IN MY LAST COLUMN I wrote about inviting and welcoming the Lord in His Deity form into your home. Now I'll discuss how to please such a special guest. A beautiful method is to offer arati, made available to us by the enlightened teachings of the scriptures, the previous saints, and the bona fide spiritual master.
Arati is a ceremony in which one offers various items to the Lord. The main ingredient, however, is love, which makes any offering acceptable to Lord Krsna. So try to see how the following procedures can enhance your loving attitude.
Before offering arati you should bathe, decorate yourself with tilaka, put on clean clothes, and perform acamana,* but if for some reason you are unable to do these things, you can chant Hare Krsna. The Srimad-Bhagavatam says that although this age, the Kali-yuga, is an ocean of faults, one redeeming quality, the holy name of the Lord, can make everything perfect. So if ever you are doubtful what to do, or think you've made a mistake, or sense some lack in your practice, chant Hare Krsna, Hare Krsna, Krsna Krsna, Hare Hare/ Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare, and everything will be just fine. By chanting the holy names, any mistakes become rectified, any incompleteness becomes complete, any uncertainty or fear goes away, and any uncleanliness becomes purified. So take shelter of the holy names and, as Lord Krsna says, "Don't worry." (Bhagavad-gita 18.66)
*Acamana is the process of sipping water for purification. To perform acamana you need a small cup of water and a spoon. Either purchase a metal set from your temple shop, or use something locally available (which preferably has not been used for anything else.) Clean both hands by sprinkling them with water and then, holding the spoon in your left hand, pour three drops of water into your right palm. Chant om kesavaya namah ("I offer my obeisances unto Kesava, Lord Krsna"), and sip the water. Pour a few more drops into your palm, chant om narayanaya namah ("I offer my obeisances unto Narayana, Lord Krsna"), and sip. Once again a few drops, chant, om madhavaya namah ("I offer my obeisances unto Madhava, Lord Krsna"), and sip.
While ringing a bell with your left hand, offer your Deity incense, a burning ghee-wick*, a flower, and a fan. Using your acamana cup and spoon, sprinkle a few drops of water on each article of worship and offer it to Krsna. According to thePancaratra-pradipa, ISKCON's guide to Deity worship, you can offer the incense by waving it in seven graceful clockwise circles around the body of the Lord. Offer the burning ghee-wick by making four circles to the Lord's lotus feet, two circles to His navel, three to His face, and seven to His whole body. Offer the flower (or flowers) in the same manner as the incense, and wave the fan before the Lord several times.
*To make a ghee wick, soak in ghee (clarified butter) a small cotton ball with a tuft of cotton extended and twirled into a wick. Although making a ghee wick sounds simple, getting it right takes some practice. If you live near a temple, ask an expert ghee-wick maker at the temple to show you how.
If you like you can also offer some water in a little conch shell, followed by a cloth. You can do this after you offer the flame, and in the same manner as the incense and flowers.
We cannot approach the Lord directly and worship Him unless we are pure devotees. Therefore, we offer arati on behalf of our spiritual master, who in turn offers arati on behalf of his spiritual master, and so on. So before offering each item to your Deity, first offer it to a picture of His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada (or of your own spiritual master and then to Srila Prabhupada).
While you offer arati, other family members and friends can, as their offering to Krsna, sing, dance, clap their hands, and play musical instruments. If you are alone, you may wish to sing or to play a recorded kirtana or bhajana.
I mentioned at the start that Krsna is your guest. Actually, you are His guest, and you can you show this by creating an altar in your (Krsna's) home. Then whenever you clean or improve any part of your house, the work can be for Krsna and so a part of your Deity worship. The kitchen, especially when you prepare offerings of food for your Deity, is a direct extension of your altar, so keep the kitchen as clean and neat as possible.
This is a simple outline. Should you wish to know more details, please consult your devotee friends or available literature, such as Pancaratra-pradipa.
Rohininandana Dasa lives in southern England with his wife and their three children. Write to him in care of Back to Godhead.