Eternal Dharma and Idolatry (Part 2)

An excerpt from Jaiva-dharma.

Eternal Dharma and Idolatry

Chapter Eleven of Śrī Jaiva-dharma


Śrīla Bhakti Vinod Ṭhākur

Published in Śrī Gauḍīya Darśan,
Volume 3, Issue 6,
Saturday, 11 January 1958.

Part Two

Paṇḍit Gorāchā̐d spoke first, “O noble men, why have you summoned such insignificant souls as us?”

The mullah Badaruddin Sahib politely said, “Please accept our salutations. We have come here to ask you a few questions.”

Paṇḍit Gorāchā̐d said, “We will answer your scholarly questions according to what we understand.”

Badaruddin Sahib came forward and said, “Brothers! The worship of gods and goddesses has been going on within Hindu society for a long time. We see in the Holy Koran that Allah is one and indeed not two. He is formless. To make and worship a deity (pratimā) of Him is offensive. Being sceptical of this, I have asked many brāhmaṇ scholars about it, and they have told me, “It is true Allah is formless, but because we cannot conceive of a formless being, we have to meditate on and worship Allah in an imaginary form.” We are not satisfied with this answer. Why? An imaginary (kalpita) form of Allah is a creation of Satan. It is known as an idol (byut, demon, material entity), and worship of an idol is absolutely forbidden. Let alone pleasing Allah, by worshipping an idol one becomes fit to be punished by Him. We have heard that your original founder, Chaitanyadev, rectified Hindu dharma. Still, His teachings prescribe the worship of idols. We want to know from the Vaiṣṇavas why, even after engaging in so much study of the scriptures, you have not given up idol worship?”

Hearing the mullah’s question, the scholarly Vaiṣṇavas laughed within their minds but outwardly said, “O Paṇḍit Bābājī Mahāśay, please give a proper answer to this question.” Accepting this order, Paṇḍit Gorāchā̐d began to speak.

Whom you call Allah we call Bhagavān. The Supreme Lord is one being. In the Koran, in the Purāṇas, in various lands, and in various languages, He is referred to by various names. The conclusive understanding is that the name which expresses all the qualities of the Supreme Lord should be specially adored. It is for this reason that we specially adore the name Bhagavān rather than ‘Allah’, ‘Brahma’, ‘Paramātma’, and other names. Allah is the being than whom there is nothing greater. We cannot say, however, that the quality of being extremely great is the Lord’s ultimate quality. The quality which produces the greatest wonder should be  adored above all. If we consider the Lord’s extreme greatness, we feel one type of wonder, but in His opposite quality of being extremely small, there is another type of wonder. Therefore, the name of Allah does not evoke the culmination of all wonder. In the name Bhagavān, all types of wonder that exist in human conception are united together.

Total magnificence (aiśvarya), that is, being both the extreme of greatness and the extreme of smallness, is the first quality of Bhagavān. Omnipotence is His second quality. What is impossible according to the human intellect is dependent on His inconceivable power, and by His inconceivable power, He is simultaneously with and without form. If you say He cannot have a form, then you deny His inconceivable power. By virtue of His power, in the midst of His devotees, He possess an eternal playful form. Allah, or Brahma, or Paramātma, when considered formless, are devoid of this special wonderful quality.

Bhagavān is always benevolent and glorious. Therefore, His Pastimes are nectarean. Bhagavān is beautiful. All souls see Him with their supramundane eyes as the most beautiful person. Bhagavān is completely conscious, that is, He is a pure, spiritual being beyond matter. His spiritual form is His Deity form, and this form is beyond all idols. Although Bhagavān is the doer of everything, He is independent and untainted. Bhagavān is characterised by these six characteristics.

Bhagavān has two manifestations, that of magnificence and that of sweetness. His sweet manifestation is the dearest friend of the soul, the Lord of our heart, Kṛṣṇa or Chaitanya. Calling worship of an imaginary form of Bhagavān idol worship is not contrary to our teachings. Worship of His eternal form (which is completely spiritual) is Vaiṣṇava dharma. Therefore, there is no idol worship in the teachings of the Vaiṣṇavas. It is not that worship of the Lord’s eternal form is forbidden just because in some book idol worship is forbidden. Everything depends on the faith (niṣṭhā) in the heart of the person engaged in worship. People are able to worship the pure form of the Lord to the extent that their hearts can go beyond connection with idols. You, mullah sahib, are a great scholar, and your heart can go beyond idols, but have the hearts all your followers become free from thought of idols? To the extent that they think of idols, to that extent they worship idols. By mouth, they may say the Lord is formless but within they are filled with thoughts of idols.

Making worship of the pure form of the Lord a social practice is difficult. Only qualified persons, that is, those who have the ability to go beyond idols, can transcend thoughts of idols. My earnest request is that you carefully consider this subject.”

Mullah Sahib: I have considered and decided that the six wonderful qualities that you have associated with the name Bhagavān are also associated with the name  Allah from the holy Koran. So, there is no need to dispute the meaning of the name Allah. Allah is Bhagavān.

Gorāchā̐d: Good. Then, you accept the existence of the beauty and opulence of the Supreme Being, and you therefore also accept the existence of His beautiful form in the spiritual world beyond the material world. This form is our Deity.

[To be continued …]