Imperfect Offerings

arati lampBy Jessica K.

It has most likely happened to most of us at least once. A child extending a multi-colored offering of various hues towards our outstretched hands. Their eyes bright with the joy and satisfaction of tangibly expressing their love in the form of a picture. Their smile revealing the hope it will be hung up and displayed on a refrigerator or wall.

Rarely does anyone say, “This eye is larger than the other one” or “Dogs can’t possibly be purple with blue polka dots. Can you do this over and make it more realistic?” No. The most common form of reciprocating is to embrace the child and bask in that moment of shared love.

And so, too, I believe it is with God. His mercy and grace know no limits. He is our soul’s constant companion and therefore knows the intentions of our hearts despite the potential imperfections we sometimes use to express them. Such offerings do not go unnoticed or unappreciated.

Srila Prabhupada wrote a beautiful description of the kind of intimacy that Krishna, in the form of Paramatma, shares with each and every soul in his purport to Bhagavad Gita 5.15:

The Lord is the constant companion of the living entity as Paramatma, or the Supersoul, and therefore He can understand the desires of the individual soul, as one can smell the flavor of a flower by being near it.

Krishna is less impressed by what we give than the motivations behind our acts of giving. After all, what can we give to Him that He does not already possess?

Swami Tripurari wrote the following as part of his commentary on Bhagavad Gita 9.26:

Krishna is self-satisfied, the one who has everything. What then can we give him? We can give him our hearts, for his own heart has been stolen by the love of his devotees. It is the devotion with which one offers that he accepts…

Bhagavad Gita 9.27 states, “Whatever you do, whatever you eat, whatever you offer or give away,whatever austerities you perform, O son of Kunti, do that as an offering to Me.”

So it is our hearts Krishna is after. Therefore, our aim as those who seek to cultivate a heart of devotion towards Him, should be to aspire to get to the point where every act is an offering of love and devotion to our Lord. Even if the act or thing offered seems insignificant the love and sincerity we put into the offering is not. Eventually our sincere efforts in expressing our devotion towards Krishna will purify us more as we continue to pour out our hearts in love to Him. Over time, through His mercy, He will make the imperfect perfect.

In response to the same Bhagavad Gita verse cited above (9.27) Swami Tripurari writes in his commentary from his translation of the Gita:

He says that although such offerings may not be offered with purity of heart or be perfect in terms of standards and ingredients, they should be offered anyways. However, he does not say that he will necessarily accept these offerings; nonetheless, whatever devotion is present will gradually purify the offerer, bringing him eventually to the standard of pure devotion.

For those that are new to the path of bhakti sometimes the formalities expressed during times at the temple can be a bit intimidating. Even in the privacy of one’s own home the attempt of offering food to Krishna can induce second guesses as to if one is doing it properly. Where to put this or that picture, which prayers to say, etc.

I think it’s important, when considering form and formality, rules and regulations, to extend patience and grace towards ourselves and others, not allowing such things to become speed bumps on our paths to Krishna or cause unnecessary division or friction. Rather, our sincerity and faith will catch the Lord’s attention and smooth out any bumps in the road that arise due to our imperfections as we gradually progress. We need only to remain steadfast in our pursuit of Krishna. In his book, Sri Guru and His Grace, Srila Sridhar Maharaja taught that, “We are worshipers not of form, but of substance” (108).

I conclude with these words from Srila Sridhara Maharaja. Words that benefit whoever chooses to meditate on them. One thing that I am learning in my journey into bhakti is to not confuse the details with the principles. While details can be fluid in their form principles are concrete and endure, revealing to us essential aspects of the truth.

Faith, that is to be nurtured. That sort of creeper should be planted in the garden of the heart and watered and nourished. The very characteristic of faith must not be lost by infringement, by over-pressure of the laws and rules. The free flow of the heart must be kept. The movement of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu is more of heart than of intellect. We should always consider this. The intellect must not check the free flow of the heart. We must always remember that. Free love and free faith are the only things, the most valuable things…This purity of purpose should always be kept intact.

Of course, some help from law and regulation is necessary, but not s o much as to check the growth of our vitality. We must promote vitality… You are one organic whole; your dealings should not be such that the forgiveness of love is forgotten. The giving of love will conquer more than the giving of law. What is the need of so much formality and fashion, when ultimately we are all servants of the Lord? (Sri Guru and His Grace 77-78)


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