Making Half a Case for Murti Puja
March 27, 2011 by Shruti Bhushan Prakash
My last blog entry was approx 9 months ago. In keeping up with my commitments with respect to family, job and travel, I was unable to provide a timely update to this Blog space.
In this Blog entry, I wish to explore the practice of Murti Puja and attempt to justify the logic of this entrenched Hindu practice.
This Blog entry will not focus on the Authoritative Shastras with respect to the sanctions/non-sanction of the practice of Murti Puja – an interested reader may quickly review the debates on this issue at the yahoo group aryasamajonline to get an understanding of this subject. Instead the focus will be on “Making the Case TODAY for Murti Puja”.
Let’s take a look at the various symbols in the world today and the emotions associated with such symbols.
The Flag of a Country:
Burning the flag of a country gives rise to exaggerated responses/emotions of treason, anger, protest and violence in some cases
Burning or ‘desecrating’ a religious book:
Recall the recent case of the threat of burning Korans in the US. This elicited huge attention from the media, world attention including the US Government and Military.
The Christian Cross
The Cross before Christ was associated with one of the cruelest forms of torture and death. Today, after 2000 years, the ‘engineered” emotion associated with the Christian Cross is one of piety, sacrifice and godliness among Christians.
Corporate Symbols, Icons and Markings
Intel, Microsoft, Google, Pepsi, Coke, GE, Toyota, Boeing, FedEx, McDonalds – all have worldwide recognition of their unique logos, icons and corporate markings. To change, use or represent such markings in an unauthorized manner is illegal.
The IDOLS – symbols, markings, icons of Hinduism
In light of the above, I wish to make the case that the Idols of Hinduism – the symbology of the Hindus expressed as Idols and other markings – such as representations of Ganesh, Hanumaan etc have a valid place in modern society and are not to be ridiculed. This Blog entry will not focus on the origins and interpretations of these symbols of multi headed, multi-armed persons, or the significance of the sun placed at the head or horses or other representations of the animal kingdom etc. I leave this to other learned interested readers.
Clearly over the years of evolution of the Hindu Society, strong emotions are consequently associated with these symbols – the markings, icons, paintings, objects associated with Hinduism.
Throughout the centuries, these strong emotions of piety and godliness have resulted in the “practice of worshipping” of these paintings, markings, icons and objects.
So far the case for the Idols of Hinduism is solid. In modern society it has direct parallels with respect to the emotional dimension associated with various symbols discussed above. The “practice of worship associated with these symbols” also has direct parallels in modern society – the Cross and the Christians, the black stone and the Muslims, and the huge expenditures of the Corporations in protecting, sustaining, promoting and improving their corporate markings, icons and logos. These are direct parallels
At what point does the case for Murti Puja cease to make sense?
The simple logic is this: the case for Murti Puja ceases to make sense when someone who is “worshipping” an object considers the object to possess powers/capability beyond its material composition. A person praying to an object shows direct evidence that s/he believes that the object has powers beyond its material composition – powers such as consciousness, a special connection to God, or the ability of the object to “answer the submitted prayers” or to influence lives or events in the world.
For the logical person, this is a ridiculous proposition. It is the premise of Vedicism, the Arya Samaj and Swami Dayananda, that science, the world, religion, belief systems, God – all of these things – must stand the test of logic.
In this Blog entry the author attempts to make the case that there is a logical, defensible case for the symbols of Hinduism and indeed there are significant parallels in modern society with respect to emotions and worship of objects, icons, paintings and logos. The case falls apart when the “worshipper” considers the object to be more than its sum of material composition.
The core element of the mission of Arya Samaj is that of reform of Hinduism. The community of the Arya Samaj must have clarity on this subject. In performing its reform mission, the members of the Arya Samaj – leaders and Pandits included – must strike a balanced, sensitive approach to reform. In fear of violating “the politics of multi-faith tolerance”, we must not fail to address the fallacy of Blind Faith and Murti Puja. On the other hand, in promoting reform we must be sensitive to the established, entrenched emotions of the Hindu with respect to the emotions associated with the symbols of Hinduism. The task is challenging indeed.
Shruti Bhushan Prakash
March 27, 2011
Shruti Bhushan Prakash is a member of the Arya Samaj Community. He is the author of this Blog entry and his views do not necessarily represent the views of MDG NA Inc.