As it is said in Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam (12.3.52):
- kṛte yad dhyāyato viṣṇuṁ
- tretāyāṁ yajato makhaiḥ
- dvāpare paricaryāyāṁ
- kalau tad dhari-kīrtanāt
"Whatever result one obtained in Satya-yuga by meditating on Viṣṇu, in Tretā-yuga by performing sacrifices and in Dvāpara-yuga by serving the Lord's lotus feet one can also obtain in Kali-yuga simply by chanting the Hare Kṛṣṇa mahā-mantra." In Satya-yuga, every person was spiritually advanced, and there was no envy between great personalities. Gradually, however, because of material contamination with the advance of the ages, disrespectful dealings appeared even among brāhmaṇas and Vaiṣṇavas. Actually, an advanced Vaiṣṇava is to be respected more than Viṣṇu. As stated in the Padma Purāṇa, ārādhanānāṁ sarveṣāṁ viṣṇor ārādhanaṁ param: of all kinds of worship, worship of Lord Viṣṇu is the best. Tasmāt parataraṁ devi tadīyānāṁ samarcanam: and recommended more than worship of Viṣṇu is worship of the Vaiṣṇava.
Formerly, all activities were performed in connection with Viṣṇu, but after Satya-yuga there were symptoms of disrespectful dealings among Vaiṣṇavas. Śrīla Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura has said that a Vaiṣṇava is he who has helped others become Vaiṣṇavas. An example of one who has converted many others into Vaiṣṇavas is Nārada Muni. A powerful Vaiṣṇava who has converted others into Vaiṣṇavas is to be worshiped, but because of material contamination, sometimes such an exalted Vaiṣṇava is disrespected by other, minor Vaiṣṇavas. When great saintly persons saw this contamination, they introduced worship of the Deity in the temple. This began in Tretā-yuga and was especially prominent in Dvāpara-yuga (dvāpare paricaryāyāṁ). But in Kali-yuga, worship of the Deity is being neglected. Therefore chanting of the Hare Kṛṣṇa mantra is more powerful than Deity worship. Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu set a practical example in that He did not establish any temples or Deities, but He profusely introduced the saṅkīrtana movement. Therefore Kṛṣṇa consciousness preachers should give more stress to the saṅkīrtana movement, especially by distributing transcendental literature more and more. This helps the saṅkīrtana movement. Whenever there is a possibility to worship the Deity, we may establish many centers, but generally we should give more stress to the distribution of transcendental literature, for this will be more effective in converting people to Kṛṣṇa consciousness.
It is said in Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam (11.2.47):
- arcāyām eva haraye
- pūjāṁ yaḥ śraddhayehate
- na tad-bhakteṣu cānyeṣu
- sa bhaktaḥ prākṛtaḥ smṛtaḥ