Practical devotional life. How to perform archana

Discourse:

[By request of the devotees, Shrila Bhaktivedanta Vana Maharaja gave this special introductory class in Surinam on 2017/05/04 about the process and meaning of archana – worship. He is presenting the history and context of the process of archana to the new devotee not familiar with the ancient Vedic system of worship.]

        Success in this process cannot be achieved by following any ‘mechanical methodology’. In order to practice archana in its pure form and awaken pure devotional service to Krishna, one needs to be initiated by a bona fide spiritual master.  Only by their mercy, one can become qualified to perform Deity worship. The bona fide spiritual master gives the mantras and blessings at the same time, the mantras themselves without blessings, cannot give any result.

sampradaya vihina ye mantras te nisphalah matah

 sri brahma-rudra-sanaka vaisnavah ksiti-pavanah

 [‘Vaishnava acharyas in the four authorized disciplic successions – namely Ramanujacharya in the Shri-sampradaya, Shri Madhvacharya in the Brahma-sampradaya, Vishnusvami in the Rudra-sampradaya, and Nimbaditya in the Chatuhsana-sampradaya – purify the whole universe.  Dikhsa-mantras not received from the bona fide acaryas in one of these four sampradayas will be fruitless.’]

(Padma Purana/Prameya-ratnavali 1.5/JD Ch. 13 / BPKG Biog. p. 62)

The word ‘bhajana’ means to perform seva – service to the Supreme Personality of Godhead. It comes from the word ‘bhajyate’, that establishes the relationship between the Lord and His devotee. A similar word to this is ‘bhojan’ – meaning to eat. The act of eating without first offering the food, is the living entity’s tendency for sense enjoyment. Deity worship uplifts one from the level of ignorance, to passion, to goodness and then eventually to shuddha sattva – transcendental level.

There are two conceptions under which bhajana is performed. One is in the conception of the smarta (karma kanda brahmanas), and the other is under the Vaishnava conception – those who worship Vishnu/Krishna. In Sanskrit, the former is called arohovad and the latter aarohavad.  

 Arohovad is an ascending process and aarohavad is a descending process. The latter relies on the Lord’s mercy descending to the devotee and then the devotee uses that mercy and ‘ascends’ forward. Arohovad describes that person who relies on his own endeavours to progress forward. Arohovad literally means to ‘climb’. Like when one uses a ladder to climb up. This is the smarta conception. They do not rely on the mercy of the Lord, but on their own merits and efforts.

This arohovad (ascending process) is also known as prakritavad, meaning that everything depends on and is working due to material nature. In the Bhagavad-gita, Lord Krishna refuted this way of thinking by saying the material nature cannot create by its own potency, it has no independence separate from Him.

mayādhyakṣeṇa prakṛtiḥ
sūyate sa-carācaram
hetunānena kaunteya
jagad viparivartate

(Bhagavad-gita 9.10)

 [‘This material nature, which is one of My energies, is working under My direction, O son of Kuntī, producing all moving and non-moving beings. Under its rule this manifestation is created and annihilated again and again.’]

Externally, it may seem material nature is the cause, but actually it is the Lord that is the doer. Material nature is of a feminine gender. Like a woman who cannot conceive a child without a man. Material nature cannot do anything by herself without the sanction of the Lord. The Lord empowers material nature to act. In the same way, without the sanction of the Lord we cannot even lift our own hands up into the air. Those who believe in material nature as the cause are called nastik – nonbelievers – atheist.

There are therefore two different conceptions, one the smarta matta and the other the ‘vaishnava’ conception which is also sometimes called the gosvami matta. The smarta matta is also called artha marg. Artha means ‘wealth’. The practitioners of this path perform worship as a means to earn their livelihood and are known as karma kanda.  The gosvami matta or vaishnava matta is the conception of pure Vaishnavas.

The smarta matta is in the karma path following in the tradition established by smarta Raghunandan. His preaching that there is no such thing as worshipping the Lord or any need to depend on the mercy of the Lord spread throughout the world. He promoted that one should depend on one’s own efforts to progress in life. He produced one book to promote this idea and encourage people to perform worship through the smarta brahmanas, who then used this process to earn their livelihood. One should be aware of these histories so as not to be cheated. Following the smarta matta (the prakriti marg) process can derail one’s progress on the path to pure devotion.  

The gosvami matta or the Vaishnavas on the other hand, follow the parampara headed by The Supreme Personality of Godhead Himself, Shri Krishna.

krsna hoite catur-mukha, hoya krsna -sevonmukha, brahma hoite naradera mati narada hoite vyasa, madhva kohe vyasa-dasa, purna prajña padmanabha-gati (1)

[‘In the beginning of creation Krishna spoke the science of devotional service to four headed Lord Brahma, who in turn passed these teachings on to Narada Muni, who accepted Krishna Dvaipayana Veda Vysadeva as his disciple. Vyasa transmitted this knowledge to Madhvacharya, who is also known as Purna Prajña Tirtha and who was the sole refuge for his disciple Padmanabha Tirtha.’]

(‘Sri Guru-Parampara’ by Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Gosvami Prabhupada)

       This is known as the aavarohan marg – the descending process followed by the Vaishnavas. The smarta brahmanas worship many demigods and goddesses and their process is very complicated. The Vaishnava process is very simple because it considers that living entities in Kali-yuga are particularly at a disadvantage. They do not have the time, the facilities nor the means or even the inclination to perform such elaborate extensive forms of worship, their minds are very disturbed, and their attention span is generally very short. They have not studied Sanskrit and therefore cannot correctly pronounce the mantras that are necessary for the worship. Now, even in India the importance and prominence of the use of Sanskrit has diminished. Very few places teach Sanskrit. Today, the mantras are mostly committed to memory and repeated without understanding their meaning. When a scholar would recite the same mantras, they can ‘make your head spin!’ as in the example of the sloka,

dharmaḥ projjhita-kaitavo ’tra paramo nirmatsarāṇāṁ satāṁ
vedyaṁ vāstavam atra vastu śivadaṁ tāpa-trayonmūlanam
śrīmad-bhāgavate mahā-muni-kṛte kiṁ vā parair īśvaraḥ
sadyo hṛdy avarudhyate ’tra kṛtibhiḥ śuśrūṣubhis tat-kṣaṇāt

(Shrimad-Bhagavatam 1.1.2)

[‘Completely rejecting all religious activities which are materially motivated, this Bhāgavata Purāṇa propounds the highest truth, which is understandable by those devotees who are fully pure in heart. The highest truth is reality distinguished from illusion for the welfare of all. Such truth uproots the threefold miseries. This beautiful Bhāgavatam, compiled by the great sage Vyāsadeva [in his maturity], is sufficient in itself for God realization. What is the need of any other scripture? As soon as one attentively and submissively hears the message of Bhāgavatam, by this culture of knowledge the Supreme Lord is established within his heart’.]

For this reason, Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu is saying in Chaitanya-charitamrita, that the intelligence of the living entities in Kali-yuga is not so sharp, nor is there opportunity or facility to learn Sanskrit. Therefore, for this reason He recommends the chanting of the maha mantra.

Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare,

Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare

One can achieve all the results of archana, puja, hawan – fire sacrifice, and recitation very simply and easily by this chanting of the maha mantra. This has been evidenced in the revealed scriptures such as the Shrimad-Bhagavatam:

aho bata śva-paco ’to garīyān

yaj-jihvāgre vartate nāma tubhyam

tepus tapas te juhuvuḥ sasnur āryā

brahmānūcur nāma gṛṇanti ye te

(Shrimad-Bhagavatam 3.33.7)

[‘Oh, how glorious are they whose tongues are chanting Your holy name! Even if born in the families of dog-eaters, such persons are worshipable. Persons who chant the holy name of Your Lordship must have executed all kinds of austerities and fire sacrifices and achieved all the good manners of the Āryans. To be chanting the holy name of Your Lordship, they must have bathed at holy places of pilgrimage, studied the Vedas and fulfilled everything required.’]

        Shrimad-Bhagavatam says whoever takes the name of Bhagavan Shri Krishna does not even have to chant the complete name, even part of the name has so much potency. For example, the word ‘Krishna’ has two syllables. As soon as one says ‘Kr’ it destroys all of one’s sins; and then ‘na’, this gives love of Godhead.

‘kr’ sabda acharana matrena sarva papa vidhansati

(Jiva Gosvami)

So, in this verse it is said that even a dog eater (‘śva’ meaning dog and ‘pacho’- one who cooks and even eats the raw meat of a dog – one who is in the most lowest, abominable condition of existence), who could be of the lowest class of person, whose thoughts and activities are despicable, the name of the Lord is so powerful that just by chanting once, even they can be elevated to the highest level of a samavedi brahmana – one who knows the four Vedas, sama, atharva, yajur and rig. The samavedi brahmanas are very expert in chanting the Vedic mantras in their datta, udatta and sarit pronunciation, rhythm and beat. Even a person who is so low and degraded, can achieve the same highest perfection and result as a sama vedi brahmana. One’s impure bodily condition can be purified by chanting.

If you go to Vrindavana you will find as early as four o’clock in the morning, brahmanas chanting the gayatri mantra…’om bhu bhuva svaha… over public speakers. The fruits of chanting this mantra can be achieved by chanting the maha mantra just once, especially in this age of Kali-yuga.

The fruits of chanting vishnu sahastra nama (one thousand different names of Lord Vishnu) just once, is equal to once chanting the name of Rama. Chanting the name of Lord Rama three times is equal to chanting the name of Krishna just once. And chanting the name of Krishna three times is equal to chanting the name of Shrimati Radhika just once. Therefore, chanting the name of Shrimati Radhika is the best and highest.

The result of performing one thousand ashvamedha (horse) fire sacrifices can be attained by chanting the Lord’s name just once. It cannot be compared to performing other forms of charity, donations or any penances.  

People do not have shraddha – faith or ruchi – taste in chanting the Lords name in Kali-yuga, nor do they know or understand nama mahima – the glories of chanting the names of the Lord. When a hawan – fire sacrifice is done, people think the more smoke there is, the better the fire sacrifice will be. But if one only does nama sankirtana – chanting loud, then people will say, ‘Oh Maharaja! You did not do anything!’

yena janma-śataiḥ pūrvaṁ

vāsudevaḥ samarcitaḥ

tan-mukhe hari-nāmāni

sadā tiṣṭhanti bhārataḥ

(Hari-bhakti-vilāsa 11.237)

(Prathama Yama Shloka 6 Bhajana-rahasya, Adi Purana – Krishna Arjuna samvad)

[‘O best of the dynasty of Bharata, the holy name of Śhrī Hari is eternally present only on the lips of one who has perfectly worshipped Vāsudeva for one hundred of births’.]                          

 It is therefore not so easy to be able to get the opportunity and have the ruchi (taste) to chant the name of Krishna. It should be understood that this is possible only after worshipping Vāsudeva Krishna for one hundred births. (shalagrama shila is another form of Vāsudeva Krishna). It is by the munificent and magnanimous mercy of Chaitanya Mahaprabhu that we can chant Harinama in this life.

It may be asked if we can get so much benefit from chanting the names of the Lord, then why do we still need to perform archana/worship of the deity form of the Lord? It is recommended in the scripture (Archana-dipika), in order to maintain a level of purity in mind and body and to remove laziness, a sadhaka – practitioner, should worship the deity of the Lord in a way that is non-different from His very Self.

As with the worship of Shri Guru, archana – the worship of the Lord’s deity form, should be done early in the brahma muhurta period – one hour and thirty-six minutes before sunrise. It is written in the Guru-ashtakam,

srimad-guror astakam etad uccair brahme muhurte pathati prayatnat yas tena vrndavana-natha-saksat sevaiva labhya januso ’nta eva (9)

That person who very attentively recites this Ashtakam to Shri Gurudeva during the brahma muhurta is sure to achieve direct service to the lotus feet of Shri Krishna, the very life and soul of Vrindavana (vrindavana-natha), upon attaining his vastu-siddhi, or pure spiritual form.

It is recommended that one get up at this time to perform one’s worship. In order to do this, you will need to shower, dress into clean clothes and prepare the various paraphernalia needed. This all takes time. So, it is best to go to sleep early and get up early. You will have to get up at the same time, so it best to get up early. One has to eat, so it is better to eat earlier and at regular intervals, during regulated times. Have breakfast at 8am, lunch at 1pm and dinner at 9pm. But nowadays we see that not only do people eat at irregular times, but they eat in-between and often. They have breakfast at 10am, lunch at 3pm and dinner at midnight, and snack in-between. It is no wonder why they cannot get up early but stay asleep till 9am!    

It is said during brahma muhurta Lakshmi Devi comes to knock at your door to give you wealth. But, if we sleep during this time, then we will miss out on her gift and she will leave to go to the next house. This is one cause of one person being wealthy and another poor. There is an English saying,

‘Early to bed, early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise’.

Another consideration is that we should also make good use of this wealth that we have been given. If we misuse it, then it will be wasted, and we will lose it. We should not just eat, sleep and be merry with it.

So, coming back to our subject matter, it is not necessary to perform archana for one who has firm faith in chanting the holy names of the Lord because everything is included in it. Because we do not have this, then the process of archanа – deity worship is needed to show and train us to gradually, step by step make spiritual progress in our life.   

There are 64 limbs of bhakti. Starting from adu guru pada ashraya – taking shelter of a spiritual master, then take shiksha – instruction, then diksha – formal initiation and seva – service. Because it is very difficult to perform all these, there are 9 which are given more prominence. They are called navdha bhakti, which include, shravanam – hear, kirtanam – chanting with the lips moving but not necessarily singing, smaranam – remembering the pastimes of the Lord, here the lips do not move,  padasevanam – serving the feet, archanam – offering worship (with ṣoḍaśopacāra, the sixteen kinds of paraphernalia), vandanam – offering prayers, dasyam – becoming the servant, sakhyam – becoming the best friend, atma nivedanam – surrendering everything. The highest is kirtanam.

śrī-prahlāda uvāca

śravaṇaṁ kīrtanaṁ viṣṇoḥ

smaraṇaṁ pāda-sevanam

arcanaṁ vandanaṁ dāsyaṁ

sakhyam ātma-nivedanam

iti puṁsārpitā viṣṇau

bhaktiś cen nava-lakṣaṇā

kriyeta bhagavaty addhā

tan manye ’dhītam uttamam

(Shrimad-Bhagavatam 7.5.23-24)

[‘Prahlāda Mahārāja said: Hearing and chanting about the transcendental holy name, form, qualities, paraphernalia and pastimes of Lord Viṣhṇu, remembering them, serving the lotus feet of the Lord, offering the Lord respectful worship with sixteen types of paraphernalia, offering prayers to the Lord, becoming His servant, considering the Lord one’s best friend, and surrendering everything unto Him (in other words, serving Him with the body, mind and words) – these nine processes are accepted as pure devotional service. One who has dedicated his life to the service of Kṛishṇa through these nine methods should be understood to be the most learned person, for he has acquired complete knowledge.’]

In Kali-yuga the main type of bhakti is kirtanakya bhakti. One should glorify those pastimes that one has heard by chanting or speaking about them. When you are moving your lips and chanting the maha mantra loudly – this is known as kirtanakya bhakti.

oustha spandena matrena kirtana

(Archana-dipika, mahajana vakya)

Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare,

Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare

mangalam bhagavan vishnur

mangalam madhusudanah

mangalam hrshikesho ‘yam

mangalayatano harih

vishnuccharana-matrena

krishnasya smaranad dhareh

sarva-vighnani nasyanti

mangalam syan na samsayah

(Brihad Vishnu Purana)

[‘The Supreme Lord Vishnu is all auspicious. Madhusudana is all auspicious. Hrishikesa is all auspicious. Hari is the abode of all auspiciousness. Simply by saying the name of Vishnu, or by remembering Krishna, all obstacles are destroyed andall auspiciousness comes. This is certain’.]

Kirtanakya bhakti does not mean that one should be able to chant by singing in a melodious tune in the accompaniment of a variety of instruments. Smaraṇaṁ means without moving the lips, one remembers the pastimes of the Lord.

        All the fruits of all the other types of bhakti are included in kirtanakya bhakti. It is therefore considered the main limb of bhakti.

Archanakya bhakti is worship of the deity performed in the smarta marg and the vaishnava marg. It is included in navdha bhakti as one of the main nine types of devotion. The smarta brahmanas worship the demigods and goddesses and perform worship to remove ghosts and goblins. Actually, there are no ghosts or goblins, but to earn their livelihood, they say there are. If any are present, it is very easy to drive them away. As it is said in the ‘Hanuman Chalisa’ by Tulasi Das:

bhūta pishācha nikata nahi āvai

mahābīra jaba nāma sunāvai (24)
[Evil spirits and ghosts can never come near anyone who chants the name of the great and courageous Hanuman’]

Archanakya bhakti is very complicated and not very easy to perform. When Vaishnavas perform this, they have taken mantra and diksha from a bona fide guru and they consider that the deity form as sach-chid-ananda, transcendental. It requires attention, intelligence and practice. Or else it will go in one ear and out of the other! The following story illustrates this point very well.

Once, in the court of the famous king Vikrama Aditya, there resided nine very learned pandits who advised the king on many matters. Kalidas was the wisest and most learned amongst all of them. One day, it so happened that Kalidas was late in attending the king’s court. On that very day an agardhani sadhu otherwise known as a kapalik sadhu – a fearsome, lofty sadhu, arrived in the king’s court. Such a sadhu knows many dangerous tantric mantras. He has long matted dreadlocks, wearing cloth the colour of blood, with big wide blood shot eyes, looking quite intoxicated and covered in ashes from the crematorium. If anyone did not comply with his demands – he would curse them. In this instance, in his hand he held a human skull. He asked the king, in a very demanding and challenging manner, “O King! You think that you have such learned, wise and scholarly advisers attending your court! Tell me, this skull that I have in my hand, does it belong to a wise man or a foolish one? If I do not get a satisfactory answer, I will curse you, your family and all the citizens in your kingdom!”

The king naturally became very alarmed and looked towards his ministers who in turn looked at each other with blank faces. They had no answer to the kapalik sadhu’s question, who was with the passing of every moment becoming more and more angry. Who could tell just by looking at the skull if it belonged to an intelligent person or a fool? Who could tell how old the skull was or even where it had come from? The sadhu shouted out, “Are there no intelligent advisors in your court oh foolish King!?”  The king somehow managed to pacify the sadhu.

Just at that moment Kalidas entered the assembly of the king’s court. The same question was put to him. Kalidas thought it was a childish and very simple question that could be answered without any difficulty. Kalidas asked for a single thin stick from a broom made from a coconut tree to be brought to him. He then pushed that thin stick in from one ear hole of the skull out through the other side with great ease and then said, “Look, this skull belongs to a fool: what he hears in one ear comes straight out through the other side! If this person was intelligent, he would keep what he has heard in his heart and not let it out from the other side. He would also contemplate on what he has heard and apply that knowledge.”

In this way the question of the kapalik sadhu was answered and the king along with all of his subjects were saved from the curse of that sadhu.

From the 9 main types of bhakti there are a further 5 limbs that are most important:

  1. sadhu sanga – associating with devotees
  2. nama sankirtana – congregational chanting of the holy names of the Lord
  3. bhagavad shravanam – listening to the narrations of the pastimes of the     

          Lord

  • mathura vas – living in Vraja, and
  • shrimurti shraddha sevanam – believing that the murti – deity, is directly    

          Bhagavan Himself and lovingly serve that form

īśvaraḥ paramaḥ kṛṣṇaḥ
sac-cid-ānanda-vigrahaḥ
anādir ādir govindaḥ
sarva-kāraṇa-kāraṇam

(Chaitanya-charitamrita, Ādi 2.107)

[‘Kṛiṣhṇa, who is known as Govinda, is the Supreme Controller. He has an eternal, blissful, spiritual body. He is the origin of all. He has no other origin, for He is the prime cause of all causes.’]

This deity is not just of any mundane material. The deity is transcendental and can talk with you. In our temples people come and ask, why is your deity standing? Why are they not sitting down like we are? They will be more comfortable! This is because the Lord is so eager to meet with you that He does not want to waste one moment in having to get up from His sitting position to come and embrace you! As like when you are at the airport waiting for a friend to arrive that you have not seen for a very long time, you will be in a very anticipating mood. Being very restless, you will be eagerly waiting, ready to run and embrace them as soon as they come through the door. In the same way, the Lord is standing ready to embrace us and take us back to His home. Because He is thinking we are all His children.

If we cannot perform all nine limbs of bhakti, then we should perform shravana, kirtana and smarana. And still if you cannot do this then kirtana is the best. For example, when your health is not good and you are sick. What will you do? What will you be able to do? At least you will be able to chant.

Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare,

Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare

Even so, while we are in good health, we should perform archana. Some say, “the Lord does not eat” – but we do not feed Him like the wife of Vidura, Vidurani does! Some say, “the Lord does not sleep” – but we do not put Him to sleep like mother Yashoda! Some say, “the Lord does not come when we call Him” – but we do not call Him like Draupadi does! If you call Him with love and feed Him with love, He will surely come! Why would He not? Where there is no love, even if you were to make hundreds of the most delicious preparations, the Lord will not come and eat. Bhagavan went to the palace of Duryodhana and was offered hundreds of different varieties of preparations on a golden plate, but Krishna did not eat. Why? Because Duryodhana was a demon. But that same Krishna, went to Vidura’s house unexpected and uninvited. Vidura was out and Vidurani on seeing Krishna became so excited she forgot all etiquette. She began to cry and became bewildered as to what to do, where to place the seat for Krishna? She looked in the kitchen for something to offer Krishna. The only thing she could find was a banana that was several days over ripe and had discoloured.

She offered this to Krishna. But because she was so much absorbed in her loving sentiments, how did she offer it? She first peeled the banana, but instead of offering the banana, she offered the peel and threw the banana away! Krishna ate the banana peel because Vidurani offered it with so much love and affection. Just at that moment, Vidura returned and saw what Vidurani had done, and was just about to chastise her. Krishna pacified Vidura not to do so. Krishna said, “I am not eating the banana peel, I am relishing the love of Vidurani.”

nānopacāra-kṛta-pūjanam ārta-bandhoḥ
premṇaiva bhakta-hṛdayaṁ sukha-vidrutaṁ syāt
yāvat kṣud asti jaṭhare jaraṭhā pipāsā
tāvat sukhāya bhavato nanu bhakṣya-peye

(Chaitanya-charitamrita,  Madhya  8.69)

[‘Rāmānanda Rāya continued, ‘As long as there is hunger and thirst within the stomach, varieties of food and drink make one feel very happy. Similarly, when the Lord is worshipped with pure love, the various activities performed in the course of that worship awaken transcendental bliss in the heart of the devotee.’’]

To recap, one should know who is a smarta brahmana and who is not. A smarta brahmana will never say that he is one, as like a thief will never say that he is a thief until he is caught red handed. They are in the line of smarta Raghunandan line. The vaishnava brahmanas or gosvami matta brahmanas follow and believe in the Supreme Personality of God Shri Krishna as being fully transcendental and follow in this parampara line. If you look at a panjika traditional Indian calendar, you will see that both smarta and gosvami matta are given.

In a very simple introduction, we will now look at performing archana in the gosvami matta. This is done by the sadhaka in the mood that he is not doing anything, but that he is assisting his Gurudeva.

First, we should follow the rules and regulations of cleanliness according to Vedic literature such as Hari-bhakti-vilasa and other Vedic sciences, which are also, in many cases, followed by western science.

How to rise from the bed early in the morning

– Wake up within the brahma muhurta (one hour and thirty-six minutes before sunrise).

– Get up slowly so as to prevent a possible haemorrhage or paralysis.

– Turn from right side of your body onto your left side or vice versa slowly so that the balance of oxygen to the brain is not disturbed. If you were to get up very suddenly there is a chance that some imbalance in the brain may occur. So, as it is recommended in the Vedas, which are very scientific, one should get up slowly from a sleeping position to sit upright on the edge of the bed. 

– Putting both open palms of the hands out in front of you, look into them as exemplified by Lord Ramachandra. Your fortune is written in your palms, you do not have to make any extra endeavour. There are mantras that can be chanted at this time,

karaagre vasate lakshmi, kara-madhye saraswati

kara-mule sthito brahma, mangalam kara-darshanam

[‘On the tip of hand (fingers) resides Goddess Lakshmi, At the center of hand (palm) resides Goddess Saraswati. At the base (wrist) of the palms sits Brahma, It is auspicious to look at the hands (at the beginning of the day)’]

All your inauspiciousness will be removed. Do this for seven days. Your life will change. You will become peaceful and happy. If there is anything that is disturbing your mind, it will be gone. If your health is not good, or your business is not running well, if you are struggling in your job, all of this will be corrected.

  • Men should get up out of bed putting their right foot first to the ground and then stand up. Women should first put their left foot on the ground then only step out of bed.
  • Then you can start to chant the names of the Lord standing, sitting or walking.

Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare,

Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare

  • Then you can drink 1 glass of lukewarm water which is suitable for your body (not cold). By this 80% of your illnesses will be eliminated.
  • Then toilet and must bath.
  • Put on a clean set of cloth. Do not enter into the temple room or serve Thakuraji wearing unclean cloth such or those clothes you have used to sleep in, as this is an aparadha – offense which will give you an adverse effect.
  • Tilaka markings should be put on twelve parts of the body reciting the different names of the Krishna with sandalwood/gopi chandan. If you cannot do twelve then you can do on three parts of the body – on the forehead, top of the nose and throat. This gopi chandan is the foot dust of Shrimati Radhika that is hankered for by great sages like Narada Rishi to put on their heads. There is a story to illustrate this.

Where gopi chandan has come from      

Once in Dvaraka, Krishna became very ill with a high fever. No one could understand how or why this happened. Though everyone tried, no one was able to find a cure. Eventually Balarama asked Krishna, “My dear brother, please inform us as to how You can be cured.” The Lord replied, “Collect the foot dust of any one of the residents of Dvaraka and place it on My head.”

It so happened that Narada Rishi had arrived there. He took the instructions of Krishna and in turn requested all the 16,108 queens for their foot dust to put on Krishna’s head. None of the queens of Dvaraka were prepared to give their foot dust for fear of going to hell, for they knew Krishna was the Supreme Personality of Godhead.

He then went to the Vraja gopis, who upon hearing that their beloved Krishna was unwell, immediately began to cry. Narada asked them for their foot dust which would be placed on Krishna’s head, as this was the only cure. Without any hesitation they started to collect bags full of their foot dust to give to Narada and to quickly take to Krishna. Narada took the dust back to Krishna and placed some of it on His head. In this way Krishna instantly regained His good health.

     The remainder of the dust they put into a pond in Dvaraka. This gopichandan we use today, comes from that very pond.

Performing archana worship

       To perform archana, the ‘pujari’- worshipper will need to collect and prepare the following items,

a clean asana (seat/matt used only for puja – worship)

a metallic plate  

a small achamana cup

a small ‘throw out’ pot – visarjan patra or jala patra

3 sticks of incense

an incense holder

a five-wick ghee lamp

a small conch with warm water inside

a fine cloth

fragrant flowers on a small plate

a small hand-held bell (which should be rang always with fully stretched arms placed to the side of the thighs in the left hand)

a chamara – ‘yak tail’ fan

a regular cloth fan

a peacock fan

a blowing conch shell

     Sitting on the floor on an asana, internal and external purification can be done by mantra snana – bathing by chanting mantras. Take Ganga water if you have or plain water in the palm of your right hand and chant the following mantra,

gange caiva jamuna caiva, sarasvati, godaveri, kaveri, narmada, sindhu jale ‘smin sanidhim kuru

Or chant the maha mantra,

Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare,

Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare

  • Throw this water above your head as you chant

shri vishnu, shri vishnu, sri vishnu

Or you can chant,

oṁ apavitraḥ pavitro vā sarvāvasthāṁ gato ‘pi vā
yaḥ smaret puṇḍarīkākṣaṁ sa bahyābhyantaraḥ śuciḥ
om śrī-viṣṇu śrī-viṣṇu śrī-viṣṇu

[ “Whether contaminated or uncontaminated, in any condition of life, if one simply remembers the lotus eyed one, Śrī Viṣṇu, one becomes purified, śuciḥ.”]

All mantras can be replaced by chanting the maha mantra.

How to perform achamana

  • Take another drop of water in your right-hand palm, repeat the following mantra lines separately. After reciting each time, sip the water and then purify your hands with another drop of water:

idam acamaniyam sri keshava namah,

idam acamaniyam sri narayana namah,

idam acamaniyam sri madhavaya namah,

  • take another drop of water into the palm of your right hand and chant,

shri vishnu, shri vishnu, shri vishnu.

  • sprinkle the water over your head.
  • Men should chant their brahma gayatri mantra and the ladies their gopal mantra.

If you have not been given these mantras, you may chant the maha mantra ten times.

Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare,

Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare

Why ladies do not chant the brahma gayatri mantra.        

       Ladies are not given the brahma gayatri mantra as per the rules and regulations of the Vedic scriptures. There are several reasons for this. One is that, during the days of their menstruation they are unable to serve the deity. The uppavit – the ‘sacred thread’ for this reason is also only given to men. Once it is put on, it cannot be taken off.

       Ladies also have a different physiological difference in the structure of their larynx (throat) to that of men. The brahma gayatri mantra is chanted within three ‘pitch’ sounds called datta, audatta and sarit ,which is present only in men. Ladies insisting on chanting this mantra against scriptural injunctions and in doing so taking on purusha bhava – a masculine mood of an enjoying and harshfull nature.

       The injunctions given in the scriptures are not to be neglected. They are to be followed and are called arsha pramana. They are given by the sages and rishis. The example is given of stool and urine – both of which are impure. But the stool and urine of a cow are considered pure. Ordinary bones are impure, but the conch – also being a ‘bone’, is pure. In this way, cow urine and cow dung as well as a conch is required in the worship of Lord Vishnu. He holds the conch in His hands. You cannot argue and say, if cow urine and cow dung can be used in the worship of Lord Vishnu, why can human urine and faeces not be used?

     In the same way, it is natural for a woman to bear a child and unnatural for a man to insist to have a child. It is not that women cannot attain the Lord and only men can do so. This is illustrated in the Shrimad-Bhagavatam in the pastimes of the wives of the brahmanas being able to serve the Lord. The brahmanas were lamenting that they were chanting the brahma gayatri mantra, yet they were unable to serve the Lord and their wives were.

     Bhakti Pramoda Puri Gosvami Maharaja, at the time of giving harinama, he also gave the gopal mantra by which the disciple could offer foodstuff to the deity.

The following mantra to purify the body is known as citta shuddhi or bhuta shuddhi.

nāhaṁ vipro na ca nara-patir nāpi vaiśyo na śūdro
nāhaṁ varṇī na ca gṛha-patir no vanastho yatir vā
kintu prodyan-nikhila-paramānanda-pūrnāmṛtābdher
gopī-bhartuḥ pada-kamalayor dāsa-dāsānudāsaḥ

(Chaitanya-charitamrita,  Madhya 13.80)

[‘I am not a brāhmaṇa, I am not a kṣhatriya, I am not a vaiśhya or a śhūdra. Nor am I a brahmachārī, a householder, a vānaprastha or a sannyāsī. I identify myself only as the servant of the servant of the servant of the lotus feet of Lord Śrī Kṛṣṇa, the maintainer of the gopīs. He is like an ocean of nectar, and He is the cause of universal transcendental bliss. He is always existing with brilliance.’]

      This is the mood we should have.  Now we can proceed to worship Thakuraji in a simple way. Shrila Gurudev should be worshipped first. If he is not there personally, then a picture of him should be worshipped and preferably with the picture of the guru-parampara. All the scriptures proclaim, if one worships the Lord before worshipping their Gurudev, then even the Lord will not be pleased, and no fruits of the worship will be achieved.

prathaman tu gurum pujya tatas chaiva mamarchanam

kurvan siddhim avapnoti hy anyatha nisphalam bhavet

(Hari-bhakti-vilasa 4.344/Manah-shiksha 2)

[‘Shri Krishna says, “One must always worship one’s Guru first and only then worship Me. If one follows this process properly, one will naturally attain all perfection, but if one neglects this process then everything will be fruitless.”’]

     The following is a simple description of the process to perform arati – worship with the list of articles mentioned above. Each article after being offered can be ‘shown’ as prasad to the devotees present with a single simple gesture.

Guru Puja

While ringing the bell:

Take a drop of water on the achamana spoon, offer to Gurudev and recite softly and lovingly,

idam asanam aim guruve namah

(call Gurudev to come and please sit on the asana)

(Throw the water into the ‘throw out pot’)

  • Take another drop of water on the achamana spoon, offer to Gurudev and recite,

eshah padyam aim guruve namah

‘Please allow me to wash your lotus feet Gurudev, by mind.’

(Throw the water into the ‘throw out pot’)

  • Take another drop of water on the achamanа spoon, offer to Gurudev and recite,

idam achamanyam aim guruve namah

‘Please allow me to wash your hands and offer you water to wash your mouth Gurudev.’

(Throw the water into the ‘throw out pot’)

Offering Incense

  • Light incense and ghee lamp.
  • Purify the incense with a drop of water.
  • While ringing the bell, offer Gurudeva the incense in the right hand, seven times below the naval. Offering the incense above the navel would be an offense. The movement of the arm offering the incense should be in a clockwise circular motion in the air as if drawing out an om. Then recite,

eshah dhupam aim guruve namah

‘Please accept this incense Gurudeva’

 Offering Ghee Lamp

  • Purify your hands with a drop of water.
  • Purify with a drop of water the ghee lamp.
  • Offer ghee lamp four times to the feet.
  • Twice to the naval.
  • Three times to the face.
  • Seven times to the whole body.

 Feet 4 times, navel 2 times, face 3 times and whole body 7 times adds up to a total of 16 times.

Offering jala shankha small conch shell

  • Purify your hand with a drop of water.
  • Purify the jala shankha small conch shell (with no hole to blow into) with a drop of water.
  • Offer to Gurudev’s head three times as if bathing him.

 After each round, pour out a little water into a jala patra a small ‘throw away’ pot.

(after the puja the water in the ‘throw away’ pot will be sprinkled over everyone).

Offering handkerchief/ small cloth

  • Purify with a drop of water a nirmanchan – handkerchief (for cleaning).

  (no paper handkerchief or napkin can be used as it may have been made from recycled paper). Note the manner of holding the handkerchief – placing it between the first (index finger) and last (small finger).

  • Moving the handkerchief as if wiping the face first, then the chest and last the feet as if after having taken a bath.

Offering flowers

  • Purify your hand with a drop of water.
  • Take flowers and offer at the lotus feet of Gurudeva four times and then to the parampara in ascending order.
  • Purify your hand with drop of water.

Offering chamara

  • Purify the chamara with a drop of water.
  • Offer the chamara from left to right back and forth seven times very slowly and gently.
  • Purify the chamara with a drop of water.
  • Purify your hand with a drop of water.
  • You can now sprinkle the water in the ‘throw away’ pot to everyone present.

Now we will look at how to worship Krishna. This process is the same as performing Guru puja. It is done as if Gurudeva is doing everything, under his instructions and guidance.

Gaura Puja

In front of a picture of Chaitanya Mahaprabhu,

While ringing the bell (as before):

  • Take a drop of water on the achamanа spoon, offer to Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, and recite,

idam asanam klim gaura svaha

(call Chaitanya Mahaprabhu to come and please sit on the asana – matt)

(Throw the water into the ‘throw out pot’)

  • Take another drop of water on the achamanа spoon, offer to Chaitanya Mahaprabhu and recite,

eshah padyam kling gaura svaha

‘Please allow me to wash Your lotus feet Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, by mind.’

(Throw the water into the ‘throw out pot’)

  • Take another drop of water on the achamanа spoon, offer to Chaitanya Mahaprabhu and recite,

idam achamaniyam klim gaura svaha

‘Please allow me to wash Your hands and offer You water to wash Your mouth Chaitanya Mahaprabhu.’

(Throw the water into the ‘throw out pot’)

  • Now recite the same mantras for Radha and Krishna and follow the same process.

Radha-Krishna Puja

      In front of a deity or picture of Radha and Krishna,

While ringing the bell (as above):

  • Take a drop of water on the achamanа spoon, offer to Radha and Krishna, and recite,

idam asanam srim klim radha krsnabhyam namaha

(call Radha and Krishna to come and please sit on the asana – matt)

(Throw the water into the ‘throw out pot’)

  • Take another drop of water on the achamana spoon, offer to Radha and Krishna and recite,

eshah padyam srim klim radha krsnabhyam namaha

‘Radha and Krishna please allow me to wash Your lotus feet, by mind.’

(Throw the water into the ‘throw out pot’)

  • Take another drop of water on the achamana spoon, offer to Radha and Krishna and recite,

idam achamaniyam srim klim radha krsnabhyam namaha  

‘Radha and Krishna please allow me to wash Your hands and offer You water to wash Your mouth.’

(Throw the water into the ‘throw out pot’)

  • Chant the gopal mantra ten times.
  • With a separate set of arati paraphernalia from that which was used for worshipping Gurudev, begin the arati sequence first offering to Chaitanya Mahaprabhu with incense to the feet four times.

    The meaning of the different articles being offered.

The same set of arati paraphernalia used for Gurudeva can be used for Thakuraji if the means to get another set is not available, provided that it has been cleaned and purified after Guru puja and before Gaura puja. The overriding factor is that the mood of worship should be favourable.

  1. The sweet smell of the incense that is offered is called dhunavali and represents the unlimited qualities of the Lord, that just like the fragrant lotus flowers open and attract the numerous swarms of bees, in the same way, the unlimited sweet qualities of the Lord attract the swarms of living entities that hover around His lotus feet. The Lord’s qualities are unlimited. He is karunamayi, most compassionate. He is bhakta vatsalya, affectionate to His devotees.
    1. The ghee lamp represents the light that shines on the darkness of ignorance that we are drowning in. As we offer the ghee lamp we should be praying to Krishna, ‘Please light the lamp of transcendental knowledge in our heart and remove the darkness of ignorance’. Recite this sloka in a soft, loving and humble manner and pray to Gurudeva,

om ajñāna-timirāndhasya

jñānāñjana-śalākayā

cakṣur unmīlitaṁ yena

tasmai śrī-gurave namah 

[‘The Lord is the supreme spiritual master, and the bona fide representative of the Supreme Lord is also a spiritual master. The Lord from within enlightens the devotees by the effulgence of the nails of His lotus feet, and His representative, the spiritual master, enlightens from without. Only by thinking of the lotus feet of the Lord and always taking the spiritual master’s advice can one advance in spiritual life and understand Vedic knowledge.’]

Lord Krishna also says in Bhagavad-gita,

teṣām evānukampārtham
aham ajñāna-jaṁ tamaḥ
nāśayāmy ātma-bhāva-stho
jñāna-dīpena bhāsvatā

(Bhagavad-gita 10.11)

[‘To show them special mercy, I, dwelling in their hearts, destroy with the shining lamp of knowledge the darkness born of ignorance.’]

       So we should pray, ‘O Gurudev, O my Lord Shri Krishna, please be merciful to me and remove the darkness of ignorance from my heart’.

      There are five ghee wicks, they are called pancha pradip.

pañca mahadpa yatha pañca mahajyotih

 triloka-timira naçe avidya durmati (4)

(Srila Prabhupada Arati by Sri Srimad Bhakti Prajñäna Kesava Gosvami Maharaja)

[Those five radiant lights destroy the darkness of ignorance and crooked intelligence throughout the three worlds’.]

        We pray, “May the five ghee lamps representing the five moods of santa, dasya, sakhya, vatsaliya and madhurya prema manifest in our hearts. “Even higher than this meditation is the moods of the five types of sakhis that are very dear to Shrimati Radhika, sakhi, nitya sakhi, prana sakhi, prana priya sakhi and prana preshtha sakhi. “May the moods of these five sakhis/manjaris manifest in my heart.” These are very high topics, not so easy to understand.

        The conch shell represents the bhakti ganga jala dhara, ‘the river of bhakti that flows continuously’. Any water that is in the conch shell is considered to be Ganga water. Therefore, taking the water from the conch shell on our heads is as good as bathing in the waters of the Ganga and attaining the fruits thereof. Not everyone can come to bath in the Ganga. Therefore, by simply coming to the temple and taking water from the conch shell that has been offered to the deity is as good as bathing in the Ganga. At the same time, we pray for shuddha bhakti, pure devotional service to manifest in our heart.    

anyābhilāṣitā-śūnyaṁ
jñāna-karmādy-anāvṛtam
ānukūlyena kṛṣṇānu-
śīlanaṁ bhaktir uttamā

(Chaitanya-charitamrita, Madhya 19.167)

[‘When first-class devotional service develops, one must be devoid of all material desires, knowledge obtained by monistic philosophy, and fruitive action. The devotee must constantly serve Kṛiṣhṇa favorably, as Kṛiṣhṇa desires.’]
  • The handkerchief is known as a chinvastra, that which is very soft and delicate. This is just appropriate to wipe down the soft delicate body of the Lord. This is the type of cloth that mother Yashoda and the gopis use to wipe down the body of Krishna. The significance of this is that Bhakti-devi who is very soft and delicate herself, should appear to us all over our bodies. The weeds of lust, anger greed, envy, pride, jealousy and the desire for honour, fame or reputation should not be able to enter and destroy our devotion. Nor should the desire to merge into Brahma enter us.
  • Then we offer flowers which in Sanskrit are called suman. This implies that our beautiful mind should be offered to Guru and Krishna.
    • Then we offer chamara. The meaning of this is because the Lord is our most dearly beloved, the nearest and dearest, with great love and devotion we massage the Lord as if patting a baby on the back very lovingly and gently to put them to sleep. Like with Gurudeva, right up to his last days, if we would not massage his feet, he would not be able to go to sleep.
    • Then we offer the fan to Gurudeva and Krishna very carefully, gently and slowly. In the way a fragrant soft gentle breeze passes by and enters our breath, in that way we pray that the beautiful loving pastimes of the Lord and His devotees spontaneously manifest in our heart.
    • Then we offer the peacock fan only to Radha Krishna, Mahaprabhu and Nityananda Prabhu. (It should not be offered to Lord Ramachandra.) Shrimati Radhika’s name is written on the peacock feather.

There is no difference between the name of Shrimati Radhika and Herself, for this reason Krishna always keeps this feather with Her name on His head as a mark of great honour and respect for Her. You can see Radha, Radha, Radha, Radha written. You should try to see. You cannot see because you are looking with your material eyes. If your bhakti is developed, then you will be able to see it. You will have to chant 64 rounds every day for ten years then you will be able to see. (This name will not be found on the feather of a white peacock.)

sukha bole amara krsna mathaya morapakha

sari bole amara radha nama te likha

[The male parrot says, “Look my Krishna is wearing a peacock feather on His head.” The female parrot replies, “He only wears this because it has the name of our mistress Shrimati Radhika written on it!”]

sukha bole amara krsna basi kare gana

sari bole amara radha nama

[The male parrot says, “Look, Krishna is playing the flute.” The female parrot replies, “No, He is calling out my Swamini’s name.” The male parrot is saying, “Look, Krishna’s turban is pointed toward the left side.” The female parrot replies, “It is pointing to touch Her lotus feet.” ]

(folk song)

        We should perform archana with this mood.

At the end of the arati ceremony, the large conch shell should be blown three times outside the immediate temple area.

Offering bhoga

After this one should offer bhoga. The disciple must think that Gurudev is doing everything and that they are only assisting.

Arrange beautifully all that is to be offered in front of the deities.

While ringing the bell:

Take a drop of water on the achamana spoon, offer to Radha and Krishna, and recite,

idam asanam srim klim radha krsnabhyam namaha

(call Radha and Krishna to come and please sit on the asana – matt)

(Throw the water into the ‘throw out pot’)

  • Take another drop of water on the achamana spoon, offer to Radha and Krishna and recite,

esah padyam srim klim radha krsnabhyam namaha

Radha and Krishna please allow me to wash Your lotus feet by mind.

(Throw the water into the ‘throw out pot’)

  • Take another drop of water on the achamana spoon, offer to Radha and Krishna and recite,

idam achamanyam srim klim radha krsnabhyam namaha  

Radha and Krishna please allow me to wash Your hands and offer You water to wash Your mouth.

(Throw the water into the ‘throw out pot’)

While still ringing the bell in the left hand:

  • take in the right hand the shankhajal, small conch shell with water in it and with sacred thread if you have, offering and recite,

idam nayvidyam klim krsnaya swaha

  • Empty water from the shankhajal into the ‘throw out pot’.
  • Recite the gopal mantra ten times in your mind while touching the offering plate.

       If you do not have the gopal mantra, then you can recite the maha mantra.

  • Go outside the temple room to chant once your brahma gayatri mantra (for men) ten times and gopal mantra (for women) ten times.
  • Come back in after 5 minutes:
  • Take the offering off the alter, take another drop of water on the achamana spoon, offer to Radha-Krishna, Chaitanya Mahaprabhu and Gurudev, then recite,

idam achamanyam srim klim radha krsnabhyam namaha

klim gauraya svaha, aing guruave namaha  

Radha and Krishna, Chaitanya Mahaprabhu and Gurudev, please allow me to wash Your hands and offer You water to wash Your mouth.

(Throw the water into the ‘throw out pot’)

Offering Mahaprasada to Shrila Gurudev

Recite the following mantras,

idaṁ āsanaṁ aīṁ guruve namaḥ

idaṁ ācamanīyaṁ aīṁ guruve namaḥ

etat pādyaṁ aīṁ guruve namaḥ

idaṁ agra aīṁ guruve namah

idaṁ mahā-prasādaṁ aiṁ śrī gurave namaḥ

       Come out of the room, chant the guru-mantra ten times and guru-gāyatrī ten times and wait for some time for Shrila Gurudev to take His meal.

Then recite,

idaṁ ācamanīyaṁ aīṁ guruve namaḥ

offer drop of water then throw-out in the pot (to signify the offering of mouthwash).

End

Conclude the worship by reciting aparādha-kṣamāpana-mantras, prayers begging forgiveness for offences during archana,

oṁ mantra-hīnaṁ kriyā-hīnaṁ bhakti-hīnaṁ janārdana yat pūjitaṁ mayā deva paripūrṇaṁ tad astu me

‘O my Lord, O Janārdana, please allow whatever little pūjā I have performed to become complete, although I am devoid of devotion, unable to chant the mantras properly and imperfect’.

         After offering one’s obeisances, one can end the process of archana – deity worship.

Vrindavanbiharilal ki jay!

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