- Namita Purohit
- Life Stages
Setting up an altar at home means receiving the Lord and His pure devotees as your most honored guests. In the Padma Purana Lord Krishna says, “I am not in Vaikuntha [the spiritual world], nor in the hearts of the yogis. I stay where my devotees glorify my activities.” This means we all have the opportunity to welcome Krishna into our homes. What was possible five thousand years ago is possible even now.
Where should you set up the altar?
The ideal place would be clean, well lit, and free from household disturbances. If possible, you could set up your altar in a room specially dedicated to Krishna. If not, a wall shelf, mantle-piece, corner table, or book case can be suitable places for an altar.
What do you need to set up your altar?
Here are the essentials:
1. A picture of Srila Prabhupada.
2. A picture of Lord Chaitanya and His associates.
3. A picture of Radha and Krishna.
The first person we worship on the altar is the spiritual master. The spiritual master is not God, but because he is Krishna’s dear most servants and representative, he deserves the same respect as that given to God. We own an immense debt of gratitude to Srila Prabhupada. His books, lectures and life teachings, bring us closer to Krishna. As the founder and spiritual guide of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness, he is the instructing guru of us all.
The second picture on your altar should be of the Pancha-Tattva; Lord Chaitanya and His four principal associates. Lord Chaitanya is the incarnation of God in this age. He is Krishna Himself, descended in the form of a devotee to teach us how to surrender to God. Lord Chaitanya is the most merciful incarnation, for He makes it easy for anyone to attain love of God through the chanting of the Hare Krishna mantra.
And of course, your altar should have a picture of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Lord Krishna, with His eternal consort, Srimati Radharani. Srimati Radharani is Krishna’s spiritual potency. She is Krishna’s most beloved devotee, and anyone who takes shelter of her can learn how to serve Krishna best.
You can arrange the pictures in a triangle, with the picture of Srila Prabhupada on the left, and the picture of Lord Chaitanya and His associates on the right. The picture of Radha and Krishna should be slightly larger and higher than the others, and placed in the center.
You can perform daily worship at the altar by offering such items as incense, water, fruits, and cooked food. You can perform your daily spiritual activities (chanting, reading, singing etc.) in front of the altar.
Inviting the Deity
As we become established in our bhakti -yoga practices, we can invite Krishna into our homes through the medium of His Deity form. By acquiring and worshiping a stone, metal, or wooden Deity, we create more opportunities for service, and can deepen our personal connection with Krishna. However, we should worship this form with caution.
Srila Prabhupada wrote to one disciple, “Never think of the Deity as made of stone or wood. Every worshiper must remember that Krishna is personally present. He is simply kindly presenting Himself before us in a way so that we can handle Him. That is His mercy; otherwise, He is unapproachable.”