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The symbolic worship of God (Isvara) by using symbols, when worshiper views God external to him

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The symbolic worship of God (Isvara) by using symbols, when worshiper views God external to him Empty The symbolic worship of God (Isvara) by using symbols, when worshiper views God external to him

Post by Seva Lamberdar Wed Aug 23, 2023 1:57 pm

Background (Ref. 1):

"True bhakti (devotion) and the type (method) of worship depend on a person's nature and temperament. Moreover, even if the object of adoration remains the same, there may be several ways to approach it. In addition, Brahman as Nirguna (unmanifested) is simply believed in. The direct worship of Nirguna Brahman is not possible, because it is not known (as Nirguna) and therefore cannot be worshiped. The believer therefore simply recognizes the entire creation as a reflection of God and acts accordingly (The Bhagavad Gita: Ch 12).

"In the case of Saguna Brahman, there are two types of worship -- one is of a personal God as the Immanent, and the other by using symbols. In case of the Immanent, worship usually occurs in the form of pure meditation and at the spiritual level. On the other hand, when a worshiper views God as being external to him, then the worship is symbolic (using symbols).”  

Discussion:

Nirguna Brahman (God) is best described ontologically as सत्-चित्-आनंद or Sat-Cit-Ananda (real-consciousness-bliss, Ref. 2). The worship of Brahman is feasible in its Saguna mode, or as Isvara, as the creator and ruler of the world (Om-Tat-Sat or ॐ-तत्-सत्, The Bhagavad Gita: Ch 17 – V. 23), whereby the worshiper uses various names and representations in worship and prayer to Isvara (as Visnu, Siva, Devi et al.).

Since Brahman (as Saguna or Isvara) remains one and the same in spite of worshiper using various names (such as Siva, Visnu and Devi et al.),  there is no extra spiritual advantage, cumulatively (Ref. 1), in worshiping and praying to Isvara by many (multiple) names and representations (Visnu and Siva and Devi) than worshiping and praying using just one name and representation (Visnu or Siva or Devi).  

When the worshiper views God external to himself, the worship and prayer is usually symbolic (by using symbols: including idols, statues and pictures), performed to worship, pray and make offerings to Isvara (as Visnu, Siva and Devi et al.). Note, the worship of external God (Isvara) involves also sometimes the indirect symbolizing, while carrying out worship, prayer and make offerings to God in the direction of faraway Sun or Moon or stars or a holy place or a sacred building etc. In addition, the worship and prayer etc. to external God might be conducted by using holy live fire (as yajna) or in the form of solid image / symbol of fire (specifically "Shiv-ling", meaning 'auspicious symbol' in old Sanskrit).

The symbols used in external worship -- including pictures, statues, idols, Sun and Moon etc. and fulfilling worshiper's need to worship, pray and make offerings to Isvara according to his faith, capability and condition -- are only the medium and conduit (pathway) to worship, pray and make offerings to the deity (Brahman in Saguna mode: Ishta-deva, Visnu, Siva and Devi et al.), and nothing more.

Furthermore, the use of the Sun and the sacred fire during worship and prayer etc. merely helps the worshiper in performing worship and prayer to external God (Isvara) as Savitar / Surya (the Rig-Vedic names for Isvara in the heavenly region) and Agni (the Rig-Vedic name for Isvara in the terrestrial region), respectively, whereas the real sun is not Savitar (Surya) and the real fire is not Agni.  

In conclusion, the worship symbols are not a substitute for God, but they prove as handy tools during worship, prayer and make offerings to God to whom the worshiper really dedicates his actions. The true vibhuti (divine power and glory) and the capacity to grant boons and bliss rests only with God (Isvara) and not with the worship symbols (pictures, idols, statues etc.). In addition, parading the worship symbols in streets, or even carrying them on head and painting them on face etc., does little for spiritual advancement, in harnessing boons and to secure divine advantage.

References

(1) Subhash c. Sharma, "BRAHMAN (God) in Hinduism," Feb. 24, 2004,   http://web.archive.org/web/20090809230806/http://geocities.com/lamberdar/brahman.html

(2) Subhash C. Sharma, "What is meant by Brahman as Nirguna, Sachchidanada or Sat-Cit-Ananda ontologically, according to Adi Samkara?", Feb, 28, 2023, http://creative.sulekha.com/what-is-meant-by-brahman-as-nirguna-sachchidanada-or-sat-cit-ananda-ontologically-according-to-adi-samkara_641818_blog  

(by: Dr. Subhash C. Sharma)
Seva Lamberdar
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Post by Seva Lamberdar Fri Sep 01, 2023 5:44 am

More about worshiping Isvara as Siva and Visnu:

Subhash C. Sharma, "Saivite and Vaisnava interpretations of Brahman,"   Dec. 2, 2010 (in hubpages originally), https://such.forumotion.com/t9955-an-old-post-about-siva-and-visnu

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Post by Seva Lamberdar Fri Jan 12, 2024 3:01 pm

Seva Lamberdar wrote:Furthermore, the use of the Sun and the sacred fire during worship and prayer etc. merely helps the worshiper in performing worship and prayer to external God (Isvara) as Savitar / Surya (the Rig-Vedic names for Isvara in the heavenly region) and Agni (the Rig-Vedic name for Isvara in the terrestrial region), respectively, whereas the real sun is not Savitar (Surya) and the real fire is not Agni.  

Note, it is essentially the convenience of worshiper in offering worship / prayer that superficially connects the sun (surya) with Saguna (Isvara) as Savitar / Surya and the fire (agni) with Saguna (Isvara) as Agni.
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