RTW 2.11

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His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada


Offering a Leaf, a Flower, a Fruit, or a Little Water

One should always keep in mind that it is unnecessary to worship anyone but Lord Kṛṣṇa. Especially in this Age of Kali it is impossible to perform opulent sacrifices and worship. Of late, it has become a popular practise to publicly worship demigods with great pomp. Such worship is conducted whimsically, without following the scriptural rules. It is an excuse for people in the mode of ignorance to engage in base sense enjoyment and fiendish revelry. No ethics are maintained, no arrangements made for sumptuous public feasting, no authorized mantras chanted, no proper offerings made to the deities. These occasions are simply an excuse for wild singing, dancing, and misbehaving. All such worship is unauthorized.

Therefore intelligent people will follow the process of the congregational chanting of the holy names of God and in this way worship Lord Gaurāṅga who is Kṛṣṇa Himself with a golden complexion. Worshiping Lord Kṛṣṇa is not an expensive affair, and worshiping Lord Caitanya is even easier and less expensive than worshiping Lord Kṛṣṇa. The reason is that the little effort taken to collect a leaf, a flower, a fruit, or some water for the worship of Lord Kṛṣṇa is not even required in Lord Caitanya's worship. But in any case, both the Supreme Lords can be worshiped easily in any country, in any condition, by anyone—be he foolish or wise, sinful or pious, highborn or lowborn, rich or poor. Thus we find Lord Kṛṣṇa saying in the Bhagavad-gītā (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, a fruit, or water, I will accept it.

Once the Supreme Lord is satisfied, the entire world is automatically satisfied, for by worshiping Him, one worships everyone else. Just as an entire tree-branches, leaves, and so on—receives water once the root of the tree is watered, so when the Lord Kṛṣṇa is worshiped and satisfied, then all the demigods and human beings are worshiped and satisfied.

There is no mention anywhere that worship of Lord Kṛṣṇa has to be conducted with large expenditures and pomp. Nor is there any restriction of time, place, or circumstance. Just as everyone has the right to bathe in the Ganges, so everyone has the right to serve Lord Kṛṣṇa. Flowers, fruit, leaves, and water are available everywhere. Even a pauper can arrange to find these four things with very little effort and at no cost. Thus the process of worshiping Lord Kṛṣṇa is so simple that anyone from anywhere can participate.

Lord Kṛṣṇa is unborn, yet He can accept any form imaginable. And because He is the supreme father of every living being, anyone—whether a high-born brāhmaṇa or a social outcast—can offer Him a flower, a fruit, a leaf, and water with love and devotion. Then Lord Kṛṣṇa, the cause of all causes, will accept this offering, and by such spiritual activity the worshipper becomes eligible to enter His eternal abode. Who could be more foolish than the person who rejects this easy and joyful process and, becoming captivated by the mirage of material existence and craving for temporary mundane facilities, takes shelter of demigods? Recent times have witnessed a concerted and noble effort on all fronts to bring about unity, peace, and harmony in the world, but these are possible only when people worship Lord Kṛṣṇa and render Him devotional service.

Such a proposal is neither preposterous nor comic. In fact, if someone is a sincere seeker of the Absolute Truth, then whatever his present situation may be, by regularly offering the Supreme Lord flowers, fruit, leaves, and water with love and devotion, he will readily experience that the Supreme Absolute Truth, Lord Kṛṣṇa, is gradually coming nearer to him. We humbly request all our readers to kindly try this excellent method of approaching Lord Kṛṣṇa's lotus feet. This method requires no monetary expenditure, physical exertion, philosophical knowledge, or noble birth.

The differences between a demigod-worshipper and a devotee of Lord Kṛṣṇa are wide and numerous. In general, persons approach demigods only out of temporary material desires, whereas the devotees aim to re-establish their eternal loving relationship with the Supreme Lord. To that end the devotees offer Him worship, gifts, and anything they can collect, together with love and devotion, and the Lord accepts all these with relish. Such devotional offerings are free of any cravings for material benefit.

By contrast, the polytheists' offerings, which are laden with selfish motivations for material gain, are never accepted by the Supreme Lord, even if these offerings are opulent and elaborate. The demigod-worshippers have no real love or devotion for the particular demigod they worship, yet Lord Kṛṣṇa is so merciful that He fulfills the material desires of the foolish demigod worshippers.

Lord Kṛṣṇa never accepts any offering bereft of love and devotion. A person who is not hungry cannot suddenly develop an appetite, even if he is given delectable food. Similarly, the Lord has no attraction for opulent offerings made without love and devotion. We have already discussed that unauthorized worship of the Supreme Lord stems from the absence of devotion and the presence of material desire. One who is full of devotion aims to satisfy the Supreme Lord's senses, while one who is full of material desire aims to gratify his own senses. Those who carry in their hearts the desire to gratify themselves but make a show of serving the Supreme Lord will never experience the joys of being a real devotee. The scriptures have aptly described them as mercenaries. Devotion's prime objective is the attainment of God. Therefore, one must offer the Lord everything in one's possession, including the results of karma-yoga, jñāna-yoga, mystic yoga, austerity, meditation, and so on. This perfect process of surrender will lead to the attainment of God. Thus Lord Kṛṣṇa openly proclaims in the Bhagavad-gītā (9.27),

yat karoṣi yad aśnāsi
yaj juhoṣi dadāsi yat
yat tapasyasi kaunteya
tat kuruṣva mad-arpaṇam

Whatever you do, whatever you eat, whatever you offer or give away, and whatever austerity you perform-do that, O son of Kuntī, as an offering to Me.

If a person follows this injunction and with love offers the Lord everything he has-wife, house, family, intelligence, learning, business, religiosity, labor, food, water, whatever is required to maintain the body, and even lust, greed, and anger—then the Lord accepts these offerings and completely satisfies the offerer. And at the time of death the Lord takes such a surrendered soul to His Supreme abode.

The demigods are empowered to accept only certain types of offerings, whereas Lord Kṛṣṇa can accept the karma-phala, or fruitive results, of everyone. The Supreme Lord alone is powerful enough to accept conflicting fruitive results and moods of worship. This indicates Kṛṣṇa's supreme lordship and absolute position. It is unlikely that all of humanity will be able to understand the science of pure devotional service, yet everyone always has the ability to attain the Lord's lotus feet, even in the face of striking odds. Therefore the best course is to offer everything to the Supreme Lord.

All the points we have discussed regarding niṣkāma-karma are mentioned in detail in the scriptures. Paṇḍitas define niṣkāma-karma as "activities free from the desire for fruitive gain or empirical knowledge." Only such transcendental activities can be offered to Lord Kṛṣṇa. But all activities—whether verbal, physical, or mental—are transcendental if offered to the Lord with love and devotion. And He duly receives these offerings by His causeless mercy.

However, at this juncture we must avoid committing a mistake. Our present discussion does not include the materialistic caste brāhmaṇas' offering of oblations or fruitive work to Lord Nārāyaṇa. Because such offerings are not devoid of lust, there is no love or devotion in them. We have earlier established that the main criterion for a proper offering to the Lord is that it be done with love and devotion, for the satisfaction of His senses. Hence we must understand that only those things or services offered solely for the pleasure of the Supreme Lord are actually accepted by Him.

Exerting oneself to satisfy one's own hunger is kāma-karma, fruitive activity, but to tirelessly toil to feed the Supreme Lord with delicacies is niṣkāma-karma, transcendental work aimed at pleasing Him. Pleasing the Lord should be the sole purpose of commerce and trade, and also of research, science, charity, austerity, and all other activities. Such a practice will inspire one to hear and chant transcendental topics related to Lord Kṛṣṇa, and this hearing and chanting are the foremost of the ninefold devotional activities. In Vedic times, all human activities were strongly affiliated with devotional service to the Supreme Lord. Today the same eternal principle applies: everything must be utilized in the Lord's service.

Lord Kṛṣṇa is the supreme enjoyer of all sacrifices. Thus He accepts the fruits of everyone's labor, and by so doing He crowns all His devotees' endeavors with glowing success. Such is the transcendental potency possessed by the omnipotent Lord. We must pay careful heed, however, never to allow the desire for self-aggrandizement or sense gratification to surreptitiously slip into our consciousness while we are performing devotional service. We should simply follow in the footsteps of the previous spiritual masters. In the Lord's presence, everyone is equal. Therefore, whoever serves the Lord with unwavering single-mindedness is listed among His close associates. They are truly "hari-janas," Lord Hari's own men. To rubber-stamp as a hari-jana a person who does not possess the prerequisite—devotional service—is a farce and an onerous hindrance on the path of devotional surrender.

Lord Kṛṣṇa says in the Bhagavad-gītā (9.29),

samo 'haṁ sarva-bhūteṣu
na me dveṣyo 'sti na priyaḥ
ye bhajanti tu māṁ bhaktyā
mayi te teṣu cāpy aham

I envy no one, nor am I partial to anyone. I am equal to all. But whoever renders service unto Me in devotion is a friend, is in Me and I am also a friend to him.

One must not misunderstand the meaning of the word samaḥ, "equal." It does not mean that the Lord is impersonal and that He will bless any whimsical act, even unruly behaviour. The Lord is absolutely personal, the reservoir of divine sentiments, the supreme performer of transcendental pastimes. And He is the well-wishing friend of all living beings. But friendship has different degrees of intimacy. Thus the Lord's equal disposition is not without varieties of personalism. In other words, the Lord reciprocates with us according to our intensity of love for Him. In the Gītā (4.11) He says, ye yathā māṁ prapadyante tāṁs tathaiva bhajāmy aham: "As all surrender unto Me, I reward them accordingly." He responds to all the different devotional mellows—servitorship, fraternity, parental affection, and conjugal love. Similarly, he ignores those who disrespect Him by regarding Him as an ordinary mortal. Conversely, He always shelters and protects those who accept Him as the Supreme Lord and serve Him with loving devotion, following in the footsteps of past saintly masters.