Is worshiping deities sinful?
From: Amarnath V.A
To read the article “Can the unlimited have a form”, please click here
Only Hindu religion says God has a form and worships forms in the form of deity. Is it a sin to worship forms or deities as pointed out by other religions?
It is not only in the Hindu tradition that God’s form is mentioned. actually in even in the Bible it is clearly stated that man man is made in the image of God and that comes in the sequence of the certain other references in the biblical literature, so even the Bible and the Quran refer to God in a person and human like way, for example the Bible talks about under his feet referring to God’s Exodus 4:10, inscribed with the Finger of God in Exodus 13 18, the hand of the Lord in Exodus 93, the eyes of the Lord Genesis 38:7, years of the Lord in numbers 11:1, similarly the Quran talks about the face of the Lord 5527, under Under My Eyes in 20:39 Under our eye 52: 48, 54:14, the hand of Allah in several places among them 48:10, 38: 75, 39:67, so it is complete misconception to say that the form of God is talked only about in the vedic tradition. But it is true that the form of the Lord is explained in detail only in the vedic tradition. and also the emphasis on the worship of the form of the Lord, is also there primarily in the vedic tradition. so the reason why the reason why the worship of the Lord not mentioned in detail , in the other religious traditions, because the form of God is not described in detail in those traditions. Now, why is the form of the Lord not described in detail, because all though , the Bible and Quran are also revelations of God, they are like pocket dictionaries, whereas the vedic revelation is like a unabridged dictionary. and so , as in the Bible it is said that there is much that I have to tell you but you don’t have the ears to hear. In the Quran it is said ” there are many more things I had to say, and if I say them, it would broken your hear t”, so there are several references like this which will indicate that there is much more to be known about God then what is revealed in the scriptures. Like the Bible and the Quran. This is not to minimize those scriptures, because God is unlimited, and no scripture, not even the vedic scripture, can claim to give a complete revelation of God. So objectively speaking , there is very little description of the kingdom of God in terms of what God does in His kingdom, in the Bible and the Quran. It describes precisely how the people who are faithful to Bible and Quran, will enjoy profusely in the higher destination in their future life. but it does no really describe what God will do at all. So, that is the first point. that the mention of the form of God in all scriptures. but there is no detailed description. Now is it a sin to worship the form of God. Yes, most followers of the abrahamic traditions, that means judaism islam and christianity, consider it to be a sin, Now the reason for this has to be carefully understood. The tendency of the human mind , is to always stick to externals and to forger the essence. So God , has a original spiritual form, but during the time of Moses,who founded Judaism and who is excepted as prophet in islam and Christianity, the people who were supposed to worshiped God, when Moses temporarily went away, they made a form like a cow, using all their gold, they melted and reshaped it into cow, and they started worshiping it. so when Moses came back and saw this form of animal worship, according to mental concoction, he got very angry , and he said that , this sort of worship according to ones imagination will mislead one and misdirect one from worshiping the true Lord. and therefore he said, strongly, You should not worship any graven images, and you should not worship anyone except your supreme Lord, and he bashed that concocted version that they were worshiping. Since then it has become a tradition in the abrahamic religions when ever they see any images being worshiped they bash and smash those images. Even mohamad continued and intensified this tradition when he conquered mecca, went to the qaba, qaba is the holy place of the muslims, and there were many idols being worshipped over there and he smashed all those idols. So was this the condemnation of deity worship ? NO, even in the vedic tradition, worship of somebody other than God is condemned, in the Srimad Bhagavatam there was a king named paundraka , who claimed to be God and the following of him by others was condemned even in the vedic times. so worship of false is Gad is surely condemned, but worship of true God is never condemned, Now worship of true god through deity was never accessible in the abrahamic tradition, because the detail form of God based on which the deities could be made, was never described in those literature, and that is why the injunction of moses and all the prophets after him upto mohamad, was that false God should not be worshiped, imaginary forms should not be worshipped, but unfortunately, because of the simplistic understanding of these precedents , false Gods were confused with the true God and imaginary forms were confused with the true forms, that means , the injunction for not to worship imaginary form was generalized and made into a statement to never worship any form at all. But there are references to God’s features like He is having a body, His eyes, His hands, His legs, and these references cannot be denied even by the scholars of the abrahamic traditions. So if they want to justify that these are not refering to form then they have to say that all these are metaphoric, but the Bible or the Quran does not say that it is metaphorical, it repeatedly uses it and self evident understanding of these references , they refer to eyes of God, the hands of God , the legs of God, So the worship of false God and imaginary forms was wrong and was condemned, and it is right to consider that sinful, but to extrapolate that, and to say that worship of all forms is sinful, is unfortunate and undesirable. It is like , if some body is being using false currency, and because of that , that person has lost a lot of wealth, others have lost a lot of wealth, and the state has suffered, then the Government issues a ban against false currency, but imagine if a person has never heard of anything except of false currency, then they will think that the false currency is banned, and their only conception of currency is false currency,m then if they see someone using true currency , then they will mistake that also as false currency and condemn and ban that also. So imaginary forms is condemned in Bible and quran and there worship is banded, but the real form of god when that is represented in the form of deity,m then there is no reason to condemn that. Unfortunately most of the followers of this abrahamic traditions are quite unilateral and unidimensional in their thinking, so rarely reconsider their opinion based on the insights from the vedic traditions, though quite a few numbers of people numbering in thousands and thousands, who have joined the Krishna consciousness movement, have now understood that ,they have themselves tried to practice deity worship, and they have understood how deity is the bonafide form of God. So the purpose of all religions is ultimately to develop love for God, but if we look at the lives of the great saints, in the vedic tradition, and how they were utterly devoted to God, rejecting all temptations, and not caring , not caring for anything other than God, we3 can see that their level of spiritual advancement, and their level of love and devotion for God, is no less than in the other the level of devotion of most exalted saints and seekers in the abrahamic traditions. So the abrahamic traditions tell their followers to develop their love for God, and in the vedic tradition we see that many people have developed love for God, and these great saint who have developed love for God , has done so , by practicing deity worship. So the purpose which is help sacredly topmost by the abrahamic religions, have been fulfilled by people outside the abrahamic tradition , by practicing deity worship. So how can the deity worship be wrong. There is an example to understand this, Our present condition where we instead God, Love other things, is like a disease condition, and ll the religions of the world are like therapies, are like treatments. So there is ayurveda there is allopathy m there is homeopathy, there is naturopathy, so like that there are different religions, which are ultimately meant to cure us and help us develop love for God. so in the abrahamic traditions , there are saint who have developed that love for God, following that treatment, the treatment plan that is prescribed in their religions, and in the vedic tradition people have developed their love for God by following the vedic recommendation of worship, which include worshipping of deity, So , if the abrahamic religion followers, open mindedly see the level of devotion the followers of vedic tradition have attained, then they will understand that this is also another method of achieving the goal that we also hold sacred. So if they don’t look at this in open minded way, then their condition can be best explained as , prescription wrong, patient cured, what does that mean? imagine there are two doctors, and there are patients coming to these two doctors, doctor A and doctor B, so hundreds and hundreds of patients come to doctor A , and they are cured by his prescription, and doctor B also has his patients and doctor B is also curing people. But doctor B finds some of the prescription of Doctor A objectionable, based on what he is following a different system of medicine which is also meant to cure the patient. but he finds that doctor A’s prescription objectionable, and he goes about telling “all the patients of doctor A , the prescription of your doctor is wrong it is bogus, and the patients of that doctor A ,are taking that medicine and are getting cured and they don’t’ even care for the condemnation of doctor B. Why, because for them the prescription works and they are sured. So doctor A is like the vedic tradition and doctor B is like the narrow minded followers of the abrahamic tradition. So the doctor A’s medicine is that we have to worship deity and by that we will develop love for God , and some of the fanatical followers of the abrahamic worship say ” deity worship is wrong, deity worship is sinful, deity worship is to be contemned, ” and, since the tenth century when islam can to India, literally thousands and thousands of temples are destroyed by islamic invaders and even when christians came to india specially in goa they also dessicated many temples, during the portuguese rule. They have not only dessicated the temples, but they have also condemned deity worship, but still in the Indian vedic tradition, millions people go to the temple worship the deity and happily take prasadam dance in form of the deity, and become purified, why ? because they experience the presence of ‘God when they worship the deity they experience the purification of the heart, they experience the upliftment of their lives, they experience the love of God, So that is why they may hear all these condemnation that oh deity worship sinful, but they will see these rantings as doctorB saying that prescription wrong but they will say patient cured. We are getting cured fully. Ofcourse the doctor A and his patients can try if doctor B is open minded to help him understand that how this is another way of treatment and this also cures people. So it is certainly not sinful to worship the deity, it is glorious to worship the deity, to worship imaginary forms is foolish, it is wrong, it is undesirable. but to generalize that to say to condemn the worship the true form of God is wrong and certainly far more lamentable. So I have written a full book on this topic of deity worship, and if you are interested you can read that book, which you can order from the website or there is a lecture which I have given in a prerna festival to almost thousand youth in mumbai,lst year, that is also available on this website, “ideal worship or ideol worship” in the audio QA section, you can hear that lecture also,and there is an article here on site ” can the unlimited have a form”, which refers to the standard argument is give as why and how the unlimited cannot have a form, and all these argements are addressed and shown to be invalid , in this article and also verses and references in the abhramic traditions to the form of God is also give over here, so this is an important topic, and as deity worship is one of the central limb of Krishna Consciousness, we need to carefully understand, how and why is it valid, not just valid, but also glorious.