Idol Worship? Or Deity Worship?

Often, I have come across a denigration of the Vedic Culture of Worship of God as “idol worship”. “Idolatry is a sin, you are going to hell”, I have heard very often.

And because the education system I was schooled in was western in its origin, there were many subtle and not-so-subtle references to this idea that somehow or other, this worship of Deities in the Vedic temples was deeply wrong.

And of course, this early conditioning gave me fodder for my atheism, my voidism, my impersonalism, my agnosticism, and essentially held me back from pursuing a spiritual path of any kind.

What is an idol? And how can a stone or metal or wooden image be God? Or how can a message written down in any language represent God?

It’s a fact that God is non-material, and therefore cannot be perceived by material senses. But the material senses are all I have, then how do I perceive God?

First of course, the perception of God is by hearing about Him. His name, His pastimes, and His qualities. In other words, the Name of God is the Form of God.

So, a name written down, is also God. Because God is Absolute, then God is fully present in His name.

But those scriptures which contain God’s name also contain descriptions of God’s qualities, of God’s interactions with others like myself, persons of the flesh. Jayadvaita Swami, born into Judaism, writes “Whose worship is Idol Worship”…

That very same God with the Names, is also described to have a form. Not a form like mine, which suffers birth, death, old age, and disease, but a form that is Eternal, Full of Joy, and Full of Knowledge.

How may I perceive that form with my two little material eyes?

As confirmed in the Padma Purana,

atah shri-krishna-namadi
na bhaved grahyam indriyaih
sevonmukhe hi jihvadau
svayam eva sphuraty adah

“No one can understand the transcendental nature of the name, form, qualities and pastimes of the Lord through his materially contaminated senses. Only when one becomes spiritually saturated by transcendental service to the Lord are the transcendental name, form, qualities and pastimes of the Lord revealed to him.”

Padma Purana

Therefore, God, out of His kind mercy, appears before me in a form that I can very well perceive. But when He does, that form is non-material. That same old paint, wood, stone, and metal are transformed, just like an ordinary paper and ordinary ink are transformed with the name of God.

If worshipping a form of God according to the scriptures is wrong, then so is revering the name of the God written down or spoken even, because to utter a name in sound is to cause the form of the word to manifest.

Those who hate “idolatry” should then possess no Cross, no Qu’ran, no Wall, no Scripture, no Shrine, Nothing.

Idolatry is worship of the mundane, be it a car or a beautiful actor, be it a very knowledgeable professor of some mundane subject of the material world, or a great orator, or businessperson.

The supreme abode of the Personality of Godhead, Krishna, is described in the Brahma-samhita as chintamani-dhama, a place where all desires are fulfilled. The supreme abode of Lord Krishna, known as Goloka Vrindavana, is full of palaces made of touchstone. There are also trees called ‘desire trees,’ which supply any type of eatable upon demand, and there are cows known as surabhi, which supply a limitless supply of milk. In this abode, the Lord is served by hundreds of thousands of goddesses of fortune (lakshmis)and He is called Govinda, the primal Lord and the cause of all causes. The Lord is accustomed to blow His flute (venum kvanantam). His transcendental form is the most attractive in all the worlds—His eyes are like lotus petals and His bodily color like clouds. He is so attractive that His beauty excels that of thousands of cupids. He wears saffron cloth, a garland around His neck and a peacock feather in His hair.

A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, in the Bhaktivedanta Purports to the Bhagavad Gita As It Is

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Randomness is a Myth

Randomness is a myth. Randomness does not exist. But we can learn to free ourselves from the complexities of what appears to be random

You heard that right! Yes. Randomness is another one of those things that doesn’t exist, just like nothingness. Nothing is ever random. Randomness is one of these (or a variant) in every single case:

  1. A figment of imagination
  2. A sign of ignorance
  3. A device, tool, a starting point

Randomness as Imagination – it is very tempting, for someone who wants to pretend that their actions have no consequences, or someone who does not want to take responsibility for their actions, to pretend that the Universe is random. But of course, imagination goes only so far – it is not true.

Randomness as Ignorance – If I gave you an extremely complex mathematical formula, and asked you to show someone else the results of that formula with different hidden inputs, those results can very well appear to be random. But they are not random to someone who knows the equation and the inputs, in this case, you and me. So the outputs simply appear random, they are not so.

Randomness as a tool, a starting point – In many mathematical and scientific disciplines, just like the square root of -1, “i“, to pretend that the space is populated with random values helps to “seed” certain algorithms. This process implicitly acknowledges that randomness is simply a tool, a starting point to reach a model or understanding that is not random.

So if everything is not random, then why does it appear to be? Complexity. The laws of material nature, which are anything but random, are the creation of God, who is above the laws of material nature. The laws themselves are quite simple, but when the laws interact with themselves over and over again, the complexity they generate is mind-boggling.

Take a simple example of me planting one apple seed, just one seed. Not all seeds sprout but if/when this one does, it brings forth a seedling. Not all seedlings grow to be a tree, but if/when this one does, it bears flowers. Not all flowers turn to fruit, but some do. Not all fruits have seeds in them, but most of them do. When these seeds disperse, many sprout, give rise to trees, and this process endlessly continues, as long as the material circumstances are favourable.

After just a few decades, it will be impossible for a person who didn’t witness me planting the first apple seed to detect which apple tree was the first one. It will be impossible, even for me, to tell which tree an apple came from… or to tell for sure which specific seed caused which specific tree to grow.

Which brings us to the oft-heard saying, humans can count the fruits in a tree or the seeds in a fruit, but only God knows how many trees there are inside one seed. God is infinite, and therefore, it is possible for God to know all the permutations, with vision undisturbed by time.

Karma, the law of action and reaction has been described in the Vedic scriptures many millenia ago. A more recent rediscovery of the principles of Karma is by Isaac Newton “Every action has an equal and opposite reaction“. Sometimes, people say “what goes around, comes around“.

I heard that Lord Buddha said that if one were to stack the skeletons of all the bodies one soul has inhabited, those bones will block out the sun! Every soul inhabiting the material world has had many many actions (seeds), giving rise to many many beginning to sprout (seedlings), with many different resultant symptoms (flowers and fruits). It is hard to take one particular symptom of one’s life today and try to ascertain what specific action caused it. But just because it is hard doesn’t mean that randomness is the answer.

So what is the solution? How does one get out of the dense forest of karmic actions and reactions? The Bhagavad Gita defines a particular type of action and classifies it as “akarma” – “inaction”. This inaction is not some sort of inert “do nothing / sit still / renounce all action” practiced by the immature spiritualists or lazy materialists, but it is those actions that are spiritual in nature – that which serve to reconnect spirit to the Supreme Spirit, God.

The intricacies of action are very hard to understand. Therefore one should know properly what action is, what forbidden action is and what inaction is.” BG 4.17

There is no randomness, everything is actually quite ordered and structured, it is simply a matter of the choices we have made in the past. And just as our present circumstances may appear complex, we can unravel and simplify just as someone pieces together a jumbled up jigsaw puzzle, with time, patience, and determination.

aprarabdha-phalam papam
kutam bijam phalonmukham
kramenaiva praliyeta
vishnu-bhakti-ratatmanam
 
Persons who are completely engaged in the devotional service of the Lord Vishnu the Personality of Godhead—becomes completely extinct from all sorts of vicious reactions which either potential, germinating, seedling or current by a gradual process. (from Padma Purana)
 
असत्यमप्रतिष्ठं ते जगदाहुरनीश्वरम् ।
अपरस्परसंभूतं किमन्यत्कामहैतुकम् ॥ १६.८ ॥
asatyam apratiṣṭhaṁ te
jagad āhur anīśvaram
aparaspara-sambhūtaṁ
kim anyat kāma-haitukam
 
They say that this world is unreal, with no foundation, no God in control. They say it is produced of sex desire and has no cause other than lust. BG 16.8 https://vedabase.io/en/library/bg/16/8/
 
कर्मणो ह्यपि बोद्धव्यं बोद्धव्यं च विकर्मणः ।
अकर्मणश्च बोद्धव्यं गहना कर्मणो गतिः ॥ ४.१७ ॥
karmaṇo hy api boddhavyaṁ
boddhavyaṁ ca vikarmaṇaḥ
akarmaṇaś ca boddhavyaṁ
gahanā karmaṇo gatiḥ
 

The intricacies of action are very hard to understand. Therefore one should know properly what action is, what forbidden action is and what inaction is. BG 4.17 https://vedabase.io/en/library/bg/4/17/

 
BG 4.17:
The intricacies of action are very hard to understand. Therefore one should know properly what action is, what forbidden action is and what inaction is.
BG 4.18:
One who sees inaction in action and action in inaction is intelligent among men, and he is in the transcendental position, although engaged in all sorts of activities.

What could possibly be unknown to You, O master? With vision undisturbed by time, You witness the minds of all living beings. Nevertheless, on Your order I will speak. SB 10.64.11 https://www.vedabase.com/en/sb/10/64/11

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