In all the temples around the world, food is served to the Deities every day. The priest places the food before the Deity, closes a curtain between himself and the Deity, closes his eyes and rings a bell. If asked, “What are you doing?” He will say, “I am serving food to the Lord. He is blessing it. Be quiet!” Does he really believe what he is saying? Does he really believe that the Lord is eating? “Of course, everyone offers food like this.” Now he opens the curtain. Has anyone ever looked closely at the tray and wondered, “What did the Lord eat? Oh! He hasn’t eaten anything! It’s because of me. What a sinner I am!” Has any temple priest had these kinds of feelings? No; no one has. Our faith is the opposite. Our firm faith is that God will not come and eat what He is served. Then how is this “blessed food?” Prasad or blessed food means the food that was left over from what was actually eaten.
Thus, you will benefit from Deity worship when you feel God’s presence in the Deity. You will not benefit from mere Deity worship. The Bhagavatam (11.27.12) states that there are ten different kinds of Deities, made of different materials such as iron, gold, wood, stone and so on. If someone were to imbue such a Deity with the feeling of God’s presence, he could become a great Saint. If such feelings are not imbued in the Deity, and instead a person says, “This Deity performs miracles.” A Deity does not perform any miracles. It is made of stone. This is your own confusion. “But there’s a huge crowd over there! In one year they collect millions in offerings to the Lord!” This is just blind faith. That same miraculous Lord is present everywhere, even in the hearts of those demons who insulted Shri Krishna and Shri Rama hundreds of times. God is not more present in some places and less present in others. He is not greater in Vrindavan, Rameshwaram, or Badarikashram and less elsewhere. Such pilgrimage places should be visited with the feeling that they are God’s lila shthal – places where God enacted His divine pastimes.
For example, so many people are in Rameshwaram just now. Are they lovingly visualising in their meditation that Lord Rama’s lotus feet actually touched that place, and it was there that with His own lotus hands He established the Deity of Lord Shiva? Not at all. They are just making a show of respect by proclaiming, “Glory to Lord Shiva!” and moving on. With this kind of attitude, how could anyone benefit from visiting a pilgrimage place? You are just deceiving yourself by proudly thinking, “I went to Rameshwaram!”
Please take note that every place is equal, whether one is standing in Goloka or hell. How is this so?
To be continued . . .
An English translation of a discourse delivered in Hindi by:
Jagadguru Shri Kripalu Ji Maharaj
9 January 2010
© Radha Govind Samiti