Can we worship God with Name, Form etc. ? Or only as God without Attributes?
Can we worship God with Name, Form and etc. ? Or only as God without Attributes?
Is God With Form and Name or Without Form and Name? Many people are baffled about this, especially In Hinduism.
So they have questions such as, “In Hinduism, there are so many Gods and Goddesses, Forms, Names and Symbols and Attributes. Why do they exist?” They also ask, “Should we worship God only without attributes, or is it okay to worship God with a Form, Name, Symbol and so on?
First of all, it must be understood that Hinduism is not a religion. It is an “Eternal Way of Life”, the Sanatana Dharma. Spiritual Knowledge and Righteous Way of Living are passed on, in the Teacher-Student, Master-Desciple tradition. In this culture, God is actually One Supreme Blissful Reality, of the nature of “Being-Consciousness-Bliss” and even beyond, without even these attributes. According to that, there is nothing other than the Pure Self. Everything else seen are manifestations perceived in it. The doctrine of Advaita, Non-Duality in Vedanta, is well known. The symbol “Om” depicts this. However, several methods of worship and representations of God are offered to suit the minds of different individuals.
According to Mahatma Gandhi, “the reason for most of the confusion about God as depicted in Hinduism is because of the English word, “God”. The English word God is used for representing everything in regard to Hinduism, whereas in Hinduism, the word “God” is used in different ways and with various meanings at various levels. The meaning of the word God in Hinduism ranges from the One Supreme Spirit or Being to God with various attributes.
Now that we have understood this, let’s get back to the questions about whether we should worship God as One Supreme being, or in various names, forms and symbols? Should we worship God without attributes or with attributes?
The brief answer to these questions is : Both are correct. It depends on the individual.
Worshipping God in both these ways are good and necessary at different stages of one’s spiritual development and mental inclinations.
For many people traveling to a certain destination, the Destination is the same, but the paths leading to that destination could be many, and of various kinds. One may take a direct, fast highway to the destination, another may take a slightly longer route, and yet another may take a very long scenic route and make stops along the way. They will all reach the destination, but they have to travel at their own pace and convenience. Again, different solutions are needed for different problems in life for different people. In the same way, different methods are needed for different people towards seeking and realizing God.
Let’s take a simple example of a City with people of different ages and mental capabilities. And let’s say the goal is to get a PhD degree. A rare few geniuses may be eligible to pursue PhD even as a child or teenager. But typically little kids have to learn the alphabet and basic numbers in Elementary School. Elementary School kids cannot learn complicated subjects that only Junior High or High School students can. In the same way, there are steps for Under Graduate, Graduate, PhD etc. Therefore, can we say that since PhD program is available and that is the Goal, anyone can directly join the PhD program, whether they are qualified or not? The truth is, everyone has to educate themselves according to a certain combination of their age, capacities, mental framework and preference. When they are ready, they can pursue their ultimate goal. So the City has to have schools all the way from Kindergarten to the Highest Education.
The same applies to Religion and Spirituality too. A rare Sage such as Ramana Maharshi may attain Self-Realization at the young age of 16 or 17. But not everyone can directly worship the Supreme Reality that has no attributes, the all-pervading Being, the Self..The Sanatana Dharma – the Eternal Way of Life in India – allows ways of worship to God at every phase of life. It caters to all ages, all temperaments, all levels of abilities, all preferences, even though the end goal or aim is one – true liberation from sorrows, realization of the Real Self. All the others kind of worships apart from the transcendental, can be said to be supplementary aids to achieve the Goal.
It is not easy for everyone to think of something or someone without a form or name, especially children. It is easy to contemplate when one associates the Highest with a Divine Form or Name or Symbol of preference. There are phases and stages of development too. A person who loves worshipping God with a Form may later prefer to meditate on the sound of OM, or perhaps just do Meditation on a single theme, or perform Self-Enquiry. So Hinduism addresses all of this. It is complete. It does not leave anyone hanging out there without suitable guidance.
To further explain and clarify this, here are a few of the conversations that the Great Sage, Sri Ramana Maharshi had with some visitors.
D.: I have faith in murti dhyana (worship of form). Will it not help me to gain jnana?
M.: Surely it will. Upasana helps concentration of mind. Then the mind is free from other thoughts and is full of the meditated form. The mind becomes it – and thus quite pure. Then think who is the worshipper. The answer is ‘I’, i.e., the Self. So the Self is gained ultimately.
Talks with Sri Ramana Maharshi
A Muslim devotee asked :
D.: Has God a form?
M.: Who says so?
D.: Well, if God has no form is it proper to worship idols?
M.: Leave God alone because He is unknown. What about you? Have you a form?
D.: Yes. I am this and so and so.
M.: So then, you are a man with limbs, about three and a half cubits high, with beard, etc. Is it so?
M.: Then do you find yourself so in deep sleep?
D.: No, I am the subtle jiva within the gross body.
M.: So you see that you are really formless; but you are at present identifying yourself with the body. So long as you are formful why should you not worship the formless God as being formful?
Talks with Sri Ramana Maharshi
25th December, 1935
Below is another conversation.
D.: Idol worship does not seem good. They worship the formless God in Islam.
M.: What is their conception of God?
D.: As Immanence, etc.
M.: Is not God even then endowed with attributes? Form is only one kind of attribute. One cannot worship God without some notions. Any bhavana premises a God with attributes (saguna). Moreover, where is the use of discussing the form or formlessness of God? Find out if you have a form. You can then understand God.
Talks with Sri Ramana Maharshi
6th April, 1937
Below is yet another conversation with Sri Ramana Maharshi.
A visitor asked Sri Bhagavan: People give some names to God and say that the name is sacred and repetitions of the name bestow merit on the individual. Can it be true?
M.: Why not? You bear a name to which you answer. But your body was not born with that name written on it, nor did it say to anyone that it bore such and such a name. And yet a name is given to you and you answer to that name, because you have identified yourself with the name. Therefore, the name signifies something and it is not a mere fiction. Similarly, God’s name is effective. Repetition of the name is remembrance of what it signifies. Hence its merit.
But the man did not look satisfied. Finally he wanted to retire and prayed for Sri Bhagavan’s Grace.
Sri Bhagavan now asked how mere sounds assuring him of Grace would satisfy him unless he had faith.
So what we shoud learn from all of this is as follows. The most important spiritual goal is to ultimately seek within and realize the Self or the Supreme Reality. But depending upon the mental tendencies of an individual, worship of a personal God may be beneficial. How people worship God depends upon their own personal nature, their mental incinations, their faiths and the level of spiritual advancement. At different stages of spiritual development, different practices are necessary. We need not become obsessed with it; we need not get bogged down in this topic; we need not become fanatics. In other words, we should not get distracted by these side roads and diverge from our main goal – which is realizing our real nature, our Blissful Self. We should follow whatever path we like, and let others do the same, as long as the path is sincere worship to God and does not intentionally hurt anyone. This is what great Knowers of Truth, the great Jnanis are conveying to us.
To summarize, the main thing is that, one should turn inward and seek True Knowledge about God or the Supreme Being. Then the right path that is most suitable to to the sincere devotee or seeker, will be automatically shown to him or her, who will in due course realize God as one’s Real Blissful Self.