Sunday, June 8, 2014
An idol (murti or vigraha), sun, fire, water, Ganges, saligram (symbol of Vishnu), linga (symbol of Siva), are all symbols of God which help the aspirants to attain one pointedness of mind and purity of heart. A symbol is absolutely indispensable for fixing the mind. The Christians also have the symbol - the cross. A gross mind needs a concrete symbol; a subtle mind needs an abstract symbol. Even a vedantin has the symbol 'Om' for fixing the wandering mind. In the beginning concentration or meditation is not possible without a symbol.
The mind is disciplined in the beginning by fixing the mind on a concrete object or symbol. Later, when it has been rendered steady and subtle, it can be fixed on an abstract idea such as 'Aham Brahma Asmi' (I am the infinite).
The devotee superimposes, on the concrete idol, the Lord and his attributes. He does shodasopachara puja for the idol - the sixteen kinds of respect or service of the Lord. This consists of padyam (water for washing the feet), arghyam (water to wash hands), asana (seat), snana (bathing), offering of clothing, applying sandal paste, offering flowers (archana), burning incense, waving of lights and camphor, food offering (maha naivedyam), etc. The wandering mind is fixed now in this form of worship. The aspirant gradually feels the nearness of the Lord. He attains purity of heart and slowly annihilates his egoism.
He who has done puja (worship) with flowers and other articles of worship for some time, can take to mental worship. In mental puja the devotee offers all offerings to the Lord mentally. This is an advanced form of worship. It purifies the heart and steadies the mind. It fills the mind with pure love for the Lord and gradually transmutes man into a divine being.
Even in worshipping a small idol, he has to repeat the Purusha Sukta (a sacred hymn) and to think of the virat purusha (cosmic form) - with countless heads, countless eyes, countless hands, who extends beyond the universe and also of the Lord or Atman who dwells in the hearts of all.
The aspirant gradually begins to feel that the Lord he worships is in the idol, in the hearts of all creatures and in the names and forms of all in this universe. He begins to feel His presence everywhere.