|Posted by thirdeyemeditation on May 20, 2010 at 11:30 PM|
Acknowledgements: Swami Vivekananda
Many Hindus use idols of God as symbols of God. Hindus take lot of criticism for this by those who don’t understand the logic behind it. Hindus don’t worship idols. They worship God in front of an idol to make it easy to focus on God and to visualize God. We use symbols in everyday of our lives. Don’t we keep family portraits at homes and offices? Do we consider them as pieces of paper with some color? No! We keep them to remind our families, the love and the responsibilities which go with them. Generally Hindu temples have idols of God. They do not represent some clay or stone or metal that they are made of. They represent various forms of God to make it easy for a common person to feel connected with God. They only represent media to experience God. Swami Vivekananda, one of the all time great great Saints of Hinduism who made the common people understand Hinduism once said, ‘Jaise drishti (vision), vaise srishti (creation)’. That means creation will be how your vision is. If you see God in an idol you see God, but if you see stone in an idol that is all you see in you. That is the case in everything and everybody in life. A live human being can be seen as bunch of flesh or a living being with emotions and divine qualities. If you see an ordinary person in your mother you will only see a person in her. If you see God in your mother like how Hinduism teaches you, you will see a divine God with motherly features in her. God’s idols command the same degree of respect God earns. Prayer by large group of people in front of God’s idol in a background of chanting of Mantras, devotional music and fragrance of sandalwood creates appropriate mood and environment for praying. If one closely examines what people all over the world in different religions do, it appears that most religions worship and see god in idols or icons. Anybody who wears God’s symbol or keeps such icons or photos in their house such as a Holy Cross, pendant with Jesus Christ’s image or Mother Mary’s image (e.g. Guadalupe among Christians from Mexico) or any ornament with a religious sign worships idols.
If anybody keeps a family portrait in their house or office, that person believes in iconism whether he/she admits it or not. Anybody who wears a T shirt with an image of God or that of a person they respect is actually practicing iconism. If a worshipping place (Temple, Church, Mosque, Synagogue, Gurudwara, etc) looks like a worshipping place and different from an office building, I am sorry to point out that all those people who go there practice iconism. Out of respect and for hygienic reasons Hindus don’t wear shoes or sandals in the prayer area. To prevent distraction and out of respect to God and people, Hindus are expected to wear decent dress in the temples.
Many Hindu families dedicate one area or a separate room in the house for prayer and some build a mini temple inside the house. Worshipping in front of an idol is not a compulsion for Hindus. It is a choice. None of the scriptures talk about using idols. It was created to make it simple for ordinary human beings to feel God with the normal sensory organs such as the eyes. If a person can worship God without the help of an idol (Formless God, i.e., Nirguna Brahman), he does not have to use an idol. He can just worship Formless God. Swami Vivekananda in fact has said that one can be an atheist and still be a Hindu as long as one believes in the ideals of Hindu philosophy. However majority of the normal human beings need some symbol to help concentrate on God and that is a universal phenomenon.
To summarize, there is nothing wrong in worshipping in front of God’s idols. It is important to appreciate one of the basic tenets of Hinduism, ‘Tat (that) Tvam (thou or you) Asi (that)’ which means ‘You are that divine reality’. In other words there is divinity in everything and everybody.