Why is prana-pratistha needed when the photo of Krishna is non-different from Krishna?
When we say that krsna’s photo or statue is non different from krsna himself, then why PRAN-PRATISTHA Ceremony(calling krsna to come in deity form) is done during the installation of deity in the temples?
Transcription By: Namrata Mataji
Question: When we say that Krishna’s photo or statute is non-different from Krishna Himself then why prana pratistha (deity installation) ceremony is done during installation of deity in the temple?
Answer: The underlying principle of any manifestation of Krishna in the material world is given in Bhagavad Gita 4.11 “ye yatha mam prapadyante tams tathaiva bhajamy aham.” As all people surrender unto me I reciprocate accordingly. At one level even a photo of Krishna is non-different from Krishna. But how will we realize that? By surrendering unto Krishna.
To the extent we have developed our bhava (spiritual emotional attachment) and to the extent we have expressed that bhava through service, or at least have expressed our desire to attain that bhava through committed service, to that extent we realize the non-difference of Krishna from his forms and photo or the deity.
So essentially when we are saying that we are performing prana pratistha, there are elaborate rituals by which Krishna is invited by a pure devotee to come and manifest as the deity. With the request that, “We will serve you Lord, please give us the opportunity by descending here in the deity form”.
What happens during prana pratistha is important but what happens in the heart of the devotees before and after the prana pratistha is equally important. Actually it is not just because of prana pratistha or just because of some ritual performed that Krishna will immediately and forever manifest as a deity. Krishna is bhava-grahi (intent acceptor) and Krishna manifests when we want to serve Him.
So when the devotees are sincerely desirous of Krishna and wish to make a formal commitment that, “Krishna we will serve you according to the prescribed standard life long”, then Krishna manifests Himself as the deity. And even when Krishna has manifested as a deity still that non difference of Krishna from the deity will not be perceived by everyone.
Some people may see the deity to be just a stone. Others may see the deity as a representation of Krishna. That the real Krishna is somewhere else but this thing is cool for me to fix my mind on Krishna. Some people may feel that, yes Krishna is here but they may have some doubts. And still some people may see that deity is entirely non different from Krishna.
Hence, even when the prana pratistha is done the reciprocation or the realization of different people will differ according to their individual level of spiritual advancement and commitment.
Prana pratistha is done to solidify our commitment to service of the Lord in the deity form. The more we serve, the more Krishna will reveal himself to us and the more we will realize that Krishna is non-different from the deity.
At an absolute level we can say that there is no difference between Krishna’s photo or Krishna’s statue and Krishna’s deity but for us to realize this difference we need to progressively increase our service and deepen our realization. A way to increase our service and deepen our realization is to take up some commitment in serving Krishna. And one such very important commitment is the prana pratistha. It is the invitation for the Lord to come and manifest himself as the deity. By the process of such commitment the Lord comes and resides in the temple and gradually we can start perceiving the presence of the Lord.
Now, we may wonder that if it is just a matter of realization then in the absolute sense is there any difference between Krishna’s form, Krishna’s image, Krishna’s picture, Krishna’s statue and Krishna’s deity? As I said that at one level it depends on our individual realization. But at another level if there is a devotee community regularly serving the Lord in a committed way then that place becomes sanctified by the presence of the Lord for sustained period of time.
When the devotees are chanting the holy name or when the devotees are worshiping the deity such practices create a spiritual vibration at that place. People who come to home and see a picture of Krishna, they may just see that picture artistically beautiful or may just see it as a symbol and neglect it. But people who actually come to a temple, to a deity, to a place where the deity is there and the devotees have been regularly worshipping the Lord, there even those who are not very devotionally minded will be able to perceive the presence of something mystical, something sublime, something very peaceful and profound.
People may not exactly understand that this is coming from the deity; they may think there is something special about the place itself. But there is nothing special about the place. That place has become special not because of its any inherent quality but because of the manifestation of the Lord.
If the place is a dham (original residence of Lord) then that place becomes special because the Lord has manifested Himself there originally or long time ago in history and is still present in an unmanifested form. But in general in other cases when the temple is built in a city where there is stress and burdensome lifestyle for many people, then the entry into the temple can itself be a transformational experience because even if one has a little bit of spiritual propensity, he/she can feel the difference in the subtle vibrations of that particular place.
In this way whenever the Lord is invited as a deity, for us to realize the presence of the Lord there are multiple factors. One factor is our own individual consciousness which is ultimately the most important. But along with that it is the traditional level of service and the manifestation of the Lord which also plays a very important role. So if the Lord is there as prana pratistha deity, the Lord’s presence is much stronger there.
In reality the Lord is always non different from His deity but for us to feel that presence becomes easier if the devotees have specifically invited the Lord and the devotees are serving the Lord regularly. That means our experience of the presence of the Lord in a particular place depends on our individual consciousness. It also depends on the seriousness of the commitment of worship that is taken up by the devotees when prana pratistha is performed and the overall level of service that is being performed there for a long time. Which induces spiritual vibrations and as a result there is devotional presence of the Lord.
Hence, the deity form is especially invoked in prana pratistha in the temple to give sublime spiritual experience to even those who do not have very high levels of devotion which is required for experiencing Krishna as in a picture or as in a statue.
Srila Prabhupada explains that the deities should be served and decorated so beautifully that the agitated heart of the materialistic people will also become pacified. And those who are always hungry for beauty their desires will be fulfilled just by seeing the deities.
Therefore the ultimate purpose of invoking the Lord as deities is to increase the service of devotees, to benefit the people by giving them the opportunity to worship the deity and to at large increase the spiritual sanctity in the place where the deity is established so that people can find relief there once they visit the temple. You can find more about this in my book called deity worship — idol worship or ideal worship.