32 Quotes by Acharyas on Why Deity Worship Is Not Recommended

Truly sincere (Aikantika) bhaktas give up Deity Worship and engage only in the Aikantiki Bhakti of Nama Smarana, Shravana, and Kirtana according to Sri Harinam Chintamani.

Addition of Deities Will Encumber Us

“There is no need of adding further Deities. Once installed it cannot be changed. Do not make it childish, too much addition of Deities will encumber us.” — Letter to: Karandara – 31 March, 1973

I am NOT Recommending More Temples to Install Radha Krishna Deities

“Worship of Radha-Krishna Deities is the ultimate pinnacle of Deity worship, and it must be done with the utmost caution and attention to every detail of giving opulent service. I am not recommending more temples to install Radha-Krishna Deities until I have become more convinced that they can properly manage. At least five to ten persons must be engaged full time to worship Radha-Krishna properly, and for any small temple especially that is a detrimental factor to maintaining the highest standard in other temple activities besides, because there are not enough men. You may worship Lord Jagannatha, or if you like to install Gaura-Gauranga, Gaura-Nitai, or simply Gaura Deity, He is also very liberal and will forgive and tolerate any service offered to Him even by Jagai and Madhai.” (Srila Prabhupada’s Letter to: Gunagrahi: New York, 3 July, 1972)

Deity Worship Standards Given by Srila Prabhupada

● Rādhā-Kṛṣṇa: at least 10-12 pūjārīs are required
● Jagannātha-Baladeva-Subhadrā: at least 6-8 pūjārīs are required
● Gaura-Nitāi: at least 3-4 pūjārīs are required

Only Sankirtana in Temples is Enough, No Need of Deities if There Are Less Pujaris

“If there is scarcity of such qualifies pujaris, each center should be satisfied only by worshipping Panca Tattva of Lord Chaitanya by performance of Sankirtana.” (Srila Prabhupada’s Letter to: Damodara, Los Angeles, 1 July, 1970)

Radha Krishna Deities Will Not Forgive Irregularity

“Irregularity in worshiping Guru and Gauranga can be tolerated, as they are always kind and forgiving, but irregularity in worshiping Lord Jagannatha and Sri Sri Radha Krishna is not good.” (Srila Prabhupada’s Letter to: Karandhara, Calcutta, 19 September, 1970)

Radha Krishna Deities Will Not Accept Offerings If There are 64 Seva Aparadhas

“Similarly, in devotional service there are offenses known as sevā-aparādha. Those who are engaged in worshiping the Deity, Rādhā and Kṛṣṇa, in the temple, should avoid such offenses in service. The offenses in service are described in The Nectar of Devotion. If we simply make a show of offering services to the Deity but do not care for the sevā-aparādha, certainly the Rādhā-Kṛṣṇa Deity will not accept offerings from such non-devotees.” (Srimad Bhagavatam 4.13.28)

In Our Present Status, We Cannot Worship Radha Krishna Deities. We Can Only Worship Them as Laksmi Narayana

“Actually, in our present status, we can not worship Radha-Krishna. But as all the Visnu Murtis are situated in Krishna, therefore, our Radha-Krishna worship is transferred to Visnu, Lord Narayana. Visnu worship is the regulative devotional principles, and Radha-Krishna worship is spontaneous service of eternal feelings. Therefore, as Laksmi-Narayana is the Deity of great opulences, similarly our Radha-Krishna Murtis also should be worshiped with great pomp and dignity.” (Srila Prabhupada’s Letter to Satsvarupa, February 12, 1969)

Neophytes Should Not Be Told to Directly Take Up Worship of Radha Krishna Deities

“For an ordinary man, worship of Shri Chaitanya and Nityananda Prabhu or the Panca-tattva is easier than worship of Radha and Krishna. Unless one is very fortunate, he should not be induced to worship Radha-Krishna directly… Since everyone within this material world is more or less influenced by sinful activities, in the beginning it is essential that one take to the worship of Guru-Gauranga and ask their favor, for thus despite all his disqualifications one will very soon become qualified to worship the Radha-Krishna vigraha.” (Srila Prabhupada in the classic Chaitanya Charitamrita 8.31 purport)

Even Nitai Gaura Deities Can’t Be Worshiped by All Devotees, Then What to Speak of Radha Krishna Deities

“I am glad to hear that you are opening another workshop in Kauai for the manufacturing of the Gaura-Nitai Deities and this is a very great service to our society and devotees. But one thing. You should always inform me before sending the Deities to the Temples. We cannot send them indiscriminately to anyone who has the whim of worshiping the Deities. We must be very very careful as to not commit offenses in worshiping the Deities, so therefore there must be sufficient facilities and Brahmins to worship the Deity.” (SP’s Letter to Govinda dasi – 17 February, 1973)

Devotees Should Not Install Radha Krishna or Jagannatha Deities in Their Homes

Devotee 8: Shrila Prabhupada, many people who live outside the temple have Jagannatha Deities and..
Srila Prabhupada: “Better Gaura-Nitai Deities.” (Morning Walk, May 22, 1975, Melbourne)

“You can also establish the kirtana hall on the farm and install Gaura Nitai Deities. Gaura Nitai can be established anywhere, and it is simple to worship Them simply chant before Their Lordships. He doesn’t mind that you have not decorated very nicely, but if you chant and dance He is very pleased.” (Srila Prabhupada’s Letter to: Madhudvisa, Melbourne, 21 April, 1976)

More Stress Should Be To Worship the Sound Incarnation

“Actually we should give more stress in worshiping the incarnation of sound vibration but whenever there is possibility of installing Deities and strictly following the regulations of worship, we shall do this, but the essential part of our activities is to worship the sound incarnation.” — Letter to Visnujana – Bombay 4 April, 1971

No Need of Installing Deities. Simply Chanting Will Please the Lord

“There is no need of installing Deities immediately. New temples may be opened by placing Pancatattva and Acarya pictures. Unless we have got sufficient experienced devotees we shall not install Radha Krsna or Jagannatha Deities. Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu is very kind and lenient. Simply chanting of Hare Krsna will please Him. But when we have Deities like Radha Krsna or Jagannatha we must strictly follow the regulative principles of Arcana. These things are elaborately described in the Nectar of Devotion which is already published.“ (Srila Prabhupada’s Letter to Hamsadutta, Los Angeles, 22 June, 1970)

Radha Krishna Deities Should Not be Installed If There Are Less Pujaris

“If there is scarcity of pujaris, then Deities should not be installed, only pictures of Guru and Gauranga should be worshiped. Irregularity in worshiping Guru and Gauranga can be tolerated, as they are always kind and forgiving, but irregularity in worshiping Lord Jagannatha and Sri Sri Radha Krishna is not good..” — Letter to: Karandhara – 19 September, 1970

Deities Should Not be Installed If There Is No Big Property

“Regarding the Frankfurt temple and the Deity program, unless we have got our own building, this proposal of installing Deity should be postponed. Do not install, unless we have got our own building, the large Deities.” — Srila Prabhupada’s Letter to Hamsaduta – 29 September, 1975 (PS. It is not good to install Radha Krishna Dieties or any Deities  for that matter in an apartment where there are other people staying in other apartments above that apartment, toilets and bathrooms all around, and if a special room and multiple sevaks just for the Deities are not available round the clock.)

Don’t Install Deities to Make Money

“Śrīla Bhaktisiddhānta condemned temple proprietors who made a business of showing the Deity for a living. To be a sweeper in the street was more honorable, he said. He coined a Bengali phrase, śālagrām-dvārā bādāṁ bhaṅga: “The priests are taking the śālagrāma Deity as a stone for cracking nuts.” In other words, if a person shows the śālagrāma form of the Lord (or any form of the Deity) simply with a view to make money, then he is seeing the Deity not as the Lord but as a stone, a means for earning his livelihood.” — SPL 4: “How Shall I Serve you?”

Devotees Lose Taste in Harinam Due to Prematurely Engaging in Deity Worship

There is also a quote of Srila Prabhupada (which I can’t find right now) where he states that the Los Angeles devotees are losing taste in Harinam and Krishna Consciousness and leaving due to their offenses be whimsically starting Radha Krishna Deity Worship on their own and that he did not give permission to them to worship Radha Krishna Deities. (PS. Sometimes devotees are so eager to install Radha Krishna Deities and worship Them. They already don’t have enough time to do Nama Smarana but they want to add the heavy burden and strict responsibilities of worshiping Radha Krishna Deities. No wonder they end up losing taste in Bhakti because their Nama Smarana is further compromised in the process. Because their sadhana time remains the same but the 64 seva-aparadhas in Radha Krishna Deity Worship are further added to list of the insurmountable 10 offenses in Harinam they have to avoid.)

The Name is Much More Merciful Than the Deity

kintu jāniyāchi nātha
vācaka-swarūpa
vācyāpekshā doyamoya
ei aparūpa

“But I have clearly understood that Your vachaka form (The Sound and Syllables of the Name) to be more merciful than Your vachya (Deity) form, O Lord. How wonderful is this secret?” (Gitavali, Namashtakam, Song 6, Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura. PS. The offenses against the Deity are removed by the Name but the offenses against the Name can’t be removed by Deity Worship.)

This is Srila Bhaktivinoda’s commentary to the same original verse of Srila Rupa Goswami himself in his Sri Namashtaka, verse 6:

vacyam vacakam ity udeti bhavato
nama svarupa-dvayam
purvasmat param eva hanta
karunam tatrapi janimahe
yas tasmin vihitaparadha-nivahah
prani samantad bhaved
asyenedam upasya so ‘pi hi
sadanandambudhau majjati

“O Holy Name, You are manifested in two forms: 1. The Deity Form or the Form of the Lord Behind the Name, and 2. the Sound and Syllables of the Holy Name. We know that the second form is much more merciful than the first. Even a person who commits many offenses to the first form, may always remain plunged into an infinite ocean of bliss by serving the second by remembering the Name, but the vice versa is not possible.”

Aikantiki Rati in the Name by Aikantika Bhaktas

Harinam Chintamani Chapter 15, Bhajana Pranali:

archana-mārga o śravaṇa-kīrtanera adhikāra-bhede kriyā-bheda

“According to one’s qualification, a devotee chooses the one-pointed exclusive path of shravana kirtana or the path of deity worship.”

archana-mārgete gāḍhatar
ruchi yāṅra
śravaṇa-kīrtana-siddhi
tāhāte tāṅhāra. 39

“If one develops a very advanced and extremely deep relish for deity worship, which is very difficult to attain, only then one will get perfection in shravana and kirtana.”

nāme aikāntikī rati
haibe yāṅhāra
śravaṇa-kīrtana-smṛti
KEVALA tāṅhāra. 40

“On other hand, a more sincere sadhaka who has one one-pointed attachment to the holy names will exclusively focus on the remembrance of the Name by shravana kirtana ONLY.” (Kevala means Only Nama Smarana Giving Up Deity Worship)

Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura‘s commentary to Harinam Chintamani 15.39-40:

ekati archana pravrtti, ekati smarana kirtana pravritti. ubhayei samichina haileo smarana kirtana pravritti AIKANTIKA bhaktdigera madhye prabala. kirtanera vishesha labha ei je tahate shravana, smarana, o kirtan ei tina angerai anushilana haite thake.

“One is the path of Deity Worship. Other is the path of EXCLUSIVE smarana, shravana, and kirtana. Both are effective. But the second path of smarana, shravana, and kirtana is what one-pointed and serious devotees prefer much more over deity worship. The most special benefit of kirtana is that the cultivation of the three most principle practices of svarupa siddhi: hearing, remembering, and singing are attained in one practice.” (Aikantiki Bhakti for Aikantika Bhaktas means Only Nama Smarana Giving Up Deity Worship)

Deity Worship May be a Form of Maya To Take Us Away From One-Pointed Remembrance of the Name Because Our Daily Sadhana Time is Limited

There is a very instructive pastime which Srila Bhaktisiddhanta used to tell about a devotee staying next to Srila Gaura Kishora dasa babaji who was chanting 1 lakh Names daily, which had made Srila Gaura Kishora very happy and pleased on him. But when that devotee went and brought Nitai Gaura Deities to worship, Srila Gaura Kishore Babaji called Srila Bhaktisiddhanta personally and told him that Maya has captured this devotee by taking him away from one-pointed Nama Smarana.

Nitai Gaura Themselves Did Not Establish Any Deities or Any Temples Because Nama Smarana is the Only Yuga Dharma of Kali Yuga. Deity Worship Was For Dvapara Yuga

Very important commentary to Srimad Bhagavatam 7.14.39 by Srila Prabhupada:

“When great saintly persons saw this contamination, they introduced worship of the Deity in the temple. This began in Tretā-yuga and was especially prominent in Dvāpara-yuga (dvāpare paricaryāyāṁ). But in Kali-yuga, worship of the Deity is being neglected. Therefore chanting of the Hare Kṛṣṇa mantra is more powerful than Deity worship. Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu set a practical example in that He did not establish any temples or Deities, but He profusely introduced the saṅkīrtana movement. Therefore Kṛṣṇa consciousness preachers should give more stress to the saṅkīrtana movement, especially by distributing transcendental literature more and more. This helps the saṅkīrtana movement.”

You Have the Right and Are Qualified to Worship The Deity Only if You First Chant 100,000 Names or Remember the Lord for 6-8 Hours Daily

In the Chaitanya Bhagavata 3.9.121-122 Lord Gaura cateogorically declared:

prabhu bale, – jana,
‘laksesvara’ bali kare?
prati-dina laksa-nama
je grahana kare
se janera nama ami
bali ‘laksesvara’
tatha bhiksa amara
na yai anya ghara

“Do you know who is a laksesvara? He is someone who chants one laksa, or one hundered thousand, holy names everyday. I call such a person a laksesvara. I only take offerings and meals in that person’s house, no one else’s.”

Bhaktiratna Bhashya: So if Gaura does not accept our offerings when we don’t remember Him for 8 Hours daily first, how can we have the audacity to worship His Deity in our home or even in the temple if the pujaris are not laksesvaras themselves? And Radha Krishna have even more stricter requirements than Gauranga. So how are we qualified to worship Radha Krishna Deities?

Books Are Even More Potent Forms of the Lord Than the Deities. Bhagavata Marga is Much Higher than Pancharatriki Marga.

… My Guru Maharaja said, “There will be fire in this Gaudiya Matha. Agun jvalbe. …If I can sell these marbles of this temple and convert them into books.” That was his ambition. He started a very nice press, and his disciple, Tirtha Maharaja sold it. “Better let’s have money for fight in the court.” (Room conversation with Srila Prabhupada on July 26th, 1976, London)

Deity Worship Needs Very Long Prolonged Practice to Bear Fruit

Bhakti Rasamrita Sindhu
Sadhana Bhakti – Second Wave
Srila Rupa Goswami

15 – vyavahare ‘py akarpanyam yatha padme – alabdhe va vinashte va bhakshy acchadana sadhane | aviklava-matir bhutva harim eva dhiya smaret ||114||

Translation: (15) AVOIDANCE OF WEAK BEHAVIOUR:

In the Padma Puranam it is said that when one fails to get the necessaries of life or even with the destruction of one’s necessities or external sadhana practices, one’s proper course is to meditate always inwardly on Lord Hari only with unperturbed mind without intermission.

–114- A distinction is made between Smarana-marga and Arcana-marga. In the Smarana-marga (constant meditation on and remembrance of the eternal and transcendental Pastimes of Sri Krsna with His own Associates in the aprakrta or supramundane Realm in the stage of Raganuga Bhakti) one is actuated by a spontaneous outflow of the heart towards the immaterial Values relating to the Lord, while in Arcana-marga or Vaidhi Sadhana-Bhakti, however, one is concerned with the prakrta world through which by long practice he reaches the Smarana-marga or the way of inward realization. -1l4-

Seeing the Lord’s Real Form Within

Deity Worship also may externalize our remembrance of the Form of the Lord. Instead of seeing in the Lord’s name name His original form within our hearts as He actually is in the nitya-lila or the bhauma-lila, we start seeing only His Deity Form in our meditation. Of course the Deity Form, if invoked by a pure devotee, is also the Lord Himself.. pratima nahi tumi sakshat vrajendra kumar. But the seva to the Archa Vigraha Form is meant to awaken the the Real Form of the Lord in our hearts in His name, not that we just keep on seeing Him as the Archa Vigraha only without the true internal vision. And this awakening is attained much faster by Nama Smarana than by Deity Worship.

Nama Smarana Does Not Need Deity Worship

Srila Vishvanatha Chakravarti Thakura in his commentary to Bhakti Rasamrita Sindhu, Second Wave, Sadhana Bhakti, Verse 230:

“This anu-kirtanam of the Name of Lord Hari is independent of any time, clime, space, person or purity of ingredients of worship in the temple. Not only is the remebrance of the Name of Lord Hari not disturbed by any such considerations, even the association of intolerant atheists, barbarians or unholy persons cannot affect the remembrance of the Name of Lord Hari.”

Do Not Fall Into The Trap of Maṭhādi Vyāpāran – Installing Deities and Opening Temples to Get Money. They Are Not Needed.

“Śrīla Viśvanātha Cakravartī Ṭhākura explains the word ārambhān as meaning maṭhādi-vyāpārān, which means “attempts to construct temples and monasteries.” The first business of the sannyāsī is to preach Kṛṣṇa consciousness, but if, by the grace of Kṛṣṇa, facilities are available, then he may construct temples and monasteries to give shelter to the serious students of Kṛṣṇa consciousness. Otherwise such temples and monasteries are not needed.” (Srila Prabhupada in Srimad Bhagavatam 7.13.8)

My Own Conclusion Based on Direct Experience

My strong personal belief, which stems from my experience and close observation in my 12 years of brahmachari temple life and 20 years of sannyasa life, which includes creating and managing 3 Ashrams with Deities, is that when neophyte devotees are directly thrust into Deity Worship without full emphasis of adequate Nama Smarana, they quickly fall away from Bhakti, due to the additional burden of the 64 seva aparadhas against the Deities forced upon them, in addition to the 10 nama aparadhas which are already attacking them and making them lose taste very fast in the Name.

Nitai Hearing and Airwriting Destroy our 84 Offenses

This is further compounded by the fact that they don’t know about the practice of touching Nitai through Vayulekhan (airwriting) for becoming instantly offenseless. Or even if they know about it, they may not want to do it because they don’t consider it so important to direct touch Nitai Himself by ariwriting His name and becoming offenseless.

Namakshara Vigraha is the Most Merciful

One should be honest about one’s qualification and just keep निताइ Namakshar Vigraha Param Brahma (because Vachaka is more merciful than Vachya) and practice Harinam, Vayulekhan, and Kirtan before Them.

No Decrease in Bhakti by Not Keeping Deities

There is no decrease in Bhakti whatsoever by not keeping Deities. In fact, there is an increase in our Bhakti Rasa because we are avoiding the 64 seva aparadhas on the top of the 10 nama aparadhas in Harinam.

Our Offerings and Bhakti Sevas Are Accepted More by Nama Smarana

Our offerings of bhoga or any devotional activity are truly accepted by the Lord on an internal plane. And when we do Nama Smarana but may not do Deity Worship, the Lord accepts our bhoga much faster than those who do lots of Deity Worship but less Nama Smarana (Lord Gaura Himself said this in Sri Chaitanya  Bhagavata 9.121-122 as given above).

I am not saying here that no one should do Deity Worship. Here I have humbly provided the reasons about my own personal choice not to do Deity Worship externally but rather mentally (manasika seva) through Nama Smarana. 🦻निताइ👈 हरे कृष्ण 📿🙇🏼

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1 thought on “32 Quotes by Acharyas on Why Deity Worship Is Not Recommended”

  1. Oh Thank God ! Now I know so many reasons why i should focus more on chanting and Nam Sadhna rather than worrying about visiting temples ! Thank you for this article 🙏

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