SRIMAD-BHAGAVATAM 7 CHAPTER 14 TEXT 39

dṛṣṭvā teṣāṁ mitho nṛṇām
avajNānātmatāṁ nṛpa
tretādiṣu harer arcā
kriyāyai kavibhiḥ kṛtā


TRANSLATION

My dear King, when great sages and saintly persons saw mutually disrespectful dealings at the beginning of Tretā-yuga, Deity worship in the temple was introduced with all paraphernalia.


PURPORT


As it is said in Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam (12.3.52):


kṛte yad dhyāyato viṣṇuṁ
tretāyāṁ yajato makhaiḥ
dvāpare paricaryāyāṁ
kalau tad dhari-kīrtanāt


“Whatever result one obtained in Satya-yuga by meditating on Viṣṇu, in Tretā-yuga by performing sacrifices and in Dvāpara-yuga by serving the Lord’s lotus feet one can also obtain in Kali-yuga simply by chanting the Hare Kṛṣṇa mahā-mantra.” In Satya-yuga, every person was spiritually advanced, and there was no envy between great personalities. Gradually, however, because of material contamination with the advance of the ages, disrespectful dealings appeared even among brāhmaṇas and Vaiṣṇavas. Actually, an advanced Vaiṣṇava is to be respected more than Viṣṇu. As stated in the Padma Purāṇa, ārādhanānāṁ sarveṣāṁ viṣṇor ārādhanaṁ param: of all kinds of worship, worship of Lord Viṣṇu is the best. Tasmāt parataraṁ devi tadīyānāṁ samarcanam: and recommended more than worship of Viṣṇu is worship of the Vaiṣṇava.

One who worships the Deity of Godhead in the temples but does not know that the Supreme Lord, as Paramātmā, is situated in every living entity’s heart, must be in ignorance and is compared to one who offers oblations into ashes.


Formerly, all activities were performed in connection with Viṣṇu, but after Satya-yuga there were symptoms of disrespectful dealings among Vaiṣṇavas. Śrīla Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura has said that a Vaiṣṇava is he who has helped others become Vaiṣṇavas. An example of one who has converted many others into Vaiṣṇavas is Nārada Muni. A powerful Vaiṣṇava who has converted others into Vaiṣṇavas is to be worshiped, but because of material contamination, sometimes such an exalted Vaiṣṇava is disrespected by other, minor Vaiṣṇavas. 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. Whenever there is a possibility to worship the Deity, we may establish many centers, but generally we should give more stress to the distribution of transcendental literature, for this will be more effective in converting people to Kṛṣṇa consciousness.


It is said in Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam (11.2.47):


arcāyām eva haraye
pūjāṁ yaḥ śraddhayehate
na tad-bhakteṣu cānyeṣu
sa bhaktaḥ prākṛtaḥ smṛtaḥ


“A person who is very faithfully engaged in the worship of the Deity in the temple but does not know how to behave toward devotees or people in general is called a prākṛta-bhakta, or kaniṣṭha-adhikārī.” A prākṛta devotee, or neophyte devotee, is still on the material platform. He certainly engages in worshiping the Deity, but he cannot appreciate the activities of a pure devotee. It has actually been seen that even an authorized devotee who is engaged in the service of the Lord by preaching the mission of Kṛṣṇa consciousness is sometimes criticized by neophyte devotees. Such neophytes are described by Viśvanātha Cakravartī Ṭhākura: sarva-prāṇi-sammānanāsamarthānām avajnā spardhādimatāṁ tu bhagavat-pratimaiva pātram ity āha. For those who cannot properly appreciate the activities of authorized devotees, Deity worship is the only way for spiritual advancement. In the Caitanya-caritāmṛta (Antya 7.11) it is clearly said, kṛṣṇa-śakti vinā nahe tāra pravartana: without being authorized by Kṛṣṇa, one cannot preach the holy name of the Lord throughout the entire world. Nevertheless, a devotee who does so is criticized by neophyte devotees, kaniṣṭha-adhikārīs, who are on the lower stages of devotional service. For them, Deity worship is strongly recommended.

Damaghosa prabhu asked me to add this verse, which is very appropriate: Srimad Bhagavatam. 3/29/22

One who worships the Deity of Godhead in the temples but does not know that the Supreme Lord, as Paramātmā, is situated in every living entity’s heart, must be in ignorance and is compared to one who offers oblations into ashes.
PURPORT
It is stated clearly herein that the Supreme Personality of Godhead, in His plenary expansion of Supersoul, is present in all living entities. The living entities have 8,400,000 different kinds of bodies, and the Supreme Personality of Godhead is living in every body both as the individual soul and as the Supersoul. Since the individual soul is part and parcel of the Supreme Lord, in that sense the Lord is living in every body, and, as Supersoul, the Lord is also present as a witness. In both cases the presence of God in every living entity is essential. Therefore persons who profess to belong to some religious sect but who do not feel the presence of the Supreme Personality of Godhead in every living entity, and everywhere else, are in the mode of ignorance.
If, without this preliminary knowledge of the Lord’s omnipresence, one simply attaches himself to the rituals in a temple, church or mosque, it is as if he were offering butter into ashes rather than into the fire. One offers sacrifices by pouring clarified butter into a fire and chanting Vedic mantras, but even if there are Vedic mantras and all conditions are favorable, if the clarified butter is poured on ashes, then such a sacrifice will be useless. In other words, a devotee should not ignore any living entity. The devotee must know that in every living entity, however insignificant he may be, even in an ant, God is present, and therefore every living entity should be kindly treated and should not be subjected to any violence. In modern civilized society, slaughterhouses are regularly maintained and supported by a certain type of religious principle. But without knowledge of the presence of God in every living entity, any so-called advancement of human civilization, either spiritual or material, is to be understood as being in the mode of ignorance.

Hare Krishna Hare Krishna Krishna Krishna Hare Hare

Hare Rama Hare Rama Rama Rama Hare Hare