What is the philosophy behind the worship of a pure devotee’s Deity?
From Aartee Mataji
Did Srila Prabhupada authorize his worship through his Deity?
Transcribed by: Geetanjali Nath Mataji
Question: Did Srila Prabhupada authorize his worship in the form of Murtis, what is the philosophy behind worship of deities of devotees?
Answer: Yes, Prabhupada did authorize, just before his last dayswhen it became clear that he was going to leave his body. At that time devotees asked him many things. One of them was whether they can write his biography and Prabhupada authorized it..They also asked whether they can make his deity and worship. Devotees had seen Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Thakura’s deity in Gaudiya Maths. When devotees asked then Prabhupada said “Yes”. So it is definitely authorized.
Now what is the philosophy behind it? The philosophy behind devotee’s deity is significantly different from the philosophy behind the Lord’s deity. The Lord is present everywhere and because he is present everywhere that does not mean that he can be worshipped in everything. But Lord can manifest through anything whenever he wants. Prabhupada gives the example that Lord can convert matter into spirit and spirit into matter and that’s how Prana Prathistha is performed. When sincere desire is there to worship the Lord and when exalted devoteesrequest the Lord to come into that deity then Lord manifest through that deity. The Supreme Lord has the omnipotence to do that.
Now Prabhupada was repeatedly clear that I am not God, he never claimed omniscience. Whenever devotees had any problem then Prabhupada used to ask them the reason and once he got the complete information he would make decisions. Let us understand about the deity of pure devotees.
We know that normally souls are present at one place but then there can be changes based on the Lord’s arrangement for specific purposes. For example, the demigods, Indra, Chandra, Surya etc are also souls like us. In fact, if souls do adequate punya then they can eventually in future life acquire these posts. So Indra is basically a post that can be acquired. Now every post brings with it certain power. A King or a Prime Minister of a country or say an army commander may have hundreds of computers or hundreds of away places from where reports are coming. Although the person is at one place, he is aware of whatever is happening on the border of the country, if some incursions are happening or anything like that. Even in an ordinary building where there is some security, there may be a security console or security cabin where all the entry and vulnerable points may be monitored from one place.
So basically just as we can extend our perceptual capacity through technology, similarly the Devatas, because they act at a higher level, they have higher mystical powers. They can not only expand their perceptual capacity, but they can even expand their presence. And the Devatas have the capacity to be present at multiple places at the same time. So how does that happen? That is by Krishna’s arrangement. Because they have certain posts given, so based on those posts they can do that, if it is required at times. So they can manifest their presence, and in what way exactly they manifest their presence, how, and by what mechanism it is done, that we do not know because the whole subtle realm is quite difficult for us to comprehend with our gross senses and our familiarity is with only the gross reality. So now the Devatas are empowered for a material purpose, they are materially empowered because they are materially influential and in an important position.
Just as Devatas are empowered by Krishna, because of material position that they hold, the great devotees, the spiritual masters, are empowered by Krishna because of the spiritual position that they hold. What is their spiritual position? They are via-media, they are bridges, who take souls from this world to the next world, and that’s why they are capable, by Krishna’s arrangement, to manifest their presence, to give their guidance. Prabhupada was asked are you present in your photos, he said, “Yes, that’s why my disciples are committing so many offenses”. Now in what way is he present? Prabhupada did not claim that: oh you were doing so and so thing and because I was present in my photo and that’s how I saw you doing all that. Prabhupada never claimed like that, so it is not exactly an absolute presence. It is a primarily a way of connection we feel with the spiritual master. The spiritual master also manifests his presence at varying degrees depending on the spiritual master’s relationship and the disciple’s relationship with the spiritual master. So the point is that we shouldn’t think and say that the difference and the non-difference is a 0-1 level. It is a continuum and the extent the presence of Prabhupada will be felt in the deity will depend on the level of advancement of the disciple and the depth of the relationship they have with Srila Prabhupada. But philosophically, it is not that because Prabhupada is omnipotent he can manifest into a deity but Krishna is omnipotent and because Krishna has given a special role to Srila Prabhupada so He can ensure that Srila Prabhupada can manifest in the deity. Another point is that we should not separate the Guru from the Gurutattva. The Gurutattva is the philosophical principle that Krishna is always there to rescue and guide conditioned souls on the path back to him and that principle manifests through different persons. So we should not isolate person from the principle that he represents. And in that sense because Srila Prabhupada is manifesting the Gurutattva so Krishna gives him the special position and powers. .And when we serve him in the deity form, when we serve him by performing devotional service and when we bow down to him we are going closer to him and also simultaneously going closer to Krishna.