SB 11.27: Lord Kṛṣṇa’s Instructions on the Process of Deity Worship
In this chapter the Supreme Personality of Godhead explains the process of kriyā-yoga, or Deity worship.
Worshiping the Deity form of the Supreme Lord automatically brings purity and satisfaction to the mind. Thus it is the source of all desirable gains. If a person has no engagement in Deity service he will simply remain attracted to material sense gratification, and he will have no hope of giving up bad association. The Personality of Godhead has given instruction, among the regulations of the Sātvata scriptures, on the process of worshiping Him as the bona fide Deity. Brahmā, Śiva, Nārada, Vyāsa and all other sages have recommended this process described by the Lord as most perfectly beneficial for all the occupational classes and spiritual orders of human society, including even the women and śūdras.
There are three varieties of arcana, Deity worship, based on either the original Vedas, the secondary tantras, or a combination of these. The Deity image, the ground, the fire, the sun, the water and the heart of the worshiper are all true locations of the Deity’s presence. The Deity form to be worshiped may be constructed of any one of eight substances — stone, wood, metal, clay, paint, sand (drawn upon the ground), the mind or jewels. These categories are further subdivided into two: temporary and permanent.
The details of the worshiping process are as follows: The devotee should bathe both physically and by chanting mantras, and then he should perform the utterance of Gāyatrī at the prescribed juncture of the day. He should arrange a seat facing either east or north, or else directly facing the Deity, and should bathe and clean the Deity. Then he should present clothing and ornaments, sprinkle water on the vessels and other paraphernalia to be used in the worship, and offer water for bathing the Deity’s feet, arghya, water for washing His mouth, fragrant oils, incense, lamps, flowers and food preparations. After this, one should worship the Lord’s personal servants and bodyguards, His consort energies, and the spiritual masters by chanting their respective mūla-mantras. The worshiper should recite prayers from the Purāṇas and other sources, offer obeisances flat on the ground, beg for benediction, and place on himself the remnants of the Lord’s garlands.
Included in this method of Deity worship are the proper installation of the transcendental Deity by constructing a fine temple, and also the conducting of processions and other festivals. By worshiping Lord Śrī Hari with unconditional devotion in this manner, one gains access to pure loving service to His lotus feet. But if one steals property that has been given as charity to the Deity or the brāhmaṇas, whether given by himself or by others, he will have to take his next birth as a stool-eating worm.