This article contains a summary of responses by Swami Ram Swarupji on questions on Idol Worship:
Idol worship is not mentioned in Vedas.
Reason for idol worshiping
God’s worship is in Vedas which emanate direct from God, wherein idol worship is not mentioned. I have previously quoted several examples that idol worship is not required. For example you know me and I also know you, we both reside in bodies, being souls and souls are also shapeless. So we know each other, but how? Only on the basis of qualities and not on the basis of statue/photos, etc. If you or I will try hard then we can also meet together. This is worldly example even.
So on the basis of the qualities of the God, as mentioned in Vedas, God is known and when an aspirant follows/obeys the path of Vedas i.e., worship, Ashtang yoga practice, listening of Vedas, Yajyen etc., under guidance of an acharya, then he attains samadhi i.e., realizes God too. So, as per Vedas, no need of idol worship.
If someone believes that God is everywhere then why does he avoid wine, smoking, theft, etc., etc. inside the temple and does outside? Actually realization is subject of deep study of Vedas and to observe thereon. Sagunn means with eternal qualities mentioned in Ved mantras because the meaning of Sa+Gunn means ‘with qualities’. So God has unlimited qualities like formless, omnipresent, etc., etc. and nirakar means shapeless. One can not break the rules and regulations of God mentioned in Vedas. Vedas are self-proof and cannot be denied.
There is God in every human being. Then why do temples exist?
Authentic, that is, true proof of qualities of Almighty God is only available in four Vedas wherein it is stated in Yajurveda mantra 32/3 that “na tasya pratima asti” means there is no shape or statue of Almighty God He being omnipresent and in mantra 31/2, it is stated that only one God is there who creates, nurses and destroys the universe and after destroying again creates and so on. Thus at that time the necessity of temple was not deemed fit.
God needs no assistance. Upnishads says ‘tad srishta tadnu pravisht’ means God created universe and entered therein. So he is everywhere and omnipresent. To realize God, chapter 7 of Yajurveda and other three Vedas clearly says that yajna, study of Vedas & holy books and especially ashtang yoga practice is required in family while discharging the duties. For this very purpose a real spiritual master, that is, philosopher of four Vedas & ashtang yoga (practically) is basically required. During this materialistic period this traditional task has been ear marked tough by mostly saints and public under influence of so called saints. For example, Tulsi says in Ramayana “dwij shruti bechak” i.e., present gurus have sold Vedas, means they never study Vedas and know nothing about Vedas and yoga. In next says “Shruti birodh rat sab nar nari” means man, woman and their children have taken bold step against the Vedas.
There are so many chopayees (couplets) in every kand of Ramayan giving knowledge of Vedas and yoga, but it is heart broken shock to our traditional culture of Vedas that mostly the present saints or katha vachaks avoid its explanation to the public for one or the other reason.
You see if there is no sun then there is no light. This is fundamental law. Similarly if there is no knowledge of Vedas, there will be no wisdom about matter, soul, almighty God and difference between the qualities of said true matters.
Up to the time of Mahabharat there was no temple. Thereafter the knowledge of Vedas decreased and between two to three thousands years the temple has been made. It is also true that Vedas knowledge is also available in Valmiki Ramayan, which is the first holy book on the earth written before one crore eighty lakhs years ago. Secondly Mahabharat and Bhagwad Geeta (an extract of Bhisham Parva of Mahabharat) thereof, 6 shashtras, upnishads and other holy books related to Vedas, like Shatpath Brahmin Granth etc. But problem is this that their description, comments and explanation has been based mostly on sects or on self-made views of some of the present saints whereas the said books written by ancient rishis (and not by saints because at that time there were only rishis, munis and Ashtang yogis available who were philosophers of Vedas and no other holy books of present time were written) are totally based on Vedas and not based on present sects.
So the reason of the existence temples is only due to the decrease in knowledge of Vedas for the last about three thousands years because before this period there was no temple i.e., since the time of creation that is for more than one Arab and 96 crore years. Temple provision is only in the sects and not in the Vedas and above said holy books.
God is formless
Being formless there is no need of statue or temple of God according to Vedas. As a matter of fact, you, I or every human being, lives in a body. Body is separate, we are called souls. Vedas say soul has no form even. Then also we know each other. For example even if you have not seen the photograph of King Akbar then, you can know Akbar by means of the study of his qualities. So is the case with the God. If an aspirant really goes to his Guru and listens Vedas like Shri Ram, and ancient kings and their public then he will be able to know hundred percent about formless God. Then comes realization for which Vedas (especially Samveda) says that he who performs Yajna, does jaap (according to Vedas) and practises Ashtang Yoga Philosophy while remaining in family like Shri Ram etc., he sure realizes ,being eternal law.
If we will meditate concentrating outside our body which is also against Vedas/Ashtang Yoga Philosophy, then our attention will always naturally remain outside i.e., attached with outer world i.e., decoration/music/dances etc. In that case subject matter of God will be over. It will be converted into spending fun, doing dances and singing attractive songs by ladies and gents, which is totally against Vedas. Thus the chapter of praising God, True Acharya, Rishi-Munis, performing Yajyen, practice of Ashtang Yoga, eternal knowledge of Vedas etc., will be over.
It is also baseless to say that study of Vedas and practice of yoga philosophy is difficult. It is self made story because Vedas are also called Shruti i.e., Vedas are to be listened first and not to be studied. So to listen to the Vedas, a learned Acharya is needed. The Acharya will explain the Ved mantras in the Yajna in your own language i.e., in English or Urdu etc., and for an aspirant to do asan, pranayaam, meditation etc., is also not difficult. It is all difficult for those human beings, including present false prophets, (who are against the Vedas), who are lazy, can’t awake early in the morning to listen Vedas and fail to do practice of yoga philosophy. Those people are always after money, materialistic articles and pomp and show, etc.
Vedas are not written or spoken by God. This knowledge is emanated from God and is originated in the heart of four Rishis as stated above. God is Almighty i.e., He has all powers. So He needs no assistance to do universal deeds. In human body alive soul resides and soul is dependent, soul requires mouth to speak, eye to see, hand to write etc., etc. but not God. From His power God originates the knowledge of Vedas in the rishis without writing, or speaking etc. Vedas’ knowledge is divine. The fundamental of the Vedas is this that it was not written or spoken. The knowledge by the power of God was originated about one Arab 96 crore, 8 lakh and 53 000 years ago. Then first time the four rishis of unsexual creation started pronunciation of the mantras by the power of God. God wanted them to know word meanings and senses of the mantras and therefore the rishis knew all. Then first time the four rishis started pronunciation of the mantras. They taught the mantras to other ignorant people. Then another rishis were produced who knew the Vedas by heart by listening only. There was no paper, ink or pen there. The Vedas were being learnt by mouth to mouth and traditionally this process is yet in force. But mostly not by heart but taking help of the printed book. So printed books are not called Vedas but these are called samhita.
Samhita means the collection of Ved mantras. Therefore Present printed books cannot be considered as Vedas and will never be in future, but samhita. Kapil Muni throws light on this point in his Sankhya Shastra 5/48 that when a rishi does tapsya in the shape of Yajyen, study of Vedas, practice of Ashtang Yoga then the Ved mantras still (now also) originate in heart of the Rishi and the rishi pronounces the mantras. Those mantras are called Vedas, which emanate from God. So Vedas must first be listened (study) from alive Acharya (Guru who knows Vedas). Then only Samhita (books of Vedas) can help.
There is only one God who is formless, creates, nurses and destroys the universe. He is Almighty and supreme, beyond description, beyond imagination and beyond calculation. He is omnipresent and omniscient. Divine qualities of Almighty God are described in eternal knowledge of Vedas. Vedas emanate direct from God. So all Hindus and others too believe in Vedas.
Brahma, Vishnu and Mahesh are the name of one said God. God has no wives please because He is Almighty and needs no assistance etc. No one is above God please. All religions tell to worship God.
Symbol is not necessary, please. If an aspirant will concentrate over mouth of idol, yet for sometime he will concentrate on chin, nose, head etc., but concentration on one point will not be achieved. Secondly, Vedas do not preach to concentrate outside the body. Yog shastra sutra 3/1 also states, “DESHBANDHASYA CHITTASYA DHARNA” i.e., concentrate on a point of body like agyachakra, tip of the nose or heart. So we can not go against the ved-shastras. Yes, idol worship has been started within two thousand and five hundred years. That is why, Vedas do not tell for idol worship but if people desire, they can go ahead.
Pictures, drawing etc., may not be considered idols but it is an art and not worship of God. We must know that knowledge of Vedas emanates direct from God and idol worship has been made by human beings. So now we have to decide that whether we obey God or human beings. If we still follow the path made by humans then no problem, one must go ahead. On the other hand, follower of Vedas must continue his own path.
Medium for establishing communication with God
In four Vedas, the media to realize the God has been stated as: Study of Vedas under guidance of acharya which is a real media and as mentioned in the Vedas, one has to follow the preach mentioned therein viz., performance of Yajyen, name jaap of God , regular contact with learned acharya of Vedas, ashtang Yoga Practice under his guidance etc. The said media is stated by God Himself in Vedas. Man, an artist, clay and every matter right from straw to sun, moon, air, space etc., is the creation of God. It thus concludes that we have to worship and realize the creator and we must not be attracted towards creation. Attraction is the task of senses, perceptions and mind which is destroyed but the creator is immortal. No other media is stated in Vedas except the human body by which the said worship is done by a Yogi, Rishi-muni or aspirant.
Vedas-shastras state that God is omnipresent and according to Yajurveda mantra 40/6 it is true but other mantras state that God is “Ninnaya” that is hidden in the universe and we have to locate the hidden God and not the visible non-alive matters of the world.
T.V., radios etc., all articles are man-made and controlled by some mechanism. And examples of man-made mechanism are actually not applied on Almighty, omnipresent God. Any mechanism, for example- rocket launching , launching of satellites etc., involves the mind of a man and mind has limited power otherwise mind could have searched the hidden Almighty God also but Vedas state that mind, intellect , senses etc., have limited power but God is beyond imagination, beyond descriptions beyond calculation. That is why our ancient Rishis, Rajrishis practiced Vedic path that is practice of Ashtang Yoga Philosophy.
As such they exercised control over mind, intellect, senses etc. A Yogi when makes the mind dead etc., and forgets even himself (soul) then he realizes the God. This eternal Vedic path of Yoga philosophy has been very well preached by Rishi Patanjali in his Yog Shastra.
God is not a matter to be seen with eyes. So how can He be seen alone in everything with the destructive eye?
Ego is not one-sided matter. If there is ego neither a formless God is realized nor difference between idol or formless God is established. It is ego that most of the people respect the idol worship as well as formless God’s worship mentioned in Vedas but when as aspirant follows the Vedas, his mind becomes stable, he then only accepts worship of formless God and not others. Whereas, the worshipper who worships idol, he accepts formless God also i.e., he can not ignore Vedas and can not accept one path alone. We must think over it deeply, that why is it so?
God being formless has not preached regarding any of His substitute or symbol, so the aspirant who has known Vedic philosophy accepts the God’s preach accordingly. When God in four Vedas, has not stated about His mark or representative then how the follower would accept the same? Vedas have been preaching the formless worship as quoted above eternally whereas the worship of idol has been made for the last about two thousand five hundred years ago. Yes, by the human-beings. So there is difference of worship of formless God and idol.
Idol worship is the worship where the sentiments and emotions of heart are involved and all the said involvements are man-made as well as destructible. How a mind/intellect having limited power can dig out the Almighty, formless, hidden God from the creation? God is Almighty i.e., He has unlimited powers whereas soul who is being assisted by mind, intellect and senses etc., has limited power.
Yajurveda mantra 1/5 and Rigveda mantra 3/56/1 states that even God cannot transgress His rules. So how can God be transformed according to our emotions and be forced to accept our sentiments which are not according to His laws of nature.
All Vedas state that His laws of creation remain unchangeable. So there is no value of our sentiments etc., beyond His rules and regulations. In the said Rigveda mantra, God strictly states “that all mountains, seas, rivers and even the Yogis who have realized Him (God) are incapable to change His rules and regulations and way of worship etc.” So our self-made worship, emotions and sentiments etc., are of no use until these are according to Vedas.
As regards flag, yes it is invaluable not only for soldiers but for countrymen as well. However, the flag of each country is different. Can any other countryman would sacrifice his life for our Tiranga? We, the Indians are enough to sacrifice our lives to maintain the dignity of our adorable Tiranga. So flags are different, the countries being different but God is one and only one for entire universe. So worldly example in the matter of formless, Almighty God is not applicable, please.
So the matter of image being very clear to the devotee when it speaks to him in his own language of devotion forces a learned man to say that the said speech between his mind and soul is worldly speech and even destructible whereas when a Yogi realizes God, he is totally unable to speak, hear, see, smell, eat, think etc. In this connection, the description of Yog shastra sutra 4/31, 32 pertaining to Dharmamegh Samadhi refers. Actually, the superimposition of Lord relates to Vedas wherein the worship of formless God has been imposed to the human beings.
Yes, only currency notes are valuable. Similarly the Yogis –like Yogeshwar Sri Krishna Maharaj, Sri Ram, Vyas muniji, Guru Vasishth, Atri Rishi, Patanjali Rishi and the present Yogis-Rishis –Munis who have realized God following the Vedic path are valuable. The stamp of beloved God is everywhere that is in sky, water, vegetation, in each living being etc. But as far as worship is concerned then the follower of Vedas only worships formless God who creates, nurses and destroys the universe alone being Almighty. He is Almighty therefore, He never needs any assistance from anyone.
This is never forgotten that the image has been brought from Jaipur etc. then why can not you worship all pervading, omnipotent, omniscient, all merciful God who is the source of everything, who is eternal, unchanging, life of life and soul of soul etc. Why do we change Him from being unchangeable to changeable idol?
An Integral Part of Cosmos
Practice makes man perfect. So the beginner will get the sanskar (effect) on his chitta of idol worship and the same will never be omitted again. Secondly, according to the Vedas idol worship is not authentic. You see, there is no shape of soul. Atharvaveda mantra 10/8/25 states that size of soul is less than the tip of hair i.e., soul is the minutest matter which remains unseen. But when an aspirant tries to know about the soul, he knows based on qualities. We know about a person according to the description of his qualities- good or bad. Accordingly, we know Ravanna, King Harishchandra etc., based on their bad and good qualities respectively. So is the case of formless God. God has given His description/His divine qualities in Vedas only. After studying the Vedas, we first know the God based on Shabda Brahma i.e., ved mantras. Thereafter, when we worship Him according to Vedas, we attain Samadhi and realize Him. This fact has also been
mentioned in Shantiparv of Mahabharat wherein Bheeshma tells Yudhishthir that Oh! Yudhishthir, he who gets perfection in ved mantras first, then he realises God.
When Formless, Almighty God has not stated in any Ved about the idol worship then how will He be pleased? Instead Yajurveda mantra 32/3 states “NA TASYA PRATIMA ASTI” i.e., God cannot be measured. So there cannot be any idol of God because He is immeasurable. However, if people get peace in idol worship, they may continue. Here I am only discussing the fact of Vedas.
Touching of hand and body etc., is materialistic matter which can only please mind, intellect through skin but it can’t be quoted in respect of Formless, Almighty God.
Whole world can be considered as the body of God but in reality God does not have body because God is alive whereas world is non-alive matter. So God is separate and world is separate. God remains immortal whereas world is destroyed.
Worshipper super imposes on the image only and not on the formless, everlasting God. The image will be destroyed one day but not God. When there is no body of God then how will we be able to offer flowers, sandal wood paste, food, etc.
Yajurveda mantra 40/8 is the purest and needs not to be purified by bathing, changing clothes and applying sandal wood paste etc. It is an idol or body of human-being which requires purification again and again.
External form of worship will strengthen the idol only because we will be singing, describing the attributes of idol/creation and not Formless God. If we in the beginning are not able to judge the true, divine qualities of formless God then our love and faith will remain unstable. Such aspirant will only feel nearness to the idol and not formless God who is already within him and who already resides the nearest to the soul i.e., within the soul.
We will have to study the Vedas which state that idol worship is not permitted by God. Yet, if an aspirant wants to worship an idol then I am telling again and again that he can go at his own. On receipt of queries, I am giving answer based on Vedic philosophy only that what Vedas say about idol worship. Vedas do not speak about idol worship and avtarwad. However, people are free to go ahead on their own and do whatever they like.
When I will see any art which is liked by soul through eye, definitely it will be admired and the scene which is disliked will be ignored. So if many people admire the idol of Ganesh sitting on conch, admiration is natural. As far as Vedas-shastras and other holy ancient books written by Rishis are concerned in the worship of formless God, spirit has no concern. Neither spirit exists nor has any concern with the worship of God.
So in the end I again say that he who wishes to worship idol, he may go ahead at his own. I have only told Vedas’ views on the matter of idol worship on receipt of your query.