Deity worship is the practical application of our philosophy: putting the Lord in the center of our lives, and giving pleasure to Him, rather than ourselves. And we can practically demonstrate the principle of being 24 hours a day engaged in His service. Worshiping the Deities gives us an opportunity to learn how to personally serve the Lord. It teaches us the subtle aspects of personalism.
There is a gulf of difference between serving Deities in the temple or in our home - it is indeed a different world! At home, Krishna has to accept our schedule: when we want to eat, and what we want to eat. Let's be honest: in our home we tend to cook for ourselves, and we simply offer it to Krishna before we take our meal. Serving the Deities in the temple is very different: here we accept Krishna's schedule - what He wants to eat, and when He wants to eat! He has is particular meals with His favorite dishes, at fixed times - never mind what our own eating habits are. This makes all the difference.....
Cooking for the Deities in the temple is the best way to cultivate the mood of cooking for Krishna - only for Him. A strict cook will not even taste the preparations he cooked for the Lord. He will be very careful not to allow the attitude to enter His mind, that he wants to enjoy what he cooked for Krishna. He only cooks for Krishna - not for himself!
Unless we cultivate such strict attitude, we may easily fall into the trap of thinking: "My husband and children like samosas so much - let me cook samosas for the Lord's offering today, and then I will take some home for today's dinner! My family members will be very happy!" When cooking with such desires, the offering is already contaminated. Then we are not cooking for the Lord, but factually for our husband and children! With such consciousness our service is not performed with pure intention. It is not unmotivated.
Even when we cook for a senior devotee, our guru or a friend, we should not cook what we like, but what this person likes. This is personalism. Sometimes we may not even be bothered to find out what the other person likes, and we simply cook what we consider to be tasty. This may indicate, that we are not cooking for the other person, but in a subtle way for ourselves. Serving a person requires that we tune into his mood and tastes - that we understand his needs and desires at a particular time. That is personal service. We have to be tuned in.
What to speak of serving Krishna! We have to tune into His likes and desires, at the particular time of the day. Thus, we demonstrate our love and devotion by making an effort to learn the traditional items He relishes - not simply cooking what our mother always cooked for us when we were a child.
Srila Prabhupada greatly stressed the importance of learning to cook the traditional preparations - in fact he went out of his way to personally teach his disciples how to cook them. When spending one month in Melbourne working on the Chaitanya-Charitamrita, the devotees brought every evening the offering plate into his room. Prabhupada tasted each item and gave his feedback, sometimes exclaiming: "I will come to the kitchen tomorrow and show you how to cook this nicely!" When his disciples offered him donuts, he took one bite and commented: "Where is sandesh?"
Of course, Krishna accepts our love and devotion with which we cook and offer things to Him. However, if we want to serve Him in a very intimate and personal way, we will cook what He likes.....
Your servant, Devaki dd