Diary of a Traveling Monk

Volume 11, Chapter 14

February  27, 2011

Ghee Lamps in a Bag and the Lord in My Hands

By Indradyumna Swami 

In India I am always on the lookout for interesting puja items, so the other day in Jaipur, I visited the antique shop of Mr. Sharma, an old friend. As I walked in he greeted me and we sat down to talk.

 

"Do you have anything interesting for me?" I asked.

 

"Yes," he said. "I've kept aside a few small items you can use for puja."

 

"Great!" I said.

 

As Mr. Sharma looked through the desk drawers for the items, my eyes were drawn across the room to what looked like a salagrama-sila sitting on a dusty shelf. I walked over and found it to be indeed a beautiful salagrama-sila, smooth and shiny with an indented reddish mouth.

 

"Looks like Lord Nrsimhadeva," I thought, "Nrsimhadeva in a peaceful mood."

 

Mr. Sharma started showing me the puja items — lamps, achman spoons, and plates. They were interesting, but my mind kept wandering back to the salagrama-sila.

 

"Mr Sharma," I said, "I noticed a salagrama-sila on the shelf over there."

 

"Oh that," he said, looking toward the deity. "It's not for sale."

 

"He's not an 'it,'" I said. "According to scripture, salagrama-silas are deities. They are directly the Supreme Lord."

 

Mr. Sharma shrugged. "Perhaps that's why that stone was worshiped in the royal family of Jaipur for several hundred years."

 

I gasped. "What?" I said.

 

"That salagrama was in the royal family for hundreds of years," he said. "Priests would worship it on behalf of the royal family. One of their distant relatives brought it in the other day along with a number of silver items. She had come into difficult times and was selling some of her valuables. She mentioned that her great-grandmother had told her how special the stone was when she was young. But it hadn't been worshiped in many years."

 

"Mr. Sharma," I said, "that salagrama is just sitting on that old shelf gathering dust. He should be worshiped."

 

Mr. Sharma shrugged. "I keep it there for good luck," he said.

 

"But He's a deity," I said. "He's Krsna. If you invite an important guest to your shop or your home, it's your responsibility to serve him properly, to offer him a seat, a place to rest, something to eat, what to speak of the most important person in the three worlds—Lord Krsna. If He somehow comes to your shop, you can't just leave Him sitting on a shelf."

 

Mr. Sharma thought for a moment. "I never thought of it like that," he said. "When the salagrama came I knew it was an important item because of its history. And it had a special aroma about it, like musk or aguru. There was an old flower embedded in the dried sandalwood paste on top of the salagrama."

 

He paused. "The best I can do is to dust it off regularly," he said.

 

"It's not enough to dust Him off," I said. "The royal family didn't do that. Obviously they worshiped Him in the proper way with aguru oil, sandalwood paste, and flowers."

 

Mr. Sharma just shrugged again.

 

"If you don't want to worship Him," I said, "at least give Him to a local temple or a priest. I could ask my friend the Goswami at the Radha-Gopinath temple if he would take the deity. Shall I do that? They have a little altar of salagramas at the entrance of the temple."

 

"No," said Mr. Sharma. "Let me think about it more."

 

"OK, fine," I said. "I'll be back tomorrow for one or two of the puja items."

 

The next day I went back to the shop. Mr. Sharma was busy with another customer, so I looked around to see what other treasures he had. First, though, I wanted to see the salagrama, but when I came to the dusty shelf, He wasn't there.

 

Mr. Sharma finished with his customer and came over to see me.

 

"I've decided to give the salagrama-sila to you," he said.

 

"To me?" I said.

 

"Yes," he said.

He walked back to his desk, opened a drawer, took out the salagrama-sila, and handed Him to me.

 

"I thought about what you said yesterday," he began. "It made perfect sense, especially the part about taking proper care of a guest. I may not know much about the worship of deities, but I do respect the members of the former royal family. They are very much a part of our history and traditions. If they thought it was important to worship this salagrama, then so do I. I've known you for years. I'm confident you'll take proper care of the salagrama."

 

"Thank you Mr. Sharma," I said.

 

Mr. Sharma smiled. "And don't forget about the puja items you were interested in," he said. "You'll need them to worship this deity."

 

Ten minutes later I walked out of his shop with the puja items in a bag and the Supreme Lord in my hands.

 

"It can only be causeless mercy," I said to myself, shaking my head as I walked down the street.

 

Srila Prabhupada writes:

 

"Out of His causeless mercy, the Supreme Personality of Godhead presents Himself before us so that we can see Him. Since we have no transcendental vision, we cannot see the spiritual sac-cid-ananda-vigraha

 

... We can only see material things like stone and wood, and therefore He accepts a form of stone and wood and thus accepts our service in the temple. This is an exhibition of the Lord's causeless mercy."

 

[Srimad Bhagavatam, 5.3.9 Purport]