Creating an altar within your home can significantly increase your abilities, as it increases advancement due to this opening for an even more powerful connection.
By so doing, it means actually inviting God/Krishna and His pure Devotee Srila Prabhupada into your home as your honored guest. Really, their presence will exist. It is not imaginary.
Even materially, if someone calls our name or talks to us, or invites us over, we pay attention. "Oh, you called me?" Certainly if we can hear, God can understand and perceive us both when we speak aloud as well as quietly or subtly within.
Some do not fully understand this concept of God as a Transcendental Person, simultaneously being the most powerful, Supreme 'God.'
Much of our misunderstanding stems from our material experiences, as we have only identified 'person' as one who has a 'material' body.
We have not had sublime experiences with those in spiritual bodies. After all, it's not like we run into them every day. :)
And our own limited body has brought illness or problems at times. So, an important word here is "TRANSCENDENTAL." God does not have a body like ours. Rather, God's body is 100% 'transcendental.' Starting with a Gita verse where Krishna is speaking, Prabhupada explains further:
"If one offers Me [Krishna] with love and devotion a leaf, a flower, fruit, or water, I will accept it." B.G. 9.26
If God does not have senses, how can He accept and eat the offerings that are presented to Him? Or feel love and return it?
According to ritual, we are offering Krishna food daily, and we often notice the taste of such food changed, different. That is a practical example.
God eats, but because He is full, He does not have to eat the way we do. If I offer you a plate of food, you will eat it, next it will be finished. God does not require sustenance and is not hungry, but He eats, simultaneously leaving the food. Thus it is transformed into prasadam, His mercy. Purnasya purnam adaya evavasisyate. God is full,yet He accepts all the food that we offer with love and with mantra. The food does not disappear, instead He leaves it there for our benefit. It remains as a spiritually transformed type of foodstuffs.
God is unlimited. If He wants to, God can eat with His eyes. As it states in the Brhama-Samhita:
Angani Yasya Sakalendriya-Vrittimanti: "Each of the limbs of that transcendental figure possesses in Himself, the full-fledged functions of all the organs."
"Every sense of the Lord’s body has all the potencies of the other senses." Although we can see with our eyes, we cannot eat with our eyes. The senses of God, however, being infinite, are different. Simply by looking at the food that is offered to Him, He eats it." Perfection Of Yoga, Ch 3, Pt. 1
NEXT: Where is a Good Place to Set Up Your Altar?
Think about it a moment. Consider, where would you seat any respected guest?
An excellent spot would be clean, it would be draft-free, has good lighting, with little to no household disturbances.
Also, your guest could do with a comfortable chair.
For pictures, one can use a mantelpiece, a (nice) ledge, an End table, a bookcase, etc. Any and all of these are doable for those who can't make an entire altar. Don't deprive yourself. We can still be practical. Simply honor that place as special, for this purpose and nothing else.
Of course, after seating your guest in your home, you would not ignore them - you'd also have a seat for yourself to be seated, and face them, appreciate their company, and "hang-out." :-)
Simply don't position your altar [or sacred space] inconveniently, out-of-the-way, or difficult to get to. This is also your place to go to, for peace, for meditation, yours to connect with God.
If you also send prayer or healing, when serving others who are ill (on any level), this is your place to speak to God, requesting Divine Intervention.
What Items Do You Need to Set Up Your Altar?
Here are the Essentials:
1. A picture of Srila Prabhupada.
2. A picture of Lord Chaitanya and Lord Nityananda Most merciful incarnation of Krishna. -- You can use free pictures, but if you are going to buy a poster or painting anyway, now that I must make a living, please buy it thru my link. This one is of Lord Caitanya. And this one is of the entire PanchaTattva.]
3. A picture of Radha-Krishna. Again, if now or even later you are going to buy something bookmark this blog - and kindly do so thru my links:
Lovely cotton canvas of Radha Krishna for a great price! 40" X 30". And it's sequin Sitara Batika! Click here.
Feel free to print any you find on my blog or on the net, and use for your altar. These days there's special computer paper just for photographs. If you wish, you can use it for that type of print. Or some may prefer the more natural types of paper. Or, whatever is your personal preference. Even regular computer paper. Simply, I am trying my best to make this easy for you.
[Prior to printing, size adjustment may be needed.]
Also, you can frame them and this will look especially nice on your home altar.
While it us not required but someday you may wish to increase. Here is a nice Puja Tray with cups, incense holder, etcetera. If you don't make your own Ghee Wicks [I was always awful at it ha], here is where you can get them.
It is also bonafide to offer the light of candles. Stick with pure for God, thus beeswax candles. For offering [it may drip so put a hole in the bottom of a cupcake paper holder, place candle thru, you hold end of candle, light it's top or wick, and offer. :) ] Small for offering, larger for assisting God's energy in your little home temple room or meditation area, then bigger for decorating, etc. [Be responsible - use common sense plus never leave any fire alone. Keep water or baking soda near by, as well as a snuffer.]
Here is a very encouraging quote from Srila Prabhupada:
"Without much bother, if one simply keeps a picture of Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu at home and chants Hare Krishna, then one will realize God. Anyone can adopt this simple method. There is no expenditure, there is no tax, nor is there any need to build a very big church or temple. Anyone, anywhere, can sit down on the road or beneath a tree and chant the Hare Krishna mantra and worship God. Therefore it is a great opportunity." - Science Of Self-Realization, page 135
How wonderful! Lord Krishna and His pure devotee are so kind that they allow us to worship even through pictures.
It's something like mailing a letter. You can't mail a letter by placing it in just any box. You must use the mailbox authorized by the Postal Services. Similarly we can not imagine or make up an image or picture of God and worship that, but we can worship a picture of God that is very specifically described in Vedic literatures. No golden calves here.
God is outright telling us what He looks like through His ancient Vedic texts, originally spoken by Krishna Himself. He also accepts worship through that bona fide picture.
[The following numbers correlate with those above, giving more detail.]
1. The first direction a prayer or offering is sent, is to the (pure devotee) spiritual master. Key is "pure" devotee. Not to be confused with the Anglo-Saxon or English puritanical fundamentalist sense of the word; instead one who is fully free of "all" material desires, is unaffected by the material world, and completely conscious of Krishna at 'every moment.'
So the guru who is not afraid of death, who can [genuinely] talk and connect with God ion a variety of ways, and who, according to Vedic explanation, fits all the qualifications, can be a spiritual master. Only such an extraordinarily pure realized soul can give sufficient help.
Before accepting a guru, a person must take responsibility to learn / memorize the specific Vedic scriptural qualifications for guru. Only than can we be sure of a pure devotee as our spiritual teacher / guru. Only than can we make the full connection to Krishna, through the mercy of one who can [genuinely] talk to Him! I won't get into all the deails of how to recognize a pure spiritual guru here, but will give a couple of the most important basic spiritual info. If you wish more, you can do independent research.
A) "A sober person who can tolerate the urge to speak,
the minds demands, the actions of anger and the urges of the tongue, belly and genitals is qualified to make disciples all over the world." ~ Nectar of Instruction, text 1
B) "In his prayers to the spiritual master, Srila Visvanatha Chakravarti Thakura confirms that all the revealed scriptures accept the spiritual master to be identical with the Personality of Godhead because he is very dear and confidential servant of the Lord. Gaudiya Vaisnava's, therefore worship Srila Gurudeva ( master) in the light of being is servitor of the Supreme Personality of Godhead. In the ancient scriptures of devotional service and in the more recent songs of Narottama das Thakura, Srila Bhaktivinode Thakura and other android Vaisnava's, the spiritual master is always considered either one of the confidential associates of Srimate Radharani or a manifestation of Nityananda Prabhu. " - C.C. Dai-Lula, 1. 46
Moving on - we offer incense, plus other items, to the spiritual master. Some have a misunderstanding he is being accepted as God. This is not so. The spiritual master is never to be confused as God. It's because the spiritual master is Krishna's dear-most servant, Krishna has empowered him. Therefore he is worthy of reverence. Our linking-up to such a pure soul will thus will thus connect us to God / Krishna eternally.
Often we do not understand what is going on behind the transcendental scene. For example, once a devotee wrote about his experience with Prabhupada. This devotee was new, a Hindu gentleman, yet cautious.
Everyone had been singing what's known as "Prayers to the Spiritual Master." This new devotee said: "How come Prabhupada is singing along?" Wondering if Prabhupada was glorifying himself.
A senior devotee explained, paraphrased: "It's because he is saying the prayers to HIS spiritual master. A pure devotee like Srila Prabhupada does not accept such praises but immediately passes it on to his (pure) guru, and in turn his guru passes it on to his, and so on - all the way up to Krishna / God. That is the nature of a qualified spiritual master, that he accepts no praise for himself."
Needless to say, after hearing this, that devotee was delighted!
Prabhupada left India to travel West in 1965. His willingness to leave his homeland coupled with leave the numerous holy places that exist there - shows he was willing to take on such a tapasya to spread Bhakti Yoga when hardly anyone else would, not even his godbrothers.
He tolerated and survived two heart attacks on the ship [named Jaladutta] which was going West. Next he accepted many risks, living poorly or simply, often not knowing how things were going to fall into place. However, he confidently was sure that they would - due to following the instruction of his spiritual master.
It seemed like very few, if any, cared enough about those of us in the West to take such a personal risk. Only the pure devotee could handle such a thing.
And only a pure devotee could achieve such success! After all, a few actually tried, but their accomplishments have been small at best.
So prior to Srila Prabhupada, maybe a handful came here, possibly starting one or two small temples or even some Impersonalist groups.
However, no one clarified it is Krishna who is the One God everyone worships (knowingly - often unknowingly).
And no one made devotees of Krishna Personified.
We in the West were left in the dark about Who Go dis. It wasn't until Srila Prabhupada that people became Krishna bhakta's [devotees], rekindling their dormant relationship with Him.
In time Prabhupada opened very many temples worldwide. That is due to empowerment of Krishna, and to the mercy of the pure devotee.
It's even said that Prabhupada was sent by God to fulfill the prophecy of Lord Chaitanya, Who foretold that one day a pure devotee would spread the Holy Names of Lord Krishna all over he world. No other Vaishnava has done this. We are fortunate to be born at a time when Prabhuapada traveled West!
2. Next, the second picture placement upon your altar should be that of Lord Chaitanya and Lord Nityananda - incarnations of Krishna.
I'd like to address this concept of "expansions and incarnations" of God. Some do not understand how we can believe there is only one God while simultaneously believing in expansions and incarnations. This needs to be cleared up - as well as our material and linear beliefs kept out of the way as much as possible.
First to briefly reiterate, just as God being unlimited can eat with His eyes if He feels like it, so He can expand or incarnate if He chooses to do so. And that also helps us understand what comes next.
The Lord has multifarious other forms, and all of them are identical with the original fountainhead form of the Lord, Sri Krishna. In the Bhagavad-gita, it has been proven the original transcendental and eternal form of the Lord is Sri Krishna, the Absolute Personality of Godhead. By His inconceivable internal potency, atma-maya, He can expand Himself by multifarious forms and incarnations simultaneously, without being diminished in His full potency. He is complete. Although innumerable complete forms emanate from Him, He is still complete, without any loss. That is His spiritual or internal potency.
For those hearing it for the first time this may take a bit to process, yet it makes sense. After all, if we truly believe God is 'God,' then how can we limited Him - He can do "anything" even if they are beyond our (material) understanding.
Anyhow, Lord Chaitanya is Krishna Himself, and appeared in the form of His own 'devotee' in order to teach us how to be a devotee. He specifically advented to spread the once secret knowledge of the chanting of the Maha Mantra, and performing various other activities of Bhakti-Yoga.
Lord Chaitanya is the most merciful incarnation with Lord NItyananda even more merciful.
They overlook offenses and make it easy for anyone to attain love of God through the chanting of the Hare Krishna mantra which They made pubic for all.
At one time this was considered a mantra only for the priestly caste. However, They quickly spread it to everyone so all could benefit!
Someone once said to me: "But I've heard this mantra prior to you folks." My reply? "Exactly. Thank you for making my point." :)
3. Home altars should include a picture of the Supreme Persoality of Godhead Krishna, one which includes His eternal consort Srimati Radharani (or Radha). She is also God (an expansion).
Some have trouble initially understanding this. Either wondering how can She be an expansion if God is "One" (though that's all ready been touched on, above), OR how can God be female?
Actually, it is explained in ancient Vedic literatures that in the beginning, Radha and Krishna were One. For the purpose of enjoyment, They separated, as Radha is known as the pleasure potency. She is Krishna's internal, spiritual energy.
Radha is devotional service personified, and devotees take shelter of Her to learn how to serve Krishna.
One should also consider, how could there be females here in this world, if that energy did not originally exist within God?
With a little thought, realization comes, and it begins to make sense that God be Radharani too. :) Anyway, give it some non-biased thought.
Now to make all this practical and easy, simply arrange pictures from left to right.
- Pic of Srila Prabhupada on your left (when you face the altar).
- Then the picture of Lord Chaitanya and Nityananda is next, usually in the middle.
- Lastly, the picture of Radha and Krishna at the far end or right.
This is also the order to offer incense, flowers, prayers, etc.
You see, this all makes sense because Vedically you first approach the spiritual master who connects you, then you approach Lords Chaitanya and Nityananda because They ignore mistakes and offenses, seeing the good in all. Lastly, Radha / Krishna pictures, as by that point we have elevated ourselves to the best consciousness we can, thereby abled to make better prayers or offerings, etc.
In most cases I do not recommend home Deity worship, though if you are initiated or living that lifestyle it is ok. Simply this is a different topic.
[Summed up: Many are worshiping murti's tho call them Deities, yet They are not, as there hasn't been detailed installation ceremony - which is wise to avoid for those not ready for full commitment of all things pertinent to Deity worship. If you ever decide you wish to get involved in Deity worship at home, go for GouraNitai (Lords Chaitanya / Nityananda) as Prabhupada said anyone can have Them, even mlecca's. As long as GauraNitai are kept clean and at least offered daily, some incense.]
Moving on, or back.....
In addition, some items you may want (or if later on you wish to increase), so you can add:
- Water Cups (one for each picture)
- Candles with holders
- A special plate for offering food
- Small bell, incense & holder,
- Fresh flowers - you can put these in a vase, or place before each picture. Or after proficient at offering other items with mantra/prayer, can do the same with flowers. Many options here. :)
Every morning following your shower or bath, clean the altar. It doesn't take long and cleanliness is important because it's not limited to the outside body as some misunderstand. Rather, as we clean the outside we are starting to unpeel our layers and working toward cleansing the inside too.
Besides, we wouldn't disregard cleaning the room of a respected guest spending the night. Once you establish an altar you have invited Krishna and His pure devotee to dwell in your home as the most exalted guests.
Now don't get paranoid. ha It does not require something difficult, just conscious.
If for your altar, you have special water cups, rinse or wash them daily, (save a separate dish-washing-cloth for altar paraphernalia only). Then fill with fresh water daily, and place the cups conveniently close to the pictures. After all, you don't want your transcendental Guests to have to stretch too far to get a drink, or have to get up to get it, etc. :-)
For flowers, as soon as the start to wilt, take them out of vases (considering you have access to flowers).
Try to offer fresh incense daily, though not limited to only once. It's easy and fun to offer. How to do that is described here.
Of course, be it incense or candles, be careful (full of care), and be conscious! Do not start a fire! Its easy to avoid such issues, Simply don't space out, be attentive, use intelligence - just be responsible.
With that said, the above will create a wonderful, most inspiring, and auspicious mood! It will help you with personal spiritual advancement.
It actually takes much more to write this out, than to do it. Its' really quite simple once you get the hang of it.
Many of these are optional. Don't let something stand in the way of getting started just because you haven't got everything. If you sincere love God, you will gradually - or quickly - how much he loves you! That is the essence of this process. w
Now, use it. :) That is, reading can be helpful but we must put it into action. And what blissful actions!
How fortunate we are.
In time, or even right now, you may want a full puja tray with the items. Please get it thru me. Here are a few:
SILVER PLATED PUJA TRAY & PHARAPHERNAILA:
This tray is not gold but silver plated. With that said, it's a lovely puja tray to get started with, or if you dont have a lot of cash but some. It is 7 inches in diameter. With 1 cup at 2.5 inches, 1 bowl 2.5 inches wide, 1 ghanta, 1 diya, 1 spoon, 1 incense stand. Current price is $24.99 tho double check on site and buy thru my link here please.
Here are more with their details to be added soon. :) Or, just click my link and read it for yourself. :)
KOSMA SET OF 7 PIECE TRADITIONAL POOJA, THALI - I say now that this is on sale! Go here.
EXCLUSIVE VEDIC VANI, here.
ACHMAN CUP: We use this to briefly wash our hands [after having all ready thoroughly washed them] as part of the worship ceremony. One is to pick up the water with the spoon, then throw it into their right / offering hand. Three times. And each time we say a short mantra, or can just say "Hare Krishna." After that, we pick up the incense or other item we are next going to offer. Currently $16.45 but please check, and kindly purchase it thru this, my link, please.
CONCH SHELL: These are blown at the beginning and end of each worship ceremony or arotika. They create a sound that scares away that which is inauspicious, and attracts the auspicious. Besides, God/Krishna likes it. :)