>When Idols Became Alive by Swami Sivananda

Posted: February 14, 2011 in Hinduism, idol worship, Japa, Sadhana

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The following is an excerpt from Srila Sri Sivananda Maharaj’s “All About Hinduism” (pg. 116-119, Chap. 7)
 
When Idols Became Alive

For a Bhakta or a sage, there is no such thing as Jada or insentient matter. Everything is Vasudeva or Chaitanya—Vasudevah Sarvam Iti. The devotee beholds actually the Lord in the idol. Narsi Mehta was put to the test by a king. The king said: “O Narsi, if you are a sincere devotee of Lord Krishna, if as you say the idol is Lord Krishna Himself, let this idol move.” According to the prayer of Narsi Mehta, the idol moved. The sacred bull Nandi before Siva’s idol took the food offered by Tulsidas. The Murti played with Mira Bai. It was full of life and Chaitanya for her.

When Appayya Dikshitar went to the Tirupati temple in South India, the Vaishnavas refused him admission. The next morning they found the Vishnu Murti in the temple changed into Siva Murti. The Mahant was much astonished and startled, asked pardon and prayed to Appayya Dikshitar to change the Murti again into Vishnu Murti.

Kanaka Dasa was a great devotee of Lord Krishna in Udipi, in the district of South Kanara, in South India. He was not allowed to enter the temple on account of his low birth. Kanaka Dasa went round the temple and saw a small window at the back of the temple. He seated himself in front of the window. He was soon lost in singing songs in praise of Lord Krishna. Many people gathered round him. They were very much attracted by the sweet melody of his music and the depth of his devotion. Lord Krishna turned round to enable Kanaka Dasa to get His Darsana. The priests were struck with wonder. Even today, pilgrims are shown the window and the place where Kanaka Dasa sat and sang.

The Murti is the same as the Lord, for it is the vehicle of the expression of the Mantra-Chaitanya which is the Devata. The same attitude should the devotee have in regard to the Murti in the temple, which he would evince if the Lord would appear before him in person and speak to him in articulate sound.

Vedanta And Idol-Worship

A pseudo-Vedantin feels himself ashamed to bow or prostrate himself before an idol in the temple. He feels that his Advaita will evaporate if he prostrates himself. Study the lives of the reputed Tamil saints, Appar, Sundarar, Sambandhar, etc. They had the highest Advaitic realisation. They saw Lord Siva everywhere and yet they visited all temples of Siva, prostrated before the idol and sang hymns which are on record now. The sixty-three Nayanar saints practised Charya and Kriya only and attained God-realisation thereby. They swept the floor of the temple, collected flowers, made garlands for the Lord and put on lights in the temple. They were illiterate, but attained the highest realisation. They were practical Yogis and their hearts were saturated with pure devotion. They were embodiments of Karma Yoga. All practised the Yoga of Synthesis. The idol in the temple was all Chaitanya or Consciousness for them. It was not a mere block of stone.

Madhusudana Swami, who had Advaitic realisation, who beheld oneness of the Self and who had Advaitic Bhava, was intensely attached to the form of Lord Krishna with flute in His hands.

Tulasidas realised the all-pervading essence. He had cosmic consciousness. He communed with the all-pervading, formless Lord. And yet, his passion for Lord Rama with bow in His hand did not vanish. When he had been to Vrindavana and saw the Murti of Lord Krishna with flute in His hands, he said: “I will not bow my head to this form.” At once Lord Krishna’s form assumed the form of Lord Rama. Then only he bowed his head. Tukaram also had the same cosmic experience as that of Tulasidas. He sings in his Abhanga: “I see my Lord all-pervading, just as sweetness pervades the sugar-cane;” and yet, he always speaks of his Lord Vitthala of Pandarpur with His hands on the hips. Mira also realised her identity with the all-pervading Krishna, and yet she was not tired of repeating again and again: “My Giridhara Nagar.”

From the above facts, we can clearly infer that one can realise God through worship of Murti or idol; that the worship of the Lord in Saguna form is a great aid for the realisation of the Lord in His all-pervading, formless aspect also; that the worship of the Murti is very essential for the purpose of concentration and meditation in the beginning and that such a worship is not in anyway a hindrance to the attainment of God-consciousness. Those who vehemently attack Murti Puja are groping in extreme darkness and ignorance, and they have no real knowledge of Puja and worship. They enter into unnecessary vain debates and discussion against Murti Puja to show that they are learned persons.

They have not done any real Sadhana at all. They are persons who have made idle talking and tall talk their habit and profession. They have ruined themselves. They have unsettled the minds of countless persons and ruined them also. The whole world worships symbols and Murtis only in some form or the other. The mind is disciplined in the beginning by fixing it on a concrete object or symbol. When it is rendered steady and subtle, it can be fixed later on, on an abstract idea such as ‘Aham Brahma Asmi.’ When one advances in meditation, the form melts in the formless and he becomes one with the formless essence. Image worship is not contrary to the view of Vedanta. It is rather a help.

Those who have not understood the philosophy and significance of idol-worship will have, now at least, a clear understanding of them. Their eyes will be opened now. Ignorant persons only, who have not studied Sastras and who have not associated with Yogis, sages and Bhaktas, raise unnecessary arguments against idol-worship.

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