bhāvyaṁ dīneṣu vatsalaiḥ
yad anusmaryate kāle
The form of the Lord known as arcā-vigraha is an expansion of His unlimited potencies. When the Lord is gradually satisfied with the service of a devotee, in due course of time He accepts the devotee as one of His many unalloyed servants. By nature, the Lord is very compassionate; therefore the service of neophyte devotees is accepted by the Lord. As confirmed in Bhagavad-gītā (9.26):
patraṁ puṣpaṁ phalaṁ toyaṁ
yo me bhaktyā prayacchati
tad ahaṁ bhakty-upahṛtam
“If one offers Me with love and devotion a leaf, a flower, fruit or water, I will accept it.” The devotee offers eatables in the form of vegetables, fruits, leaves and water to the arcā-vigraha. The Lord, being bhakta-vatsala, compassionate upon His devotees, accepts these offerings. Atheists may think that the devotees are engaged in idol worship, but the fact is different. Janārdana, the Supreme Lord, accepts bhāva, the attitude of service. The neophyte devotee engaged in the worship of the Lord may not understand the value of such worship, but the Supreme Lord, being bhakta-vatsala, accepts His devotee and in due course of time takes him home.
In this connection there is a story about a brāhmaṇa who was offering sweet rice to the Lord within his mind. The brāhmaṇa had no money nor any means of worshiping the Deity, but within his mind he arranged everything nicely. He had gold pots to bring water from the sacred rivers to wash the Deity, and he offered the Deity very sumptuous food, including sweet rice. Once, before he offered the sweet rice, he thought that it was too hot, and he thought, “Oh, let me test it. My, it is very hot.” When he put his finger in the sweet rice to test it, his finger was burned and his meditation broken. Although he was offering food to the Lord within his mind, the Lord accepted it nonetheless. Consequently, the Lord in Vaikuṇṭha immediately sent a chariot to bring the brāhmaṇa back home, back to Godhead. Thus it is the duty of every sincere devotee to accept the arcā-vigraha at home or in the temple and worship the form of the Lord as advised in authorized scriptures and directed by the spiritual master.