Let’s discuss the secret behind Idol Worship.
In the Indian Hindu Vedic tradition, God is worshiped in two forms. One is Nirakar (formless), and the second is Sakar(with form). Nirakar is a form of God that is not visible to us. Nirakar is eternal. It will remain the same in all three worlds. Sakar is a form of God that is visible to us. It can be changed in some time. Sakar does not remain the same in all three worlds. Nothing is fixed in Sakar. Form Sakar can be changed, but form Nirakar will not change. Despite all the dissimilarities, both are worshiped in our Vedic tradition.
Verse from Bruhadaranayk upnishad explains it further:
* द्वे वाव ब्रह्मणो रूपे मूर्तं चैवामूर्तं च मर्त्यं चामृतं च
स्थितं च यच्च सच्च त्यच्च॥
That means God has two forms;
Dead and Nectar, Constant and Variable, Sat and Tyat.
Some people believe that there is no mention and shloka in our Vedas related to idol worship, which shows that they have not read Vedas throughout. If you read Vedas carefully, you will find many shlokas related to idol worship.
Here are two verses from our Vedas on idol worship;
The first is from the Atharva Veda.
* एह्याश्मा तिष्ठाश्मा भवतु ते तनूः ।
That means, oh God come here and get enshrined in this stone idol. May your body become this stone idol.
The second verse is from the Yajur Veda.
मा असि प्रमा असि प्रतिमा असि |
– तैत्तीरिय प्रपा
That means, oh Mahavir! You are the idol of God.
Apart from these two verses, many other verses explain more about idol worship. In Nirakar, you have to meditate or recite the mantra. In Sakar, you have to make an idol.
Now the question is, why there are two forms of God mentioned in the scriptures?
Some people have a very high level of knowledge and understanding of life. That type of person can see the divine in their heart. But there are some other kinds of people whose intelligence is not so developed. They cannot see the divine so, they need some medium to worship. Everyone has a different medium to worship. Someone will see God in nature, find God in a person/teacher/guru, or find their God in an idol. That’s why there are two forms to worship.
A book named Shatattap has clearly explained that by this verse:
* अप्सु देवा मनुष्याणां दिवि देवा मनीषिणाम् ।
बालानां काष्ठ लोष्ठेषु बुधस्यात्मनि देवता ।।
For an ordinary person, God is in water, fire, or the five elements of nature. For a knowledgeable person, God is in Heaven. For a less knowledgeable person, God is an idol of wood or stone. For Yogi, God is in their heart.
To understand it better, let’s think about kids of KG. When kids are in KG, they are taught that A for apple and B for ball. Why not anything else? Does A mean the only apple? No, A can be an airplane or B can be a bat. All the kids are taught the same to create an association. So, that kids don’t get confused after hearing different words.
In the same way, when someone starts believing in God, they are taught the basics that the idol is God. Just like A for apple for kids of KG. Here you have to understand that idol is not God. But an idol is the representation of God. Idol has its significations. That makes idol worship more special.
After knowing one story of Swami Vivekananda, all your doubts will be clear.
When Swami Vivekananda goes to Alwar’s royal court, the young king was talking about Dharma. King asks Vivekananda, “do you believe that God is only present in idols of temples?” Swamiji replied with No. After hearing No from Vivekananda, the king started saying wrong about idols. Once again king asks Swamiji, “can God be found in idols?” Swamiji knew about the real intentions of the king behind asking this question.
Before answering, Vivekananda asks a minister sitting there to bring a photo of the king. Minister took the photo of the king and gave it to Swami Ji. Then swami Ji asks the minister if he is clear that sitting here is the king, and this is his photo. Minister nodded with yes. Now, you spit on the photo of the king. The minister became very angry and said that he could not do that. Swamiji asks the minister, “you just said that king is sitting here and this is a photo of king. Still, you did not spit on the photo of the king. Why?”
After some silence, swami Ji asked the king, “did you understand anything? Just like your alive form and your photo both are different, but still, your photo represents you. In the same way, there is a God divine energy who is Nirakar. An idol that is in the temple or house, represents the same God. The representation of God is an idol. One who can create this universe, one who can create us, do you think that God cannot be present in an idol?”
After Swamiji’s explanation, the king started believing that idol represents God.
There is one more example that determines this.
If I ask you whether water is nirakar or sakar? You will say water nirakar because water changes its shape according to the vessel. But when you put that vessel full of water in the freezer, the water becomes ice.
Now, tell me, what is ice? Nirakar or Sakar? Ice is Sakar because it has a shape. Right! As water has two forms Nirakar and Sakar. Just like water, God also gets into a vessel with our reverence. And when we keep God in the freeze of devotion, they become our idol.
The same thing Shankar Acharya ji explains with this verse:
सर्व गतस्थापि ब्राह्मण: उपलब्धर्थ
स्वामि विशेषो न विषधयते शालग्राम ईव विष्णो |
– आदि शंकराचार्य
He says that God appears in the idol according to the reverence of the devotee.
People who have studied modern science, neuroscience, or our subconscious mind say that the human mind understands more in the language of photos and symbols. Seeing an idol in front creates positive energy in our subconscious mind. You will start getting energy from the surrounding.
If you want to charge your phone you need a charging point, Right? In the very same way as a human, we need a charging point for our energy system, that energy point is the idol.
Now the second question is, Whom should you worship?
In Shrimad Bhagawad Gita, there is a verse of Lord Krishna:
* यो यां तनुं भक्तः श्रद्धयार्चितुमिच्छति ।
तस्य तस्याचलां श्रद्धां तामेव विदधाम्यहम् ॥
– श्रीमद् भगवद् गीता
Lord Krishna says that “I establish the reverence of the deity of the person whom the person worships. “
You should worship the God that you believe in because every God is the same.