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The Adoration of the Golden Calf by Nicolas Poussin
Worship of planets, trees, animals and images of the Lord is called Idolatry which is equated with other sins in Christianity and Islam. ".......instruct them by letter to abstain from things polluted by contact with idols, from fornication" - Acts 15; verses 20-21. If we invoke them they will not listen To your call and if They were to listen, They can not answer your (prayer). --Ayat14 - sura 35 (Holy Qur'an) . Similar references can be found at the following sources: i) Old Testament: Exodus 20 verses 23-24; 22 and 20; 2 kings 23 verses 4-6; 15-17' Deuteronomy 12 verses 1-3, 4 verses 15-19. ii) Holy Qur'an: Ayat 116,117-sura4; Ayat 93-sura 5; Ayat 148-sura7; Ayat 22-sura34. Throughout the New Testament we can not find any reference except in Acts. Son of God, Jesus did not say anything regarding idolatry, as it was not practiced by Jews at all. There is a reference to Jesus, throwing away all merchandise saying, "Let my father's house not be a market place". Other than that, he does not say anything about talismans or idols. Vedas advocate, "sarvam khalvidam Brahma" (All is made of God).
IDOLATRY - A SIN?
Swami Vivekananda says, "Matter cannot be distinguished from energy." When we think of God as energy, instantaneously we visualize a matter representing that energy. If I say God is vidyut (electricity), you will immediately visualize lightening or an electric bulb! It happens with out your effort. पृथिव्यन्तरिक्षं द्यौर्दिशोवान्तर्दिशाः। अग्निर्वायुरादित्यश्चंद्रमा नक्षत्राणि। आप औषधयो मनस्पतय आकाश आत्मा। --अनुवाक ७, शिक्षावल्लि, तैत्तरीयोपनिषत् "One should meditate upon the Elements that compose the universe, namely earth, space between earth and heaven, sky, major and minor points of compass, fire, air, sun, moon, stars, water, herbs, large trees, ether and one's own body." --Anuvaka 7, Shikshavalli, Taittiriya Upanishad.
Holy Father Olumba Olumba Obu of Nigeria in his discourse instructs, "If somebody gives you a rod, do not accept it; God is not a rod. If you are given a handkerchief do not accept, because God is not a handkerchief. God is not a piece of wood.....". Suppose one is given a piece of wood but in the shape of Holy Cross, should he accept? Holy Father is silent about this confusion. God appeared to Moses on Horeb as 'no figure of any kind' (Deuteronomy 4 verses 15-19). But God has appeared to Ezekiel "..........upon the throne, a form in human likeness" (Ezekiel 1verses 26-28). Further, you will come across description of God's Court in Job 1 verses 6-12, Job2 verses 1-7. A founder of simplified yoga prescribes "no visualization, mantra or pranayama" in his instruction book. But in the very same book elsewhere he gives detailed pictures of chakras, number of petals, colors, locations etc., Also, he advises the disciples to meditate on moon, sun and tara loka( stars). Some of my friends purchased a software to know the star ruling on the day! They have not been taught how deity of a star is distinct from one another. Then, what is the point in knowing the star of the day? With all these, the founder in his gusto to form a new cult, did not realize he was contradicting himself!
When such is the case, what is wrong with Hinduism due to their worship trees, animals, planets, sky, earth and other things? Do the people who have given some other shape to the same piece of wood I carved Krishna, claim to be superior than others? Have they understood the lapses in their own practices? Sri Shankaracharya was an advaiti (a school of Hindu philosophy that preaches God does not have duality is any difference between Souls and God) realized God in the form of Sharadamba and composed the beautiful classic "Soundaryalahari". Swamy Ramdas, an ardent devotee of Lord Rama, realized God in no form at all when he was in the Himalayas. Is it not enough to convince us that God is represented in many forms and we give him a form even when we think -he has no form at all. If you worship God in any form, hold your head high - you belong to a highly evolved religion.
When Swami Vivekananda was staying as a royal guest of a Raja, the minister found that Swami was for the idolatry. Those were the days of Arya Samaj movement and the minister criticized Swami for his belief in idolatry. Swami asked him to throw the picture of Raja on the ground and stamp it heavily with his feet. A horrified minister said he could not do that for it is Raja. The picture represented the King and the minister 'saw' the King in the particular item associated with the King. How lightly we talk about idolatry when everybody does the same!
There is yet another cult which believes that the end of kaliyuga is near. According to them, Parameshwar is bindu-swaroopa (as minute as a dot). Well, how to explain this in visual media? They have made a wall poster having a big egg at the centre surrounded by many god-men, including the founder of the cult. The title reads -"God is like formless (nirakara) like a point". It is obvious that idolatry is a natural phenomenon to understand the Lord (God is described as aprameya - one who can not be formulated) no matter whether such a practice is prescribed in the scriptures of the particular religion or not. That is the reason we come across holy relics, beautiful pictures, nature scenery etc., when God is referred to.