Do all Hindus agree with idol worship?

Discussion in 'Hinduism' started by Suraj, Jan 11, 2006.

  1. Suraj

    Suraj New Member

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    Hi,

    I just recently registered on this forum. I am interested in Hinduism, so needed an objective and down to earth place to discuss it.

    Anyhow, I understand that idol worship is a very common Hindu ritualistic practice. However I don't know the origins of this practice and the main philosophy of it. Is idol worship sanctioned in any of the main Hindu texts? Are there any schools of Hinduism against it?
     
  2. Agnideva

    Agnideva Member

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    Namaste Suraj,

    Welcome to CR, and thanks for the post :).


    I think this is definitely the place to do it. I find people here to be quite open, objective, and non-judgmental – all qualities critical for interfaith dialog.


    Generally speaking, nowadays, Hindus prefer to use the term image or icon to describe the murtis used in Hindu worship, in lieu of the term “idol”, since the term “idol” comes with so many negative connotations.

    But, you're absolutely right. For a large majority of Hindus, image worship is an important part of ritual practice, both at home and temple. In Hinduism, we do not see image worship as something vile, but we see it as the most beautiful and natural expression of human devotion (bhakti). The image, technically known as a murti (“concrete form”), is seen as a concrete form of that which is abstract. Another term used for murti is vigraha (“uniquely grasped”). It is believed that the manner and the form in which the image is perceived and sculpted is a uniquely grasped vision of the abstract Divine.

    There are two bodies of holy literature that form the primary texts of Sanatana Dharma: the Vedas and the Agamas. In the Vedas, worship is performed through fire rituals called yajna. In the Agamas, worship is performed through murtis, and is referred to as puja. Both the yajna and puja rituals are used in modern Hinduism. However, the puja ritual is far more prevalent. So, the theory, practice and philosophy of image worship comes directly from the Agama texts.

    The Agama texts contain four sections: charya (service), kriya (ritual), yoga and jnana. Of these, the charya and kriya sections of the Agamas deal extensively with specific protocols for the material, the crafting, and the worship of images used in Hindu temples. Before an image is worshipped in Hindu temples, there is a certain ceremony performed called prana pratishtha (establishment of prana), which is essentially considered to sanctify the image. It is believed that the same all-pervasive force that animates all beings, i.e. prana, also animates the image sculpted in stone or metal after this ceremony, and makes it a worthy channel through which prayers can be offered, and blessings received. Another important point about Hindu image worship is that it is not the image itself that is worshipped, but what it represents – the indwelling presence of the Divine. The image is seen a channeling device, much like a telephone. Just as we do not speak to the telephone, but through it, Hindus see image worship as worship through the image, and not of it. The images are like windows to the Divine. However, the goal of Hinduism, as you know, is definitely not to see God only through and in the image, but to see and experience the Divine in all things and all beings. Image worship is said to aid in that goal, as a first step to allow for concentration, and visualization.

    Another interesting point about images used by Hindus is that there are actually two varieties: iconic and aniconic. While the iconic forms are physical representations (generally anthropomorphic), the aniconic forms are representative. The iconic forms represent the formful aspect of Brahman as the Supreme Lord, and the aniconic forms are representative of the abstract formless Ultimate Reality. The most famous of the aniconic forms are: Lingam in Shaivism, Salagrama in Vaishnavism, and Sri Chakra in Shaktism.


    There have in fact been a few individuals over the centuries who have objected to image worship. Interestingly, all of them were in one way or another influenced by Abrahamic religions (Islam in most cases). Four prominent opponents of image worship were: Guru Nanak Dev, Saint Kabir, Srimanta Sankaradeva, and Swami Dayanand Saraswati. Of these, as you likely know, Guru Nanak Dev founded a new religion known as Sikhism. The other three founded their own branches of Hinduism, which are free of image worship rituals. The branch of Saint Kabir is called Kabir Panth, that of Srimanta Sankaradeva is called Ahomiya Vaishnavism, and that of Swami Dayanand Saraswati is called Arya Samaj. Swami Dayanand Saraswati was undoubtedly the most vociferous critic of image worship. He believed that since the Vedas do not specifically speak of image worship, it is an anti-Vedic practice. The Arya Samaj today is characterized by its complete lack of any Agamic theology or rituals, and uses only Vedic fire rituals for formal worship. There have been several others as well, especially in the last 200 years, but they have failed to change the overall Hindu belief in merit of image worship.

    Swami Vivekananda, one of the most famous 19th century Hindu monks, was originally a critic of image worship as well. When he first met his master, he even argued with the master about his ritual practices. However, once when his master sent him to the temple, Vivekananda came upon a profound personal experience of the Divine Mother, and realized that image worship was indeed a very real way to connect with the Divine, and not a product of ignorance. From then on, he became a strong proponent of image worship.

    I hope that helps :).

    OM Shanti,
    A.
     
  3. I am free

    I am free And anything is possible

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    That was a beautiful reply as usual Agnideva.

    I personally have never understood the fuss about "idol worship" because it seems most natural for human beings to need to "visualise". While I agree that the true nature of the Supreme being may never be truly understood by us, I also feel that God would never be offended by our attempts to represent him through our own images. Ofcourse this mental picture of a "loving" Supreme Lord who is omniscient, omnipotent and perfect is also an image, is it not? Existence of such a power or being is also human imagination (though I do personally believe in such a being).

    Whenever I visit Christian forums and see all the debates on Trinity, I do not understand why it would be so difficult to understand that concept. The fact is that we all have an image in our minds on how God would or should be and we cling on that particular image - even the people who follow religions which claim to be free of idol worship.

    As a Hindu I realise that every one of us has a personal, individual "image" of God. For some he is a loving and forgiving father figure. For others he is just an unknown power. For some others he is still something else. The truth is we dont know.

    A Hindu idol or image is just this. A physical and external expression of our personal relationship with God. As Hindus we learn to respect all individual expressions of God whether they remain in our heart or whether they translate into sculpture or paintings or clay idols. We worship not just "idols", we also worship the sun, the wind, fire because all are manifestations of God. We worship our books because they contain knowledge - a manifestation of God. We worship our tools/machines which help us earn a livelihood.

    One of the core Hindu philosophies is that the paths to God are many. Each individual ultimately has to find his own way. The worship of images represents this spiritual freedom that individuals have and in that sense I would say it is integral to Hinduism.
     
  4. Suraj

    Suraj New Member

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    What wonderful replies, thank you Agnideva and I am free.

    I myself don't completely understand why idol worship is wrong, as the spirit of god is omnipresent, so why cannot it to be present within a statue? But it is also interesting that the Vedas themselves have no mention of idol worship and that so many prominent spiritual figures, such as Guru Nanak Dev were against it. Guru Nanak Dev was against most rituals actually and I can understand why.

    I think the reason that so many have been against Idol worship is that it reduces spirituality into ritualism. As you can see in Hinduism today, spirituality has become a set of rituals to conduct through worship of images, rather than cultivation of self. So in these worship rituals have for many Hindus acted to satisfy their own imagination. When I say this I mean the many Hindus you will find that will go to temples to worship these images and and then carry on with their material lives none the wiser, but thinking to themselves they have gained some spiritual credit.

    Just as for instance, a Christian or a Sikh may get himself baptized to satisfy his imagination that he has purified his soul.

    Yoga is Sanyasa and that is surrendering oneself to ones objective. That is what Bhakti truly is. To love god, one must channel all his energies towards him and see him everywhere and everything. It should not be a ritual you perform, because a ritual is but a glorified chore and does not cultivate you.

    Bhakti is about cultivating unconditional love and devotion. However, for some Hindus who only superficially practice their religion, rituals becomes a substitute.

    So I think this is why idol worship or image worship is strongly repudiated by so many prominent spiritual leaders. Not the least of which is Maharishi/Sage Vasistha, Lord Rama's mentor, who existed long before Christ or Muhammed to be influenced by them. It it thus surprising to see him to completely decry the practice of image and idol worship just like Christians and Muslims.

    He compares idol worshippers with little children playing with dolls. He says those who are devoted to fictious cults or idols are subject to endless misery. He describes the practice of image worship of even demi gods(like Ganesha, Hanuman etc) to be unlearned and childish. Het says it is only due to lack of understanding that one use flowers, incense sticks to pray to idols of their own making.

    He questions how can idols be called god, that despite having a body, are devoid of consciousness? He says true worship of god is by the worship of the living and intellectual spirit - the Jivat Aatma.

    What do you think of this?
     
  5. Agnideva

    Agnideva Member

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    Namaste I am Free and Suraj,

    Thank you both for great responses :). This is turning out a very interesting thread.


    I couldn’t have put this better, I am Free :).


    This is my personal belief as well. Within Hinduism, as you know, we have so many different ways to understand and approach God. Any attempt we make to come to that understanding is a positive step. There is a verse in the BG, which I’m sure you’re familiar with: “Whatever form a devotee desires to worship with deep faith, I stabilize his faith firmly in that form” (VII.21).

    [quote=“Suraj”]Guru Nanak Dev was against most rituals actually and I can understand why.[/quote]
    This is interesting because the Sikh religion, as practiced today, has a lot of ceremonials. I can also understand why Guru Nanak Dev would be against ritualism. I personally do not believe religion should be entirely a practice of rituals. Religion should be part of every second of our lives, and not just something to practice once a week in temple or church, and then go home and do as we wish.



    Interestingly, the followers of many of these same prominent figures have now turned back to ritualism ;).



    This is, of course, not the ideal of Hinduism. But, unfortunately, it is the truth for many, and such can probably also be said about followers of most religions. The Hindu ideal is not to be stuck in the rituals, but to go above and beyond them to come to the realization firsthand. Image worship is supposed to be a guide, a means to, and not an end in itself. According to Agamic philosophy, the stepwise progression to spirituality begins with service (charya), then moves on to kriya (ritual), followed by yoga, and then leading to jnana. Each successive step is supposed to be built on the previous.



    According to Agamic philosophy, the ritual will not cultivate you completely, but aids in that cultivation. The idea is that if God is everywhere and in everything, we must first learn to see Him through the images, before we can experience that omnipresence.

    If, however, one feels that it is not important, one need not practice any rituals at all. One has that spiritual freedom in Hinduism also, as you know already. The worst thing one can do is to practice something without belief in it, there’s absolutely no merit in that I think.



    Ah, very interesting Suraj! As you know there are a variety of views among Hindus on every subject, including this one. I am making an assumption here that the opinions of Sage Vasistha mentioned come from a text known as Yoga Vasistha. It might be of worth mentioning here that the Yoga Vasishtha, although attributed to the teaching of Sage Vasishtha (Guru of Lord Rama), and said to be written by Sage Valmiki, is actually a text that is believed to be composed around the 6th century CE. This is not to say that the author of Yoga Vasishtha was somehow influenced by other religions. The Yoga Vasishtha represents the combined teachings of Advaita Vedanta and Yoga from a time before the coming of Adi Shankara. Many pre-Shankaran and some post-Shankaran Advaita Vedanta monks were against all ritual practices, be it Vedic or Agamic. They believed that yoga and meditation are the only practices worth seeking, and jnana yoga is the only valid path. This is, to an extent, still accepted by some followers of Advaita Vedanta. However, after the 9th century reformation of the Smarta denomination by Adi Shankara, Agamic rituals were introduced within this school, and its followers accepted bhakti yoga as a precursor to jnana yoga. So the school of thought in which Yoga Vasishtha arose no longer discourages image worship, generally speaking.

    Even today, in fact, among Advaita Vedantins there is a belief that image worship is a childish state of the devotee not an advanced state, and that it is something to be let go off as one progresses spiritually. This is, however, contrary to the position held by the Agamic philosophies which state that image worship not only aids in spiritual advancement, but also was introduced by highly perfected beings (mahasiddhas). Hindu practice as we know it today is actually 90% Agamic and 10% Vedic (this formula was presented by the saint-mystic Aurobindo).



    This is, of course, a valid opinion, and is held by some individuals. What I do not understand about this position, in particular with respect to non-dualism is that non-dualism claims that God is both transcendent and immanent – both spirit and matter – and that spirit and matter both came from that Universal Consciousness. If this is so, then isn’t matter and spirit both God? And if spirit and matter are both God, then what would make one sort of worship wrong, and the other one right?

    I suspect this opinion that the jivatman alone should be object of worship comes from the belief that the existent universe is illusory, and external worship continues to keep one bound within that illusion.

    What I would say about Hinduism and image worship is that the choice is ultimately up to the individual. I think I am Free has summed it up very nicely by saying, “Each individual ultimately has to find his own way.” For some image worship may be a hindrance, others may find it very useful. As a Hindu, I don’t believe either position is absolutely wrong.

    OM Shanti,
    A.
     
  6. Silverbackman

    Silverbackman Prince Of Truth

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    I actually read that idol worshipping is banned in the Vedas, despite many Hindus using "idols" for worship.

    I don't think idol worship is evil or anything but I always thought it as useless. Especially if you are going to worship it insteading of maybe praying asking it for help and guidance. BTW Agamic's Philosophy reason for idols seems to make sense.
     
  7. I am free

    I am free And anything is possible

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    Hello Suraj, Thank you for starting a very interesting topic.

    You know, while I can see the truth in the above, I also totally disagree with it. What ails Hinduism today is not ritualism but rather a total lack of interest, knowledge and understanding of our great religion among today's young people. The people who think of rituals as a glorified chore are not embracing religion and rituals with all their heart and soul.

    I have myself spent most of my growing years rejecting rituals either as superstition or as too boring. For most young people today attending satsangs, singing bhajans, visiting temples, reading holy books - everything is so "uncool". Anybody who would be remotely interested is labelled "Gandhi" - isn't it sad that Gandhi should be a symbol today for uncool and boring?

    I remember my first trip to Mantralaya as a child.(a shrine of Guru Raghavendra on the banks of river Tungabhadra in Kurnool district in Andhra Pradesh) My mother is an ardent devotee of Guru Raghavendra and we had gone there in the hot summer months. The temperature there in summer can reach upto 40 degrees celsius. The courtyard of the shrine in those days was covered with sand from the river bank. It was early morning but the sand was already burning hot when we reached. We had not had our breakfast as we had wanted to complete the darshan first. There were no packaged bottles of drinking water available in those days. In short for me as a 10 year old(or perhaps 12, I dont remember) child it was torture. We (me and my brother) took just one pradakshina running on our toes on the hot sand and then we waited for our mother to complete hers...and waited and waited and waited some more. I dont know how many times she went around the temple. I even saw some people performing pradakshina rolling on the sand. Back then I did not understand.

    Even today I am amazed at the people who walk up the hills of Tirumala or who perform a 41 day Ayyappa vrata and climb up the hills of Sabarimala or those who undertake the treacherous Amarnath yatra.

    Today I envy people who can embrace God and religion with such devotion and fervour. I truly truly wish I had it in me as well. I have personally never met anyone who has totally immersed himself in a religious ritual and has not been affected spiritually, mentally and emotionally by it.

    A muslim friend of mine once questioned the logic of idol worship using very similar words. Surely this is not the Hindu idea behind using idols for worship?

    So true Agnideva. Anybody can "superficially practice" religion and this is not unique to Hindus. Rituals & images in my view make religious practice accessible to everybody. On the other hand I doubt if the jnana marga is suitable for practice by one and all. Also if I have no desire to know, if my spiritual self still is asleep will jnana help me more that ritual practice? I dont know but I seriously doubt it.

    I for one am very influenced by the masters of the Bhakti period. I would not discount the experiences and teachings of saints like Meera bai, Sri Ramakrishna Paramahansa, et al. For me it is sufficient to know that they have attained God through Bhakti and "idol" worship.

    It only underlines for me the fact that realisation can be had through many paths, to each his own.

    w regards.
     
  8. Suraj

    Suraj New Member

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    Thank you, for even more wonderful replies. This certainly is shaping up to become a very interesting discussion. I feel I will learn here.




    You know, I was just going to say this in my previous post. It is truly ironic how Sikhism has become a very ritualistic religion, contrary to the ideals it was built on. In fact Guru Nanak Dev set out to dissolve the concept of religion, emphasizing that the true way of life is of learning(Sikhi)

    I see Sikhism as more of a social religion. There is a lot more emphasis on family, service and social welfare. Meanwhile, though most Sikhs will disagree, the central concepts of Sikhism are Hindu/dharmic.





    Yes, I myself can make sense of this. I think images can aid your devotion and becomes a means of expression, however as you can see for yourself, they tend to lead many followers astray by making them completely reliant on them. I think this is the main reason why there is such vociferous opposition against them. I would agree that for many idol worshipers, there is a primitive understanding of Hinduism and it's philosophies.




    I once read, but don't know how true this is, that as we march on through the Yugas, our sense of spirituality and religion begin to degenerate and this necessitates the need of images, temples and idols. In other words, in the Sat Yuga when we are at the pinnacle of our spirituality there is no idol worship or even temples.

    Perhaps this would explain why in the Vedic period there is no idol worship.
    So could it be argued that the Agamic philosophies that arose later are actually because of spiritual degeneration?



    Yes, and it can be very confusing. However, this is what makes Hinduism very approchable from an intellectual view point. It is not a logically coherent system, but a collection of philosophies on the nature of reality and the mind, each which can be compelling in their own right.

    The views of Adivatia and Dvatia for example. I can understand the Vedanta view of the unity of mind and the universe/atman and the Brahman. I can also understand the Dvatia view that inseperability of the mind and the universe/aatman and Brahman is not necessarily identity. I think the truth is somewhere in between.

    If the fate of the soul is to merge with the supreme consciousness, like a drop of water merges with an ocean, then what identity does it have? Does it cease to exist or does it exist as a supremely liberated soul at the highest plane of existence? If it is the former, non-existence, then why is that desirable?

    That is very interesting. Yes, you assume correctly, it is the Yoga Vasishtha.

    You have inspired me to create another thread, I have a burning question now!

    In the mean time, I would be most grateful, if you could give me information on the history of the Yoga Vasisthia and why it is believed to be have been composed in 6th CE.

    Yes, Hindu practice today is lesser rooted in the vedic traditions.






    Likewise, I also do not understand that if the spirit of the supreme pervades all and is omnipresent, then why cannot it be present within matter. At the same time, matter is not conscious(or is it?) so perhaps there is a distinction between the jivatman and the ordinary matter.

    Again, as you said, I think the world of matter is illusory, a projection of consciousness, and as a projection, it is not animated by consciousness. Just like my reflection in the mirror is not animated by my consciousness. The worship of materials, whether in any form or symbol, seeks only to bind us to this illusory and material world.

    Suppose for example, that I worship money as god and turn life my towards devotion of money, will that emancipate me from the material world? I don't think it will, it will just suck me in deeper. What do you think of this?
     
  9. Agnideva

    Agnideva Member

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    Namaste All,

    Thanks for the responses.


    This is something I have heard a lot too. People, I think, come to the conclusion that image worship is “banned” in the Vedas because the Vedas do not make mention of this topic. But, then again there are a lot of concepts in Hinduism that are not specifically mentioned in the Vedas. Another important concept the Vedas do not contain is the incarnation of God (Avatar). So, does that mean avatar doctrine is also banned in the Vedas?

    In any case, the idea that image worship is against the Vedas was first introduced by Swami Dayanand Saraswati, the founder of Arya Samaj, in the late 1800s. He quoted a certain passage from the Shukla Yajurveda, and this verse has been repeated over and over again by those who believe image worship is against the Vedas:

    The Shukla Yajurveda says: “He, whose glory knows no bounds, has no pratima” (XXXII.3). The term pratima in common modern usage means statue or image. However, it turns out that the word pratima has two meanings. It can mean image or it can mean comparison. So, depending on your interpretation, this can read:

    1. He, whose glory knows no bounds, is incomprehensible.
    OR
    2. He, whose glory knows no bounds, has no image.

    I remember reading about this a while ago. So, if the meaning is #1, then there is no argument. If the meaning is #2, then it can be argued that the “He” referred to here is the Ultimate Formless Reality, and no one has ever argued that the Ultimate Reality has any form or likeness! :)


    As a matter of fact, I have too! Ritual practice is not something that one embraces immediately, I think, it needs to grow on you :). I don’t think we should accept anything without understanding, without believing, or without it making some intuitive sense.


    I, for one, can never deny the truth in the pilgrimages and rituals people perform with sincere devotion. There is a lot to be said for sincerity in Hindu practice. This is why I would never be willing to say that those who practice only image worship are following a lesser path, than those who practice only jnana yoga. Just because we may not understand the truth in some practice, does not mean there is no truth there.


    This is a very important concept in Hinduism, I am Free, and thank you for pointing it out. Hinduism does not tell us that we must take the jnana path to realization. There are so many saints who have never spoke a single word of philosophy, never read a single scripture, but are considered to have crossed the ocean of birth and death. Simply by sincere and unwavering bhakti, they came to the ultimate realization. The highest knowledge (paravidya) is said to be gained personally, not by any text, school, or philosophy. In fact, the entire body of texts and philosophies are only stepping stones.


    Yes I personally agree with this statement, but as you said, most Sikhs will disagree with this concept completely. There are, of course, also Sikh concepts not found in Hindu dharma.


    Have you noticed how this is said about founders of many religions? Such is said about the Buddha, about Jesus, about Guru Nanak Dev.


    One thing about Hinduism, I would say, is that it is very understanding. Even if you don’t know any philosophy or theology, you can still be a good Hindu, wouldn’t you agree? Our primary focus is on being a good person in this life, and following dharma to the best of our ability. Dharma is the first of the four aims of life, as you well know.


    You bring up a very interesting, and very controversial point. The history of the Agamas is quite obscure, and largely unresearched. However, most scholars agree that the Agamas are very ancient texts. There are actually three theories on the Agamas:

    1. Some believe the Agamas are degenerations of pure religion that existed and is represented by the Vedas – this position is held, for example, by the Arya Samaj.

    2. Some, who believe in the “Aryan Invasion”, say that the Vedas were brought by the invading Aryan tribes, and the Agamas were the texts of the natives which were pre-existent.

    3. Most believe, however, that the Agamas are natural branches of the Vedas themselves, composed by spiritually advanced beings called Mahasiddhas. There is a popular theory that the Vedas had many more branches than we have today, and most were lost over time. I have heard that the Agamas branched out of the Brahmana portions of the Vedas, and developed just as the Upanishads did. Besides justification and theory of image worship, the Agamas contain a lot of philosophy within the yoga and jnana sections. The Agamas, in fact, extol the Vedas. But, being of a different focus, they were never considered part of the Veda. Some of the Upanishads, such as the Shvetashvatara, are actually said to represent a combination of both Vedic and Agamic thought!


    Yes! Both make sense, both are logical, but they are in many ways opposites! ;) Which one is true - perhaps both, perhaps neither!?!


    I am not sure I can adequately respond to this question, but I will post a reply to this in the other thread :).


    The belief that the world is illusory has led to another philosophical conundrum in Hinduism. If the entire creation is but an illusion, a veil of maya on the reality of Brahman, then the realization that there is an Ultimate Reality within that illusion is also a part of that illusion. Can an illusion within an illusion be considered reality? :) ;)

    OM Shanti,
    A.
     
  10. Suraj

    Suraj New Member

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    Thank you for your posts Agnideva, you raise good points in favour of idol worship. Nothing is ever black and white. Even if Sage Vasista did denounce it, who is to say that he was not being shortsighted about it, even in his great wisdom.

    Even if it is true that the Agamic philosophies are the result of spiritual denegeration, we must also accept that we no longer live in the Sat Yuga and thus our sense of spirituality and spiritual expression may not be the purest, but at least it is not non-existent. We still strive to form a relationship with god in our own ways.

    In the times of Sat Yuga, maybe there was no need for temples, idols or what have you, because we were born into higher spirituality and meditation was a part of society. Today, whether we like it or not, we live in a materialistisc society and to survive we must partake in it. We must work to earn a living, we must pay our bills and we must be a part of social rituals. We are going through very diffcult time today, with the endless wars, disease and the changes in climate and earth, who knows how bad this Kaliyuga may get. In such a discontended and hectic world, how does one find time to truly surrender to a life of self-introspection and meditation. So whatever time we get to sit and meditate, pray or worship and express ourselves spiritually is all good.

    Yet, that said, I do agree with the viewpoint that this is impure, but not that it is bad or wrong. That orthodox idol worship, the worship in temples or even the few hours of meditation we do per day is not sufficient. The few hours we spend in Church, Masjids, Mandirs is not enough. If it indeed was, then we would all be spiritually enlightened and realised maharishis, Buddhas and mahasihhas. No, it took the real great realised souls great penance, devotion and meditation to realise their goal.

    The highest, but the most difficult of them is the worship of the living and intellectual spirit through study and self-inquiry; the path of knowledge.
    It would be interesting here to make a distinction between what kind of realisations does one attain through devotion and through knowledge.

    Love is I believe the highest expression of god, but if I learn to love, will that make me any wiser of the reality of god? Through study of the mind, I can come to an understanding of what reality is, what causality is and perhaps how god pervades reality, but will I come to the same understanding through just cultivating unconditional love only?

    It maybe that I attain god, but without understanding of what god is, my relationship with god will always be one of devotee. I will always be in awe of god and there will be a distinction of infinity.

    I once read about the different kind of experiences one has with god. One experience is when infinity itself manifests before you, leaving you in complete awe of this infinite power, truly making you understand just how insiginicant you are before this power. You worship it for the rest of your life, thristing for that divine experience again. The other god experience is one where you come to a realization that infinity is one aspect of your own self through inquiry. You come to a deep understanding that this god aspect is indeed you. That you are all of existence. This is a state of supreme bliss and silence, that is completely non-dualistic, it is actually void and nothingness, the state where both existence and non-existence converge.
    This is the kind of experience Buddha had.

    These experiences actually realise your expectations of god. If your expectation is of an external power, that is what you realise. If your expectation is of god that exists at the core of your being, that is what you realise. So both adivatists and dvatists are right, only the former is a more complete understanding of reality.

    You're absolutely right about Buddha and Guru Nanak. I am not sure about Jesus though, Christianity has been dogmatic and intolerant since it's inception and does not recognise other religions. However, Guru Nanak and Buddha did actually say that they were not creating a religion. Yes, it is interesting how the followers have done the opposite.



    Yes, that is what I like about Hinduism. But is it enough to just be a moral and good Hindu? I think if you could quantify your spiritual progress, being a good human being may accure you good karma, but not enough to be liberated. This is why I think we have Yoga. There are many different paths to it as you know, but all require absolute devotion. Again, the greatests realized beings greately devoted their lives to spirituality.

    I believe that it is our mind that shapes our reality, and being a good and moral human being, will shape a good reality, but it will not liberate you from reality. It may lead to a better life in the present or in the next, but we will continue to come here as long as we have desire according to Hinduism. So, is it not desire that causes us to be moral, in hope of spiritual liberation?

    Again, being a good human being does not lead to an understanding of mind or reality. If we continue to understand god and reality external, he will always be external and hence we will always live in the world of duality. This is why I think knowledge and science is very important. At the same time I also think love is important as well. Perhaps, they are like wings of the bird, the bird needs both to fly(Sage Vasista says something like this in the Yoga Vasista)



    I think illusion is the wrong word. How is our physical world, and our physical lives is an illusion? If I look at a football, I see a football, but it really is an aggregate of atoms, does this mean the football I see is an illusion. No, it just means that the football has many levels of dualistic reality, each which is true, but one reality supercedes all. Likewise, if all of existence is just the projection of the supreme soul, then the supreme is the highest or ultimate reality. But every other reality is not illusion.

    Just like my reflection is real. However, if I mistake that reflection for real that is illusion. The material or the gross reality is what they say our mind reflects, so it is our consciousness that creates it, but itself is not animated by our consciousness. This is where I think the distinction between the jivatman and matter begins.
     
  11. Agnideva

    Agnideva Member

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    Namaste Suraj,

    You’re absolutely right with regards to Advaita Vedanta. Advaita Vedanta philosophy teaches that the path of knowledge and self-inquiry, as you mention, are the only way to moksha. However, please do keep in mind that Advaita Vedanta is not the defining philosophy of Hinduism. In stark contrast to this teaching, Vaishnava Hinduism teaches that moksha is not to be attained by self-effort alone, but to be granted by God upon our single-minded self-surrender (prapatti) to His Divine Will. Every Hindu system in fact teaches a different primary path to moksha.


    I suppose it depends on who you ask ;). All philosophers actually maintain that theirs is the highest and most complete understanding of reality. Guru Raghavendra Tirtha, mentioned earlier by I am Free, the most famous exponent of the dvaita philosophy of Sri Madhvacharya, was of the opinion that dvaita is the most complete and the highest kind of realization.


    While the complex philosophies and yoga maybe accessible and understandable to all of us here, what about people who may not be able to understand? What about the uneducated, the unlettered? Would Hinduism condemn them to be stuck within samsara because of circumstances they have no control over?


    No, but wouldn’t you agree that being a good and moral person is the foundation of all spirituality? That we should first live per the code of dharma is the teaching of not only Hinduism, but all religions of the Dharma family. It is in the context of dharma that artha, kama and moksha are to be pursued. The reason Hinduism can be so understanding with regards to the pursuit of moksha is because we don’t believe this is the only life to be lived. Moksha is not possible for all of us to achieve in this lifetime, but we believe whatever efforts we make in this life will be carried over to the next. If nothing else, then we are told at least to live by dharma.


    Once again, Suraj, you’re absolutely correct with regards to Advaita Vedanta. Even if the world is seen as a reflection or “illusory” in this philosophy its existence is not denied. But the idea that the world is an “illusion” or reflection or adhyaropa or any term we may want to use is not accepted by other Hindu systems, which maintain that the world is as real as Brahman.

    OM Shanti,
    A.
     
  12. I am free

    I am free And anything is possible

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    This is an absolute treat of a discussion. I wish I could contribute much more, but I would like all here to know that I am reading and absorbing and really enjoying your comments.
     
  13. Suraj

    Suraj New Member

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    I agree I am Free. This is a great discussion. I've not been responding recently, because I've been having debates on other forums and immersing myself in Hindu literature and learning about just how sophisticated and complex this religion is and what so many are missing. In particular I was reading on the Dvatia philosophy of Samkhya and I came to a realisation. Sage Kapila discarded the concept of a personal god, but admitted to a "peculiar god" similar to Buddha's concept.

    He believed there were innumerable or infite souls, each of which come to realisation that they are god. Yet, his ideas also had the underpinnings of adivatia, that there was a supreme soul or univeral body, and the collective consciousness of the infinite souls formed this supreme soul. I thought of an ocean, where the ocean is formed of innumerable drops of water and then invisioned the body of god as being composed, like an an ocean, of infinite souls.

    So, maybe we do not completely lose our identity when we merge with supreme consciousness. It is neither a completely dualistic state or a non-dualistic state. The ocean needs the many droplets to exist and the droplets are formed of the substance of the ocean.

    To an observer, the soul may look like it has dissolved into this ocean of consciousness. But in essence that ocean is composed of many droplets each that are unique.

    But that is the catch Agni-Deva. We do have control over our circumstances according to Karma. It is the current impressions and the past impressions(samslaras) that shape our reality and our circumstances. If we are born into ignorance, then it could be argued, it is because of our past actions.

    I am a firm believer, that mind exists beyond the physical reality. That is when we die, the mind carries on. The realisations we made in this life carry on with us. So no matter how much karma I accure with good actions, if I do not make the realisation of the self, then my concept of reality as being external will continue and I will continue to be born in duality.

    This is why they say there are so many levels to the astral or subtle realms. The lowest of these realms are the 7 hells and then the 7 heavens. They represent the level of consciousness of the soul. Those who have lived a life of misery, of pain, of dejection enter these lower astral planes and hells, while those who have lived a life of love, of joy or of peace, enter these higher astral planes.

    In Buddhism the ascended souls, masters and Buddhas inhabit these higher planes.

    Yet beyond the astral or the subtle world, is the casual. The casual is the world of non-duality, but to arrive in this highest state of existence and attain liberation, the soul must come to the understanding of self. As he comes to the understanding of self, his samskaras are burnt out.

    The physical or gross reality is also called the karma bhumi that is that souls, great and not so great, incarnate on this Earth to accure karma. This material reality is like a place where souls come to earn higher karma to ascend the spiritual planes or to learn important lessons.

    But I do not believe that this is forced. It is not so, I believe, that a soul will be forced to take upon a certain existence because of it's past actions. The soul will choose themselves where they want to incarnate and the course their life takes will depend on their past actions and current actions.

    The current or life force/prana of Brahman pervades everything, including matter. But does matter contain life force in a different propertion to the soul? And do different souls contain life force in different propotions?

    According to Yoga they do. As everybody has different flows of prana and this shows in their aura.

    Likewhile, while inert matter has an aura as well, it is static. Because it doesn't have life. Could this mean that the atman does not pervade matter. If indeed gross matter was just the projection of Brahman, like when I said above that a mirror is not animated by my consciousness, likewise gross matter is not animated by Brahman's consciousness.

    Interestingly, if this was the case, it would mean that Brahman is not omnipresent in the universe. There is a difference between projection and pervasion, surely?
     
  14. redindica

    redindica New Member

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    Hi All

    this is a great discussion. I have a few quotes on this subject taken from various Hindu texts. Thought you guys might find them interesting.




    Peace :)
     
  15. Suraj

    Suraj New Member

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    That is definitely very interesting redindica! When the central Hindu texts disapprove of the practice, as well great spiritual leaders like Guru Nanak, Buddha and the Swamis and sages of yore; there must be a good reason.

    I think as I tried to reason above, that this could be because matter is inert. That is why Sage Vasista makes a distinction between matter and soul. If we take the evidence of Aura photography showing inorganic matter to have a static aura field, it would certainly suggest that.
     
  16. I am free

    I am free And anything is possible

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    Hi Redindica,

    It is interesting that you post the English translations of the original texts and to me those translations seem a little suspect. The fact is scriptures can be interpreted in any way you want :rolleyes:.

    Agnideva gave a very fine example how how differing interpretations can be made in post #9.

    And anyway scriptures are not an authority on the path to God. That is what I believe. They contain infinite wisdom no doubt but Hinduism does not require me to either accept or reject something based on "certain interpretations" :p of scriptures alone.

    Regards.
     
  17. I am free

    I am free And anything is possible

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    Hi Suraj,

    From your posts it seems to me that you do not consider image worship and rituals to be a viable spiritual path for yourself. I can appreciate that.

    But I am a little curious to know if you consider it to be a valid path at all? What is your view on the "bhakti marga"? Do you feel it can lead one to realisation? I am interesed to read your views on this.

    Regards.
     
  18. Agnideva

    Agnideva Member

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    Namaste Redindica,

    Thank you for the post. May I inquire as to which translation of the Bhagavad-Gita and Yajurveda you have quoted from? The Bhagavad-Gita that I have (Gita Press, Gorakhpur, India; Trans. Jayadayal Goyandka) says something else altogether.



    Veiled by my divine potency, I am not manifest to all. Hence these ignorant folk fail to recognize Me, the unborn and imperishable Supreme Diety. (BG VII.24)
    In the very last of births the enlightened soul worships Me, realizing that all this is God. Such a great soul is very rare. (BG VII.19)
    Those whose wisdom had been carried away by various desires, being prompted by their own nature, worship other deities adopting rules relating to each. (BG VII.20)
    Whatever celestial form a devotee chooses to worship with reverence, I stabilize the faith of that particular devotee in that form. (BG VII.21)


    I recall bringing up this very verse in message #9 of this very thread ;). For further reading, I direct you to the website of Sri Aurobindo Kapali Sastry Institute of Vedic Culture: <http://www.vedah.com/org/literature/yajurVeda/that.asp>. You may examine for yourself this particular Shukla Yajurveda hymn in full and see in what context this verse occurs.


    I do not myself own a copy of the Shukla Yajurveda, but I found this verse in the English translation of Swami Dayanand Saraswati’s book, Satyarth Prakash:

    Positive Glorification:
    That Supreme Being overspreads all. He is entirely spirit, All-energy, All-powerful, Pure, Perfect, Omniscient, Inward Controller of all, Ruler of All, Eternal and Self-existent. He has from all eternity been teaching uncreated immortal souls, the true knowledge of things through the revelation of the Veda - His eternal knowledge (Shukla Yajurveda XL.8)

    Negative Glorification:
    He is never embodied, is never born, is never liable to division and is free from nervous or arterial systems, never commits a sin, is never subject to pain, grief and ignorance and the like (Shukla Yajurveda XL.8)

    OM Shanti,
    A.
     
  19. Agnideva

    Agnideva Member

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    Namaste Suraj,

    Thanks for the reply.

    It is my understanding that Buddha did not speak of or deny God, but I may be wrong. This point may be better raised on the Buddhism forum.


    So, do you propose that it is an infinite ocean made of infinite number of finite parts?


    Yes, it can be, and has been. So, would you then say that some people are not eligible for moksha in this life because of their past karmas?


    But according to the converse of your last statement, you may be in a better position to make that realization of the self, would you not?


    I’m not quite sure what you mean here, Suraj.


    If you believe there is a choice, would anyone choose a life of suffering and ignorance, over a life of knowledge and happiness?


    So are there many souls – an infinite number perhaps? And if so, what differentiates them from one another?


    Do you suggest then that Brahman is found in unequal proportions in different beings based on the flows and ebbs of pranic currents within their subtle bodies?


    So do you propose that the matter has eternally existed, changing from gross to subtle forms, outside of Brahman?

    OM Shanti,
    A.
     
  20. redindica

    redindica New Member

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    Hi All

    I Am Free, of course you are right, any scripture should be taken witha pinch of salt, as they are all third party accounts, Unless God has kept a diary :)


    AdniDevi, Sorry but I got this from an Islamic site and presumed that they translated it correctly, apollogies if they are a little biased.

    Still a great discussion btw...I'm learning a lot!

    Peace to all.
     

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