05 Relative importance of chanting and deity worship
In Kali−yuga, chanting of the Hare Krsna mantra is more powerful than Deity worship:
As it is said in Srimad−Bhagawtam (12.3.52):
krte yad dhyayato vi tretayam yajato makhaih
dvapare paricaryayam kalau tad dhari−kirtanat
"Whatever result one obtained in Satya−yuga by meditating on Visnu, in Treta−yuga by performing sacrifices and in Dvapara−yuga by serving the Lord's lotus feet one can also obtain in Kali−yuga simply by chanting the Hare Krsna maha−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 brahmanas and Vaisnavas. When great saintly persons saw this contamination, they introduced worship of the Deity in the temple. This began in Treta yuga and was especially prominent in Dvapara yuga (dvapare paricaryayam). But in Kali yuga, worship of the Deity is being neglected. Therefore chanting of the Hare Krsna mantra is more powerful than Deity worship. Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu set a practical example in that He did not establish any temples or Deities, but He profusely introduced the sankirtana movement.
– Srimad Bhagavatam 7.14.39
Although chanting of the holy name is complete in itself, initiation and Deity worship are still necessary for purification:
To chant the holy name of the Lord, one need not depend upon other paraphernalia, for one can immediately get all the desired results of connecting or linking with the Supreme Personality of Godhead. It may therefore be questioned why there is a necessity for initiation or further spiritual activities in devotional service for one who engages in the chanting of the holy name of the Lord. The answer is that although it is correct that one who fully engages in chanting the holy name need not depend upon the process of initiation, generally a devotee is addicted to many abominable material habits due to material contamination from his previous life. In order to get quick relief from all these contaminations, it is required that one engage in the worship of the Lord in the temple. The worship of the Deity in the temple is essential to reduce one's restlessness due to the contaminations of conditional life. Thus Narada, in his pancaratriki vidhi, and other great sages have sometimes stressed that since every conditioned soul has a bodily concept of life aimed at sense enjoyment, to restrict this sense enjoyment the rules and regulations for worshiping the Deity in the temple are essential. Srila Rupa Gosvami has described that the holy name of the Lord can be chanted by liberated souls, but almost all the souls we have to initiate are conditioned. It is advised that one chant the holy name of the Lord without offenses and according to the regulative principles, yet due to their past bad habits they violate these rules and regulations. Thus the regulative principles for worship of the Deity are also simultaneously essential.
– Sri Caitanya caritamrta Adi lila 7.76
Sankirtana, chanting of the holy name, must go hand in hand with Deity worship:
Especially in this age of Kali, sankirtana alone is sufficient. If the members of our temples in the different parts of the world simply continue sankirtana before the Deity, especially before Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu, they will remain perfect. There is no need of any other performances. Nevertheless, to keep oneself clean in habits and mind, Deity worship and other regulative principles are required. Srila Jiva Gosvami says that although sankirtana is sufficient for the perfection of life, the arcana, or worship of the Deity in the temple, must continue in order that the devotees may stay clean and pure. Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati thakura therefore recommended that one follow both processes simultaneously. We strictly follow his principle of performing Deity worship and sankirtana along parallel lines. This we should continue.
– Srimad Bhagavatam 6.3.25