In a passage from the Srimad-Bhagavatam (1.11.13-15) recounting Lord Krsna's return to His city, Dvaraka, we hear how householder devotees welcomed and worshiped Krsna:
The city gateway, the household doors, and the festooned arches along the roads were all nicely decorated with festive signs like plantain trees and mango leaves, all to welcome the Lord. Flags, garlands, and painted signs and slogans all combined to shade the sunshine. The highways, subways, lanes, markets, and public meeting places were all thoroughly cleansed and moistened with scented water. And to welcome the Lord, fruits, flowers, and unbroken seeds were strewn everywhere. In every door of the residential houses, auspicious things like curd, unbroken fruits, sugarcane, and full waterpots with articles for worship, incense, and candles were all displayed.
In the purport, Srila Prabhupada writes, "The process of reception according to Vedic rites is not at all dry. The reception was made not simply by decorating the roads and streets as above mentioned, but by worshiping the Lord with requisite ingredients like incense, lamps, flowers, sweets, fruits, and other palatable eatables, according to one's capacity."
The Bhagavatam also describes that these presentations to the Lord were like "an offering of a lamp to the sun," because nothing can be offered to Lord Krsna that is not His already. He is fully satisfied and self-sufficient, and by His own potency He incessantly supplies the needs of everyone. Still, as one worships the deity of the sun by offering a flame, or worships the Ganges by offering her Ganges water, one must offer Krsna something generated by His energy. As Krsna mentions in the Bhagavad-gita, He accepts the love and devotion that saturates the gift, rather than the gift itself.
In the Padma Purana Lord Krsna says, "I am not in Vaikuntha [the spiritual world], nor in the hearts of the yogis. I stay where My devotees glorify My activities." This means that you and I may welcome Krsna into our homes. What was possible five thousand years ago is possible today, because Krsna is available now as He was then.
But how can we possibly invite Lord Krsna the most famous, wealthy, and powerful person in the entire material and spiritual creation to our little homes? After all, we may not have the necessary love to saturate our offerings. We may not be pure devotees or even spend much of our time glorifying Krsna's activities.
We can have hope, however, when we consider that Krsna is eternally manifest in two forms in the material world: His Deity form and His holy name. As we can easily chant Hare Krsna at any time and place and thus be in touch with Krsna, so we can also invite the Lord into our lives through the medium of His Deity form.
The Srimad-Bhagavatam lists eight materials from which a Deity can be made: wood, stone, clay, paint (a picture), sand, jewels, metal, or a form conceived within the mind. We can take any of these eight materials most of them easily available and shape it according to the descriptions given in the scripture, and to our great fortune Krsna may choose to be present there.
Once, as Srila Prabhupada was about to board a plane, a small child gave him a pencil drawing of Krsna. Prabhupada spent the flight gazing at it as he chanted on his beads. That picture was a Deity form of the Lord.
Actually, Krsna is already present everywhere He is already in sound and in our homes and hearts. So inviting Him means appreciating His absolute presence everywhere and His ownership of everything. When we sincerely invite Krsna by acquiring and worshiping stone, metal, or wooden Deities or by placing His picture on our wall, our altar, or within our heart, He may manifest His presence there.
You may have noticed my use of the word "may." We cannot force or expect the Supreme Lord to do anything. Even if we worship Him in grand style, we cannot assume that the Lord is pleased to accept our offerings. This is not to say that we shouldn't do our best to offer a nice standard of worship. But even if our Deity worship is very humble, simple, or not yet fully regular, if we have sincerity of purpose we can satisfy the Lord. Lord Krsna is known as bhava-grahi-janardana, "one who accepts our innermost intention." Of course, sincerity and good intention will naturally propel us forward in our attempt to improve our standards.
Also important is our attitude towards Krsna's Deity form. Srila Prabhupada wrote to one disciple, "Never think of the Deity as made of stone or wood. Every worshiper must remember that Krsna is personally present. He is simply kindly presenting Himself before us in a way so that we can handle Him. That is His mercy; otherwise, He is unapproachable."
Should you wish to invite Krsna to your home, you can do so at once by placing a picture of the Lord in a special place and by offering such items as incense, water, fruits, and cooked food, as well as by gazing at, meditating upon, and singing to Him. You could also place a curtain in front of the Lord's picture at night to put the Lord to rest.
You may wonder which picture of Krsna to use. Lord Krsna in His pastime as Lord Caitanya is especially kind and easily approachable, and so devotees in the Krsna consciousness movement usually begin their practice by worshiping a picture of the Panca-tattva: Caitanya Mahaprabhu and His four principal associates. If you want to worship a three-dimensional form of the Lord, Sri Sri Gaura-Nitai (Lord Caitanya and Lord Nityananda) are suitable because an installation ceremony is not a prerequisite for Their worship and They do not consider shortcomings or even offenses to be very important. Rather, They notice all the positive things we may do. Lord Jagannatha, Lord Baladeva, and Subhadra Devi are similarly accessible, and sometimes devotees begin by worshiping them.
For more information, consult your local devotee friends. For detailed information you may also read such publications as Pancaratra Pradipa, ISKCON's comprehensive guide to Deity worship, available through BTG's Hare Krsna Catalog.
In my next column I shall describe offering the arati ceremony of worship to the Deities.
Rohininandana Dasa lives in southern England with his wife and their three children. Write to him in care of Back to Godhead.