Thursday, November 25, 2010

Stone Idols



Continuing with my reading the book I began a  few days ago on my train journey to Chennai and back, I stumbled upon another interesting piece – the essay was titled “Cartesian Thoughts on Hindu Stone Gods”, the theory of doubt being used to analyse an unknown phenomenon.
The essay begins with the statement that westerners were brought up learning to believe only what can be seen and to have faith only in what is experienced. Under the umbrella of logic and reason from Rene Descartes – the Mathematician, physicist and philosopher.
I reproduce an abstarct of the reading I had.

Those of us from the west are taught to disbelieve in the unnatural, the supernatural, and the religious and generally what is invisible to the eye. Many with Marxist leanings and touch of atheism. This is why many of us when we come to India , have difficulty with the way Hindus adore gods in statues .How in heaven can there be any divine presence in piece of stone ?
Yet a few westerners, instead of rejecting outright this pagan habit sustained for millennia, have tried to analyse it, using the very Cartesian logic with which we are endowed because of our education. One such person was Alexandra David – Neel, writer, explorer, and the first western woman to have explored Tibet way back in the 1940’s.
She remarked,” The energy which the Hindus project on the idol is not totally immateraial.The existence of the real or not of the deity is unimportant, what matters is the accumulation of psychic force in the idol ,a kind of charging a car battery. Once fully charged one can draw out energy from the battery. With the persistent devotion, adoration and frenzied prayers, the statue continues to get charged. Once fully charged one can draw energy out of it. This happens over centuries”.
Her summing up is simple, Gods are created by the energy emitted by the faith in their existence.

Will this rather scientific or unscientific explanation of idol worship be sufficient to convince disbelievers?

The fact is all religions however Cartesian they are, have their share of beliefs in the supernatural and unscientific. Is it more rational (than worshipping idols) to think, for instance. as Catholics do, that Mary conceived a child while a virgin, or that Christ came back from the dead and ascended physically to heaven, or that Muhammad  was transported to Paradise in the skies in a Golden Chariot sent specially  flown down, or the God of Moses inflicted plague on the hapless  subjects of the all powerful Pharaoh?

Descartes must be turning in his grave- the rational, logical thinking west!! (My quote)

9 comments:

Balachandran V said...

A few years ago, I went to Tunganath, the Shiva temple in the Himalayas. It is the temple at the highest altitude. In the miserable cold, I sat there in front of the stone idol and did a puja at the directions of the pundit. As I washed the cold stone with water and then with something else and then with something and adorned it with flowers and what else to the accompaniment of mantras incomprehensible to myself,- I thought - I am touching a stone, I am caressing a stone that thousands before me have, and thousands will, after me. In that moment, which is still precious to me, I thought I could connect with all of that humanity, before and after me. Because of that thought, and perhaps the exhaustion of having climbed such heights, I cried. It was an emotional moment for me. I am no devotee; maybe a seeker of spirituality, one who tries to connect - with all life.

A stone is a stone. If you attribute energy to it, so it will be. If you think it is just a piece of dead granite, so it will be. The world is, what you see it to be.

anilkurup said...

@ Balan,

"the world is what you see it to be" absolute!
And also " the world is what you want it to be".
However the crux of the matter I got fascinated was the culture of idol worship, ( call it lacking in reason, archaic, hearsay etc), , but look at the irrational , ( measuring by the same yard stick and bench mark)that has been practised and beliefs held as sacrosanct else where!
And they call idol worship and pagan beliefs blasphemous and heretical.Funny guys , fools too.

Insignia said...

I liked the comparison to charging of the car battery.

Those who said idol worship is pagan were manipulating and feeding misleading information for their own selfish reasons. Isnt it?

Stone or the nature or just a speck of dirt, its the positivity and belief that matters.

anilkurup said...

@ Insignia,

There is a marked tendency amongst the so called youthful faiths( I m sure you can guess) to deride native believes and pagan worships as nonsense and term such people as heretics running after false gods .
Incidentally I am on to a book by V.S.Naipul, 'the masque of africa', therein he tells very clearly how Western culture systematically decimated the local Gods.
That yes was the part of colonial invasion. But to destroy icons and statues that are held dear to other oriental faiths and are symbols of ancient culture , decry their practises as heretical and labelling people of such deep rooted and ancient cultures as apostates is beyond reasons that even Western philosophy cannot accept.

deeps said...

In the matter faith, I guess we never can make comparisons ..
Descartes …ohhh… the name almost stands synonyms to “I think; therefore I am.”

dr.antony said...

Faith in religion is personal. A believer just believes,there is no place for logic there.But,there is no compulsion or place for criticism,unless it leads to fanaticism.
A little faith will bring your soul to heaven; A great faith will bring heaven to your soul.

anilkurup said...

@ Deeps,
The closest meaning of faith is belief , and also trust.
To mock at another persons faith and laud about ones own is the reason for the wanton destruction of the Buddhist relics in Afghanistan by the Taliban, and also the plunder and conversion by the sword done during the Muslim inroads into ancient India,The similar frenzy is now aped by the indigenous faithfulls of Hindustan

anilkurup said...

@ dr antony, Could you give me an idea of this " little faith , and great faith"?
I want the quickest way to heaven .

dr.antony said...

Anil,
There is an easy route through Trivandrum, if you can by pass Balachandran!