Why the Lord appears in His Deity form.
When Sri Sri Gandharva-Govindasundar manifested in Sri Chaitanya Saraswat Math, Srila Guru Maharaj composed this verse for the invitation to the festival:
seva-vibhavais cha sada samrddham
sri-nama-rupais cha gunair vilasair
bhakte chidananda-ghanam tanoti
(Srila Bhakti Raksak Sridhar Dev-Goswami Maharaj)
The Lord’s Name, the Lord’s Form, the Lord’s Qualities, and the Lord’s Pastimes are all transcendental, and transcendental existence can manifest itself at any time in any direction. We know that the Lord’s Name is the transcendental vibration form of the Lord, and this form of the Lord manifests in the clean heart of a devotee and then dances on their tongue. Srila Bhakti Vinod Thakur said in his song,
krsna-nama dhare kata bala
visaya-vasananale mora chitta sada jvale
karna-randhra patha diya hrdi majhe pravesiya
varisaya sudha anupama
hrdaya ha-ite bale jihvara agrete chale
sabda-rupe nache anuksana
(Saranagati: Sri Nama-mahatmya, 1–2)
[“How much power does Krishna’s Name possess? My heart constantly burns in the fire of mundane desire like a desert scorched by the blazing sun. The Name enters the core of my heart through the gateway of my ears and showers incomparable nectar. Forcibly, the Name then moves from my heart to the tip of my tongue and continuously dances there in the form of sound.”]
Similarly, the Lord’s Name, Form, Qualities, and Pastimes all very mercifully appear in the form of the Deity; everything that exists in the Pastimes of Krishna is present with the Deity, and when the Deity manifests Himself, He gives His devotees chid-ananda-ghanam: eternal concentrated transcendental ecstasy. This is the description given by Srila Guru Maharaj in his sanskrit composition. Why does the Deity manifest? To give the most concentrated form of transcendental ecstasy to the devotees.
The Lord’s Pastimes are revealed to the devotees in the form of Deity. In this way, Krishna’s gives the gift of Himself to this mundane world. This is the vision of the Gaudiya sampradaya. Sripad Madhavendra Puri saw the forms of Gopal and Gopinath with this vision, and wherever He went, Sriman Mahaprabhu always saw with this vision and showed it others. That the Lord manifests Himself in the form of the Deity to give joy to the hearts of the devotees means that the Deity comes to take our service and that service is what gives us joy. In other words, through our service to the Deity, we will feel joy that is transcendental. All joy of this type is nitya-lila; it is part of the Lord’s eternal Pastimes.
Those who cannot conceive of the Deity, however, must at least honour the scriptural evidence about the Deity. Otherwise, they will go to hell.
archchye visnau sila-dhir gurusu nara-matir vaisnave jati-buddhir
visnor va vaisnavanam kali-mala-mathane pada-tirthe ‘mbu-buddhih
sri-visnor namni mantre sakala-kalusa-he sabde-samanya buddhir
visnau sarvesvarese tad-itara-sama-dhir yasya va naraki sah
If someone cannot feel the transcendental nature of the Deity, that is not so much of an offence, but if they will not follow to the scriptural injunctions for honouring the Deity, then they must go to hell. Those who worship the Deity do not worship anything material, and the form of the Deity Himself is not material. We must believe this whether we can see it or not. The scriptures instruct us: “You must be conscious about this. You cannot recognise the difference between gold and imitation, but gold is always gold, and you must give honour to that.” From Srila Rupa Goswami Prabhu in Sri Bhakti-rasamrta-sindhu, Srila Jiva Goswami Prabhu in Bhakti-sandarbha, and in many other places, we receive this warning: “Don’t forget that you are in the presence of Krishna. When you are in front of the Deity, you are in front of Krishna Himself, and you must give proper honour to Him.”
Sriman Mahaprabhu went to the Jagannath Temple every day to see the form of Lord Jagannath and always glorified Their Lordships Balabhadra, Subhadra, and Jagannath. In this way, He set an example for us. When He would stand in front of Jagannath, He would see Jagannath as Krishna playing flute and attracting the gopis.
dekhena jagannatha haya murali-vadana
(Sri Chaitanya-charitamrta: Antya-lila, 16.85)
Sriman Mahaprabhu always saw Jagannath as Krishna in this mood. Everything depends on the mood (bhava) of the devotee.
We must honour the scriptural injunctions about the Deity. For that reason, we are holding a formal devotional function to install the Deity, but the vital point is that the Deity automatically manifests whenever any pure devotee of the Lord pays obeisance. Prabhupad Srila Saraswati Thakur established the service of the Deity in his Temples in this way for his devotees, but some formal installation function is also necessary for the junior, neophyte devotees.
When we offer worship, we follow the processes that are written in the scriptures. But if you put anything in front of a higher devotee, they will immediately think it to be Krishna’s prasadam; they will think that Krishna has taken it and now it has come to them. This is the feeling of higher standard devotees. We are all very neophyte, junior, and unqualified. We have only soft faith (komala sraddha), and to make our faith strong, we are holding this function according to the directives of the scriptures.
We are so fortunate that Krishna has given us the opportunity to join this festival for the manifestation of the Deity. So, we will honour it properly. Through sankirtan, everything will be fulfilled, and the hearts of the devotees will be filled with joy.
Spoken 18 May 1996.
archye visnau sila-dhir gurusu nara-matir vaisnave jati-buddhir
visnor va vaisnavanam kali-mala-mathane pada-tirthe ’mbu-buddhih
sri-visnor-namni-mantre sakala-kalusa-he sabda-samanya-buddhir
visnau sarvesvarese tad-itara-sama-dhir yasya va naraki sah
“Those who consider the Deity of Visnu to be stone, Sri Guru to be a man, a Vaisnava to be a member of a particular caste, the wash from the feet of Visnu or the Vaisnava, which destroys the contamination of Kali, to be water, the Name of Visnu and mantras for worshipping Him, which destroy all contamination, to be ordinary words, or Visnu the Lord of all lords to be equal to others are doomed.”