The other day I was looking at the list of 32 rules concerning Deity worship and number 15 caught my attention – one should not cry in front of the Deity.
This is interesting – we all have had our difficult moments and sometimes crying seems to be a natural option, like in the famous Amogha, don’t go! situations. Amogha Prabhu didn’t cry but there are a lot of people who wouldn’t be able to hold back tears if they were leaving the temple for good.
Why can’t we cry?
We have a famous akama sarva kamo va verse – whether one is full of desires (the main reason we want to cry) or doesn’t have any desires one should still worship Krishna. So why can’t we come with our frustration to the Deity?
What about the cases where we cry out of happiness? Well, I don’t think that is what the rule is about. On the page I referred to there’s “cry or howl” in front of the Deity, meaning it’s not shedding tears of joy, it’s about deep unhappiness. In other versions of the same list, in Bhakti Rasamrita Sindhu and Hari Bhakti Vilasa, it crying or shedding tears, depending on translation but it’s still about being sad.
And herein lies the clue – we can’t be sad in front of the Deity. We should not see the Deity as our benefactor that we can go and submit all our problems to, we should come to attend to Lord’s problems instead. We should remember that it’s not we who go to see the Lord, it’s the Lord who is seeing us, and He likes His devotees happy and content.
How’s that possible, one might say – if we are not happy and content, how can we pretend to be? That would be cheating, that would be hypocrisy.
No, it won’t. Real devotees are always happy and content, so if we have a problem it’s because we aren’t real devotees yet, but that should never stop us from performing our sadhana. That’s right – our visits with the Deities is our regulated service which we should perform regardless of how we feel about it, that’s why it’s called regulated. We could afford to cry or do whatever we wanted if we were on the platform of spontaneous love but a) we aren’t there yet and b) if we were we wouldn’t be crying.
So, as far Deities are concerned – we should bite our lips, smile and dance for Their pleasure, and never try to burden the Lord with our unfulfilled material desires.
What about sarva kama then? How can we express our actual feelings according to that verse? Simple – there’s always the Holy Name. Deities, while being the Lord Himself, are also a very specific manifestation. They are meant to give us the opportunity to engage our external senses in service of the Lord – eyes should look at the Deity, head should bow down before the Deity, and hands should offer the Deity various objects.
The Holy Name doesn’t have any such regulations. We cannot see it, we cannot touch it, we cannot offer it anything, but in exchange it doesn’t restrict us in what we think or feel. We can fully open our hearts to the Holy Name, but with the Deity we can open our hearts according to rules and regulations, so to speak. The Holy Name is the Lord Himself but with the Holy Name we realize we aren’t on the level of direct service yet because we don’t have the required level of purity. Deities give us such opportunity but in exchange we should also behave as if we were perfect, too.
So, whatever we want to say to the Lord, we can say it, He will always hear it, but when we go to the temple we should keep our problems to ourselves and serve the Deity as if we were His servants in the spiritual world, always happy and content.
And we should also remember that holding onto our material desires is an offense against the Holy Name, too, not just the Deities.