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Arca-vigraha – also murti; Deity of the Lord (in the temple) through which the Lord reveals Himself to His devotees and enables them to serve Him personally.
 

Since we are not (yet) able to perceive the pure spiritual form of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, He has manifested His presence through material elements such as a painting or a murti.

So we can see your beauty and meditate on it. In this form the Lord personally accepts the worship of his devotees.

WORSHIPING GOD IN THE DEITY FORM

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WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN THE WORSHIP OF GOD, DEMIGODS, AND IDOLS?

In the Vedic understanding, there is indeed a difference between (monotheistic) worship of God, worship of gods, and idol worship.

The Sanskrit word for deity is "deva." In the Vedas, there are many deities such as Brahma (the architect of the universe), Indra (the king of a heavenly planetary sphere who also has great influence on the weather), Surya (the deity of the sun), etc. However, in the Vedas, Krishna is uniquely referred to as "devadeva," meaning the deity of all other deities, or the God of gods. This One Supreme God is the source of all other powerful beings. Some also speak of God and the demigods to make the distinction even clearer.

The moment I worship the demigods but am aware that there is, above all, the One Supreme God who stands above all others, it is considered worship of gods (some also say worship of demigods).

However, the moment I mistakenly regard the deva (i.e., the demigod) as the One Supreme God, it becomes idol worship – because idol worship means mistakenly considering and worshiping a being that is not God as God.

Even in the Bible, it does NOT say that there are no other gods besides Yahweh. These gods exist. One should just understand which god stands on which level. The Ten Commandments say, you shall not worship other gods beside Me. It does not say that these other gods do not exist. Thus, we also have a monotheism that does not deny that there are other demigods and powerful beings. The Ten Commandments only command to observe the correct hierarchy.


(from gour-ni-times.de, by Paramasrehya dasa)

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THE MAILBOX ANALOGY

The form of God eludes human imagination, but when God reveals Himself and the holy scriptures provide descriptions of how God's form should be worshiped, it is something different.

Srila Prabhupada describes the authorized form of deity worship using the mailbox analogy. This can be explained as follows:
The post office might be far from my home, so the post office sets up various mailboxes in the neighborhood. If I now paint a box yellow myself and write "Post" on it, this fake mailbox has no value. However, the mailbox set up by the post office is fully authorized and, in a certain sense, not different from the post office. Similarly, the deities of God are not simply created according to the artist's imagination, but according to the instructions of the holy scriptures, which provide very precise details regarding the correct posture, hand positions, body proportions, etc. Afterward, an extensive consecration ceremony takes place, during which the Lord is requested to permeate the deity with His divine presence.

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A DIVINE GUEST

From this point onwards, God in the form of the deity is worshiped in a very comprehensive manner. The deity is a divine incarnation, entrusting Himself to human care. Therefore, the deity is a divine guest and should be treated as such. Incense, flowers, lights, singing, and food are offered to Him. Through this service, a loving exchange between God and His devotee can arise.

BRIEF "PORTRAIT" OF THE DEITIES IN THE ZURICH TEMPLE

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JAGANNATHA, BALADEVA & SUBHADRA

(Krishna and His siblings – appeared in this world around 5000 years ago)


Three deities of God as worshiped for millennia in the coastal city of Puri in Odisha, India. They depict Krishna along with His brother and sister, who, with their large eyes and broad smiles, express ecstatic feelings upon being separated from their devotees.

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SRI JAGANNATHA

Jagannatha means "the Lord (natha) of the universe (jagat)" and refers to the supreme personality of God, Sri Krishna.

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SRI BALADEVA

Baladeva, the god (deva) of strength (bala), also known as Balarama, is Krishna's elder brother and His first immediate expansion.

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SRIMATI SUBHADRA

Subhadra, the auspicious one, is Krishna's sister. She embodies the mystical potency of God (yoga-maya) and is the wife of the great Pandava warrior Arjuna.

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SRI SRI GAURA NITAI

(Krishna & Balarama – appeared around 500 years ago)

Sri Sri Gaura Nitai are considered channa-avatars, hidden incarnations of God.

Sri Krishna appeared as Sri Chaitanya, the son of Mother Saci, and Balarama appeared as Nityananda.

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SRI CAITANYA

Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu, Caitanya meaning consciousness, (1486-1533), is a unified embodiment of Radha and Krishna. He is considered a hidden incarnation because he does not openly reveal his identity as an incarnation of God but rather plays the role of a devotee (Bhakta Avatar). The holy scriptures describe Caitanya as the "golden avatar of the Kali Yuga," who brings pure divine love into the world through the chanting of the holy names of Krishna.

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SRI NITYANANDA

Sri Nityananda, eternally (nitya) immersed in bliss (ananda), is the transcendental brother of Caitanya, who is considered an even more merciful incarnation of God and blesses everyone who chants the holy name of God with faith.

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