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Saturday, August 20, 2022

How murti puja is labelled as ‘idol worship’ to dehumanize Hindus

Recently on twitter, Hath Yogi (@hathyogi31) wrote a thread on major myths about Hindu Dharma that needed to be debunked. The first point was “Hindus are idol-worshippers”. I wrote the following comment:

Several Hindus reacted, “We ARE idol-worshippers. Why should we care what others think? We have the right to worship idols”.

They are right. The problem is not with the worship of a representation of the Divine, called idol in English, but with the extremely negative connotation which Christianity and Islam have given to the term “idol” and of which most Hindus are not aware.  Hindus think that idol is just a translation of Pratima or Murti, but this is not the case. A lot of hostile association comes automatically to Muslims and Christians when they hear this term, thanks to indoctrination in childhood.

I can speak only for Christians, but in all likelihood, for Muslim children it is the same or even more. This association is not only loaded on the English term idol-worshipper, but also for example on the German term ‘Goetzenanbeter’. It is a very bad label. And I heard it already in primary school in connection with Hindus.

For Muslims and Christians worshipping idols is the greatest sin.

Hindus don’t realise that. ‘You must not have any gods beside me’ is the first commandment in Christianity, and in Islam ‘shirk’, which means the same thing, is the worst evil a human can commit and it will be severely punished with eternal hellfire.

It means that Hindus are for pious Muslims or Christians the greatest sinners and therefore despicable. Hindu Dharma is considered as going against the Will of God and so becomes demonic if not Satanic. Christians and Muslims believe that the Creator of this universe Himself has declared that only HE must be worshipped. While most Christians (apart from missionaries) by now accept other ways of worship, most Muslims are still rigid, because the Islamic texts are full of harsh condemnation of those who commit shirk.

Dehumanisation of Hindus

So when Hindus say, “What does it matter? Let them believe what they want”, it means they don’t realise the danger.  It does matter what they believe. The consequence of this belief was, that at least 80 million Hindus were killed for being Hindus. And it still goes on, as the brutal beheading of KanhaiyaLal and Umesh Kolbe recently proved. This could and can only happen, because Hindus were dehumanized and still are.

Jews could be herded into the gas chambers, because they were not seen as human. They were openly called ‘Untermenschen’ – subhumans. At that time, the propaganda ministry of Nazi Germany indoctrinated the population to look down on Jews and Gypsies.

In our times, clergy, in tune with their religious texts, indoctrinate Muslim and Christian children to look down on Hindus as a “beastly people with a beastly religion” as Winston Churchill famously said. And certain powers in our modern world eagerly support such inhuman views. Not only the clergy but often media, too, give the impression that Hindus worship demons. In a video, which I saw recently, the presenter equated Shiva with Satan.

Hindus must take a serious note of this unacceptable and highly dangerous vilification of Hindus. Hindus are not planning genocide of others. It’s the other way round: the others prepare the world opinion for a genocide of Hindus. And they try to make sure that this genocide would be seen as ‘well deserved’.

Do I see too black? I hope I do.

But a friend who knows the evangelical scene in USA well, told me already years ago, that the hatred for Hindus and especially Brahmins among them is so great, that if a genocide happened, most members of these groups would see it as a just retaliation.

Now Christians are considered rather benign. If even they think like this, what is the level of hatred which radical Muslims have for Hindus?

Some basics about Hindu Dharma

It really startles me that Hindus do not try to set the record straight and make them understand that Hindus are not idol-worshippers, in the sense that they don’t worship the different gods as separate entities, but they all are aspects of the same One Brahman. The   Vedas claimed many thousand years before the Bible and the Quran that One great Power and Intelligence is the invisible Source of everything. They call this invisible source Brahman (from big) and declare Satyam Jnanam Anantam Brahman (Truth, Knowledge, Infinity = Brahman)

But now it gets a bit subtle and difficult to understand because Christianity and Islam do not have this ‘absolute’ level in their doctrine. In Sanatana Dharma, Brahman is avyakt, is not a person, is infinite, Anantam, is beyond imagination and there cannot be a picture of That.. Thoughts and words cannot reach there, the Vedas claim.

This unmanifest, eternal Potential stirs due to its Shakti (Devi) or energy at the time of the creation of the universe (our present universe is not the first one and won’t be the last) and becomes manifest and ‘imaginable’ and ‘picturable’ first as the Trinity of Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva. Brahma (not to be confused with the absolute Brahman) is tasked with further creation and creates out of himself many different beings on several higher and lower lokas (levels) and also the human beings to whom he gives the earth to live.

It means, the Gods whom Hindus venerate in the form of Murtis, are not separate from the One Brahman. In fact, they are Brahman. And not only the three major Gods, everything in this universe has as basis the one Brahman. Maybe you have heard this saying, “Christians and Muslims believe there is only one God. Hindus believe there is only God.”

It is helpful knowing and reflecting about this claim of the One Brahman being the essence of all, and then trying to live it in one’s life. It means trying to get in touch with that inner core which is the witness of even our thoughts and feelings. And then slowly become more and more familiar with that pure blissful awareness. Then not only knowledge or Jnana but also love or bhakti, will develop.

This inner core in us (Atma) is one with Brahman, the Upanishads declare. That is the truth, and to discover it, is the goal of life.

Now, dear Muslim and Christian friends, do you feel that Hindus are despicable or rather loveable? Also please reflect if the “one true God’ can possibly hate them for their faith and let them burn under great agony for all eternity in hellfire?

However, the denigration and ‘othering’ of Hindus continues in the mainstream, often in a subtle way.

Yesterday the highly popular Canadian psychologist Jordan B Peterson brought out a short video where he exhorts Muslims to reach across the sectarian divide, to Shias, Sunnis, then to Christians and then even to Jews. He advocated a unity of the ‘people of the book’ who ‘have much in common’. And declared, “The best place to find Satan is within… the subtle temptation of the ancient demonic spirit”. The video had in 17 hours already 1 million views and every comment I read was praising him.

Was only I feeling the danger? I wrote a comment:

I don’t know if my comment was visible. It was made older than it was: after 30 minutes it showed wrongly that it was posted 3 hours ago. And it was probably the only comment which didn’t get any likes or replies…

(This article was published on the author’s blog on July 14, 2022 and has been reproduced here with modified headline and minor edits to conform to HinduPost style-guide.)

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Maria Wirth
Maria Wirthhttps://mariawirthblog.wordpress.com
Maria Wirth is a German and came to India on a stop over (that’s at least what she thought) on her way to Australia after finishing her psychology studies at Hamburg University. She visited the Ardha Kumbha Mela in Haridwar in April 1980 where she met Sri Anandamayi Ma and Devaraha Baba, two renowned saints. With their blessing she continued to live in India and never went to Australia… She dived into India’s spiritual tradition, sharing her insights with German readers through articles and books. For long, she was convinced that every Indian knows and treasures their great heritage. However, when in recent years, she noticed that there seemed to be a concerted effort to prevent even Indians (and the world) from knowing how valuable this ancient Indian heritage is, she started to point out the unique value of Indian tradition also in English language.

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