BalSeva in Pushti Marg
and why we do not worship other forms of the Lord in Pushti Marg
In the mists of time, many things appear and disappear with relative ease. First, the Aryans worshipped the Gods of nature, than the Gods of heaven and later still, the great incarnations of the divine trinity.
Mahaprabhu Shri Vallabhacharyaji, born of the divine Yagna, gave us nine different svarupas to worship. From the infant form of the Lord all the way to the Lord as Shri Dwarkadhishji! Depending on the attitude and aptitude of the sevak, He gave them different svarupas and differing sevas. One has only to read the 84 Vaishnavs Varta to see how He even accepted two brothers who were into worshipping the Prabhramn / Nirakar - non-form of the Lord as his sevak!
Mahaprabhuji was not averse to worshipping the Lord in His diverse forms. He worshipped, on a regular basis, Shri JagganNathji (Puri - Orrisa), Shri VitthalNathji (Pandharpur MH), Shri RanchodRaiji (Dakor - Guj), Shri TirupatiBalalji (Andra), Shri RangNathji (TN), Shri BadriNarayan (Himalaya) etc. There are bathaks at various sites around India to vouch for His belief in the diverse nature of God.
The Lord lives in various bhavas and depending on your bhav, you should worship the deity who closely matches your bhav. Otherwise, there will always be a mismatch between what you want to do and what you are currently doing in terms of seva / sadhana.
As to why the majority of us worship the infant form of the Lord, rather than any other, well, there are two reasons.
Historical reason - Small form of our Gods is a historical accident that has been later enshrined as a "de rigour" by our gurus. In pre-islamic India, the svarupas of the gods were relatively large. Visit any ancient shrine, and you will appreciate the "bhaavya / adbhuta" bhava in this. The Lord at Trivendram is so large, that His total darshan requires you to see Him through three doors !!! In the time of Shri Mahaprabhuji, the icons were relatively medium sized to be transportable during war or threat of destruction from the marauding muslim armies. Let us not forget, MahaPrabhujis own parents fled from Kashi because of a threat from an invading army. It was a time of great uncertainty and destruction.
Later still, the armies of Aurangzeb caused so much havoc, that the icons of the Lords became smaller still so that they could be transported hidden in ones turban in order to escape iconclastic destruction. For this reason, we still say "so and so Lord resides on so and sos head" - "Thakorji amna mathai biraje chai". If you look in our sect, NavnitLalji, BalKrishnaji, Madan Mohanji and VitthalNathji are some of the smallest svarupas.
The tradition of making small, transportable svarupas became popular with time, as devotees preferred smaller svarups they could take care of relatively easily. In home shrines, small icons were preferable to big ones, as space (living or otherwise) was always a precious commodity. Many a times, the seva and its gods had to share a very small area typically a small gokhalo (niche in the wall) and hence, small icons were more suitable than big ones. It is for this reason, besides small icons, chitra seva became popular.
If you read the historical documents, chitra seva was almost non-existant in the time of Shri Mahaprabhuji. Only later, when the Lord came to live at Nathadwara and painters came to paint icons for pilgrims, that the acharyas of the time decided to "modernise" and allow chitra seva. There are many practical reasons for this. For example, in those days, often a daughter may be married outside the sect. In that instant, the girl may not find it easy to worship a "svarup" in her new home. A chitraji, was seen as an easy compromise. The girl could still have her God in her room, and still not take up any "room" in the seva of her in-laws. Also, it was understood that the chitraji would not require the same elaborate seva as a svarupa ie no bathing, no jewels, no clothes etc. This was designed to save time for the busy daughter-in-law - she could than concentrate on the svarup of the lord rather than the shringar. Ofcourse, later various elements of seva were developed and now chitra seva is as complex as svarupa seva.
Spiritual reason - At a time when people were worshipping the Lord for material gain only, Shri Mahaprabhuji devised a system of worship God where, against our natural instinct, devotes would not "ask" for any material gain. If you see a mighty ruler, with a magnificent court in front of you, you might be tempted to think of how you can "gain" from a relationship with this powerful person. Seeing a child on the other hand, invokes feeling of maternal / paternal instincts of love.
Let us be brutally honest with ourselves we are all essentially selfish. "Hatu vina na hoai heta". We tend to keep relationship with people from whom we think we may benefit at some time. Whether this benefit is in kind or not is not the issue for example we keep friendship with people that we "like" because keeping that relationship will allow us to do the things we ourselves enjoy going to films, picnics, restaurants, telling jokes etc etc etc. There is an english proverb "birds of a feather, flock together" ie, like minded people stick together. More often than not, this is for mutual benefit.
Same applies to Gods. We tend to worship God when we think we may gain something from Him / Her. Why are Ganesh and Lakshmi so popular? People worship them so as to have good luck and lots of money ! MahaPrabhuji thought about this selfish nature of ours and decided to take us beyond this with the least effort on our part ! His mercy and kindness are beyond compare!! We can ask a "God", in His mighty form, for boons and favours. But, can we ask a baby, still crawling on the floor, for favours? Ofcourse, the first instinct on seeing a baby is to pick it up and play with it. Any baby, even a strangers baby appears "loveable and cute". As a human instinct, we give to children and never take anything from them! Babies, sweet and innocent as they are, are loved by all. We also know that they can not understand our speech and so we do not bother to "talk" to them we simply play with them.
Similarly, Shri MahaPrabhuji thought that if we worship the Lord as a baby, we might overcome our greed and instead of "asking" from the Lord, we will "give" to the Lord. What does one give a baby apart from love?! Babies do not care for diamond necklaces and large share portfolios. They only care to play with YOU. They demand your attention and time. Material objects are of no concern to them. Similarly, our BalGopal does not care how important a man you are in this world, for if you do not have time for Him, He has no time for you! If a person plays with Him, He plays with that person!
Even if you are sad or upset, do you show such an emotion to your child? If a baby come to you when you are upset, you immediately wipe your tears, smile and play with the child. Similarly, Shri MahaPrabhuji asks us to go to God with a smile on your face and love in your heart. Tears are forbidden in front of a child! Who would knowingly upset a child with his/her sadness?
In His Balsahaj (child like) manner, He is sometimes shy, sometimes naughty, and sometimes playful. But who can blame a child for all of this? We love a child no matter what he/she does especially if the baby is very young at a time when they have just learned to crawl they are not yet "chatur" enough to do anything else. What else can you do but love such a child! Can you ever "ask" such a child for material gain in this world?
Unfortunately, Shri MahaPrabhuji underestimated our greed! The basis of vatsalya seva / bhav have been long forgotten by us. We go before our Lord and no matter how young or old His form, we ask for ever bigger rewards for our "seva"!!!! We beg like the incessant beggars in the streets of India. The only difference is, they beg in rags, we beg in starched, designer clothes. They beg outside the temple walls, we beg inside!
We have forgotten that the BalKrishna wants to play with us. He is but a child !! We lock Him up in large impersonal buildings with no one to "play" with Him. Servants only play whilst they are paid! Who plays with the Lord for love? Even in our homes, we wake Him up at our convenience and put Him back to sleep within minutes! In our nice new modern homes, we have many games to play, but no one to play it with! We ignore the child that sits in our seva and indeed in our heart only because we have ceased to treat Him as a child! We see the BalKrishna as our ticket to something big!
"Sarva Dharmeshu nastashu "(Krushnashraya), truly, all Dharmas must have been destroyed from our heart, if indeed we are asking a baby to give us money! It is the eternal, universal dharma / duty of every adult to assist a child, not the other way around! Yet, shamelessly we do what Shri Acharya Charan never thought we would! Countless times people ask NavneetPriyaji and Balkrishnaji to give us "children" of our own or success in business and exams !!
As to why we do not worship the chakra yeilding Lord of KuruKeshtra, it is by choice of our gurus that we worship the svarupas that we do. That does not negate the majesty of the Lord in His various forms. Indeed, as mentioned before, Shri MahaPrabhuji worshipped the Lord in His infinite forms. Our narrow, blinkered view would shock and sadden him indeed!! What is Shri Dwarkadhishji if not the great Lord who preached Shrimad Bhagvat Gita? If we call Him Shri Dwarkadhishji and Pandurang Shastriji (Dada) calls Him Yogeshwar, does it detract from the essence of His lilas?
As time went on, after Shri Gusaiji passed away, in our narrow view, we have restricted the Lord to a few lilas in Vraj. It is fine to view things as eternally sweet and link all things to the Vraj-lila, but, to say that the Lord only existed as THE Lord at that time and no other time, is to insult the great acts / lilas of the Lord in His later life. Yes, a man still remains but a baby in his mothers eye, but that does not mean his achievements as a man are to be belittled in any way!
We do not worship other goddesses in our sect as we consider all beings, divine or otherwise to be part of the Lord. The ShuddhAdvaita philosophy of Shri MahaPrabhuji is a step beyond anyone else. If indeed the Lord is truly omnipotent and omnipresent, than nothing in this world exists not even maya without the Lords grace. In that case, all things are Him not just His reflection, but Him Himself!! This part of the philosophy is so fundamental to our marg that we must understand and appreciate it if we are ever to appreciate the importance of Shri Vallabh in our lives. Hence, all Gods and Goddesses are the Lord! We should respect and love all the Vedic gods, as Shri MahaPrabhuji certainly respected them, and so it is our duty to respect and follow all social and Vedic traditions.
Coming back to my main point, we have been given nine svarupas to chose from. Depending on our inclinations, the guru should give us THE svarupa for us. The svarup we are given should enhance our feelings towards God and help us progress further on our spiritual path back to the Lord. For those who are full of Madhur bhav, Shri Madan Mohanji and Shri VitthalNathji are their ideal. For those who enjoy the sakha bhav, Shri Nathji, Shri Gokulchandramaji etc are their ideal. For those who wish to worship with dasya bhav, Shri Mathureshji and Dwarkadhishji are ideal. Vatsalya bhav flows easiest when in the presence of Shri BalKrishnaji and Shri NavnitLalji. Ofcourse, any one of the svarupas can be worshiped with sakha, dasya and vatsalya bhav, but some svarupas tend to automatically invoke certain emotions within our heart if only because they correspond to our natural instincts.
There is evidence enough in our Vartas to prove that the early Acharyas gave devotes the svarupas that corresponded to the sevaks natural tendencies. In one instance, Shri Vallabhacharya initially gave one svarup to worship and as the sevak naturally progressed to another stage, gave him yet another svarup to worship.
Worship can only occur naturally if the svarup, bhava and sadhana (seva) coincide. This is the marg of sahajbhakti. Bhakti should be sahaj (natural / innate). Bhav should be sahaj. That is the basis of our sect. We must not forget that Krshna means to attract. The Lord attracts different people differently. Pushti Marg is unique among Hindu sects in that we have NINE svarupas of the Lord that we can worship!!!!!!!!! We have not been restricted in our bhav by our Adya Guru. Let us thank the Lord for His mercy in this decision of Shri MahaPrabhuji.
I would encourage you to worship the Lord in the form that you find most appealing.
That IS Pushti Marg.
© Bhagwat Shah
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