Most major religions seem to be skeptical about the seemingly polytheistic practice of Hinduism.
The disparaging comments about Idol Worship has often put those who practice the religion in a tight defensive corner. Although the religion is based on a very strong monotheistic ideology, it is very tolerant towards any form or practice of invoking God. The bottom line is faith and belief in God, all methods and paths will ultimately lead to the final goal. The basis of this tolerance is that every believer initiates the journey with an individualized idea of God and with growth and development of spirituality and with maturity this individualized idea expands to a more universal belief in the same God. The difficulty arises when ideas change to ideologies which instigates egoistic arguments and hostility.
The question to be asked by believers then would be why “Idol Worship” with the assumption that all religions have the same goal of loving God, instead of a presumption that because of the practice of worshiping God using Idols that the religion is flawed and paganistic. The truth is all religions can be understood and God can be conceptualized through critical thinking rather than criticizing.
Critical thinking clarification of a much criticized practice of worship:
Life is based on sensory-motor skills of our perishable body. Every action is a motor outcome which is a initiated by a sensory stimulus. Mind or brain or thoughts connects the sensory input to our motor output. This includes eating, sleeping, walking, drinking, breathing, crying, laughing, etc. Some actions are volitional, and some are autonomous.
Language or communication thus is no exception. Every modality of communication or expression verbalizing, signing, writing, dancing, singing, sculpting, drawing, etc. Thus while some communicate by verbalizing this universal entity as God, Allah, Father, Jesus, Vishnu, etc. others communicate the same entity through sculpting idols of Ganesha, Shiva, Lakshmi, Parvati, etc. Yet others sing praises of this entity via hymns and devotional poetry and some others dance to communicate the love of God.
If idol worship is blasphemy, then using a verbal modality to name this entity as God is equally insulting. Both are methods of communicating in this sensory motor driven world of ours. The entity that we call God is so vast and universal that our limited minds would not be able to perceive its true nature. In fact during the Mahabharata War where Krishna advises Arjuna to partake in the war to uphold righteousness, Krishna reveals his true self to Arjuna at one time. Arjuna pleads that Krishna return to the humanly state because his true self was too overwhelming for him.
Only through complete silence can true justice be done to this vastness. However humans need a modality to communicate about and to God. Thus for lack of a better way of portraying the divinity some use words while others use form. In either case taking his name in vain is just as heinous as reducing the idea of the vastness to a mere form. It can only be justified if they are both used as means of communication.
In the path of self-realization then how does one reach the goal. The journey is confusing and complex. We thus have to seek a human entity who is the embodiment and manifestation of the trinity aspect of God in human form. While this human form is not God , is however God incarnate because it houses the true spirit of the vast entity. Thus the human form is worshiped as God because they are the guiding beacons to the end goal of actualization of our souls. The human form is revered as the true manifest of God in human form. Thus in Hindu faith the ‘Guru’ the guiding light is worshipped just as reverently and ardently as the formless and limitless entity- God.
Guru Brahma Gurur Vishnu Guru Devo Maheshwaraha Guru Saakshat Para Brahma Tasmai Sree Gurave Namaha
Meaning:Guru is verily the representative of Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva. He creates, sustains knowledge and destroys the weeds of ignorance. I salute such a Guru.