It is a real honour to be asked to give class indeed I’ve found it allows the opportunity to really absorb my mind in great pastimes of the Lord and ponder the lovely purport’s of Srila Prabhupada.
As I prepared for giving one biblical verse came to mind, it was one which over the years puzzled me; but closer examination given understanding of Guru and Deity worship unlocked the mystery.
The biblical verse is found in Numbers 21 v 6-9
6 And the Lord sent fiery serpents among the people, and they bit the people; and much people of Israel died
7 Therefore the people came to Moses, and said, We have sinned, for we have spoken against the Lord, and against thee; pray unto the Lord, that he take away the serpents from us. And Moses prayed for the people.
8 And the Lord said unto Moses, Make thee a fiery serpent, and set it upon a pole; and it shall come to pass, that every one that is bitten, when he looketh upon it, shall live.
9 And Moses made a serpent of brass, and put it upon a pole, and it came to pass, that if a serpent had bitten any man, when he beheld the serpent of brass, he lived.
Given that I had been indoctrinated into the notion of not worshiping idols this passage appeared to encourage simple idol worship; however this indoctrination meant that Deity worship and the form of Sri Krishna is rejected out of hand without any question. But my thirst to understand made me curious and a long search for the answer.
Here is my humble understanding.
Moses is the Israelites own Guru Maharaja, he is guiding and leading his followers to Gods promised land. But as we know it’s hard for many to really understand so offences are made; it was this offence that lead to the plauge of serpents.
Wise is the one who seeks out the advice of Guru and we note that intelligence is given in distress the people turned to Moses who communicated directly with Sri Krishna, by heading and following instructions precisely ones distress is relieved.
We are in the distress of material suffering, recognising it means one seeks out the Guru who can relieve this distress; our Guru Maharaja having full understanding of this condition advise and guides this strict following of the gurus instruction is required.
As is the case of the Israelites they could choose to follow Moses instruction or ignore, similarly we can choose to follow or ignore; we either continue to suffer of gain relief.
Authorised Idol (Deity)
We see that Sri Krishna gave precise instructions to Moses make thee a fiery serpent, for me the best example is Kaliya one could not get any fiery. But most importantly it was to be set on a pole, it would be useless unless it was in a high place and also that which is most prominent.
One would gain relief from suffering death from the serpents bite upon glancing at this idol, you would have to have firm faith and belief if not then simply one wouldn’t bother. With faith ones suffering was relieved.
We are suffering the pangs of material distress, so how do we gain relief?
Sri Krishna has given firm information on this, he through our Guru Maharaja has given us instructions and guidance. This is how I look and this is how you can connect and serve me.
Do I have firm faith in the Guru’s instructions and the words of Sri Krishna?
One can connect simply by chanting the names of Krishna, similarly one can connect through pray, but isn’t it more personal to see the form of Sri Krishna and to offer nicely water, flowers, food and to wash cloth and sing directly to their Lordships?
By looking directly onto the form of Sri Krishna ones material suffering is instantly cured, and we can take darshan every day.
Both instructions based on time place and circumstances, the Israelites were not ready to worship Sri Krishna directly. Indeed the biblical recollection of this time in history reports that when Moses went to receive the 10 commandments, the people became restless, and made idols and worshiped them as if they were Krishna himself; so they must have had some concept of Deity worship, but due to this offence were instructed not to worship any False Idols.
Best we make sure we don’t make the same mistake and follow instructions nicely, for Deity worship is not false idol worship but true idol worship; we idolise Sri Krishna so much so that our meditation is always upon him, this way we return home in this lifetime as promised by Srila Prabhupada
Anything that doesn’t achieve this is false Idol, anything that prevents us from achieving the perfection in life
This is my basic understanding