The field of consciousness as we know has originated from the Indian sciences, expounded further by Sri Aurobindo and further propagated by westerners like Ken Wilber. It is a science which revolves around the art of detachment to free the mind from attachment to name, fame, power, lust, greed, anger etc which blinds the person from perceiving the truth and obstructs the psychological evolution.
“tvamev matach pitach tvamev,
tvamev bandhuch sakhasch tvamev,
tvamev vidya dravidam tvamev,
tvamev sarvam mam devdev”
1: You Truly are my Mother And You Truly are my Father .
2: You Truly are my Relative And You Truly are my Friend.
3: You Truly are my Knowledge and You Truly are my Wealth.
4: You Truly are my All, My God of Gods.
The Indian thought perceives mother as divine (matri devo bhava), father as divine (pitri devo bhava), guests as divine (athiti devo bhava). Such praise and respect can only come when there is an absence of ego, greed, arrogance etc i.e the factors which obstruct the spiritual evolution. Some offer respect by forming idols, some by visualising their loved ones and some by offering their service (seva). Therefore, such worshipping may take naturally with or without idols. It is nothing but a form of visual symbol used not only to refer to a higher consciousness but also for respect for a loved one. People have celebrated Buddha by forming his idols, the statue of liberty connotes to the history of United States, the famous Sun Temple in Konark has the sundial which works according to the movement of sun. Therefore, some people built idols for respect and some to concentrate and raise their will power and consciousness to know the higher trancedental nature of the ultimate reality. Some people built temples for research, while some create paintings and sketches to express love.
But then, there exist some fanatics who because of their religious biases and outlooks promote an extreme antagonism for idol worshipping. One of the staunchest adversaries of idol worship is Zakir Naik often citing verses from Vedas, Gita and Upanishads to show that the “Hindu scriptures” themselves deny idol worshipping. He typically uses verses like ” Na Tasya Pratima asti ” (Vedas), chapter 7 verse 20 of Bhagvada-Gita and upanishads to conclude the rebuttal of idol worship. He typically mocks the concept of consciousness by stating that Muslims are already at a higher level of consciousness because there is no materialism or idol worshipping in Islam.
“He who is neither inward-wise, nor outward-wise, nor both inward and outward wise, nor wisdom self-gathered, nor possessed of wisdom, nor unpossessed of wisdom, He Who is unseen and incommunicable, unseizable, featureless, unthinkable, and unnameable, Whose essentiality is awareness of the Self in its single existence, in Whom all phenomena dissolve, Who is Calm, Who is Good, Who is the One than Whom there is no other, Him they deem the fourth; He is the Self, He is the object of Knowledge.” (Mandukya Upanishad)
Those deprived of discrimination by various desires impelled by their particular natures worship the lesser demigods adapting to the applicable rites and rituals. Whichever demigod a particular devotee desires with faith to worship, I surely sustain firmly that faith in him. Endowed with that firm faith the devotee executes worship of this demigod and sanctioned by me solely; obtains that which he desired from that demigod. The result of those of insufficient understanding is temporary; the votaries of the demigods obtain the demigod; but My devotees obtains Me. (Gita 7.20-23)
“Na Tasya Pratima Asti” (There is no image of him), The Vedic verse refers to the ultimate reality which cannot be comprehended. It is supported by the Upanishads (e.g above verse from mandukya upanishad) and Gita which teach that the ultimate reality is nameless, formless, unmanifest, omnipresent, omnipotent etc. But the texts do not say that there is no presence of that ultimate reality in an animal or a stone.
“All of the universes are pervaded by Me, in an imperceptibly subtle manifestation and all living entities find their support in Me; but I am not supported in them.” (Gita 9.4)
The whole chapter 7 and 10 of Bhagvada Gita outlines the various manifestations of the ultimate reality e.g surya, agni, vayu, rudra, intellect, knowledge etc. Because of the workings of the mind and the various senses it controls, which are again a part of the same reality, we are able to perceive various forms and shapes. Thus, the ultimate reality manifests itself into various ways even though it is unmanifested, projects various forms and shapes even though it is formless and shapeless, called by various names by different people even though it is nameless.
Therefore, if idols are visual symbols to express the ultimate reality, then so are the linguistic words used to express the same. In this regard, there is no moral judgement passed by Hindu scriptures on the use of a word or idol to denote ultimate reality. On the contrary, the scriptures allude to the ultimate reality by expressing the limitations of the human senses (Refer Kena Upanishad). Adversaries like Zakir naik who shun idol worshipping do not realise that even sitting in a particular direction in this directionless and infinite universe while praying for namaz is kind of symbology. Moreover, if he thinks it is inappropriate to practice idol worshipping, then he fails to realise on the same grounds and reasoning that the use of the very word Allah (to address the nameless as per Indian scriptures) is again absurd as Allah is nothing but a symbology borrowed from a book. If one further explores, then he’ll surely realise that the verse, “La Iaha Ill Allah Muhammudur Rasool Aallah”( God according to Islam is Allah and there is no other name except Allah and Mohammed is his prophet), preaches attachment to a name and indoctrinates about a prophet who lived his life in a desert land preaching about the judgement day, jizziya and disrespect for Jews, Christians and infidels.
O you who believe, take not the Jews and the Christians for friends. They are friends of each other. And whoever amongst you takes them for friends he is indeed one of them. Surely Allåh guides not the unjust people. (Quran 5.51)
“The punishment of those who wage war against Allah and His Messenger [i.e., Muhammad], and strive with might and main for mischief through the land is: execution, or crucifixion, or the cutting off of hands and feet from opposite sides, or exile from the land: that is their disgrace in this world, and a heavy punishment is theirs in the Hereafter. ( Quran 5.33)”
Fight those who believe not in Allåh, nor in the Last Day, nor forbid that which Allåh and His Messenger have forbidden, nor follow the Religion of Truth, out of those who have been given the Book, until they pay the tax in acknowledgement of superiority and they are in a state of s subjection (9.29)
When Mr.Zakir Naik speaks about Chapter 7 of Gita, he forgets that the divine song proceeds with chapter 9 verse 23,
“O Arjuna, those who worship devotedly different demigods, although faithfully; they also worship me only; but in an unauthorised manner”.
The demigods are nothing but the physical or mental manifestations of the ultimate reality which are divine. Material manifestations include Sun, Earth, Water etc. Whereas, mental manifestations include knowledge, consciousness, thought etc. If we treat a human body as a whole, then how can a whole body be complete without a hand, leg or a brain? If, for analogy, these individual components of a human body are treated separately and compared to demigods, then it is only natural that the whole body ( analogous to ultimate reality here) should be cleansed. Does it make any sense to clean the individual body parts (analogous to worshipping or revering the demi-gods individually)? If a business man worships Laxmi (wealth) and cuts the trees for generation of wealth, then it means that for the generation of wealth, he is abusing the nature. Thus, according to BG-9.23, this is inappropriate.
In many of the lectures, he presents demi-gods (devas) as “false god”, dharma as “religion”, sanatan dharma as ‘polytheistic’ etc without even understanding the basic riddle like nature of the shrutis to converge or allude to the ultimate reality, why the elements of the nature are called as “devas” or that the ultimate reality or the truth (satchitananda) expounded by sanatan dharma is beyond any kind of theism be it monotheism, polytheism or atheism. If one understands the flow of the Indian scriptures and the art of detachment, he is sure to understand that Zakir Naik doesn’t have any basic understanding of the Indian shrutis. He simply mugs up verses and presents improper verses (the translations and the context), to prove his points. Moreover he views the Vedic wisdom from his Quranic conditioning where the creator is isolated from the creation and where the Quran preaches about a male centric god. On the contrary, the Indian scriptures teach about the ultimate reality where the various manifestations are a part of the same truth or ultimate reality, where the different manifestations are presented in both masculine (devas) and feminine names like ila, saraswati, maya etc (devis). The whole of Bhagvada-Gita expounds on the ultimate reality through the context of “I and Me”. Unfortunately, Mr. Naik due to his Quranic conditioning thinks that the chapter 7 of Gita is speaking about different isolated gods, unable to understand that the “devas” are a part of the same truth.
Indian shrutis state, “ekam sat vipra bahudha vadanati” (Truth is one, but sages call it by different names). It speaks volumes about detachment and tolerance to incorporate the subjectivity of the others. It is true that the ancient seers never needed temples or idols to understand the ultimate reality. The consciousness, as it evolves, frees the mind from attachment to name and forms. Therefore, contrary to Mr.Naik’s gross assumptions, the first signs of an elevated consciousness in muslims will indeed be freedom and detachment from the Quranic doctrines and the name Allah itself.
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