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pray_hands.GIF (680 bytes) Prayer & Spirituality
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OM, AUM

Hinduism
Many Paths to One God

Faith And Idol Worship

Many westerners have a difficult time understanding the worship practices of Hindus. The following article describes the philosophy behind the 'Idol Worship' of Hindus. 

The Philosophy and Significance of Idol Worship
By Sri Swami Sivananda

Puran Chand's Guru had initiated him into the Narayana Mantra and given him a small Murti (idol) of Lord Narayana for worship. Puran was regular in his worship and did not omit repetition of the sacred Mantra, but there was no sign of the idol blessing him; so he went to his Guru and asked him the reason. The Guru smiled at Puran and said, "Well son, take this idol of Lord Siva. I shall initiate you into the Siva Mantra. Worship Lord Siva with faith and devotion. He is considered as Bhole Nath and is easily propitiable; He will bless you soon."

The next six months saw Puran Chand immersed in Japa and worship of Lord Siva. The idol of Lord Narayana was placed on a dusty shelf in the puja room. After many months, Puran Chand once more went to his Guru and complained that his worship of Siva had brought him no result. He begged him to give him the Murti (idol of god) and Mantra of a Devata (idol of goddess) that would bless him.

The Guru smiled again; the time for enlightenment had come, yet he felt the disciple would learn from experience. So he said, "Good son, in this Yuga, Mother Kali is Pratyaksha Devata. Worship this image of Her and repeat the Navarna Mantra and you will obtain Her Grace." This time, Puran Chand had no misgivings whatsoever; he had full faith.

Kali worship commenced; Siva joined company with Narayana on the shelf. With devotion, Puran was waving incense before the image of Mother Kali when the fumes rose up and reached the shelf where the other two idols were kept. Puran was enraged. What right had Siva to inhale the incense intended for Mother Kali? He had refused to be propitiated when he had tirelessly worshipped Him; it was Mother Kali whom he now worshipped. In great anger he took down the image of Siva in his hands and began to insert cotton wool in His nose to stop Him from inhaling the incense. Before he could accomplish his task, however, the idol disappeared and before him stood the Lord, smiling in all His mercy and compassion. Speechless with wonder and amazement, Puran prostrated himself before the Lord who told him to ask for any boon as He was immensely pleased with his devotion.

Puran answered, "My Lord, I am much perplexed. You did not deign to bless me when I devoutly worshipped You and repeated the Panchakshara Mantra for six months. But You suddenly chose to reveal yourself to me when I had discarded Your image and given up Your worship. What is this mystery, O Lord?"

The Lord answered, "My child, there is no mystery to be explained; how could I reveal Myself when you treated Me as a mere image, as a mere piece of metal worshipped or thrown away according to your whim? Today you treated My image as a living presence when you wanted to plug the nostrils with cotton wool; thus you revealed that you recognized My living presence in the idol and I could no longer withhold Myself from you."

Speechless and enlightened, Puran bowed once more and was immersed in His Love. He could ask for no greater boon, for in His love he found fulfillment.

See Also:

Hindu Worship

How To Chant

Mantras And Sacred Symbols

[Hinduism Infocenter Home]

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