By S Paul
Every religion without exception in the whole of the world discourages Idolatory. This includes our own Vedic or Sanatan dharma or that which is now in vogue, the ‘Hindu’ religion, mostly based on the wisdom of Ramayana and Bhagwat Geeta.
kâmais tais tair hrita-jñânâh prapadyante ’nya-devatâh
tam tar niyamam âsthâya prakrityâ niyatâh svayâ.
Bhagwat Geeta Chapter7, Verse 20.
“Those whose knowledge has been carried away by material desires surrender to the celestial gods following their own nature. They worship the devatâs, practicing rituals meant to propitiate these celestial personalities.”
However, no religion, even those who forbid idolatry, can claim to be completely rid of this human fetish. Muslims must face the Kaaba and, in their homes, have a photo or a painting of it. Jews have the seven headed candelabra or Star of David to help them visualise blessings of Yahweh. Non-Catholic Christians use the Cross, but Catholics even use a statue of the Holy Mother. Even faiths which do not profess the presence of divinity use some or other aid to worship. The Buddhists use the sign of ‘Aum’ as the energy in the cosmos. The Jains and Sanatana dharma must display the sign of swastika in the place of their worship. They claim these to be only symbols but these do act as the visual aids to their worship of divinity. To have a visual aid to worship is innate to humans.
The Vedic Dharma, being termed these days as the ‘Hindu dharma’, believes that God exists in every object of His creation “Sarva-vyapi’. Hence, for an uneducated simpleton even a stone smeared with vermilion becomes his/her aid to worship. The pundits who perform our religious ceremonies make a profitable use of this simple belief by spinning stories of a miracle or blessing around this idol as a catalyst to the faiths of the believers. Here, I recall a beautiful story of a simple faith of a rustic farmer. Once Narada Muni, the great traveler sage and an ardent worshiper of Vishnu was passing over the countryside when he heard a farmer working his field with his two bullocks and loudly uttering, “Merey Ram-Shyam Ram-Shyam”. Naradji was very pleased to hear this ordinary human worshiper of the Lord. So, he went down and commended the simpleton on his devotion. The farmer was quite taken aback and said, “Sir! My companions and my bread givers are these two bullocks and their names are Ram & Shyam, whom I encourage by talking to them.” Narad ji was quite annoyed at this misuse of Narayan’s names. Filled with rage he went and complained to the Lord and told him about this insolence on part of an ordinary human. The Lord smiled and said, “Naradji! The simpleton sees his God in those two animals, who help sustain him. That is what I do. So, how is he different than you?”
The notion of ‘non-existence of Divinity’ is only a fib in the minds of those who pretend to be knowledgeable. If not so, then consider the aborigines and tribals living on remote lands. They invariably have a deity whom they worship with great zeal and offer sacrifices; which is for them the most eventful and precious demonstration of their belief. The perception of some superior entity that sustains and protects our world does not need knowledge and is innate in all living beings, more prominently and demonstratively in humans. Those who are with atheistic leanings and consider themselves to be imbued with great scientific learning are incomplete in their knowledge because they, in their egoistic sightlessness, deny the very reason of their existence. Such thinkers believe that all began with the ‘Big Bang theory of the Universe’ and creation of the basic cell. But then how do they explain the living cell (Ovum) being motivated by a mobile cell (spermatozoa) to start splitting and form into a living being? An energy blast cannot design this arrangement.
The brain that conceives and makes it happen is Divine. Belief in the divinity leads one to worship. Worship is translated in offering prayer, a process of conversing with the divinity. When this conversation is carried out not by words but by thoughts only, it becomes an act of meditation. For pure meditation one needs to segregate from the surroundings and straying thoughts. This needs also virtual anesthetisation of all the physical senses. This is not acquired easily by the common person and is attained once in thousands of years by a special living being. However, those who do acknowledge the divinity but are so busy in their worldly affairs (the Karmayogi) to perceive Him, something tangible is needed to conceive and concentrate on the presence of God. The common people do not have the opportunity to get to learn about the divine as all these Godly incarnations, so they resort to the Idols-Icons and Symbol worship and benefit due to their own intensity of belief (Aastha), thus sometime miracles are wrought even through such intense faith.
Therefore, the believers in any faith, without exception, use some or the other audio-visual aid to help them worship. I feel there is another reason that can be attributed for the humans to resort to the use of Idols-Icons or Symbols in their worship. One doctrine of divine existence in human forms as practiced by certain faiths is the degree of purity and nearness to the divinity acquired by intense meditation by those who have renounced their association with the common human life. These special humans acquire power over the elements of the nature and can use this to perform miracles. In Vedic dharma, we have the Trimurti as the God, then Dev & Devi, then Sages & Rishis; in Islam it is Allah, then his Paigambar, then Aulia then Peer; in Christianity, it is the God, then the holy spirit, then the Son (Jesus) and then the Apostles. The common people do not have the opportunity to get to learn about the divine as all these Godly incarnations, so they resort to the Idols-Icons and symbols worship and benefit due to their own intensity of belief, thus, sometimes, miracles are wrought even through such intense faith.
As more and more intricacies of nature is revealed to our inquisitiveness through the instrument of Science, some among us, who are humble enough to realise the magnificence of the one who created the cosmos, come to marvel at its unfathomable greatness. One of the greatest scientists, Sir Isaac Newton had humbled himself and said, ”I do not know what I may appear to the world, but to myself I seem to have been only like a boy playing on the sea-shore, and diverting myself in now and then finding a smoother pebble or a prettier shell than ordinary, whilst the great ocean of truth lay all undiscovered before me.”
Great discoverers and inventors of our times have all acknowledged the existence of this creator; we call God-Parameshwar-Allah-Ik Onkar-Jehova or Yahawe, etc. Some of them have specifically enunciated their belief in the creator. “The more I study science, the more I believe in God.” Albert Einstein, “In the absence of any other proof, the thumb alone would convince me of God’s existence.” Sir Isaac Newton, ”The gift of mental power comes from God, Divine Being, and if we concentrate our minds on that truth, we become in tune with this great power.” Nikola Tesla has summed up the Bhartiye philosophy of achieving oneness with the almighty by meditating.
Well then, Idolatry is not a sin or anti-God; as long as it is done to propitiate divinity for the good of the world in which we live and not just for the self. Our worship of an idol does not require us to lavish our material acquisitions on it; which could be more gainfully utilised to alleviate many a suffering of the living beings to earn the blessings of our Gods. The Idol-Icon-Symbol should not be allowed to replace God; being the main purpose of aid to worship.