Hello and welcome to episode 98 of The Ask Sri Vishwanath Show. Today I want to talk about idol worship and how it produces great men and women.
Today’s question comes from Kevin and he says “I find it humours that Hindus spend so much time and effort on idol worship. How did it start and is it of any real use?”
Thanks for the question Kevin. I appreciate your opinion but I think you will have a very different take on it after this episode.
The King’s portrait
Vivekananda was often invited to homes and palaces of kings and queens during his travels. He travelled barefoot through India with almost no belongings so whenever a king knew he was passing through they would invite him.
On one of the visits a king had the same opinion. He looked down on idol worship saying it was a waste of time. Vivekananda told him it was a question of eligibility. The king was not happy with this answer so he pressed him further. He demanded to know why people were wasting their time on such things. At this point Vivekananda had become a little irritated so he told the king’s minister to go and take down the portrait of the king that was hanging on the wall and give it to him.
Vivekananda put the portrait on the ground and told the ministers to spit on it. The people could not believe what they were hearing. This man was asking people to spit on an image of the king right in front of him. The minister angrily refused to do such a thing. Vivekananda turned to him and asked him why. It was just a portrait so why not? He would not be spitting on the king just on a picture of him so what’s the big problem? The minister still refused to do it no matter how much Vivekananda demanded it of him.
Vivekananda asked him what was stopping him from doing it. The minister explained that when he saw that image he saw the king in it. So spitting on the portrait would be no different than spitting on the king himself. Vivekananda smiled and turned to the king. He told him that this is exactly what Idol worship is. When people worship an Idol or an image they are worshiping god himself as if he was that image or idol the way the minister saw the king in the portrait.
That one image represented all that was the king the same way the Idols represent all that is God and so they should be respected as such. In that second the king realised what he was saying and became a holy man.
God in the image
In Hinduism the devotees see God in the images and idols. When you see God in something it changes the way people see that object or image. The portrait was powerful because it represented the king who himself, was powerful. When you worship God in an image it becomes really beautiful.
Vivekananda says that God in the image is perfectly fine but the image as God is where everything goes wrong. Hindu’s worship God in the image. As human beings, we need a physical object to lay our devotions on. In earlier episodes we learned that the purpose of life is to form the gold image within. This is reserved for the best of the best. The others must go out before they go in. This happens in the form of a teacher, idol, book or mantra. Only very few are directly eligible.
By default we want to see God with eyes, ears and a nose because that is what we understand. An idol becomes a beautiful way of depicting god, in that idol. An idol allows you to easily visualise God and that’s the key. Once you visualise God you can form the gold image much faster. The faster we can form the gold image the better.
We spoke in the last episode about principals and methods. Other religions focus on God on the outside but in Hinduism we focus on the golden image of god within the consciousness. When you know this you realise that you can go out through many methods such as a book, mantra or idol. Then you can return inwards to form the gold image. By in large the principals are the same across most religions but Hinduism gives the widest choice of methods like the different types of yoga we spoke about before. It gives maximum freedom so you have a greater chance of success. There will still be people who will screw it up but the chances of this happening will be much less.
This small chance of failure does not make the whole concept of idol worship redundant. Idol worship is so valuable because it speeds up the process of forming the gold image. Those who worship the gold image are one thousand times more likely to see God than those who do not. This is why Hinduism creates more men and women of God than any other religion. People who are genuinely interested in spiritualty always end up in India because of what they learn.
Krishna says “one out of a thousand will try to reach me out of that only one reaches me”. This means only one in one million will form the gold image in this lifetime. So in the entire world only 700 people will reach this level of spirituality.
Vivekananda said that Ram Krishna used to worship the goddess of time, Kali. After Krishna Kali is the most powerful God. Kali controls everything under the areas of time space and form. Even an atheist will read Ram Krishna’s words because they are so simple but so beautiful.
Vivekananda says that if in five centuries one RamaKrishna is produced then let idol worship continue because it is worth it. That one person will take care of everything. Even people who form the gold image will still worship idols because idol worship is a concentration of high energy. People will not suddenly stop because they have formed a strong and beautiful relationship with the idol. People will listen to their idol and hear wisdom that they would never think possible. It is really beautiful. It will guide your through tough times and will help you to see God. It is a method that works for many people.
Many people have worshiped an idol of Krishna only to have the real Krishna appear before them. This has happened a few times and it has been documented. The high concentration of energy allows this to happen.
While you see through the body, mind and intellect you will not understand this. Open your heart to the wonders of an idol and you too can experience this beautiful relationship and see God.
I hope I answered your question. Remember you keep asking questions and I’ll keep answering them.
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