Bhakti Sandarbha 295 : Adhiṣṭhānas of the Deity
This interesting section is about a series of verses that discuss adhiṣṭhānas or "seats of the Deity."
Seats of Worship of Bhagavān
In Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam, Bhagavān Kṛṣṇa describes  other receptacles or seats (adhiṣṭhānas) of worship:
भूरात्मा सर्वभूतानि भद्र पूजापदानि मे॥
O Uddhava, the sun, the fire, the brāhmaṇas, cows, a devotee of Viṣṇu, the sky, the air, water, earth, one's own body and all living beings are the places of My worship.
वैष्णवे बन्धुसत्कृत्या हृदि खे ध्याननिष्ठया। वायौ मुख्यधिया तोये द्रव्यैस्तोयपुरःसरैः॥
स्थण्डिले मन्त्रहृदयैर्भोगैरात्मानमात्मनि। क्षेत्रज्ञं सर्वभूतेषु समत्वेन यजेत माम्॥
धिष्ण्येष्वित्येषु मद्रूपं शङ्खचक्रगदाम्बुजैः। युक्तं चतुर्भुजं शान्तं ध्यायन्नर्चेत् समाहितः॥
One should worship Me as present
In this manner, one should intently meditate upon and worship My serene four-armed form, equipped with a conch, disc, club and lotus, as present in all these various receptacles. (SB 11.11.42-46)
- in the sun by "the three sciences,"
- in fire by pouring oblations of clarified butter,
- in a qualified brāhmaṇa through hospitality,
- in cows by feeding them green grass and other eatables,
- in devotees of Viṣṇu by receiving them like family,
- in the sky of the heart through meditation,
- in the air by considering it to be preeminent,
- in water by articles of worship beginning with water itself,
- in the earth [or an altar made of earth] by assignment of confidential mantras,
- in one's own body through enjoyment,
- and in all beings through recognizing Me as the Self and witness, the same in all.
Śrīdhara Svāmī comments: In the first verse of this group, Bhagavān mentions eleven different receptacles of worship. “O auspicious one” (bhadra) is an address to Uddhava. In the next three verses of the group, Bhagavān describes different means of worship in accordance with the corresponding seat of worship. “By the three sciences” (trayyā vidyayā ) means "by the Vedic hymns and rituals." The word aṅga is an affectionate address to Uddhava. "Considering it to be preeminent" (mukhya-dhiyā) means to see the air as the vital breath, the life giving substance.
"तोये तोयादिभिर्द्रव्यैस्तर्पणादिना। स्थण्डिले भुवि। मन्त्रहृदयै रहस्यमन्त्रन्यासैः। सर्वाधिष्ठानेषु ध्येयमाह—धिष्ण्येष्वेतेष्विति। इति अनेन प्रकारेण। एषु धिष्ण्येषु॥" इत्येषा।
In water, Bhagavān is worshiped by offering water and other articles back to it. Sthaṇḍile means in the earth [i.e., an earthen altar], which should be worshiped by confidential mantras (mantra-hṛdayaiḥ) means by the assignment of secret mantras. In the final verse of this group, Kṛṣṇa describes the form that should be contemplated in all these various receptacles. The word iti means "in this manne," and eṣu means "in these various objects.”
अत्र सर्वत्र चतुर्भुजस्यैवानुसन्धाने सत्यपि द्विधा गतिः—एकाधिष्ठानपरिचर्यैवाधिष्ठातुरुपासनालक्षणा। मन्दिरलेपनादिना तदधिष्ठातृप्रतिष्ठाया इव। यथा वैष्णवे बन्धुसत्कृत्या, गोष्वङ्ग यवसादिना इत्यादि। यतो बन्धुसत्कारो वैष्णवविषयकः, ईश्वरे तु प्रभुभाव उपदिश्यते। "ईश्वरे तदधीनेषु" (भा. ११.२.४४) इत्यादौ।
Although in all these receptacles of worship, only Bhagavān’s four-armed form is to be contemplated, there are two approaches to this worship. In the first, one renders service to the receptacle of Bhagavān by which Bhagavān, dwelling within it, is automatically worshiped, just as by cleansing the temple, its presiding deity is naturally served. The manner in which these receptacles are to be served is stated in these verses. For example, a Vaiṣṇava is honored by treating him like a friend, and a cow by giving her green grass. In these specific cases, the service recommended is appropriate to the receptacle and not to Bhagavān. In other words, it is the Vaiṣṇava, and not Bhagavān, who is to be treated as a friend, because Bhagavān is to be honored as master, as expressed in this verse:
One who loves Bhagavān, is friendly towards the devotees, compassionate towards the unaware, and indifferent towards the inimical, is an intermediate devotee. (SB 11.2.46)
तथा गोसम्प्रदानकमेव यवसादिभोजनदानं युज्यते, न तु श्रीचतुर्भुजसमप्रदानकम्, अभक्ष्यत्वात्।
Similarly, grass is offered to a cow, not to the four-handed form of Viṣṇu, because grass is inedible for Him. Food offerable to Bhagavān is referred to in this verse:
तत् तन् निवेदयेन्मह्यं तदानन्त्याय कल्पते॥
Those articles that are considered to be the most desirable in the world as well as those that are best loved by oneself should be offered to Me. Such an offering leads to immortality. (SB 11.11.41)
This verse appears just prior to the verses describing the receptacles of worship.
अन्या तु साक्षादधिष्ठातुरुपासनालक्षणा, यथा—हृदि खे ध्याननिष्ठया, तोये द्रव्यैस्तोयपुरस्कृतैरित्यादि।
The second approach is to worship Bhagavān directly. From the same group of verses, there are methods directly applicable to worship of Bhagavān. This includes the directive to worship Bhagavān in the sky of the heart by meditation and in water by offering articles associated with water.
अत्राग्न्यादौ तदन्तर्यामिरूपस्यैव चिन्तनं कार्यम्, न जातु निजप्रेमसेवाविशेषाश्रयस्वाभीष्टरूपविशेषस्य। स तु सर्वथा परमसुकुमारत्वादिबुद्धिजनितया प्रीत्यैव सेवनीयः।
As regards the direct approach to worship, the method of pouring oblations of clarified butter into the fire is to be done while contemplating only the immanent feature of Bhagavān as Paramātmā within fire—never one's own specific, cherished form of Bhagavān, who is the recipient of one's loving devotion. At all times He should be served only with love that arises from the attitude that His form and so on are most tender.
यथोक्तं श्रीभगवतैव—"वस्त्रोपवीताभरणैः" (भा. ११.२७.२९) इत्यादि।
Kṛṣṇa Himself describes this attitude in this verse:
My devotee should lovingly decorate Me with clothes, a sacred thread, ornaments, leaves, a garland and sandalwood paste, as is proper. (SB 11.27.32)
तेषां यथाभक्तिरीत्या परमेश्वरस्यापि तथाभावः श्रूयते। यथा नारदीये (ना.प. २.३.३४) —
भक्तिग्राह्यो हृषीकेशो न धनैर्धरणीधर।
भक्त्या संपूजितो विष्णुः प्रददाति मनोरथम्॥
जलेनापि जगन्नाथः पूजितः क्लेशहा हरिः।
परितोषं व्रजत्याशु तृषार्तः सुजलैर्यथा॥ इति।/
O brāhmaṇas, Bhagavān Hṛṣīkeśa is captivated only by devotion, not by wealth. Being duly worshiped with devotion, He awards all desirable objects. Although Bhagavān Hari is the master of the universe and although He dispels all miseries, He is quickly satisfied even by a simple offering of water, just as a thirsty person is delighted by cool, clean water.
अत्र दृष्टान्त उपजीव्यः। वैपरीत्ये दोषश्च। यथा ग्रीष्मे जलस्थस्य पूजा प्रशस्ता, वर्षासु निन्दिता। यदुक्तं गारुडे—
In this example, the significant point is that a thirsty person can be satisfied by water alone, similarly Bhagavān is pleased only by devotion, and not by anything else. It is inappropriate, however, to offer the same substance in adverse conditions. For example, during the intense heat of summer in India, it is advisable to worship Bhagavān by placing Him in cool water, but to do so during the rainy season is condemned, as stated in the Garuḍa Purāṇa:
शुचिशुक्रगते काले येऽर्चयिष्यन्ति केशवम्।
जलस्थं विविधैः पुष्पैर्मुच्यन्ते यमताडनात्॥
घनागमे प्रकुर्वन्ति जलस्थं वै जनार्दनम्।
ये जना नृपतिश्रेष्ठ तेषां वै नरकं ध्रुवम्॥ इति।
Those who worship Bhagavān Keśava during the summer season by placing Him in water and offering Him varieties of flowers become free from the jurisdiction of Yama, Bhagavān of death. But those who worship Bhagavān Janārdana during the rainy season by placing Him in water certainly go to hell, O best of kings.
एवमन्यत्रापि। परिचर्याविधौ तद्देशकालसुखदानि शतशो विहितानि। तद्विपरीतानि निषिद्धानि च। विष्णुयामले—"विष्णोः सर्वर्तुचर्याम्" इति।
The same principle applies to other types of service. The Viṣṇu-yāmala offers hundreds of instructions about services to Bhagavān that are pleasing according to time and place, as well as those that are forbidden, being contrary to Bhagavān’s pleasure. An example of this is found in this statement: “The worship of Bhagavān Viṣṇu is to be conducted according to the seasons.”
अत एवोक्तं—"यद्यदिष्टतमं लोके" (भा. ११.११.४१) इत्यादि।
For this reason Bhagavān said, "Those articles that are considered to be the finest in the world as well as those that are best loved by oneself should be offered to Me. Such an offering leads to immortality." (SB 11.11.41)
तत्र तत्रेष्टमन्त्रध्यानस्थलं च सर्वर्तुसुखमयमनोहर-रूपरसगन्धस्पर्शशब्दमयत्वेनैव ध्यातुं विहितमस्ति। अन्यथा तत्तदाग्रहस्य वैयर्थ्यं स्यात्। तस्मादग्न्यादौ तत्तदन्तर्यामिरूप एव भाव्य इति स्थितम्।
In regard to meditation upon the mantra that reveals one’s cherished form of Bhagavān, the prescription is given to also meditate on Bhagavān at the place which is congenial in all seasons, with exquisite arrangements of form, taste, fragrance, touch and sound. Otherwise, the whole point of meditating on one’s personal Bhagavān in His own abode will be lost. Therefore, it is concluded that in fire and other similar receptacles, one should contemplate only the immanent feature of Bhagavān, present within the relevant substance.
Commentary by Satyanarayana Dasa Babaji Maharaj
After discussing human beings and Śālagrama as the seats of worship, Śrī Jīva Gosvāmī describes eleven further seats of worship stated by Śrī Kṛṣṇa to Uddhava. This worship is done in two ways, directly and indirectly. Examples of direct worship are the sun, fire, sky water and earth. The rest are examples of indirect worship. In the case of indirect worship, one conducts worship of the seat and that leads to the pleasure of Bhagavān sitting in it. For example, a cow should be given food that is pleasing to the cow. If the cow is satisfied then Bhagavān is satisfied. The same is true with the worship of a brāhmaṇa, a Vaiṣṇava, one’s own self and the other living beings.
Bhagavān Kṛṣṇa Himself has hinted at the process of worship of a particular seat. Worship is an elaborate activity and involves various rules and regulations related to time, place, environment, and the worshiper. For this one should consult Āgama literature such as Nārada-pañcarātra, Viṣṇu-saṁhitā, Kṛṣṇa-yāmala, Gautamīya-tantra, Sātvata-saṁhitā, and the books written on the basis of Āgama and Purāṇas such as Hari-bhakti-vilāsa, Krama-dīpikā and Sādhana-dīpikā.
Worship on the altar, sthaṇḍile, means that one should make an altar on earth smeared with cow-dung and fragrant pastes such as sandalwood, and place the secret mantras on the altar. Then one should meditate on Bhagavān situated on the altar. The word mantra-hṛdayaiḥ refers to mantras such as Oṁ hṛdayāya svāhā, śikhāyai vaṣaṭ, kavacāya hūṁ.
The worship of one’s own body with enjoyments, bhogair ātmānam ātmani, does not mean that one should engage in sensual pleasures. But to mentally meditate that one's body is also a seat of one's worshipable deity and to pray that He be pleased in this body by the satisfaction of my body and senses. One should not unnecessarily engage in austerities and keep the body healthy with proper diet and care. But one should not indulge in forbidden sensual pleasures.
Although Śrī Kṛṣṇa advises Uddhava to meditate on the four-handed form in the various seats, by ajahal-lakṣaṇā it is understood that one should meditate on one’s own worshipable deity such as the two-handed form of Kṛṣṇa.
Śrī Jīva Gosvāmī gives the basic formula of worship, which is in accordance with one’s own specific mood, bhāva. If one is worshiping Kṛṣṇa in the parental mood then one has to think of Kṛṣṇa as a small boy dependent on the care of his parents. One should not think that He is God and thus does not need anything Although Bhagavān is by nature free from hunger, thirst and all other physical requirements, He becomes just like a thirsty person when a devotee offers Him water in love. Bhagavān reciprocates according to the mood of His devotee (Gītā 4.11). Therefore, service should be done according to the season, giving winter clothes in winter, and thin, light clothes in summer. Similarly one should change His diet according to the season and the time of the day. The worshipable object should be treated and meditated upon as one treats a loved one. He is a person with feelings. This is the import of Kṛṣṇa’s statement in 11.11.41. One should offer what is considered best in the world, and also what is very dear to oneself, as one would do if it were one’s beloved. The word atipriyātmanaḥ (11.11.41) can mean both very dear to the worshiper as well as very dear to the worshipable.
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Bhakti Sandarbha 287-294 : Eligibility for Honors
Bhakti Sandarbha 286 : Other Important Aspects of Arcana
Bhakti Sandarbha 285 : The Gods Named in Āvaraṇa-pūjā are Bhagavān's Associates
Bhakti Sandarbha 284 : The Difference Between Mantra and Name
Bhakti Sandarbha 283 : Pāda-sevā (Concluded) and Arcanam
Bhakti Sandarbha 280-282 : Service to Bhagavān (Pāda-sevanam)
Bhakti Sandarbha 275-279 : Smaranam
Bhakti Sandarbha 273-274 : Conclusion of Kirtan Section
Bhakti Sandarbha 270-272 : Kīrtana in the Kaliyuga
Bhakti Sandarbha 266-269 : Rupa, Guna and Lila Kirtan, Glories of Kirtan