In Vrindavan these days, it has become common to see people carrying a small basket, sometimes covered, sometimes uncovered. The basket (tokri), often plastic, usually contains Deity, mostly Bal Gopal. This practice may seem strange to the uninitiated, and may strike others as an expression of bhakti, but, those acquainted with the shastric instructions on Deity worship are likely to condemn this practice, as it goes against the established maryada (morality) and sishtachar (code of conduct).
One Brajwasi who has spoken out against this practice is Dr Giriraj Nangia. In a video posted on You Tube last year, Dr Nangia explains why people might want to think again before carrying their Thakurij around in public places.
Dr Nangia relates an incident that occurred when he came home to find two people sitting on a nearby doorstep. He asked what they were doing. The reply was that they were waiting to be let into a friend’s apartment. So Dr Nangia welcomed them to his home.
“I sat them down. I saw that they had two baskets. I saw that there was a Gopal in each basket, both without adornment, so I asked,
“What happened to their clothes?”
“It is hot no?”
So I put their clothes back on and put Them on my altar. I worshipped them with light, fan and other things. Then I made some enquiries about the Bhav with which they had brought their Thakurji along. They couldn’t give any answer so I didn’t disturb them. They were unaware of the scriptural injunctions and their faith could have been destroyed. Anyway, I thought, they won’t appreciate being given a lecture; they don’t know anything about me. They will just think that I have invited them here then started prattling on.
This practice of carrying Thakurji around in a basket is completely wrong because Deities are a form of God and there is a code of conduct in dealing with them; rules for how They should be served and offences caused (seva apradha) if these rules are not followed.
It is an offence to take Deities here and there, especially when you cant prepare bhog in the proper manner. If Deities are moved from one room of His own house to the other, They must be given abhishek with milk after being taken off the asan (seat), before being placed on the new asan.
If Thakurji is taken to another house then abhishek must be done with five nectars including cow urine, before They can be installed in the new house.
These days, people are treating Thakurji like a toy. They say that we are going for a picnic, so Thakurji would enjoy a picnic. So they take Thakurji to a place where dogs leave faeces and urine. They say that Thakurji likes to play cricket or other games.
This is their Bhav and we can’t criticize someone’s Bhav. They are not informed about the proper procedures of worship, and if they didn’t ask, it may be wrong to try to force our knowledge on them. But, if someone asks, then they must be told that this is inappropriate. It is an insult to Thakurji.
If someone says that they have locked up their house and couldn’t leave Thakurji, then tell to keep the Deity in the hotel where they are staying and pay attention to Their seva. If you are concerned about your Thakurji when you have come to enjoy lassi and gol guppa, make the proper arrangements for Their pooja and aarti.
Due to ignorance, Bhakti has become a form of entertainment, an avenue for enjoyment.
The other day I even saw someone kissing their Deity. If our lips touch our hand then we wash our hands before touching Thakurji, so what is the meaning of kissing Thakurji? No Shastra gives permission to do this and it is 100% seva apradha.
One day, the person who does these things will understand. Those who bring Thakurji on tour, at least they have some kind of attachment. Those who are determined to do this will do it, but the power of Bhakti is that it will slowly bring the person onto the right path. After being told many times by Sadhus and others, they will learn eventually, but the fact remains that this practice is completely wrong and offensive.