Installation and Worship of Deities in ISKCON Centers


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.
 — Letter to Govinda dasi – 17 February, 1973


Śrīla Prabhupāda came to the West to spread the mission of Lord Caitanya to the fallen condition souls and, in line with the teachings of Rūpa Gosvāmī and the previous ācāryas, established deity worship as an integral part of this process. As early as February 1966, Śrīla Prabhupāda was trying to arrange for a Rādhā Kṛṣṇa temple in New York City. While living in the Bowery in New York City he revealed plans for hundreds of such centers all over the world.


However, it was not his idea to capriciously establish centers and install deities to attract wealth and followers. Rather he was interested in giving people the highest benediction of unalloyed Kṛṣṇa consciousness and saw deity worship as an effective means to do this. There have been numerous installations where insufficient thought and planning has been put into the maintenance of ongoing worship.


Installations are wonderful, colorful events which devotees love to attend. Daily worship takes great determination and dedication to maintain and often there are just not enough devotees prepared to commit themselves to the ongoing worship. For the process of deity worship to be effective there are standards that must be established and maintained.


This document is presented with a view to give guidelines on five points fundamental to effective deity worship:


  • What are the proper reasons for installing or commencing worship of deities in ISKCON centers?
  • What standard of facility should be established before centers consider worshiping deities?
  • What deities should be worshiped in our centers?
  • What are suitable standards of worship for the various deities worshiped in our centers?
  • Who is qualified to worship the deity in our centers?


Our purpose is not to be discouraging but rather the opposite. If the deity is worshiped according to the guidance given by our Founder-Ācārya, then the devotees will become enlivened and our deity worship will provide a strong foundation to a unified preaching mission. However, if we are neglectful or do not act according to these guidelines, then no doubt the worship will become a burden rather that a blessing. As a result, the purpose of deity worship as a principal process of devotional service will become obscured at best and defeated at worst.


By establishing and maintaining suitable standards of worship, the Lord will become pleased with our sevā and then all the activities of the society will bear fruit. Śrīla Prabhupāda explained to the devotees in Mayapur that Mādhava is the husband of the goddess of fortune, and if we satisfy Mādhava, then He will take care of everything.




Reasons for installing or commencing worship of deities


Śrīla Prabhupāda gives various reasons for installing deities. The three most prominent reasons he gives are as follows:


  1. Preaching: to give the opportunity for the congregation, and the public in general, to reawaken their lost relationship with the Supreme Lord.
  2. Personal Purification: to provide us the opportunity to engage the mind and senses in the service of Kṛṣṇa 24 hours a day, thus our mind and senses become purified and our love of God reawakens.
  3. Direct Service to the Lord: deity worship is a powerful means to help us develop a personal relationship with the Lord. We are unable to perceive the Lord with our material senses, therefore out of kindness he agrees to descend in a form that we are able to interact with. Through the development of a service relationship, our perception of the Lord’s presence grows.


1. Preaching


Śrīla Prabhupāda wanted to establish many centers with gorgeous deity worship. He considered this an integral aspect of his preaching mission of uplifting the fallen conditioned souls.


Prabhupāda: That is also preaching. Arcanam. …If they maintain the deity worship gorgeously, that is also preaching.
— Room Conversation, July 17, 1977, Vṛndāvana


Everyone’s senses are attracted to beautiful things. When the common man visits a temple and sees the gorgeous deity worship, he becomes purified and the need to satisfy his senses is fulfilled. As Śrīla Prabhupāda explains in SB 2.3.22:


Visiting the temple of a devotee and looking at the profusely decorated forms of the Lord well dressed in a well-decorated, sanctified temple naturally infuse the mundane mind with spiritual inspiration.


2. Personal Purification


The Lord descends in His deity form to give us the opportunity to engage our material senses directly in His transcendental service. Jīva Gosvāmī explains in the Bhakti-sandarbha (283-84):


Although deity worship is not essential, the material conditioning of most candidates for devotional service requires that they engage in this activity. When we consider their bodily and mental conditions, we find that the character of such candidates is impure and their minds are agitated. Therefore, to rectify this material conditioning the great sage Nārada and others have at different times recommended various kinds of regulations for deity worship. — Cc. Madhya 15.108


By remaining engaged in the service of the Lord 24 hours a day, the living entity can overcome material conditioning.


In this way remain twenty-four hours engaged in Kṛṣṇa’s service. This is the purpose of installing Deity. Not that after few days you think it is a burden. No, then it will be great offense. It is not burden. It is a great opportunity to serve Kṛṣṇa. As the gopīs are serving in Goloka Vṛndāvana. Kṛṣṇa is so kind. He has come here to accept your service in a manner in which you can handle Him. You can dress Kṛṣṇa, you can offer prasāda, you can chant His glory. In this way, always remain engaged in Kṛṣṇa consciousness and gradually you’ll find how you are advancing in spiritual life. — Lecture, August 21, 1973


Cultivation of spiritual perfection is not simply an intellectual process, but also involves practical activities that engage the senses in the service of the Lord. Just as a train progresses safely ahead on two tracks, similarly spiritual life requires both an intellectual process and practical activity.


Engagement in such worship of the deity, under the direction of a bona fide spiritual master, will greatly help the householders to purify their very existence and make rapid progress in spiritual knowledge. Simple theoretical book knowledge is not sufficient for a neophyte devotee. Book knowledge is theoretical, whereas the arcana process is practical. Spiritual knowledge must be developed by a combination of theoretical and practical knowledge, and that is the guaranteed way for attainment of spiritual perfection … Only attention engaged in the service of the Lord, especially in dressing and decorating the temple, accompanied by musical kīrtana and spiritual instructions from scriptures, can save the common man from the hellish cinema attractions and rubbish sex-songs broadcast everywhere by radios. — SB 2.3.22


The process of deity worship gives a quick and easy method to progress on the path of devotional service and return to the spiritual world.


3. Direct Service to the Lord


The loving propensity is more or less dormant in all living entities. They are struggling in this world to find love, but yet remain dissatisfied. Only by re-establishing this original relationship with Kṛṣṇa can living entities actually become satisfied: yayātmā suprasīdati. The process of deity worship gives the conditioned living entity a tangible means of directly contacting the transcendental form of the Lord with material senses and thus developing their relationship with the Lord.


This facility is offered to neophyte devotees so that they can see the real form of the Lord face to face and offer their respectful obeisances and sacrifices in the form of arcā. Through such facilities the neophytes gradually invoke their original Kṛṣṇa consciousness. Deity worship in the form of temple worship is the most valuable benediction given by the Lord to beginners. All neophytes must therefore engage in the worship of the Lord by keeping the arcā-vigraha (arcāvatāra) at home or in the temple. — SB 4.30.27


Such service gives facility to the conditioned living entities to channel their material desires in an uplifting and beneficial way. Thus helping them to develop their love for God.


By engaging in the Lord’s service with purified senses, we will eventually see His deity form to be non-different from His transcendental form.


Temple deity worship is realized by the devotees to be the same as direct service to the Lord. — Cc. Madhya 13.139


“Reasons” which do not justify the installing or commencing worship of deities


The following are some commonly offered reasons that do not constitute sufficient cause for installing or commencing the worship of deities.


●  The deities were given to the center. — “they were so cute, I couldn’t resist,” “they came of Their own accord, therefore I figured it was Kṛṣṇa’s will”

●  To enliven the community. (Better the community becomes enlivened by hearing and chanting.)

●  Because there has been a deity sitting in storage for many years.

●  As a means to generate income

●  Because someone felt like worshiping deities

●  Because the deities being worshiped are not big enough

●  Because other centers have more deities

●  An important donor gave the deities and we want to keep the donor happy.


The deities are there to attract people by the worship with the goal of elevating them in Kṛṣṇa consciousness, not to attract people simply to ask them for 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?”


Before installing or commencing worship of deities we must be sure there is sufficient need.


Worshiping deities is not a matter of sentiment. There is no proof that worshiping deities alone will inspire devotees. Deity worship will inspire devotees in conjunction with ecstatic kīrtana, sumptuous prasāda, enlivening association and care by senior devotees in a Kṛṣṇa conscious atmosphere. Deities should not be worshiped so they will inspire us, but because we are inspired to take care of Them. If Kṛṣṇa is not worshiped properly and He is not satisfied by our worship, then how are we going to be inspired?


2 What standard of facility needs to be established before centers consider worshiping deities?


On the level of vaidhi-sādhana-bhakti, worship must be steady in order to please the Lord and thus receive the benefits of deity worship. Below are some important criteria required in order to ensure steady worship.


Sufficient pūjārīs


Due to the service requirements, different numbers of pūjārīs who are able to steadily commit themselves to the worship are required. This number differs depending upon the deities being worshiped.


●  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


If the center has a combination of the above deities, then more pūjārīs are necessary. These numbers are for both cooking and the worship of the deities.


Śrīla Prabhupāda explains:


No you should not install Gaura Nitai deities if you do not have the required Brahmins. Better wait. — Letter to: Hrdayananda – 7 December 1975


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. — Letter to Govinda dasi – 17 February, 1973


Ownership of the property


According to Vedic culture, once worship has begun a deity may not be moved. Therefore if ISKCON does not own the property, then there may be an unacceptable risk that the deities will have to be moved in the future. This is particular relevant for the worship of Rādhā-Kṛṣṇa and large marble deities.


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. — Letter to Hamsaduta – 29 September, 1975




The level of deity worship desired by Śrīla Prabhupāda is facilitated by devotees serving in the mode of goodness. Ample funding is also required for gorgeous deity worship. A lack in quantity or quality of resources engaged in deity worship at ISKCON centers will result in an unsteady foundation.


Stability is necessary in the following areas:


Stable financial situation. For deity worship to be executed according to the standards expected by Śrīla Prabhupāda, significant funds are required. If there are not steady funds to support the center, then gorgeous deity worship will not be possible.


The Deities should be very beautifully decorated so that people will be able to see the gorgeous worship in the temple. — Letter to: Yasomatinandana – 26 May, 1976


Steady management. Unsteadiness in management or constantly changing managerial policies can lead to instability affecting, but not limited to: center residents, community, deity worship policies, vacillating emphasis on deity worship, etc.


Steady pūjārīs. It is very difficult to maintain even the simplest standard of worship without a sufficient number of committed devotees who offer regular service to the deities.


Adequate facilities for the worship


In order for deity worship to be conducted satisfactorily, there needs to be adequate facilities which would include a suitable building, altar, kitchen, and pūjārī room.


Additionally, there must be sufficient worship paraphernalia such as ārati trays, bathing trays, dresses, jewelry, blocks of candana, etc.




3 – What deities should be worshiped in ISKCON centers?


There appears to be a growing trend in our society to worship an ever-increasing range of deities. Śrīla Prabhupāda favored the worship of Gaura-Nitāi, Rādhā-Kṛṣṇa and Jagannātha-Baladeva-Subhadrā as a standard in ISKCON centers.


Śrīla Prabhupāda oversaw many details of the worship standards when establishing the Los Angeles temple. He installed Gaura-Nitāi, Rādhā-Kṛṣṇa and Jagannātha-Baladeva-Subhadrā, and made this temple the “blue print” for other ISKCON centers in the western world.


Śrīla Prabhupāda writes:


You have asked about Balarama Krsna deities. No, Balarama and Krsna are already there as Caitanya and Nitai: Vrajendranandana yei, saci suta hailas sei . . . The best thing is to establish Gaura Nitai deities. In Vrindaban we are establishing Balarama Krsna deities because most of the centers there have Radha Krsna and there is not Balarama-Krsna. That has a different purpose. We should not imitate that. Better to have Gaura-Nitai, Radha-Krsna, and Lord Jagannatha—that system must continue. — Letter to Kirtanananda – 12 January 1974


The deity worshiped in the centers are Jagannatha Swami with Balarama and Subhadra, and Radha Krishna. When we first start a Temple, we start with Jagannatha Swami. My Guru Maharaja recommended centers of Jagannatha in these countries, so I was inspired to establish first of all Jagannatha Swami because He is kind even to the mlecchas. Then, when there is opportunity, I establish Radha Krishna Murti. So generally in all our centers, Jagannatha Swami and Lord Caitanya Sankirtana pictures are invariably there, and gradually we are installing Radha Krishna Murtis in each and every center. — Letter to: Hanuman Prasad Poddar – 5 February 1970


It is not necessary that centers should have all three of these sets of deities, but if any are chosen, it is recommended they be among these.


Śrīla Prabhupāda generally didn’t introduce other deities unless there was a specific reason or circumstance such as when he installed Kaliya Kṛṣṇa in Lautoka, Fiji; Kṛṣṇa-Balarāma in Vṛndāvana; and approved the installation of Sītā-Rāma-Lakṣmaṇa-Hanumān in Washington D.C.




What deities should not be worshiped in our centers?


Śrīla Prabhupāda clearly wanted śālagrāma-śilās worshiped in our centers. However, it is not so clear that he wanted govardhana-śilās worshiped in centers. He did not give any direction for the worship of dvārakā-śilās, jyoti-or cakra-śilās, varṣāṇā-śilās, and nṛsiṁha-śilās from Ahobilam, and others. Neither did he give direction for the worship of Gaura-Gadādhara, Nāthajī, Laḍḍu-Gopāla, śiva-liṅgas, Vṛndā-devī, etc.


In fact, he seemed to indicate that the worship of dvārakā-śilās was not at all necessary for us. In this regard, the following excerpt from Hari Sauri’s Transcendental Diary states:


After the morning walk the sannyāsīs gathered in Śrīla Prabhupāda’s room. Yaśodānandana Mahārāja showed him what he said was a Dvārakā-śīlā, a brown-and-white-freckled stone, and asked if it was all right to worship. “It can be used as paper weight,” Prabhupāda said, unimpressed.
When Yaśodānandana Swami mentioned that some temples worshiped the Dvārakā-śīlā along with the Śālagrāma-śīlā, Prabhupāda was dismissive. “That’s all right, but we have no such instruction.” — A Transcendental Diary 1-7: Andhra Pradesh. From Morning Walk – January 8, 1976, Nellore


There is an increasing presence of demigods in ISKCON centers. In his writings, Śrīla Prabhupāda utterly condemned the worship of demigods by the members of ISKCON. All the paltry so-called benefits that one can receive from the worship of the various demigods are more than adequately bestowed by the worship of Lord Caitanya.


Śrīla Prabhupāda writes:


Sometimes we, the members of the Kṛṣṇa consciousness movement, are accused of not approving of the worship of demigods. But how can we approve of this when it is condemned by Lord Caitanya and Lord Kṛṣṇa? How can we allow people to become foolish and hṛta-jñāna, bereft of intelligence? Our propaganda is simply meant to enable intelligent people to understand the distinction between matter and spirit and understand the Supreme Personality of Godhead, who is the whole spiritual identity. That is our mission. How could we mislead people into worshiping so-called gods in material bodies within this material world?


Our position of not allowing worship of the many hundreds of demigods was confirmed by Lord Caitanya Mahāprabhu even in His childhood. Śrīla Narottama dāsa Ṭhākura has sung in this connection:


anya devāśraya nāi tomāre kahinu bhāi ei bhakti parama-kāraṇa
“To become a staunch, pure devotee of the Supreme Personality of Godhead without deviation [ananya-bhāk], one should not divert his attention to the worship of the demigods. Such control is a symptom of pure devotional service.” — Cc. Ādi 14.50


For Nṛsiṁhadeva, if He is to be worshiped, then He should have His own temple or deity room and be worshiped in great opulence.
… the Nrsimha Deity should be installed only in a separate temple building. The Deity must have its own temple. — Letter to Hamsaduta – 29 September, 1975


For the worship of a Śrīla Prabhupāda mūrti, Śrīla Prabhupāda gave the gave the following instructions:


The photos of my murti are very nice. The murti of the Spiritual Master should be treated as good as the Deity. Saksad-dharitvena samasta-sastrair, uktas tatha bhavyata eva sadbhih/kintu prabhor yah priya eva tasya. The guru should be treated as good as God. This is stated in all the sastras. The difference is that God is master-God and guru is servant-God. So the installation ceremony for such a murti should be similar to that done for other Deities. All Temples can have this Deity if they like. But Temples which have only Panca-tattva painting worship should not be given this Deity. — Letter to Karandhara – Mayapur 29 January, 1976


I have no objection to your worshiping my murti for Guru Puja. But for placing in the temple there must be a pair of murtis, (my Guru Maharaja must be there) as in Krsna-Balarama Mandir, and they must be permanently installed. This may be done in accord with the temple authorities. Or else you may worship one murti of myself privately in your room. — Letter to Sudama – Allahabad 13 January, 1977




Should our center have deities?


Just because there is an ISKCON center does not mean that deities should be worshiped. In fact Śrīla Prabhupāda would generally ask ISKCON centers to begin with the worship of pictures of the guru-paramparā and Pañca-tattva.


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


Each center in ISKCON has its own unique set of variables. The overall facility and circumstances of each center will determine whether or not it should worship deities, and which deities they have the resources to worship. The following guidelines are given to help centers decide what is right for them.


Temples: deity worship is established here for attracting people to Kṛṣṇa and it is very effective when done properly. However, if there are insufficient devotees to worship the deities, it will be a burden.


Only temples should have deities, which must be worshiped only by brāhmaṇas. This includes regular daily offerings of bhoga and ārati along with the deities woken and put to bed, and clothes changed daily.


Preaching, nāma-haṭṭa, and bhakti-vṛkṣa centers: these centers generally do not have deities. Rather, as Śrīla Prabhupāda instructed, there is worship to pictures of the Pañca-tattva and guru-paramparā.


The purpose of preaching centers is to act as a base for devotees to go out and perform harināma-saṅkīrtan, book distribution, etc. If there is deity worship in the center, the time and resources needed in the primary purpose of going out to positively affect and connect with the public would be diverted to the service of the deities. When the numbers of steady devotees is small, as is generally the case in such centers, the prime function of propagating Kṛṣṇa consciousness will be hampered if worship of three-dimensional deities is introduced.


While the worship of three-dimensional deities requires regularity, commitment and worship only by brāhmaṇas, the worship of the Lord in picture form does not require any regularity or commitment, and the worship may be done by either first initiates and/or brāhmaṇas.


Besides this, there are many devotees who have opened up their personal homes to

others for regular preaching programs. Oftentimes these devotees have deities that

are regularly worshiped. The above guidelines do not apply to such situations.




4 – What are suitable standards of worship?


As mentioned in point 2 above, the goal of deity worship is to satisfy the Lord. In

order to effectively do this, devotees must have an understanding of the appropriate

standards and attitude required to serve the deity. This must be understood before

the deity is installed or worship begins, not after.


Recommended standards of worship




●  Suitable for temple only


●  6 offerings and āratis daily (per Śrīla Prabhupāda’s instruction)


○  Bālya-bhoga & maṅgala-ārati

○  Prātar-bhoga & ārati

○  Rāja-bhoga & ārati

○  Vaikālika-bhoga and ārati

○  Sandhya-bhoga and ārati

○  Śāyaṇa-bhoga and ārati


●  Morning and evening dressing


●  Waking and resting the deities twice daily (morning, afternoon and evening)


●  Minimum 10-12 full-time pūjārīs


 This guideline regarding the number of pūjārīs required was given by Śrīla Prabhupāda

at a time when most devotees were living in temple āśramas. Currently most pūjārīs are

home-based, therefore their availability for service is generally much less than resident

pūjārīs. In such circumstances, centers will require many more pūjārīs who will only offer

a few hours per week. Also, if the community is congregationally based, it is unlikely that

there will be many pūjārīs available for service in the middle of the day.




●  Same as Rādhā-Kṛṣṇa




●  Suitable for temple only


●  3 offerings & 4 āratis daily


○  maṅgala-ārati

○  Prātar-bhoga & ārati

○  Rāja bhoga (with rice) & ārati

○  Sandhya-bhoga & ārati


●  Morning and evening dressing


●  Waking and resting the deities (morning and evening)


●  Minimum 6-8 full-time pūjārīs




●  Suitable for temple only


●  2 bhoga offerings & 3 āratis daily


○  maṅgala-ārati

○  Prātar-bhoga & ārati

○  Sandhya-bhoga & ārati


●  Morning dressing


●  Waking and resting the deities (morning and evening)


●  Minimum 3-4 full-time pūjārīs


Pañca-tattva bas relief


● Same as Gaura-Nitāi


Pañca-tattva picture


●  Suitable for preaching center, nāma-haṭṭa center etc.


●  Devotees worshiping or cooking must be at least first initiates


●  Offer whatever is cooked for devotees


●  Daily kīrtanas – especially maṅgala-ārati and sandhya-ārati


If a center wants to begin the worship of deities it is recommended they worship Pañca-tattva picture to the standard of the deities they wish to worship for a minimum period of 12 months. This will enable them to self-assess their ability to worship deities.


If a center wants to increase their worship (i.e. go from Gaura-Nitāi or Jagannātha worship to Rādhā-Kṛṣṇa worship), they should worship the deities they have to the standard of the deities they wish to install for a minimum period of 12 months.




5 – Who is qualified to worship the deity?


It is clear from Śrīla Prabhupāda’s instructions that he only wanted brāhmaṇa-initiated devotees to worship or cook for the deities in ISKCON centers.


You should see that the Deity is tended for and cooked for only by the duly second initiated brahmanas. — Letter to: Bahudak – 19 December, 1974
In our Krsna consciousness society, unless one is twice initiated – first by chanting Hare Krsna and second by the Gayatri mantra – he is not allowed to enter the kitchen or Deity room to execute duties. — SB 4.31.10 purport


The appropriate service attitude in deity worship is essential for developing our love of God. As Śrīla Prabhupāda says in the Nectar of Instruction, Preface, “Advancement in Kṛṣṇa consciousness depends on the attitude of the follower.”


I am very happy to learn how you are eager to start a new center and have nice deity worship, so you may follow the fine example of your sister in this way. That is very nice. Just develop your sincere attitude of serving Krishna and He will kindly provide all the necessities for further advancement in Krishna Consciousness. — Letter, 10 February 1970
Above all, the offering should be made with an attitude of love. Kṛṣṇa has no need of food, since He already possesses everything that be, yet He will accept the offering of one who desires to please Him in that way. The important element, in preparation, in serving and in offering, is to act with love for Kṛṣṇa. — Bg 9.26






Additional Quotes


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
“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
So Kṛṣṇa consciousness is so nice, it opens the door of highest perfectional platform for everyone provided he follows the rules and regulations. That’s all. That is the only condition. Otherwise, if simply by imitating, if somebody thinks, “Oh, I can become a…” like that. “If such and such person can become, I can do…” No. That is warned by Rūpa Gosvāmī,
śruti-smṛti-purāṇādi-pāñcarātrikī-vidhīṁ vinā aikāntikī harer bhaktir utpatayaiva kalpate
If we simply imitate, oh, that will not do. So do not try to imitate, follow the simple rules and regulations, it is very nice, and above all, chant Hare Kṛṣṇa. You’ll become purified. Without being purified you cannot touch Rādhā-Kṛṣṇa. In the Vedas it is stated, “Without becoming Brahman you cannot approach Brahman.” Just like without becoming fire you cannot approach fire. Because the inconsistency of temperature. It will burn. Just like here is fire, and I am feeling temperature, but the fire flames within the fire, they do not feel because the temperature is the same. Similarly, without becoming Brahman, without understanding oneself, realizing himself, nobody can… Kṛṣṇa is the Parambrahman. Paraṁ brahma paraṁ dhāma pavitraṁ paramaṁ bhavān [Bg. 10.12]. That is stated in the Bhagavad-gītā. Puruṣaṁ śāśvatam, therefore one has to keep himself very purified; otherwise you cannot touch Kṛṣṇa. That is not possible. It is fire, so you have to become fire. And how to become fire? Fire, you are also fire, but now you are covered fire, covered by this material body. Therefore you have to spiritualize this body by purificatory process. The same example, just like the iron rod, it is iron, but you put into the fire. It becomes warm, warmer, warmer, then red hot, then it is fire. Similarly, by this process, chanting process, by regulative process, you are becoming warmer, warmer, warmer, warmer. And when you fully become red hot warm, then your body is as good as Kṛṣṇa’s. So we have to keep ourself always in the fire of Kṛṣṇa consciousness; then everything is all right. (laughs) Otherwise, it will become dull and it will be simply idol worship. That’s all. That is the difference between idol worship and Deity worship. If there is no life, then it is idol worship, hedonism. And when there is life, feeling, “Where is Kṛṣṇa? Here is Kṛṣṇa. Oh, I have to serve Kṛṣṇa, I have to dress Him, I have to serve Rādhārāṇī, She is here. Oh, I must do it very nicely. And as far as possible decorate Her to the best capacity.” In this way, if you always feel Kṛṣṇa conscious, then you are fire. The same example, keeping with the fire. And if you think it is a brass-made doll, I mean to say, idol… Ye yathā māṁ prapadyante tāṁs tathaiva bhajāmy aham [Bg. 4.11]. If you think this is a brass-made idol, then it will remain a brass-made idol to you forever. But if you elevate yourself to higher platform of Kṛṣṇa consciousness, then Kṛṣṇa, this Kṛṣṇa, will talk with you. This Kṛṣṇa will talk with you.
There is a Vaṁsīdāsa Bābājī Mahārāja, he was talking with his Deity. And Kṛṣṇa… Just like Madana-mohana, He was talking with Sanātana Gosvāmī. Madana-mohana… Sanātana Gosvāmī at that time had no temple; he was hanging his Deity on the tree. So Madana-mohana was talking with him, “Sanātana, you are bringing all these dry capatis, and it is stale, and you don’t give Me even little salt. How can I eat?” Sanātana Gosvāmī said, “Sir, where shall I go? Whatever I get I offer You. You kindly accept. I cannot move, old man.” You see. So Kṛṣṇa had to eat that. (chuckles) Because the bhakta is offering He cannot refuse. Ye māṁ bhaktyā prayacchati. Real thing is bhakti. What you can offer to Kṛṣṇa? Everything belongs to Kṛṣṇa. What you have got? What is your value? And what is the value of your things? It is nothing. Therefore real thing is bhaktyā, real thing is your feeling. “Kṛṣṇa, kindly take it. I have no qualification. I am most rotten, fallen, but (begins to cry) I have brought this thing for you. Please take it.” This will be accepted. Don’t be puffed up. Always be careful. You are dealing with Kṛṣṇa. That is my request. Thank you very much. (end) — Śrī Śrī Rukmiṇī Dvārakānātha Deity Installation – Los Angeles, July 16, 1969
So not only at the point of death. You cannot take to this business all of a sudden, even it is advised. You have to practice. Just like you cannot become a good soldier on the battlefield. You have to be trained yourself before going to the battle, military training. So this Kṛṣṇa consciousness movement is training before you ultimately meet death, fight with. So this is the advice given by Śukadeva Gosvāmī, and we shall read later on. — Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam 2.1.1-5 – Boston, December 22, 1969
Śrīla Jīva Gosvāmī states that the substance of all the Vedic mantras is the chanting of the holy name of the Lord. Every mantra begins with the prefix nama oṁ and eventually addresses by name the Supreme Personality of Godhead. By the supreme will of the Lord there is a specific potency in each and every mantra chanted by great sages like Nārada Muni and other ṛṣis. Chanting the holy name of the Lord immediately renovates the transcendental relationship of the living being with the Supreme Lord.
To chant the holy name of the Lord, one need not depend upon other paraphernalia, for one can immediately get all the desired results of linking with the Supreme Personality of Godhead. It may therefore be questioned why there is a necessity for initiation or further spiritual activities in devotional service for one who engages in the chanting of the holy name of the Lord. The answer is that although it is correct that one who fully engages in chanting the holy name need not depend upon the process of initiation, generally a devotee is addicted to many abominable material habits due to material contamination from his previous life. In order to get quick relief from all these contaminations, it is required that one engage in the worship of the Lord in the temple. The worship of the Deity in the temple is essential to reduce one’s restlessness due to the contaminations of conditioned life. Thus Nārada, in his pāñcarātrikī-vidhi, and other great sages have sometimes stressed that since every conditioned soul has a bodily concept of life aimed at sense enjoyment, to restrict this sense enjoyment the rules and regulations for worshiping the Deity in the temple are essential. Śrīla Rūpa Gosvāmī has described that the holy name of the Lord can be chanted by liberated souls, but almost all the souls we have to initiate are conditioned. It is advised that one chant the holy name of the Lord without offenses and according to the regulative principles, yet due to their past bad habits they violate these rules and regulations. Thus the regulative principles for worship of the Deity are also simultaneously essential. — Ādi 7.76