importance of deity worship
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In the modern days, man has manufactured many theories for himself like deities of the Lord to be any ordinary doll, and are meant for concentrating mind on some conceivable object. But the scriptures clarify that the deity form of the Lord is non-different from the Lord. Lord's presence in His deity form is His sowlabhyam (availability) to His devotee. This article explains the importance of deity worship.

Arcchaavathaaram's Glory

1) Accessible Nature of the Supreme Lord

When an aspirant takes to spiritual life he tries to reform his ways and adopt a method suitable to his disposition. He has to remain true to his goal though impediments are bound to arise every now and then. It is divine grace that will ultimately help him to overcome the difficulties. The spiritual aspirant on his part must repose total faith in God's grace.

For the majority of aspirants of spiritual life, the abstract transcendental form of the Supreme Being is beyond grasp. It is out of His innate compassion for humanity that the Almighty deigns to assume countless forms according to the level of His devotees and they are broadly subsumed under five types in Srivaishnava tradition. The Divine Mother (Sri Lakshmi Devi) is always present with Him. This is an important philosophical concept of the Visishtadvaita school which predicates the Absolute Reality as Sriman Narayana on the basis of the scriptures.

The Pancharatra Agama postulates a dynamic role for Sri as She is veritably the personification of the Lord's compassion and grace. She mediates between the Lord and man thus playing an important role in the redemption of the soul from bondage.

During His incarnations the Divine Mother has always accompanied Him. She appeared as Sita when He incarnated as Rama and as Rukmini in His incarnation as Krishna. Likewise, Andal who is one of the 12 Azhwars and revered as an incarnation of Bhudevi refused to marry a mortal and attained union with the Archa (deity) form of the Lord.

Thus it is apparent that the consecrated Archa form of the temples are not mere idols but a manifestation of the Lord with all His auspicious qualities especially His bountiful grace. Among the five forms of the Lord it is in this form that He makes Himself most accessible for the sake of His devotees.

The preceptors of the Srivaishnava tradition portray His accessible nature with a telling analogy.

The transcendental form which is inaccessible is like the cosmic waters at the time of creation, though aplenty, is of no use to human beings to quench their thirst.

Likewise the Vyuha form which the Lord assumes during creation is like the salty waters of the ocean which man cannot use directly.

His incarnations are likened to the flash floods that happen occasionally and His Antaryamin form in which He is present in His creation can be realised only by a few who are adept in Yoga which is compared to ground water that can be tapped only by a water-diviner.

The Archa form in the temples are the most accessible like water available in ponds and wells.

The Lord is so merciful and so compassionate to have shown Himself in archaavatharams for our sake.

2) The superiority of ArchA rUpam among Sriman NarAyaNA's pancha rUpams ( param , VyUham , Vibhavam , antharyAmi and ArchA ).

Parama padham , where the Lord is resident as Parama padha nAthan is surrounded by the aNDams and the aavaraNam waters (Oceans ) . It is not of easy access to us residing on earth. We can not travel there even to get a vessel filled with aavaranam waters .It is too far away . Hence param and parama padham can not be enjoyed with our sthUla sarIram . Only as a muktha Jivan possesing Sookshma sarIram , one can enter and enjoy the anthamil pErinbham there .

The second rUpam of the Lord is as Sesha saayee in the middle of the milky ocean .Here He is presenting Himself as KshIrAbhdhi nAthan to DevAs and maharishis . Again , this is beyond our reach with SthUla sarIram . Hence, it is not of much use either for us to see and enjoy .

The Third rUpam of the Lord is what has been celebrated as Raama ,KrishNAvathArams . These Vibhava avathArams were enjoyed by those who were contemproaries . Today , it is histroy and we can not enjoy Lord KrishNA as Gopis and AkrUrar did . Thus this rUpam is in the past like last year's river water , which is no longer available to quench our thirst ( dried up river bed ).

The fourth rUpam is antharyAmi savrUpam . It is likened to OoRRu jalam . You have to dig in the river bed sand and access the water under . Through the difficult JNa~na Yogam , one can visualize this svarUpam of the Divya dampathis seated in our heart cavities . Very few have the power to succeed in such efforts and thus , this svarUpam is also not within reach of ordinary folks on this earth .

The fifth rUpam is the One that Sriman NaarAyaNan took to make Himself easily available to one and all and to enjoy Him with our own sthUla sarIram and Maamsa chakshus . No divya dhrushti as needed by ArjunA is a must to see the VisvarUpam of the Lord ." angu vaitthu , inghE piRanthathu " is the celebration of this ArchAvathAram by Eedu grantham .

Srimath Andavan went on to describe the five rUpams celebrated by Vedams in the manthram in the manner of tamizh maRai :

ambhasya paarE bhuvanasya madhyE naakasya prushtE mahathO mahIyAn sukrENa jyOthIgumshi samanupravishta: PrajApathisccharathi garbhE antha :

(TaittirIya AaraNyakam : III.13.3)

3) In ParAvathAram , the Lord is in Sri Vaikuntam as para VaasudEvan enjoying the Saama ghAnam . Therefore it is described as Paattu kEtkumidam . It is not accessible to us ; we can not hear this music with our Maamsa karnams (material ears) .

In VyUham , Lord rests on the serpent bed enjoying His yOga NidhrA .He is rudely awakened by all the terror stricken devAs , who seek His intervention and complain about the terrors inflicted on them by the asurAs . He has to come to help after listening to their fear-laden prayers ( muRaidal iDam ). This far off place is also inaccessible to us .We can not get there to appeal to Him to intervene and help us from our afflictions. Therefore Vyuha Moorthy is off limits for us.

Vibahva avathArams are known as kuthittha iDam . Lord NarasimhA jumped out of the pillar and performed His avathAra Kaaryam and can no longer be seen in His original vibhava form .

AntharyAmi svarUpam is known as OottumiDam . It is a svarUpam exclusively seen by those , who have succeeded in their Jn~ana Yoga saadhanais. It is again out of reach for us .

ArchA SvarUpam is known as VaLaittha iDam . Here , the Lord has become very accessible to us and rests at Srirangam suggesting that He would not leave us until all of our Paapams are removed . He patiently waits for us to get SadAchArya Sambhandham and come to Him . AzhwArs and AchAryAs enjoyed the ArchA mUrthys at the various divya desams and stated unequivocally that it is their preferred choice among the five prakAra rUpams of Sriman NaarAyaNan.

conclusion: Deity worship is not imaginary and is upto the injunctions of vedas, AgamAs and other valid scriptures. It is always recommended by great Acharyas.

athAto "brahma" zignAsA - Then thereafter be inquisitive to enquire about "the Absolute"