literatures and literatures compiled in pursuance of the Vedic literatures, (e) to comment that the glories of the holy name of the Lord are exaggerated, (f) to interpret the holy name in a deviant way, (g) to commit sinful activities on the strength of chanting the holy name, (h) to compare the chanting of the holy name to pious activities, (i) to instruct the glories of the holy name to a person who has no understanding of the chanting of the holy name, (j) not to awaken in transcendental attachment for the chanting of the holy name, even after hearing all these scriptural injunctions.
There is no way to atone for any of these offenses. It is therefore recommended that an offender at the feet of the holy name continue to chant the holy name twenty-four hours a day. Constant chanting of the holy name will make one free of offenses, and then he will gradually be elevated to the transcendental platform on which he can chant the pure holy name and thus become a lover of the Supreme Personality of Godhead.
It is recommended that even if one commits offenses, one should continue chanting the holy name. In other words, the chanting of the holy name makes one offenseless. In the book Nāma-kaumudī it is recommended that if one is an offender at the lotus feet of a Vaiṣṇava, he should submit to that Vaiṣṇava and be excused; similarly, if one is an offender in chanting the holy name, he should submit to the holy name and thus be freed from his offenses. In this connection there is the following statement, spoken by Dakṣa to Lord Śiva: “I did not know the glories of your personality, and therefore I committed an offense at your lotus feet in the open assembly. You are so kind, however, that you did not accept my offense. Instead, when I was falling down because of accusing you, you saved me by your merciful glance. You are most great. Kindly excuse me and be satisfied with your own exalted qualities.”
One should be very humble and meek to offer one’s desires and chant prayers composed in glorification of the holy name, such as ayi mukta-kulair upāsya mānam and nivṛtta-tarṣair upagīyamānād. One should chant such prayers to become free from offenses at the lotus feet of the holy name.
(3) Smaraṇam. After one regularly performs the processes of hearing and chanting and after the core of one’s heart is cleansed, smaraṇam, remembering, is recommended. In Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam (2.1.11) Śukadeva Gosvāmī tells King Parīkṣit:
yogināṁ nṛpa nirṇītaṁ
“O King, for great yogīs who have completely renounced all material connections, for those who desire all material enjoyment and for those who are self-satisfied by dint of transcendental knowledge, constant chanting of the holy name of the Lord is recommended.” According to different relationships with the Supreme Personality of Godhead, there are varieties of nāmānukīrtanam, chanting of the holy name, and thus according to different relationships and mellows there are five kinds of remembering. These are as follows: (a) conducting research into the worship of a particular form of the Lord, (b) concentrating the mind on one subject and withdrawing the mind’s activities of thinking, feeling and willing from all other subjects, (c) concentrating upon a particular form of the Lord (this is called meditation), (d) concentrating one’s mind continuously on the form of the Lord (this is called dhruvānusmṛti, or perfect meditation), and (e) awakening a likening for concentration upon a particular form (this is called samādhi, or trance). Mental concentration upon particular pastimes of the Lord in particular circumstances is also called remembrance. Therefore samādhi, trance, can be possible in five different ways in terms of one’s relationship. Specifically, the trance of devotees on the stage of neutrality is called mental concentration.
(4) Pāda-sevanam. According to one’s taste and strength, hearing, chanting and remembrance may be followed by pāda-sevanam. One obtains the perfection of remembering when one constantly thinks of the lotus feet of the Lord. Being intensely attached to thinking of the Lord’s lotus feet is called pāda-sevanam. When one is particularly adherent to the process of pāda-sevanam, this process gradually includes other processes, such as seeing the form of the Lord, touching the form of the Lord, circumambulating the form or temple of the Lord, visiting such places as Jagannātha Purī, Dvārakā and Mathurā to see the Lord’s form, and bathing in the Ganges or Yamunā. Bathing in the Ganges and serving a pure Vaiṣṇava are also known as tadīya-upāsanam. This is also pāda-sevanam. The word tadīya means “in relationship with the Lord.” Service to the Vaiṣṇava, Tulasī, Ganges and Yamunā are included in pāda-sevanam. All these processes of pāda-sevanam help one advance in spiritual life very quickly.
(5) Arcanam. After pāda-sevanam comes the process of arcanam, worship of the Deity. If one is interested in the process of arcanam, one must positively take shelter of a bona fide spiritual master and learn the process from him. There are many books for arcana, especially Nārada-pañcarātra. In this age, the Pañcarātra system is particularly recommended for arcana, Deity worship. There are two systems of arcana — the bhāgavata system and pāñcarātrikī system. In the Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam there is no recommendation of pāñcarātrikī worship because in this Kali-yuga, even without Deity worship, everything can be perfectly performed simply through hearing, chanting, remembering and worship of the lotus feet of the Lord. Rūpa Gosvāmī states:
śrī-viṣṇoḥ śravaṇe parīkṣid abhavad vaiyāsakiḥ kīrtane
prahlādaḥ smaraṇe tad-aṅghri-bhajane lakṣmīḥ pṛthuḥ pūjane
akrūras tv abhivandane kapi-patir dāsye ’tha sakhye ’rjunaḥ
sarvasvātma-nivedane balir abhūt kṛṣṇāptir eṣāṁ param
“Parīkṣit Mahārāja attained salvation simply by hearing, and Śukadeva Gosvāmī attained salvation simply by chanting. Prahlāda Mahārāja attained salvation by remembering the Lord. The goddess of fortune, Lakṣmīdevī, attained perfection by worshiping the Lord’s lotus feet. Pṛthu Mahārāja attained salvation by worshiping the Deity of the Lord. Akrūra attained salvation by offering prayers, Hanumān by rendering service, Arjuna by establishing friendship with the Lord, and Bali Mahārāja by offering everything to the service of the Lord.” All these great devotees served the Lord according to a particular process, but every one of them attained salvation and became eligible to return home, back to Godhead. This is explained in Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam.
It is therefore recommended that initiated devotees follow the principles of Nārada-pañcarātra by worshiping the Deity in the temple. Especially for householder devotees who are opulent in material possessions, the path of Deity worship is strongly recommended. An opulent householder devotee who does not engage his hard-earned money in the service of the Lord is called a miser. One should not engage paid brāhmaṇas to worship the Deity. If one does not personally worship the Deity but engages paid servants instead, he is considered lazy, and his worship of the Deity is called artificial. An opulent householder can collect luxurious paraphernalia for Deity worship, and consequently for householder devotees the worship of the Deity is compulsory. In our Kṛṣṇa consciousness movement there are brahmacārīs, gṛhasthas, vānaprasthas and sannyāsīs, but the Deity worship in the temple should be performed especially by the householders. The brahmacārīs can go with the sannyāsīs to preach, and the vānaprasthas should prepare themselves for the next status of renounced life, sannyāsa. Gṛhastha devotees, however, are generally engaged in material activities, and therefore if they do not take to Deity worship, their falling down is positively assured. Deity worship means following the rules and regulations precisely. That will keep one steady in devotional service. Generally householders have children, and then the wives of the householders should be engaged in caring for the children, just as women acting as teachers care for the children in a nursery school.
Gṛhastha devotees must adopt the arcana-vidhi, or Deity worship according to the suitable arrangements and directions given by the spiritual master. Regarding those unable to take to the Deity worship in the temple, there is the following statement in the Agni Purāṇa. Any householder devotee circumstantially unable to worship the Deity must at least see the Deity worship, and in this way he may achieve success also. The special purpose of Deity worship is to keep oneself always pure and clean. Gṛhastha devotees should be actual examples of cleanliness.
Deity worship should be continued along with hearing and chanting. Therefore every mantra is preceded by the word namaḥ. In all the mantras there are specific potencies, of which the gṛhastha devotees must take advantage. There are many mantras preceded by the word namaḥ, but if one chants the holy name of the Lord, he receives the result of chanting namaḥ many times. By chanting the holy name of the Lord, one can reach the platform of love of Godhead. One might ask, then what is the necessity of being initiated? The answer is that even though the chanting of the holy name is sufficient to enable one to progress in spiritual life to the standard of love of Godhead, one is nonetheless susceptible to contamination because of possessing a material body. Consequently, special stress is given to the arcana-vidhi. One should therefore regularly take advantage of both the bhāgavata process and pāñcarātrikī process.
Deity worship has two divisions, namely pure and mixed with fruitive activities. For one who is steady, Deity worship is compulsory. Observing the various types of festivals, such as Śrī Janmāṣṭamī, Rāma-navamī and Nṛsiṁha-caturdaśī, is also included in the process of Deity worship. In other words, it is compulsory for householder devotees to observe these festivals.
Now let us discuss the offenses in Deity worship. The following are offenses: (a) to enter the temple with shoes or being carried on a palanquin, (b) not to observe the prescribed festivals, (c) to avoid offering obeisances in front of the Deity, (d) to offer prayers in an unclean state, not having washed one’s hands after eating, (e) to offer obeisances with one hand, (f) to circumambulate directly in front of the Deity, (g) to spread one’s legs before the Deity, (h) to sit before the Deity while holding one’s ankles with one’s hands, (i) to lie down before the Deity, (j) to eat before the Deity, (k) to speak lies before the Deity, (l) to address someone loudly before the Deity, (m) to talk nonsense before the Deity, (n) to cry before the Deity, (o) to argue before the Deity, (p) to chastise someone before the Deity, (q) to show someone favor before the Deity, (r) to use harsh words before the Deity, (s) to wear a woolen blanket before the Deity, (t) to blaspheme someone before the Deity, (u) to worship someone else before the Deity, (v) to use vulgar language before the Deity, (w) to pass air before the Deity, (x) to avoid very opulent worship of the Deity, even though one is able to perform it, (y) to eat something not offered to the Deity, (z) to avoid offering fresh fruits to the Deity according to the season, (aa) to offer food to the Deity which has already been used or from which has first been given to others (in other words, food should not be distributed to anyone else until it has been offered to the Deity), (bb) to sit with one’s back toward the Deity, (cc) to offer obeisances to someone else in front of the Deity, (dd) not to chant proper prayers when offering obeisances to the spiritual master, (ee) to praise oneself before the Deity, and (ff) to blaspheme the demigods. In the worship of the Deity, these thirty-two offenses should be avoided.
In the Varāha Purāṇa the following offenses are mentioned: (a) to eat in the house of a rich man, (b) to enter the Deity’s room in the dark, (c) to worship the Deity without following the regulative principles, (d) to enter the temple without vibrating any sound, (e) to collect food that has been seen by a dog, (f) to break silence while offering worship to the Deity, (g) to go to the toilet during the time of worshiping the Deity, (h) to offer incense without offering flowers, (i) to worship the Deity with forbidden flowers, (j) to begin worship without having washed one’s teeth, (k) to begin worship after sex, (l) to touch a lamp, dead body or a woman during her menstrual period, or to put on red or bluish clothing, unwashed clothing, the clothing of others or soiled clothing. Other offenses are to worship the Deity after seeing a dead body, to pass air before the Deity, to show anger before the Deity, and to worship the Deity just after returning from a crematorium. After eating, one should not worship the Deity until one has digested his food, nor should one touch the Deity or engage in any Deity worship after eating safflower oil or hing. These are also offenses.
In other places, the following offenses are listed: (a) to be against the scriptural injunctions of the Vedic literature or to disrespect within one’s heart the Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam while externally falsely accepting its principles, (b) to introduce differing śāstras, (c) to chew pan and betel before the Deity, (d) to keep flowers for worship on the leaf of a castor oil plant, (e) to worship the Deity in the afternoon, (f) to sit on the altar or to sit on the floor to worship the Deity (without a seat), (g) to touch the Deity with the left hand while bathing the Deity, (h) to worship the Deity with a stale or used flower, (i) to spit while worshiping the Deity, (j) to advertise one’s glory while worshiping the Deity, (k) to apply tilaka to one’s forehead in a curved way, (l) to enter the temple without having washed one’s feet, (m) to offer the Deity food cooked by an uninitiated person, (n) to worship the Deity and offer bhoga to the Deity within the vision of an uninitiated person or non-Vaiṣṇava, (o) to offer worship to the Deity without worshiping Vaikuṇṭha deities like Gaṇeśa, (p) to worship the Deity while perspiring, (q) to refuse flowers offered to the Deity, (r) to take a vow or oath in the holy name of the Lord.
If one commits any of the above offenses, one must read at least one chapter of Bhagavad-gītā. This is confirmed in the Skanda-Purāṇa, Avantī-khaṇḍa. Similarly, there is another injunction, stating that one who reads the thousand names of Viṣṇu can be released from all offenses. In the same Skanda-Purāṇa, Revā-khaṇḍa, it is said that one who recites prayers to tulasī or sows a tulasī seed is also freed from all offenses. Similarly, one who worships the śālagrāma-śilā can also be relieved of offenses. In the Brahmāṇḍa Purāṇa it is said that one who worships Lord Viṣṇu, whose four hands bear a conchshell, disc, lotus flower and club, can be relieved from the above offenses. In the Ādi-varāha Purāṇa it is said that a worshiper who has committed offenses may fast for one day at the holy place known as Śaukarava and then bathe in the Ganges.
In the process of worshiping the Deity it is sometimes enjoined that one worship the Deity within the mind. In the Padma Purāṇa, Uttara-khaṇḍa, it is said, “All persons can generally worship within the mind.” The Gautamīya Tantra states, “For a sannyāsī who has no home, worship of the Deity within the mind is recommended.” In the Nārada-pañcarātra it is stated by Lord Nārāyaṇa that worship of the Deity within the mind is called mānasa-pūjā. One can become free from the four miseries by this method. Sometimes worship from the mind can be independently executed. According to the instruction of Āvirhotra Muni, one of the nava-yogendras, as mentioned in Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam, one may worship the Deity by chanting all the mantras. Eight kinds of Deities are mentioned in the śāstra, and the mental Deity is one of them. In this regard, the following description is given in the Brahma-vaivarta Purāṇa.
In the city of Pratiṣṭhāna-pura, long ago, there resided a brāhmaṇa who was poverty-stricken but innocent and not dissatisfied. One day he heard a discourse in an assembly of brāhmaṇas concerning how to worship the Deity in the temple. In that meeting, he also heard that the Deity may be worshiped within the mind. After this incident, the brāhmaṇa, having bathed in the Godāvarī River, began mentally worshiping the Deity. He would wash the temple within his mind, and then in his imagination he would bring water from all the sacred rivers in golden and silver waterpots. He collected all kinds of valuable paraphernalia for worship, and he worshiped the Deity very gorgeously, beginning from bathing the Deity and ending with offering ārati. Thus he felt great happiness. After many years had passed in this way, one day within his mind he cooked nice sweet rice with ghee to worship the Deity. He placed the sweet rice on a golden dish and offered it to Lord Kṛṣṇa, but he felt that the sweet rice was very hot, and therefore he touched it with his finger. He immediately felt that his finger had been burned by the hot sweet rice, and thus he began to lament. While the brāhmaṇa was in pain, Lord Viṣṇu in Vaikuṇṭha began smiling, and the goddess of fortune inquired from the Lord why He was smiling. Lord Viṣṇu then ordered His associates to bring the brāhmaṇa to Vaikuṇṭha. Thus the brāhmaṇa attained the liberation of sāmīpya, the facility of living near the Supreme Personality of Godhead.
(6) Vandanam. Although prayers are a part of Deity worship, they may be considered separately like the other items, such as hearing and chanting, and therefore separate statements are given herewith. The Lord has unlimited transcendental qualities and opulences, and one who feels influenced by the Lord’s qualities in various activities offers prayers to the Lord. In this way he becomes successful. In this connection, the following are some of the offenses to be avoided: (a) to offer obeisances on one hand, (b) to offer obeisances with one’s body covered, (c) to show one’s back to the Deity, (d) to offer obeisances on the left side of the Deity, (e) to offer obeisances very near the Deity.
(7) Dāsyam. There is the following statement in regard to assisting the Lord as a servant. After many, many thousands of births, when one comes to understand that he is an eternal servant of Kṛṣṇa, one can deliver others from this universe. If one simply continues to think that he is an eternal servant of Kṛṣṇa, even without performing any other process of devotional service, he can attain full success, for simply by this feeling one can perform all nine processes of devotional service.
(8) Sakhyam. In regard to worshiping the Lord as a friend, the Agastya-saṁhitā states that a devotee engaged in performing devotional service by śravaṇam and kīrtanam sometimes wants to see the Lord personally, and for this purpose he resides in the temple. Elsewhere there is this statement: “O my Lord, Supreme Personality and eternal friend, although You are full of bliss and knowledge, You have become the friend of the residents of Vṛndāvana. How fortunate are these devotees!” In this statement the word “friend” is specifically used to indicate intense love. Friendship, therefore, is better than servitude. In the stage above dāsya-rasa, the devotee accepts the Supreme Personality of Godhead as a friend. This is not at all astonishing, for when a devotee is pure in heart the opulence of his worship of the Deity diminishes as spontaneous love for the Personality of Godhead is manifested. In this regard, Śrīdhara Svāmī mentions Śrīdāma Vipra, who expressed to himself his feelings of obligation, thinking, “Life after life, may I be connected with Kṛṣṇa in this friendly attitude.”
(9) Ātma-nivedanam. The word ātma-nivedanam refers to the stage at which one who has no motive other than to serve the Lord surrenders everything to the Lord and performs his activities only to please the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Such a devotee is like a cow that is cared for by its master. When cared for by its master, a cow is not in anxiety over its maintenance. Such a cow is always devoted to its master, and it never acts independently, but only for the master’s benefit. Some devotees, therefore, consider dedication of the body to the Lord to be ātma-nivedanam, and as stated in the book known as Bhakti-viveka, sometimes dedication of the soul to the Lord is called ātma-nivedanam. The best examples of ātma-nivedanam are found in Bali Mahārāja and Ambarīṣa Mahārāja. Ātma-nivedanam is also sometimes found in the behavior of Rukmiṇīdevī at Dvārakā.