Actually it is Deity form. Every stone doesn’t represent God Krishna or demigods.
So, Why we worship Deity forms? Because, God appears in deity form out of his causeless mercy.
(The following Q&As are related to the Bollywood movie which tried to question the Hinduism or Sanatana Dharma)
When God is present everywhere, why should we worship him in the temple images?
Certainly, God is present everywhere, but is he accessible to us everywhere? Water is present everywhere in the air as water vapor, but can we just hang out our tongue and access that water whenever we feel thirsty? No; we need to go to a tap. Similarly, though God is present everywhere, we need his accessible form as manifested in the temples.
The need for an accessible manifestation of God is indispensable. Even in the imaginary storyline of OMG, God appears before Kanjibhai in a materially visible form and protects him in miraculous ways. Only on seeing this form does he get converted. Thus, even a skeptic who rejects all material manifestations of God needs a material manifestation to develop his faith.
In real-life, unlike in OMG’s imaginary storyline, God doesn’t appear personally to each one of us – at least not till we are adequately purified. Then how can we access God? To help us, those saintly people who have seen him as he actually is in his original eternal transcendental form have described that form for us. Moreover, the scriptures tell us that we can and should depict God according to that description, for if we worship him devotedly he will accept our worship.
A movie scriptwriter may fictitiously make God speak that Deity worship is unnecessary, but that statement expresses the opinion of the scriptwriter, not the will of God. To know God’s will, we have to refer to the scriptures. And the scriptures strongly and repeatedly endorse Deity worship. For example, the Uddhava-Gita (Krishna’s instructions to Uddhava) comprises the largest philosophical section of the great devotional classic, the Srimad Bhagavatam, and it includes one full chapter (11.27) on Deity worship. Thus here the same
Krishna in whose mouth OMG puts words condemning Deity worship speaks his actual will, enjoining Deity worship. Many other Puranas glorify Deity worship. And the Pancharatras are an entire library of books that systematically elucidate the principles and practices of Deity worship.
How can a stone image be God?
Can we stop God from manifesting through a stone image if he so desires? He is omnipotent; he can convert matter into spirit and can transform a stone image into a divine manifestation known as the archa-avatara (the incarnation for receiving worship). To differentiate this manifestation from ordinary stone images, contemporary Vedic savants refer to it as the Deity.
In fact, those who claim that God cannot manifest himself through matter are limiting God and depriving him of his omnipotence. Does matter have so much power that it can counter God’s omnipotence and prevent him from manifesting through matter? Obviously not.
They may argue that matter is impure, whereas God is pure. But is the impurity of matter greater than the purity of God? Wouldn’t that imply that the potency of matter is greater than that of God? That would be a logical absurdity. Therefore, the correct understanding is that, God, if he so desires, can surely manifest through matter. And when he does so, he never becomes impure by contact with matter; rather, by his contact, matter becomes pure.
So, if we want to understand Deity worship, we have to stop obsessing on the obvious fact that the image is made of stone – everyone knows it and no one denies it. Yet why do people – and not just ordinary people but even many of the greatest saints and the greatest spiritual scholars – worship that image? Because they can see something more than the obvious fact. They can see in action the profound truth of God’s omnipotence.
And because it is God’s will that makes Deity worship possible, it is essential that we worship the Deity according to his will. This means that we should fashion the stone image according to his will as revealed in the scriptures, and not according to our own imagination.
God doesn’t manifest in an image fashioned as per our imagination. Such an image is a mere lifeless statue, like the statues of politicians that we find on many street squares. Such a statue may help people remember the politician, but beyond that it has no connection with the actual person. That person is a soul who if alive is residing in his or her own material body or if dead has gone to some other body according to his or her karma. Worshiping such a statue as if it were divine is a form of idolatry and should certainly be given up. That’s why, as depicted in OMG, Kanjibhai is perfectly justified in lopping of the head of his own stone image and vehemently forbidding that kind of worship.
What is unjustified, however, is to extrapolate from the rejection of that kind of worship and reject all forms of image worship. Such unwarranted extrapolation limits our access to God. Why? Because presently we can perceive the world only through our material senses. As these senses cannot perceive spirit, our current perception is limited to matter and material things. So, if God does not manifest himself through matter, then we will never be able to perceive him. And without perceiving him, developing our love for him will be extremely difficult. That’s why out of his kindness he makes himself accessible to us as the Deity.
The Deity is different from an ordinary stone idol in two significant ways. Firstly, the form of the Deity is fashioned precisely according to the description of the form of God given in the scriptures. Secondly, God’s presence is invoked as the Deity through the scripturally prescribed ceremony called the prana-pratistha. During this ceremony, the great devotees of God request him to manifest as the Deity and to thereby provide them the opportunity to see and serve him. Mercifully responding to their prayers, God manifests as the Deity. Thereafter, any worship offered to the Deity form directly reaches God just as a letter placed in an authorized letter box reaches the destination. In contrast, just as placing the letter in any ordinary box is futile, worshiping any ordinary statue is futile.
So it is not that any ordinary stone image is treated as God; rather, God manifests through a specially designed and sanctified stone image to help us love and serve him.
The stone image is limited, whereas God is unlimited. How can such an image be God?
By this argument, even the form of Krishna that Kanjibhai saw in OMG is false, because even that form was limited. In fact, by this argument, no one will be able to see God because none of us can see anything unlimited. Our eyes forever limit what we can see. Thus, this argument, if true, will create a permanent, unbreakable barrier between us and God.
That’s why the argument needs to be critically examined. It is true that God is unlimited but does that necessarily imply that he can’t manifest in a limited form? Such an idea superficially seems to preserve God’s unlimitedness, but actually ends up limiting him by making him incapable of doing something: manifesting in a specific form.
The Vedic wisdom-tradition explains that God manifests himself in many forms: as an all-pervading impersonal light called Brahmajyoti and as an all-attractive person called Bhagavan. If God didn’t have both these manifestations, then he would be incomplete and so would not be God.
To understand why, let’s first look at the definition of God. The Vedanta-Sutra (1.1.2) defines God as the source of everything. Janmady asya yatah. Another ancient text, the Brahma-Samhita (5.1), defines God similarly as the cause of all causes sarva karana-karanam. This concise definition of God is essentially in agreement with the understanding of God given by all the theistic traditions of the world. So, if God is the source of everything that we see in this world, then he should possess the essential attributes of everything, else he would be lesser than his creation. In this world, there exist both personal beings and impersonal forces, so both these aspects should be present in God. If God were not a person, then he, who by definition is the Complete Being, would be incomplete. Another simpler way of putting this is: if we as the children of God are persons, how can our father, God, not be a person? So, those who say that God is not a person are actually limiting him, by divesting him of what his creation has.
Now let’s consider the question: do personality and form not limit God? The Vedic wisdom-tradition helps us understand that what causes limitation is not form, but matter. Due to the very nature of matter, all material objects are limited, whether they have form or not. When we think of God’s form, we subconsciously project our conceptions of matter on the form of God and so think that a form would limit God. But God is not material; he is entirely spiritual. Spirit has characteristics different from matter; that which is spiritual has the potential to be unlimited, irrespective of whether it has form or not. So God’s form being spiritual does not limit him. This is how, due to his being spiritual, God is a person with a form and is still unlimited.
Now let’s consider the question: can God manifest in a stone image that is a limited material form? God’s unlimitedness requires that he be able to do anything; if there is something that he can’t do, that would limit him. So his inability to manifest as a stone image would limit him. But then his manifesting as a stone image would also limit him to a limited form.
The way out of this dilemma is again by God’s omnipotence. He preserves his unlimitedness not by becoming unable to manifest in a limited form, but by manifesting in unlimited such Deity forms. The Brahma Samhita, an important scripture, confirms this. advaitam acyutam anadim ananta rupam He has no peers; he never falls; he has no beginning and he manifests in innumerable forms.
The fact that the unlimited manifests in so many limited forms in various parts of the world as the temple Deities is an expression of his unlimited love for all of us limited beings.
The stone image can’t even wave away a fly on its face. It can be broken by vandals. How can such an image be God?
When God manifests himself through any material manifestation, the divinity of that manifestation is demonstrated not by its potency to break material laws, but by its potency to bring about spiritual transformation among the sincerely devoted.
To understand this, let’s consider another material manifestation of the divine: the scriptures. Many of those who object to the practice of Deity worship still consider the scriptures sacred. Frequently they even worship those sacred texts as if they were divine. Yet can those sacred texts not be torn or burnt by the faithless? Obviously, they can be. But does this make them any less divine? Not at all. The divinity of these texts cannot be experienced by defiantly tearing them apart to check whether they miraculously save themselves. Their divinity can be experienced only by reading them with a devotional service attitude. The same principle applies to the Deity.
Can the Deity not wave away the fly? He can, but he doesn’t. Why? Because the Lord does not manifest himself as the Deity to prove his omnipotence. In fact, the Lord generally does not manifest his omnipotence in this material world. Because this world is provided as a facility for those souls who want to enjoy separate from God. All of us were originally with God in his eternal spiritual kingdom, but we wanted to enjoy by imitating him instead of serving him. By this desire, we exiled ourselves to this material world to play out our fantasies of becoming the best – of becoming God. But God being supreme is eternally the best in everything. If he were to manifest his omnipotence in this word, then nobody would have any chance to play God. So, he graciously facilitates our desire to enjoy separate from him by not directly manifesting his omnipotence here.
God waits patiently for us to learn our lessons. He wants us to realize for ourselves that, no matter how big and powerful we become, we can never be happy without loving him. So, he allows us to love whatever we want. But he also tirelessly waits for us to turn to him. As soon as we get the slightest such desire, He starts providing us facilities to love him again. One of the most important of such facilities is the Deity. The Deity offers us what no other divine manifestation does: the opportunity to serve God personally by beholding, bowing down, praying, touching, bathing, dressing, decorating and offering food.
At the ordinary levels of religion – the levels of fear and desire, people worship God and demand protection and prosperity in exchange for the worship. Deity worship offers the opportunity to worship God at a much loftier level of love wherein the devotees consider themselves servants of God and want to offer him everything they possibly can – including protection.
Therefore, devotees consider it their prime duty to do everything to prevent the Deity from being vandalized. God manifests himself as the Deity not to prove his omnipotence to those bent on defying him, but to give a facility for those eager to serve him. When the faithless try to desecrate the Deity, the Lord simply unmanifests himself from the Deity so that they can inflate their illusion by imagining that there is no God in the Deity. Of course, defiant acts like desecrating the Deities or desecrating sacred texts will eventually lead to grievous karmic consequences. Do such acts demonstrate the absence of God in the Deity? Not at all to those who understand the purpose of the Deity manifestation. To them, such acts only demonstrate the utter absence of genuine God consciousness among the vandals.
Coming to the fly question, how should we respond on seeing a fly near the Deity on the altar? Philosophically, we should understand that the Deity has allowed the fly there to graphically show how we are neglecting our service to the Deity, how we are not keeping the altar clean. Practically, we should hasten to remove the fly and make arrangements by which flies will not disturb the Deity again. The point is that the devotees see the Deity as a special, invited divine guest and so feel duty-bound, in fact love-bound, to offer the Deity the best possible service.
Although God can never be insulted, that he manifests himself in forms that can apparently be disrespected is a sign of his extraordinary love for us. This is beautifully expressed by Pillai Lokacharya, a great South Indian saintly teacher: “This is the greatest grace of the Lord, that being free He becomes bound, being independent He becomes dependent for all his service on the devotee… In other forms, man belonged to God. But behold the supreme sacrifice of Ishvara [Krishna] in the form of the murti, for here the almighty becomes the property of the devotee. He carries the Lord about, fans him, feeds him, plays with him-yea, the Infinite has become finite, that the child soul may grasp, understand, and love him.”
Is the worship of Deities a tool meant for less intelligent people, a tool that should be given up once one becomes spiritually advanced?
Not at all.
It is true that Deity worship is especially essential for those who are spiritually under-evolved. As they can’t perceive that God is present everywhere, he manifests within their sense perception as the Deity. Thereby they can at least begin their God consciousness by respecting him as the Deity.
But the fact that Deity worship is essential for the under-evolved doesn’t imply that it is meant only for them or that those more evolved should give it up.
To properly understand the relationship of Deity worship with spiritual advancement, let’s first understand how the Srimad Bhagavatam (11.2.45-47) classifies devotees based on the level of their God consciousness:
• Kanishtha-adikhari (third level): Devotees at this level perceive God only in the Deity and nowhere else. The spirituality of these devotees is limited only to the temple or the home-altar; they can’t perceive God’s relationship with other people and aspects of their life.
• Madhyama-adhikari (second level): Devotees at this level understand that their God consciousness depends not only on how they see the Deity, but also on how they relate with the things and people of the world. Accordingly, in addition to worshipping the Deity, these devotees befriend other devotees, help the uninformed and avoid those inimical towards God.
• Uttama-adhikari (first-level): Devotees at this level are so advanced that they can perceive God’s presence everywhere. This does not mean that they worship everything as if it is God or that they give up worshipping the Deity as if it is not God. It means that everything in the world reminds them of God just as everything reminds a lover of the beloved.
So, whereas the third-level devotees need the Deity to remember God, the first-level devotees don’t. But this doesn’t mean that the first-level devotees neglect or reject the Deity. Not at all. Rather, due to their great love for God, they serve the Deity with even greater devotion.
The notion that Deity worship is for the less intelligent is a misconception propagated by those averse to serving the Deity. To mask their aversion, they self-servingly claim that they are more intelligent and so don’t need the Deity worship that is meant for less intelligent people. But the fact is that even the less intelligent or the third-level devotees can perceive God’s presence as the Deity and so are inclined to serve the Deity. Those who can’t see God’s presence as the Deity are below even these third-level devotees.
If only they would open their mind to understand the profound philosophy underlying Deity worship, then they would realize how the Deity manifestation is a great blessing of God for all levels of spiritual aspirants; everyone’s remembrance of God becomes enriched by beholding and serving the Deity. Otherwise, though they may claim to be more intelligent, they will, unfortunately, remain less than less-intelligent.