THE DEITY WORSHIP in our home is simple compared to the gorgeous worship that always thrills me when I visit a temple. In ISKCON temples devotees bathe the Deities every day, dress Them twice a day, feed Them six times a day, and offer Them seven aratis a day. The sparkling cleanliness, the beautiful fresh-flower garlands, and the peace and order of temple life all add to the spiritual atmosphere.
My wife, Radha Priya, and I, who have both done Deity worship in temples, took some time to find a standard of cleanliness, punctuality, and regularity both practical and enlivening for everyone in our family.
Srila Prabhupada said that one can adjust Deity worship at home to the requirements of the individual or family. He described how sometimes a person may keep a Deity in a box and bring Him out only to worship Him or feed Him. In our home we have a simple method of awakening our Deities in the morning and putting Them to rest at night. Every day we offer Them fresh water, food, and an arati ceremony. Whenever we go away for a few days or weeks, we put Them to rest.
One of the most important features of our Deity worship is that it provides a focus for our chanting. Srila Prabhupada writes that in this Age of Kali family members can "sit down together and simply clap hands and chant the Hare Krsna maha-mantra." For our family, the routine of offering a daily arati brings us together to regularly chant Hare Krsna, Hare Krsna, Krsna Krsna, Hare Hare/ Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.
Life at Woodgate Cottage is not always a bed of rose petals there are some thorns too. But our experience is that mainly due to our efforts to worship our Deities together, Lord Krsna is never far away.
Here's a short story to show you what I mean:
"O.K. It's time to come down, have your showers, and get ready to dress the Deities."
Radha Priya, whom I consider more skilled than I am at parent-child negotiations, is away for a few days, and I'm alone with our three children. They carry on playing roughly with their bedding.
I anxiously return to the small room we use as a temple and awaken Srila Prabhupada, Lord Nrsimhadeva, Lord Jagannatha, and His brother and sister, Balarama and Subhadra.
Meanwhile the thumps and cries increase. I remember how Krsna describes yoga as the art of action, the art of living, and I find solace in thinking that even if I fail in my efforts at Krsna conscious parenting (like Jatayu, who failed to stop Ravana from carrying away Sita), I will have tried my best, and that's the main thing. In fact, when I see my children as part of Krsna, I serve Krsna simply by being with them, serving them, guiding them, playing with them, supporting and loving them.
A loud scream breaks my reverie. I run up the stairs.
Radhanatha, eleven, grins sheepishly and claims, "I didn't do anything."
Ramai, six, shouts, "You did! You liar! You always try to get out of it."
He grabs the nearest thing to him a wooden duck and hurls it at his brother. The duck slams into Radhanatha's arm.
"Ramai!" I shout, as he hightails it down the stairs.
Radhanatha, tearful and furious, dashes after him. Two-and-a-half-year-old Jiva watches wide-eyed, learning the family ropes.
After trying unsuccessfully to shut the kitchen door in Radhanatha's face, Ramai grabs a plastic bottle of sunflower oil, whips off the top, and makes a stand.
"Ramai!" I command. "Put it down. Remember our talk about boundaries!"
He thumps the bottle down on the table and zips into the bathroom, unconscious of the spurt of oil. Catching up, vengeful Radhanatha punches him in the back. Ramai returns the punch, and they're locked in combat. At least they're in the bathroom.
I go in too.
"Have you finished yet?"
"No," says Radhanatha, "he scratched my face, and I'm going to get him."
By now Ramai has hidden behind my legs.
"Listen, Prabhus," I begin, "To-day's Ekadasi, and we could be dressing the Deities instead of beating each other up. Do you want to hurt each other any more?"
"No, but … "
"I don't care who started it; let's make up now. Who do you want to dress today?"
"I want to dress Prabhupada," replies Radhanatha.
"And I want to dress Nrsimhadeva!" exclaims Ramai.
"Phew!" I breathe out quickly, my hand on my chest.
After one or two more minor incidents, we are all in the temple, wearing dhotis and tilaka. I'm due to dress Radhanatha's Deities, Jagannatha, Balarama, and Subhadra, so he gives me some instruction. He also helps Ramai choose a new outfit and jewelry for Nrsmhadeva. The two brothers look so mild and so caring for each other I can hardly believe that a few moments earlier they were at each other's throats.
I put on a tape of Srila Prabhupada singing, and Jiva presses the buttons on the tape player. Next I help him light a stick of incense.
As I watch Radhanatha carefully dressing Srila Prabhupada, I think how Prabhupada demonstrated that the art of applying Krsna consciousness is not stereotyped but dynamic. He creatively introduced Krsna consciousness to the Western world, in consideration of the time, place, and circumstances. In my home I want to follow in his footsteps.
When the dressing is done and we've made up the flower vases, placed the Deities back on a clean altar, and tidied up, we play the tape Govindam as the children take turns fanning Their Lordships with a peacock fan and a camara (yak-tail whisk). When the tape ends, we have a short kirtana, bow our heads to the floor, and then head for the kitchen. As I watch Ramai clean up his pool of oil, I'm reminded how much life is indeed, as Krsna says, like the changing seasons.
Rohininandana Dasa lives in southern England with his wife and their three children. You can write to him in care of BTG.