How does Hinduism justify idol worship when Christianity and Islam forbid it? || Acharya Prashant

How does Hinduism justify idol worship when Christianity and Islam forbid it

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Verily, verily, I say unto you, The servant is not greater than his lord; neither he that is sent greater than he that sent him.

~ John 13:16

Question: The Abrahamic religions, all of them, are against idol worship. Not only Christianity, but also Islam, Judaism. But in Hinduism , there is a lot of idol worship. How to reconcile them, and whether or not, they can be reconciled?

Acharya Prashant Ji: What is the sutra(verse)for tonight? What does it read? Read it aloud please.

Questioner: “Verily, verily, I say unto you, The servant is not greater than his lord; neither he that is sent greater than he that sent him.” ~John 13:16.

Acharya Ji: Verily, verily, I say unto you, The servant is not greater than his lord; neither he that is sent greater than he that sent him.

This establishes one relationship between the center, and the expression of the center. What is that relationship? That the One that you are seeing, is the servant of the One, who has sent him. That this world, is not really separate from the lord. It is related in the same way as, a servant is related to the world.

Are you getting it?

That it has not just come, from somewhere.

Jesus is saying that this has been sent, by Truth itself. What Jesus is saying here, is so very in tune, with the opening lines of the the Kena Upanishad. The Kena Upnishad begins by asking: “By whom is the mind sent? What is behind the ears? What is behind the eyes?”

Jesus is answering it. He is saying: “The world is a servant, sent by the Lord, the Master, the Truth.” Now, if you really are surrendered to the Lord, then an expression of the surrender is, that you worship even the servant of the Lord.

India has worshiped, the creation, as very intimate, to the creator.

So intimate, that they cannot even be differentiated.

All that Jesus is saying is: “Do not worship anybody, except the Lord. Do not worship anybody, except the Truth.”

Hinduism has said: “All of this comes from the Truth. So where do I go to worship the Truth? And having realised that all of this is sent by the Truth, I will worship all of it, without distinction. I will worship the tree, the animal, the stone, the leaf, the dung, the mountain, the air, the water, the hurricane, the man, the woman, the child, the old one.

Without exception, India has worshiped everything, because everything is coming from ‘there’ – the Truth.

Just as you keep to your heart, a letter that has been sent by the beloved, don’t you? What do you do with a letter, that has been kissed, and sent to you by the beloved? What do you do to it? You keep it here, close to the heart. You don’t throw it away.

Hinduism sees this world, the entire world, with all it’s diversity, as a letter from the Beloved.

Now, the Beloved can’t be kissed. So, the Hindu kisses the stone.

The Beloved can’t be kissed, so the Hindu kisses the river.

That does not mean that Hinduism believes in many gods. Of course, the Truth is not even one, let alone many. The Truth is a great void. But it manifests itself variously. And all aspects of the manifestation are divine. They have been worshiped.

(The questioner had especially flown from Europe, to seek answers related to God, Truth, Peace.

His curiosity coincidentally connected him to Acharya Prashant Ji. He was firstly, connected to Acharya Ji, through the YouTube videos, and then he finally got a chance to attend his Satsang, during the Myth demolition Tour, organised in Rishikesh, in the year 2016).   

Questioner: But the Bible says that do not worship a particular statue, do not worship idols.

Acharya Ji: Now pay attention. If you make, ‘a particular’ statue, then it is idol worship. But what if you say that all statues are statues of God, would you still call it as ‘idol worship’?

When the Bible says, “Do not worship idols,” it is assuming that you will make one particular statue. But what if you say, that all forms – a statue is a form – what if, you say, that all forms are the forms of the formless?

If you worship one particular form, of course, you are taking just one idol, and sticking to it. And that is false. But what if, all forms, the form itself, the universe itself, reminds you of That?

What would be the quality of that mind, that looks at the river and is reminded of the the great void?

What would be the quality of that mind, which looks at a child, which looks at a nude woman, and is reminded of nothing, but the Truth?

All forms, and any form.

That is what the Hinduism talks about.

Listener 1: So, when Shri Ramchandra ji, when he was going to Lanka, for getting his wife, Sita ji, back. I have read, that he did make a statue of Shiva, and prayed for his blessings. What my friend here said about Bible being against idol worship, may be true, because I think the God of Bible is a jealous God. He does not want anyone else being worshiped.

Acharya Ji: If your wife gets attracted to one man, then you can be jealous. But, would you be jealous, if your wife is attracted to the entire male population of the world?

(laughter)

Listener 1: There is nothing wrong now.

Acharya Ji: It is not about anything being wrong now. Now the happening is divine. When you worship one idol, that is called ‘idolatry’. Those who had condemned idol worship, had  not realised a situation where everything would be idolized. Had they known this situation, they would have said, “Idol worship is divine.”

To take one body as divine, is ‘idol worship’. That is why, thinking of Jesus as a body, as a son of God, is ‘idol worship’. Now you are taking one body as divine. But when all bodies are divine, that is not ‘idol worship’. Now it is something else. It is beyond the realm of mind, because you are not even putting any conditions. Now you cannot condemn it.

Your wife is in a loving relationship with the entire population of the world. How will you condemn it? Her love is universal – no limits, no boundaries. All is lovable. Now, you cannot condemn. Now you will not call it ‘idolatry’, or ‘adultery’.

No more.

Getting attached to certain forms, is indeed condemnable.

But seeing the divine, in every form, is another matter.

When idol worship is condemned, it is rightly condemned, because ‘idol worship’ means, giving one form, the position of God. ‘Idol worship’ means – this woman is so important. She is the idol. ‘Idol worship’ means – a man, a woman, a thought, a concept, something has become very important to me. So important, that I am worshiping it.

Now, this is heresy. Instead of worshiping the one God, you are worshiping something limited. Instead of worshiping the limitless, you are worshiping the limited, which would cause suffering to you. So, rightly idol worship is condemned.

But when, everything is worth worshiping, then you can no more call it ‘idol worship’.

Listener 2: This makes beautiful sense, Acharya Ji.

Listener 3: What happens when we start worshiping ourselves, the ego? What happens when we place the ego, the limited, as God?

Acharya Ji: What does it mean to worship everything, given that what is outside, is the inside. Right? We have repeatedly said that – the external is the internal. An now we are saying, everything carries the imprint of the divine, so Hindus have worshiped everything. So, does that mean that Hindus have worshiped ego?

Please understand.

When you are talking of every thing, what does it mean to see the presence of the divine, in every thing? Remember that the external, is the internal. It means – even when you are looking at multiple things, yet you are centered in ‘nothing’.

You might be looking at diversity, yet there is no diversity in the mind. Diversity means parts. You might be looking at many things, yet there are not many things ‘here'(the mind). There is nothing here – no parts, no presence. Pure emptiness.

When there is pure emptiness ‘here’ (the mind), then whatever is visible outside, is also empty. That is what is meant by – seeing the divine in everything. When there is Shiva ‘here'(the heart), then there is Shiva in that pole as well. But when there is ego ‘here’, then there is ego even in a pole.

To see God everywhere, there must be, first of all, God in the heart.

When God is in the heart, then your eyes open only to see God everywhere.

And when God is not in the heart, remember, you cannot see God anywhere.

Then, you will not see God, even in the Prophet of God, even in the Son of God, the Messenger of God.

So, if someone says, “No, no, I do not see godliness anywhere, but that fellow, that special one, is the messenger of God,” then he is lying. If you cannot see godliness anywhere, how did you see it in one particular form? Those who will see godliness, will see godliness, unconditionally. And those who will not see it, will not see it anywhere. Even if the very son of God is standing in front of them, they will not see godliness.

When you are not seeing godliness in the bird, in the puppy, in the stone, in the air, in water, how will you see godliness in the face of Christ?

Because you are the seer.

When the center is godly, then everything around you is godly.

And when the center is not godly, then you can only crucify Christ.


Excerpts from a ‘Shabd-Yoga’ session. Edited for clarity.

Watch the session:  Acharya Prashant: How does Hinduism justify idol worship when Christianity and Islam forbid it?


Editor’s Note: To receive regular updates on WhatsApp regarding wisdom articles by Acharya Ji and to get an opportunity to connect to him directly, click here


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The image of the so-called enlightened one makes one scared of enlightenment

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Question: I have a confused question. Can I confess that I don’t know if I want to be awakened or not! I am afraid to realise myself. I am curious but I am stepping back from the Truth.

Acharya Prashant: “I am afraid of being awakened!” You must be afraid. All these so-called spiritual people have painted such a horrible picture of awakening that it is normal to be afraid of awakening. When you look at all those who call themselves awakened, it is very normal to say, “I do not want to be awakened, if awakening means this!”  If you look at all those who call themselves enlightened, you say, “I do not want to be enlightened, if this is what enlightenment means.”

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How do I get rid of my bad habits?

Question: I want to get rid of my bad habits. I have tried all the things to get rid of them, but I am still unable to do that. What is the reason?

Speaker: How do you know whether a particular habit is good or bad? How do you decide?

Listener 1: It has been told to us earlier, that what is good and what is bad.

Speaker: You have been told earlier that what is good and what is bad. That is the way we go about deciding everything – what is right, what is wrong, what is fair, what is unfair – on the basis of criteria that has been given to us in advance. That this is good, this is bad.
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In victory and in defeat, you are always a winner

Question : Sir, is truth necessarily cruel and dangerous? Whenever I listen to you, I feel fear of losing something. Why is it so?

Speaker : Who is losing something? If you unnecessarily identify yourself with somebody who has possessions, only then you feel that you are losing something. We will understand a few things.

First, there is no need to take any of your possessions seriously. Because what is really yours can never be taken away. You will be wasting your energy by being serious about it. See, you are feeling serious about something, and you are afraid that you might lose it. Right? You are saying, “Whenever I listen to you, I fear that I will lose something.” If there is the fear that you might lose something, then this fear is the proof enough that, ‘that’ thing is external. It is not really yours. Read more

Your ‘individuality’ is just a deceptive name given by ego to itself

Question: On one hand the HIDP tells us to be individuals, on the other hand we are being asked to read texts. Why are we not allowed to write what we think?

Speaker: What is the difference between an ‘individual’ and a ‘person’? Let us understand this. Let us depict the mind of the individual by one circle, and the mind of the person by another circle. The word ‘individual’ is linked to ‘indivisible’. That which is neither divided nor can be divided. There is no possibility. So there is this circle; the individual’s circle. And it’s an empty circle. Zero cannot be divided. There are only two entities that cannot be divided; zero and infinity. You can represent the individual by any of them. They both are indivisible. Zero and infinity. Read more

Intentions don’t matter; Awareness does || Acharya Prashant (2013)

To personally meet or connect with Acharya Prashant: click here.


Question: What we get from outside especially in the childhood, is the love, affection, care of our parents, family. How can that contribute to our ego?

Speaker: There is a saying, “The road to hell is paved with good intentions.” People’s intentions are good, but they end up doing a lot of harm. People’s intentions are good but they end up doing a lot of harm because they are not aware. Even their love can only cause harm to the loved ones.

Intentions don’t matter, awareness matters.

I may have all the intentions of helping my son, my friend, somebody. But how can I help if my notion of help itself is misplaced.

Read more

You, I and the mind

Question: What is the difference between ‘You’, ‘I’ and ‘the mind’?

Speaker: Good. What is the difference between ‘You’, ‘I’ and ‘the mind’? Simple.

Whatever is personal is mind.

We all exist as persons. Right? Right now if I have to speak to you, I cannot look somewhere else and speak. You will feel awkward if I do that. You exist as a person. You are looking at me. Even though you do not look at me you would still be able to hear me, but it’s our common practice. The entire world does this. We exist as persons having a definite form, a definite name, a definite shape, and some characteristics that appear as permanent. Whatever this person is characterized by, is the mind. Whatever is personal, is mind. So the person is the mind and the person refers to himself as ‘I’. Wherever there is an ‘I’ there would be a reciprocal…?
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Any and every image you make of yourself is an ugly image

Question: How do I find a balance between my personal goals and dreams in life with my family’s expectations from me? How can one fulfil both without compromising on either?

Speaker: How can I find a balance between my personal goals and dreams in life with my family’s expectations from me? How can I fulfil both without compromising on either?

There is a slave, and there are two men who are fighting over the rights to own that slave. The slave is greatly interested in the fight, the slave wants to know who will win. The slave sometimes even wants to support one party over the other. There are these two men who are quarrelling, who are fighting, it’s like a tug-of-war, and the slave thinks that he is asking a very meaningful question. ‘Who should be my master? To whom should I be enslaved?’ What would you recommend to that slave? Read more

How to help others see the truth?

Question: Sir, is it possible to help those who are deeply blind, even if they do not agree or acknowledge that they are blind? Is it possible to help such people?

Speaker: Alok is asking that is it possible to really help blind people, people who are not prepared to acknowledge the fact, people who are not seeing the reality. Obviously, here he is using ‘blindness’ as a metaphor. Read more

Why does man go wrong?

For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.

– (Bible, Romans 14:17)

Question: Christ says, ‘The Kingdom of God is not meat and drink’, but on every special day, all I see is meat and drink. That is how people celebrate. So where did it all go wrong?

Speaker: If Christ is saying that the kingdom of God is not meat and drink, then why do we only see meat and drink? And his words are both figuratively and literally true. Millions of animals would have been slaughtered just for the New Year eve celebration. And you know, statistics are that forty percent of that meat, chicken, ham, beef, bacon, all that goes to go waste. Because in festivals people tend to buy more than they need, then they throw it away. Of the millions of slaughtered animals, millions have been killed, just to be dumped in a waste basket.
Read more

Only a Godless mind will be petty

यदि देहं पृथक् कृत्य चिति विश्राम्य तिष्ठसि।

अधुनैव सुखी शान्तो बन्धमुक्तो भविष्यसि॥

– अष्टावक्र गीता (१.४)

Translation: If you detach yourself from the body and rest in consciousness, you will become content, peaceful and free from bondage immediately.

Question: How to detach oneself from the body? Read more

What is Prayer?

Hari ke jan satigur, satpurkha binau karau gur paasi.

– Shri Guru Granth Sahib, 10

{O humble servant of the Lord, O true Guru, O true primal being, I offer my humble prayer to you, O Guru!}

Question: What is prayer? Is there a need for another thing or another body separate from you for praying?

Acharya Prashant: The word ‘praying’ is beautifully understood when you also take its counterpart in Sanskrit Praarthna.

Arth means desire. Whenever you usually pray – and we all keep praying – our prayers are to the world, our prayers are to people, to situations. Whenever we normally pray, there is a desire behind it: arth. The desire is obviously a product of conditioning; it is obviously material, as all desires are bound to be. It is about a thing, a person, or an idea. Read more

Confidence is fear || Acharya Prashant (2013)

To personally meet or connect with Acharya Prashant: click here.


Question: What is the difference between confidence and over-confidence?

Speaker: It seems that this question is important to many of us here. Right?

Listeners(everyone): Yes, Sir.

Speaker: What is confidence? On a normal day at home, do you require confidence to speak to your parents, to other family members? Before you speak to them, do you gather courage, do you gather confidence and then go there? No, you don’t. So, you don’t require confidence at home. You must be having some friends? When you are speaking to your friends, do you require confidence? No. But you surely require confidence when you are speaking to an interviewer. Then you say, ‘I require confidence’. Correct?
Read more

How can I get my ex-girlfriend back? || Acharya Prashant (2013)

To personally meet or connect with Acharya Prashant: click here.


Speaker: ‘How can I get my ex-girlfriend back?’ The question comes from Shubham. Shubham you will have to die (audience bursts into laughter). There is no other way, you will have to die.

You know, it was Kabir who said:

ये तो घर है प्रेम का, खाला का घर नाहिं ।
सीस उतारे भुँई धरे, तब बैठें घर माहिं ॥

You will have to die. And obviously it is not death of the physical kind. When Kabir says, ‘Cut your head before you can enter the house of love’, what does he mean? What does this denote? Kabir says, ‘Cut your head down’. What does this denote?

Listener 1: Ego.

Speaker: Yes, wonderful. This denotes the sum total of your past. This denotes the absolute sum total of your past, your attitude, your conditioning that you carry forward. You cannot get your ex-girlfriend back if you continue to be the same person who broke up. Are you getting it?

After all there was a context to the breakup. Am I right? If you are the same person who broke up, how will you engage with her again? To engage with her again you will have to be an absolutely new, fresh person, that old fellow must die. Unless the old ‘Shubham’ dies there is no possibility of a new relationship. Is this becoming clear?
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Is hard work the key to success?

Question: Sir, everyone says that hard work is the key to success. Is this true?

Speaker: Rohit is asking that is hard work the key to success. Rohit, you have picked two entities and asked whether they can be equated.

You have said, ‘hard work’ and you have said, ‘success’. You are asking that are the two synonymous. Does one lead to the other? Is one guarantee to the other? Is the presence of one necessary for the presence of other?
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Motivation and ambition, symptoms of suffering

Question: Sir, how to stay motivated and ambitious even after repeated failures in life?

Speaker: Our friend is asking that how to stay motivated and ambitious even after repeated failures.

Do you understand what is ambition? Do you understand what is motivation? Do you understand what is failure?

What is motivation? What is meant by ‘motive’?

Motive means greed. Motive means, ‘I want to get something.’

Same is ambition. Ambition is an enhanced form of motive. ‘I want to get more and more.’ That is ambition. Be it motive or be it ambition one thing is certain, you are saying that I want to get something, that I want to achieve something. I can understand that the voices around you have been constantly telling you that you must get something, that you are incomplete, that there is something missing in you, there is something wrong in you, and you must make up for it by obtaining a particular degree, a particular job, a certain respectability.
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Why can’t I speak in front of others?

Question: How can we overcome our fears?

Speaker: For quite a while I have been inviting questions. Did you think just now of asking this question, or  was this question written on your page since the beginning?

Listener 1: Since the beginning.

Speaker: Since the beginning. You did not raise the question in the beginning. You are raising it now when we are at the end of the session. What prevented you from raising that question since the last one hour?

Listener 2: Stage fear.

Speaker: But you just got up and said something. Repeat your question.

Listener 1: How should we overcome our fears?

Speaker: How many of us are thinking that his voice is trembling, his legs are shaking and he is about to faint. Is that so?
Read more

Planning is a product of fear

Question: Sir, you said that life is going from the last two thousand years or so, and we are here for just sixty or seventy years. So, how can we change anything?

Speaker: Do you require two thousand years? Do you require sixty years? If you really, really want to do something, you would do it right now. Why do you think of sixty years or six years, or even six months or six minutes. You wanted to ask the question. Were you worried before asking that I am going to live for only sixty years? Did you think that what is the point in asking this question?
Read more

Travelling, not destination

Question: Sir, I saw one of your videos titled, ‘Ready to write a new story?’. In this video you have said that we should not follow the same, old story. I understand that we should write our own story. I know what I want to do and I am walking on that path. What is it that will keep me going? I know which way it is going but what is it that will keep me stick to it and stay motivated about it? Can something be done which will help me save myself and write a new story?

Speaker: The sheer enjoyment of walking keeps you going. If you think that the lure of reaching, that the lure of the destination keeps you going, then sooner or later you will be exhausted. Those who are attracted by the destination become exhausted. That is why we make goals, but we find that our goals are transient. Goals come and go. Our resolutions keep breaking. It is because they are all focused on the destination, what you want to get.

Enjoyment of walkingContrasted to this, there is another man who is not thinking at all of the destination. It is because there is hardly any destination. He is enjoying the movement, the travelling itself. The fun in travelling keeps you going. There is no other motivation.

When I meet senior students, they have lots of queries regarding their career. They would ask that how should they choose which organization to work with. My advice to them on this is, choose a job that you can do even without getting paid. If you can get a job that you would like to do even if it does not pay you anything, then you are in heaven. Then every moment will be joyful.

One of my old students once came to meet me. I asked him where he was working. He told me that he has set up his own company. He had established his own firm. He told me a few things about the work his company was doing, and he also added that his company was not making enough money. He was feeding it out of his own saving. I asked him why he was investing so much in it then.

He answered, ‘Sir, some seven-eight years back you told me that if I can find a job that I can do without getting paid, then it would be very beautiful. Today I have a job that I am doing without getting paid for it. So, you can imagine that it must be very, very beautiful.’

People work and then they say, ‘I have worked, so give me money.’ That is what you call as salary. ‘I have worked so you give me money’. And then one reaches a point and says, ‘I thank you that I could work in this way. Now that I have worked, you take money from me. I am so happy that I got an opportunity to get this that you can take money from me.’

What keeps them going? What is their motivation? The work itself is their motivation. Not the destination. When you will find something of that kind in your life, then all the stupidity will vanish. All the immaturity and all the childishness will go away.

Do you know who is a mature man? The one who has known enjoyment. If most of you are immature and appear idiotic, it is because you are suffering. You have never known enjoyment. The day you enter joy, you have entered maturity. All distractions and fidgeting arise from suffering. The mind is suffering that is why it is restless. It can’t stay put at one place. It is searching for something.

The motivation cannot be in the search. The motivation has to be in the movement.

 -Excerpts from a Samvaad session. Edited for clarity.

 Watch the session at: Travelling, not destination

Read more articles on this topic:

Article 1: To go for goals is gloom to fantasise a future is frustration

Article 2: Before you chase goals become goal-less

Article 3: Your goals come from your borrowed self-concept

Article 4: Motivation is slavery

Article 5: Motivation and ambition symptoms of suffering

Why does the mind need role models?

Acharya Prashant: You are talking about role models. Let us see. What do you mean by a role model? Somebody you want to emulate, somebody you want to copy.

Listener: Sir, it can also be like that I like certain quality in that person. Read more