There are many atheists who oppose the worship of the Deity of the Supreme Personality of Godhead in the temple. In this verse, however, it is authoritatively stated that any place where the Deity is worshiped is transcendental; it does not belong to the material world. It is also said that the forest is in the mode of goodness, and therefore those who want to cultivate spiritual life are advised to go to the forest (vanaṁ gato yad dharim āśrayeta (SB 7.5.5)). But one should not go to the forest simply to live like a monkey. Monkeys and other ferocious animals also live in the forest, but a person who goes to the forest for spiritual culture must accept the lotus feet of the Supreme Personality of Godhead as shelter (vanaṁ gato yad dharim āśrayeta). One should not be satisfied simply to go to the forest; one must take shelter of the lotus feet of the Supreme Personality of Godhead. In this age, therefore, since it is impossible to go to the forest for spiritual culture, one is recommended to live in the temple community as a devotee, regularly worship the Deity, follow the regulative principles and thus make the place like Vaikuṇṭha. The forest may be in goodness, the cities and villages in passion, and the brothels, hotels and restaurants in ignorance, but when one lives in the temple community he lives in Vaikuṇṭha. Therefore it is said here, śreyasāṁ padam: it is the best, most auspicious place.
In many places throughout the world we are constructing communities to give shelter to devotees and worship the Deity in the temple. The Deity cannot be worshiped except by devotees. Temple worshipers who fail to give importance to the devotees are third class. They are kaniṣṭha-adhikārīs in the lower stage of spiritual life. As it is said in Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam (SB 11.2.47):
- arcāyām eva haraye
- pūjāṁ yaḥ śraddhayehate
- na tad-bhakteṣu cānyeṣu
- sa bhaktaḥ prākṛtaḥ smṛtaḥ
"A person who is very faithfully engaged in the worship of the Deity in the temple but does not know how to behave toward devotees or people in general is called a prākṛta-bhakta, or kaniṣṭha-adhikārī." Therefore, in the temple there must be the Deity of the Lord, and the Lord should be worshiped by the devotees. This combination of the devotees and the Deity creates a first-class transcendental place.
Aside from this, if a gṛhastha devotee worships the śālagrāma-śilā, or the form of the Deity at home, his home also becomes a very great place. It was therefore customary for members of the three higher classes—namely the brāhmaṇas, kṣatriyas and vaiśyas—to worship the śālagrāma-śilā, or a small Deity of Rādhā-Kṛṣṇa or Sītā-Rāma in each and every home. This made everything auspicious. But now they have given up the Deity worship. Men have become modernized and are consequently indulging in all sorts of sinful activities, and therefore they are extremely unhappy.
According to Vedic civilization, therefore, the holy places of pilgrimage are considered most sacred, and still there are hundreds and thousands of holy places like Jagannātha Purī, Vṛndāvana, Hardwar, Rāmeśvara, Prayāga and Mathurā. India is the place for worshiping or for cultivating spiritual life. The Kṛṣṇa consciousness movement invites everyone from all over the world, without discrimination as to caste or creed, to come to its centers and cultivate spiritual life perfectly.