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Friday, December 30, 2016

New Year resolution - A suggestion

When we were kids, most of us used to ask lot of questions. But as we grew, we stopped asking questions and started accepting whatever others said or did. And we stopped growing!

Ask questions and continue to grow. Otherwise, you will just age, year after year.

Best wishes for a growth full New Year!

Friday, December 23, 2016

Limitations of the human mind

(Continued from “Why do Hindus worship idols?”)
In the previous posts we saw how Hinduism considered the God to be not only formless but also imperceptible. The interesting question is “why do most Hindus worship idols which restrict the God to a specific form?” The answer lies partly in the well known Hindu scripture namely the Bhagavad Geetha. There it is said

“For people who are conscious of their bodies (i.e. dominated by their body), it is difficult to meditate on a formless God” (Bhagavad Geetha 12.5)

The same sentiment is expressed in the following mantra that is uttered while installing an idol in a typical Hindu temple

“I welcome you, Oh God of all Gods, who is the creator of the worlds, who is the father of all beings, who pervades the entire universe.

As an ordinary mortal with limited wisdom, I have created this form for my convenience in worshiping you. Please have mercy and make your presence felt in this image.
(Idol installation mantra in Kashyapa Silpa Sästra)
There is a difference between worshiping an idol as God, and using the idol as a medium to perceive God. This point has to be noted by both Hindus as well as others who shun idol worship.

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Friday, December 16, 2016

You cannot know it!

There is no more clear denial of the perceptible form of God than the following verses from one of the well known Hindu scriptures namely the Këna Upanishad

“That which cannot be described by words, but that from which words get revealed, know that alone as the God. And not that worshiped by people (as an object).

That which cannot be comprehended by the mind, but that by which the mind works, know that alone as the God. And not that worshiped by people (as an object).

That which cannot be seen by the eyes, but that which is the force behind the eyes, know that alone as the God. And not that worshiped by people (as an object).

That which cannot be heard by the ears, but that which is the force behind the ears, know that alone as the God. And not that worshiped by people (as an object).

That which cannot be smelt by the nose, but that which is the force behind the nose, know that alone as the God. And not that worshiped by people (as an object)”

(Këna Upanishad verses 1.5 to 1.9)

That being the case, the puzzling question that remains is – “why do Hindus worship idols?” I will come to that next.

Friday, December 9, 2016

Myth about polytheism

Before I start on idol worship, probably it is apt to clear some misconceptions about polytheism and monotheism. It is generally held that Hinduism is polytheistic and other major religions such as Judaism, Christianity, and Islam are monotheistic. 

This is a misconception at least at the conceptual level. It is true that Judaism, Christianity and Islam emphasize on single God who is the supreme.  Many people will be surprised that even Hinduism talks about single God. For example, one of the most ancient of Hindu scriptures namely the Veda has this to say

“They refer to as Indra, Varuna, and so on. But the fact is that the same one is called by different names by the clergy”.(Rig-Veda Book I, Section 164, Verse 46)

If you look at the Upanishads (parts of Veda), the God or ‘Brahma’ as he/she/it is referred to, is always talked about as a single unique entity. Unlike the other world religions, this entity is considered to be not only formless, but also beyond explicit description. That is why I have used ‘he/she/it’ to refer to this entity as is the normal practice in these Upanishads. In one of the well known Upanishads namely the Taitarïya Upanishad, God or Brahma is defined as follows

“(Brahma is) that from which all the beings came into existence, that which sustains them and that into which they finally converge”. (Taitarïya Upanishad, Section Bhriguvalli, Verse 1)

And surprisingly, almost similar definition of God can be found in Quran as well as Bible!

The assertion of formlessness of God can be found throughout the ancient Hindu scriptures. I will talk more about that in the next post.

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Friday, December 2, 2016

Why do Hindus worship idols?

In the religious world, idol worship has been a contentious issue. History is replete with incidents where either a group of people holding a particular view on idol worship destroyed the sacred icons of other groups who held a different view, or looked down on them as pagans or primitive people. Recent destruction of Bamian Buddha images in Afghanistan by extremists is only a sad example.
On the other hand, modern Hindus consider idol worship as an inalienable part of their faith, so much so, that today we can’t think about Hinduism without idol worship.

The intention of this series of posts is neither to justify Hindu worship of idols, nor to condemn it. My intention is to bring some interesting facts to light that would force either group to rethink on their respective stand.

In the next post, I will start with some quotes from ancient Hindu scriptures about idol worship.

PS; Most of the material in these posts is taken from my own book on ancient Indian ShilpaSastra (sculpture manuals).

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