Is ‘Idol Worship’ really sinful?

God is not present in idols. Your feelings are your god. The soul is your temple.” – Chanakya

Once upon a time an enlightened Swamiji visited a Maharaja. As the conversation progressed to hinduism, the Maharaja sarcastically said, “Well, Swamiji, I have no faith in idol-worship. What is going to be my fate?” He smiled as he spoke and continued, “You see, I really cannot worship wood, earth, stone or metal, like other people. Does  this mean that I shall fare worse in life hereafter?” The Swamiji answered, “Well, I suppose every man should follow the religious ideal according to his own faith.”

Right then Swamiji’s eyes lighted on a picture of the Maharaja which was hanging on the wall. He asked the picture to be passed to him. Holding the picture in his hands he asked, “Whose picture is this?”. The minister answered, “It is the likeness of our Maharaja.”

A moment later the entire court trembled with fear when they heard the Swami commanding the minister: “Spit on it.” He continued: “Any one of you may spit on it. What is it but a piece of paper? What objection can you have against doing so?”. The Minister was thunderstruck, and all eyes in the court glanced in fear and awe from Maharaja to Swamiji, from Swamiji to Maharaja. But the Swami continued to insist, “Spit on it, I say. Spit on it.” The minister cried out, “What, Swamiji! What are you asking me to do? This is the likeness of our Maharaja! How can I do such a thing?”

“Be it so”, said the Swamiji; “but the Maharaja is not bodily present in this picture. This is only a piece of paper. It does not contain his bones, flesh or blood. it does not speak of behave or move in any way as the Maharaja does; yet all of you refuse to spit on it, because you see in the picture the image of the Maharaja. Indeed, in spitting on this picture, you feel that you insult your master, The Maharaja himself.”

Turning to the Maharaja he continued, “See, Your highness; though this is not you in one sense, in another sense it is you. That was why your devoted servants were so perplexed when I asked them to spit on it. It is an image of you; it brings you into their minds. Once glance at it makes them see you in it; therefore they look at it with as much respect as they would have in looking at your own person. Thus it also is with the devotees who worship stone and metal images of gods and goddesses. It is because an image brings to their minds their deity, or some special form and attributes of the Divinity, and helps them to concentrate, that the devotees worship God in an image. They do not worship the stone or the metal as such. Everyone worships the same one God who is the supreme spirit and God appears to all according to their understanding and  their representation of Him/Her.”

The Maharaja realized his folly and thanked the Swamiji for opening his eyes. The Maharaja was Mangal Singh of Alwar and the Swamiji was non other than Swami Vivekananda.

peace & love


PS: When God given life is not honored and treated below and beneath a man made device, that becomes the idol worship which is forbidden in the great books. Example: when Money & Power takes precedence over life.


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