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Idol Worship in Hinduism

On Idol Worship

There are several sects among Hindus too who downplay the importance of idol worship. Other religions already say that praying to idols is blasphemy. But these people are also dependent on certain symbols that they consider holy.

So what's wrong if someone uses an idol (a symbolic God) to be able to connect to the Supreme?

One cannot focus on vacuum. Only the successful gnan yogis can meditate like that. Others need some symbol. The cross is holy. The crescent is holy. And so is the OM. Some people take OM and create a personal God out of it. They create a symbolic God (an idol or a painting) so that they feel connected. They'd perform rituals like bathing the idol, draping it in clothes, and would feed it (at least they think they are doing service to God).

God never laid out any rules. He didn't say pray like this or don't pray like that. But then, every religion has rules. These rules were laid out by people who claimed to have experienced God. The intellect of humans is limited. No one can understand God. At most, they can present their own interpretations.

You might have heard of the story of some blind people who tried to describe an elephant by touching different parts of its body. That's what even the learned know.

Lord Krishna told Arjuna that if one can see the creation and Creator as one, he or she has attained Moksha (salvation). Personally, I am yet to meet, nay, hear of such a yogi. I have read few scriptures and yet I cannot understand how to pray to a formless God.

Anyway, Lord Krishna further said that if you can't view Creator in Creation, believe Him to be a separate single entity and focus on Him. If you cannot assume a single formless entity, pray to God by imagining Him in some shape. Here is where the need for idols (symbols) steps in.

In the same chapter, Lord Krishna said that if you cannot even focus on an image, just go ahead with your life after placing your faith in God. Such actions are supposed to be done for God and hence lead to Salvation (Moksha).

So you see, symbols are part of our attempts to get closer to God. Those symbols can be natural, like trees, rivers, stones. Or they can be man-made such as idols and paintings. Rejecting symbol worship right away doesn't suit the wise.

Bhagvad Gita says that the wise know God to be formless but they don't try to stop others from idol worship because they don't want to play with idol worshippers' faith. Idol worship is just another method to pray and show your love to God.

In short, not every mind is fully developed. If someone needs a symbol or an idol to be able to pray, let them do it. They're not praying to idols. They're praying to God via the idols.

Arun Kumar
Sent on: 17/09/18 AT 09:37 PM IST


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