Steadiness in Devotional Service - Part 8

Hare Krishna Prabhujis and Matajis,
Please accept our humble obeisances. All glories to Srila Prabhupada and Srila Gurudev.

This is in continuation of the previous topic, "Steadiness in Devotional Service", wherein we were meditating on the wonderful verses spoken by Sri Narada Muni to Dhruva Maharaj, describing the form and glories of Supreme Lord. In the previous offerings we saw the following points which will help us to become steady in devotional service.

a) We should surrender to Krishna, fully dependent on Him without any reservations.
b) Lord is tolerance personified and is mercifully tolerating our inebrieties. Remembering this we should learn to be tolerant to other living entities.
c) Lord's beauty is matchless and by sincerely hearing His glories from pure devotees, we will be able to meet the Lord. 
d) Lord is shaantah - calm, quite and peaceful. When we practise tolerance and satisfaction, then we also become shaantah. 
e) Lord is pleasing to eyes and mind. Remembering this we should always be smiling and pleasing in our behaviour to others.
f) If we constantly see the Lord's beautiful form, we will be freed from material contamination.
g) Deity Worship regulates our life and instills cleanliness in us.

Let us continue to hear more from Sri Narada Muni. In Srimad Bhagavatam verse 4.8.55 and 56, Narada Muni says,

salilaiḥ śucibhir mālyair vanyair mūla-phalādibhiḥ
śastāṅkurāṁśukaiś cārcet tulasyā priyayā prabhum

labdhvā dravyamayīm arcāṁ kṣity-ambv-ādiṣu vārcayet
ābhṛtātmā muniḥ śānto yata-vāṅ mita-vanya-bhuk

One should worship the Lord by offering pure water, pure flower garlands, fruits, flowers and vegetables, which are available in the forest, or by collecting newly grown grasses, small buds of flowers or even the skins of trees, and if possible, by offering tulasi leaves, which are very dear to the Supreme Personality of Godhead. It is possible to worship a form of the Lord made of physical elements such as earth, water, pulp, wood and metal. In the forest one can make a form with no more than earth and water and worship Him according to the above principles. A devotee who has full control over his self should be very sober and peaceful and must be satisfied simply with eating whatever fruits and vegetables are available in the forest.

Narada Muni knew that Dhruva Maharaj is in forest. So he might not be able to offer bhoga cooked in elaborate manner. Nor can he get Deity made of pulp, wood or metal. So as a kind spiritual master, knowing the position of his dear disciple, Narada Muni advises him to make a form of Lord with earth and water and offer whatever flower, fruit, leaf and water is available in the forest. The words śucibhir means purified and śastā means newly grown grass. Be it fruit, flower, leaf or water whatever is being offered to the Lord must be pure and fresh. Narada Muni also mentions that offering should include tulsi leaves which are very dear to Lord. Through these descriptions Narada Muni is also revealing the simple and kind hearted nature of the Lord. He does not demand for any elaborate preparations, but is satisfied with these simple offerings done by His devotees with love. In Bhagavad Gita Lord Krishna Himself declares in verse 9.26,

patraṁ puṣpaṁ phalaṁ toyaṁ yo me bhaktyā prayacchati
tad ahaṁ bhakty-upahṛtam aśnāmi prayatātmanaḥ

If one offers Me with love and devotion a leaf, a flower, fruit or water, I will accept it.

Lord is simple and so is the process of worshiping Him as well. So we should not unnecessarily complicate the process whimsically. His Divine Grace very nicely clarifies in the purport to the above verse as to what should be the mood of the devotee. He says, "The devotee should not be anxious about cooking food; whatever is available in the forest or in the city among the fruit and vegetable groups should be offered to the Deity, and the devotee should be satisfied eating that. He should not be anxious to have very palatable dishes. Of course, wherever it is possible, one should offer the Deities the best foodstuffs, prepared within the category of fruits and vegetables, cooked or uncooked. The important factor is that the devotee should be regulated (mita-bhuk); that is one of the good qualifications of a devotee. He should not hanker to satisfy the tongue with a particular kind of foodstuff. He should be satisfied to eat whatever prasada is available by the grace of the Lord."

In this regard we came across a nice pastime about Lord Jagannath as mentioned in Skanda Purana (Utkala khanda). In Treta yuga there was a king named Shweta who was a great devotee of Lord Jagannath and who served the Lord faithfully following all the rules and regulations laid down by King Indradyumna. Daily he would prepare one bhoga offering to Jagannatha. Early one morning, the king was observing the puja offered to Jagannatha. He saw thousands of demigods offering many nice articles to the Lord. The king thought to himself, "The Lord has been offered these wonderful gifts from the demigods. What can I offer my Lord from this earthly planet that might please Him as much as the gifts of the demigods?" While thinking thus the king offered his obeisances and left the temple room. However, before he turned away at the doorway to the temple, he saw Lakshmi devi serving the food he had prepared for Lord Jagannatha. The Lord along with His vijaya-vigrahas was relishing the food. The king felt blessed to see this incident, satisfied that he had offered something to the Lord that pleased Him.

It doesn't matter for the Lord, whether it is one item or ten items, or whether it is prepared by human-being or demigod. The Lord accepts the offerings when it is done with genuine love, humility and devotion. When we cook bhoga for the Lord, or go to market for buying grains, vegetables, fruits etc, our motive should be to please the Lord and not to satisfy our own senses. Then our consciousness will be purified. We should not do these things in a mechanical manner, like a ritual. But we should always remember that Deity is non-different from Supreme Lord and has kindly manifested in our homes in that form. So with gratitude and devotion, if we prepare and offer the bhoga to the Lord, then by His grace we will be able to relish the bliss of the service, the taste of prasadam and gradually become steady in devotional service.

Krishna willing, we shall continue to hear more from Narada Muni on this topic in subsequent offerings.

Thank you very much.
Yours in service of Srila Prabhupada and Srila Gurudev,
Kalacakra Krsna das and Sudarshana devi dasi.