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The essence of idol worship

A statue may be used only to remind us of the chosen path. If we're neglecting our Dharma, adorning God with flowers, won't help.

india Updated: Mar 27, 2004 17:07 IST

Idol Worship is very much part of the Hindu tradition, and is as ancient as one's mind can go back to. In times beyond what we can remember, there was no idolatry, simply because there were no idols, as there were no forms whose idols were required to be worshipped.

Prayer was accomplished through mantra, japa, kirtan, and silent meditation. This was the practice of the Golden Ages, where temples were not dedicated to a single figure of adoration, but to a Universal Creator, whose power was omnipotent, omniscient and omnipresent.

As people descended into density, that is into lower and lower vibrations, the capacity to comprehend the vastness of the One Creator was diminished to such an extent that something more tangible was required, if they were to be in communion with God.

Humans decided that they wanted to 'see' which God was being propitiated, and so the practice of carving statues was commenced. So the idols, that is the statues of incarnations of the One Creator, and other Gods found their way into Temples of Worship.

If a person felt that he needed a certain quality, then he built, or worshipped at a temple built in honour of the God who had that particular quality. For example, temples of Hanuman, for protection, Lord Shiva for inner completion, Lord Krishna for filling our lives with Love, etc. this resulted in a fragmented kind of worship, and was perhaps most suitable at that time, when humans could not really take cognizance of the Universality of the Existence of God.

They considered God to be enshrined solely in the idol, and in that Temple where it stood. The stone came to be the object of worship, rather than the Radiation of that God. This led to a further degeneration in thought, limiting the Power of God into that little statue.

The Honorable Dalai Lama, Spiritual Head of the Tibetan Buddhists says,
* "Statues or images of the Buddha, irrespective of their material or shape should never be criticized. Having taken refuge in the Buddha, you should not be concerned with what the image is made of, but should pay it respect regardless. You should never make Buddha statues objects of commerce or use them as collateral for a loan.

* "The method that leads to the omniscient stage is the path. The path and the cessation make up the Dharma, the true refuge. The Dharma is something we cannot absorb immediately, it has to be realizedthrougha gradual process. In the context of the practice of refuge, you must be very skillful in being virtuous, while avoiding any negative actions. That is what is called the practice of the Dharma."

So we see here, that though a statue may be used occasionally to remind us of the path that we have chosen, and the Incarnations of God who have preached this path, to reach God we do not need to put flowers and incense on them, or adorn them, if we are otherwise neglecting our path of Dharma.

If we are strongly on the path of Dharma, we would not really feel the necessity of idol worship, as the image and likeness that we see in the idol can be seen in our own "I AM Presence", that is the God within us. We could also extend this to seeing every creature on the planet as an extension, and integral part of the Universal Creator.

The Universe then becomes our Temple of Worship, and the idols are the sentient beings that are the living sparks of God!

First Published: Mar 27, 2004 16:51 IST