Belief of Hinduism – Sakar Upaasna (Idol worship)
By Khurshid Imam
Idol worship or sakar upaasna is one of the most important features of our Hindu brethren. Only aryasamajis are strictly against idol worship. They don’t do idol worship because it is against the teachings of Vedas. Except aryasamajis almost all sects of Hinduism believe and practice it. However, when it is asked to them – does God have any shape or color or figure? Then the reply is “NO”. Then why you do idol worship? The reply is – “See, Almighty God is nirakar (without any shape), but we can not concentrate on someone who is shape less so we need sakar (a shape) medium in order to reach that nirakar. We will reach that nirakar God using sakar medium”. This is the most common argument in favor of sakar upaasna or idol worship.
Why people do idol worship?
Even though every logical and just person will agree that idol worship is not correct yet our Hindu brethren give an excuse for doing the same. They say – “See, God is actually formless. God can not be seen by anyone. But it becomes very difficult to concentrate on that imageless God. How can a layman concentrate on formless God? So we say that for people in initial level of devotion should do idol worship; so that through a sakar (with shape) medium he can reach nirakar (without shape) God.”
No person till now has reached to almighty god using a shape or image.
* I am yet to meet any person in my life who has started with idol worship, then gradually he stops it because he has successfully acquired the devotion of God and does not require idol for concentration of that shapeless God.
* 1 billion Muslim in the world can concentrate on that God without using idol/shape/picture then why can not our Hindu brethren?
* When a Muslim child as small as 7 years and a Muslim old man of 70 years can concentrate on that God without using idol/shape/picture then why can not our Hindu brethren?
* No need to say how strict and uncompromising Muslims are in terms of God being one and unique.
* Go to any mosque round the globe and you will find hundred and thousands of people worshipping almighty God in the form of Namaz without any need of idol/picture/image. I firmly believe that even our hindu brethren can concentrate without image.
* When convinced logically; our hindu brothers will agree that YES actually God should be worshipped without image; but Question is HOW? I will answer later in this article. First we need to understand why we need serious introspection about the validity of sakar upaasna.
Idol worship distorted the pure Sanatan dharm
The pure Sanatan dharm that was based on oneness of God is lost in multiple gods, multiple images of God. We have lost the pure religion of God because of distortion of monotheism. God is one, unique, without any likeness, without any need. Never ever God taught us to give him any image. When someone worships image then he is worshipping anything except God. Vedas never propagated idol worship. The pure Sanatan or Shashwat dharm is lost in the distorted concept of God.
Swami vivekanand and many scholars of Hinduism have spoken against idol worship. .
1. Idol worship contradicts Vedic mantr
Worship is for whom? For God! Who will define about God? God himself! Does God define himself in his revealed scripture? YES – this is the most fundamental part of the revelation. Vedas are considered to be ish-wani or God’s word by hindus. They are considered apaurishya i.e. not humane but divine. Now what God has said about him? A true hindu should ponder over these mantras and introspect their practice:
* Na tasya pratima asti yasya namah mahaddashah : “Of him (The God) there is no image. Remembering him is itself great act” Yajurved 32:3
* God can not be grasped in any direction” Yajurved 32:2
* Sah akayam: “He is bodiless” Yajurved 40:8
* Andhatm pravishanti ya asambhti upaste… – “Those who worship asambhuti - they enter into darkness of tamas (part of hell). Those who worship sambhuti – they enter more into darkness of tamas (part of hell)”- Yajurved 40:9
The Sanskrit word asambhuti when loosely translated into simple language will refer to Natural things e.g. Sun, air, water, moon, tree, river, mountain, man, woman, animal.
The Sanskrit word sambhuti when loosely translated into simple language will refer to man made things e.g. idol.
The Sanskrit word “tamas” as per Sayanaacharya – the Vedic Scholar – refers to one of part of hell which is also described in Shrimadbhagwad Puran.
So yajurved 40:9 tells that those who will do shirk (Associate partner with Almighty GOD) will enter hell. This is similar to what Quran says in 4:48; 4:116; 5:72
* “That GOD alone is ONE without any partner.” - Atharv ved – 13:4:12
* “GOD is the master of all creatures. He is the master of heavens and the Earth. Except him whom do you worship?”- Rigved 10:121:1
* “GOD is the Ruler of living and non living worlds. He is the Lord of man kind and animal kingdom - Except him whom do you worship?” Rigved 10:121:3
* “.. Except the GOD whom do we worship and give offerings?”- Rigved 10:121:5
There are several other references from Vedas which make ample clear that Almighty God is one, alone, unique, without any likeness. He can not be compared with anything. He is the master of all beings. How it is possible then that we can create image/shape / picture of God? Does God creates us or we create God?
2. Idol worship contradicts logic and common sense
Even if you leave what scripture says and just think logically then you will realize that it does not go well for a logical person.
Who made universe?
Look at the world around you. How big our earth is; great and huge mountains, immense oceans how big our earth is? Very big? What is the status of earth in our galaxy-milki way? Nothing. Earth is so small that almost negligible in our galaxy. Our galaxy has more than 1000000000000 stars!!! Each star being thousands of time greater than earth!! How many galaxies are in the universe? More than 100000000000!!!!! So how many stars? Infinite? How big our universe is? Infinite! And this infinite universe is continuously expanding!!! No comparison. Who is the creator of this universe? I? You? Any sadhu-maulana? No No not at all. It’s the almighty God who is the creator, sustainer and planner of this universe. Is that almighty God someone like me and you? No! Is he someone who needs food to survive? No! Does he sleeps and get tired? No. Does he have any parent or children of spouse? No. Then how come we can give him any image or equate him with anything. He can not have any likeness, no vision can grasp him. He is beyond comprehension.
Different gods for different people?
How many Gods are there? One. Is there a separate God for hindus, separate God for Muslims and separate God for Christians? No. Is there a separate God for people of India, bhutan, America and japan? No. Then how come we have made hundreds of different gods in Hinduism? How come we have made separate God for north India and separate God for south India? How come different God for Andhra Pradesh, different God for tamilnadu and different God for kerala? How come a separate God for rain, separate God for wealth, separate God for prosperity? Is not this all wrong? YES, absolutely these all are wrong beliefs. You know what is one of the reasons for this? Its idol worship. Once people started giving different images to God, these images gradually became different gods.
Who makes idol?
People believe that Almighty God is THE CREATOR who had done many things necessary for our existence. How it is logical and just that people create idols from their own hands and then worship it? Idol is created by man; then how come idol becomes superior to man? Can an idol eat sweet that is offered to it? No! Can an idol remove a fly that sit over it? No! Can an idol stop someone who brings stick to hit at it? No! It does not have capacity. Then why you worship something that can not do anything? Leave alone giving life and death, it can not see/hear/listen/harm/benefit you at all. Don’t you think the only worthy to be worshipped is almighty God who can really benefit / harm / see/listen to you?
Justification in favor of idol worship
Some people say that through the idol we are worshipping Almighty God. They give example of visiting card. Just like a visiting card represents your detail, similarly an idol represents God but it’s actually not God. Again, this is very bad logic. When you take visiting card and then you want to speak to or seek any help from the person concerned then do you communicate to the person on you speak to visiting card? Obviously people will laugh if you hold visting card of Mr. xyz in hand and tell – “O! xyz. I want to meet you tomorrow at office. Please bring my Cds. Meet me at 5 O’ Clock”. It’s illogical to do this. What you will do is you will actually go and talk to Mr. xyz. Similarly when you want to worship God then you will worship him and not any image or shape or idol or human being. When 1 billion Muslims can worship God without any image then why can’t others do?
· Some people try to twist it so much that they will come with absurd arguments. Some will say that there is great benefit of idol worship. How? There are various types of waves that emancipates from idols. When you go to idol you get these waves which are very useful. And so on….
My question is: even if we suppose that waves come out of idol, how does it justify that one should worship idol? Is an idol God? Waves come not from idol but from all objects – so should we worship everything? There is no justification for this argument. Wave comes from brick then should we worship it?
Kaba is NOT worshipped
Here on thing is important to mention. Some people – knowingly or unknowingly spread the misconception that Muslims also do idol worship. They say that Muslims worship kaba. This is gross misconception on the part of such people. Never ever any Muslim has worshipped kaba.
Kaba is a cubical structure at mecca. It represents as the direction for namaz (prayer) for Muslims all over the world. Islam lays great emphasis on unity and discipline. For worship also great emphasis is on unity and harmony. One can not offer the obligatory prayer any time he wishes. There are certain times for that. One can not offer namaz at any place, but people have to gather at mosque. One can not offer prayer separately, but all people will stand shoulder to shoulder in rows. All people will face the same direction. This direction is kaba. All Muslims round the globe have this common direction of prayer which is a great symbol of unity and harmony.
3. Idol worship is against human psychology
· Usually our hindu brethren will say that in order to concentrate on formless God we concentrate on idol or image. It is as per human psychology that the more you will concentrate on something more it will be in your mind. The more you look at image or idol and concentrate over it more it will be embedded into your mind as God.
· The more you look at idol assuming it to be God, the more you propagate the same, the more you teach the same – more you will replace God with idol.
· People usually give excuse that it’s only for the beginners that idol is needed for concentration – for later stage it’s not required. Again this theory is a lie. Every hindu who believes in idol worship does throughout his life. Never have we heard that someone has left idol worship because now he is able to concentrate on God without idol. Also other important point is that we can not teach wrong thing. If idol is not God then we can not say idol is God for beginners; but for people in advance stage idol is not God.
What is the substitute for idol worship?
The problem expressed by our hindu brethren in concentrating formless God is actually a genuine problem. It’s really difficult to concentrate on formless God. This problem is a genuine problem and hence it has a practical solution – The Salah or Namaz. Namaz is one of the ways to worship God. Everyday 5 times a Muslim is supposed to offer namaz.
This problem of concentrating on God is met by following solution:
Prophet Muhammad taught us that when you stand for prayer then you assume that God is seeing you. When a person starts offering namaz with the belief that God is seeing him then he will be able to fully concentrate on namaz. He will understand that namaz is a way of communication with God. The way we offer namaz with full obedience – we should be obedient even after namaz. One can see 1 billion Muslims round the globe concentrating on the God without any need of image or idol.
Messenger of God or Prophet Not only teaches to worship God but also teaches how to do so. Namaz is the worshipping of God and it was taught by all prophets. So namaz was there for every prophet, even for the prophet who was sent to India. One of the part of namaz is still prevalent in Hinduism today – in its distorted version – in the form of sashtang.
One of the mode of worship is sashtang in Hinduism in which the worshiper lie down on the ground. Unfortunately this sashtang is done on wrong way. Word sashtang is made up of 3 words: sah + asht + ang i.e together + 8 + part. Sashtang is the mode of worship in which 8 parts of body participate. When a person lies down on ground then his whole part and not 8 parts – touches ground; so its not the correct form. The correct form is sajda in which 8 parts of body touches ground: 2 hands, 2 knees, 2 leg-fingers, 1 forehead and 1 nose.
To know more about islamic meditation-namaz-click here:
· Idol worship or sakar upasna is one of the most important features of Hinduism today.
· People doing so give the excuse that one can not concentrate at initial level hence it is required for concentration. This excuse is against scripture and logic.
· Idol worship contradicts the teachings of Vedas.
· It contradicts common sense and logic.
· Namaz is the substitute of sakar upasna where a person can very well concentrate on God without using any image or idol.
Note: Author Khurshid imam is a software engineer, Bangalore. For any feedback mail to firstname.lastname@example.org