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First of all, I am a Hindu myself and I am saying this with no intentions of converting to any other religion but there some misconceptions that really boggle my mind.

The biggest of them is that in the Vedas, the Upanishads and even in the Bhagavad Gita it is prevented to worship idols and it is said that God is formless and He has no picture. The following verses are some examples:

“They enter darkness those who worship natural things.They sink deeper in darkness those who worship sambhuti (created things)" (Yajurved 40:9)

"God Supreme or Supreme Spirit has no ‘Pratima’ (idol) or material shape" (Yajurved chapter 32 verse 3)

“Those whose intelligence has been stolen by material desires they worship demigods i.e. idols." (Bhagavad Gita 7:20)

And the most opposing being:

"The ignorant believe that un-manifest Para Brahma (One God) incarnates or takes manifestations, because they do not completely understand My highest, immutable, incomparable, and transcendental existence." (Bhagavad Gita 7:24)

I feel like this clearly says that God does not incarnate into avatars but we believe in Lord Rama, Lord Krishna... etc.

Hindus worship idols, make pictures of God, the concept of avatars of God is supported in Hinduism. And also... in the Shrimad Bhagavata Purana it is mentioned in the following verse the acceptable materials to make an idol:

śailī dāru-mayī lauhī lepyā lekhyā ca saikatī mano-mayī maṇi-mayī pratimāṣṭa-vidhā smṛtā [SB - 11.27.12]

Meaning: The Deity form of the Lord is said to appear in eight varieties — stone, wood, metal, earth, paint, sand, the mind or jewels.

The question is, doesn't it feel like the Vedas and the Bhagavata Purana are opposing each other?

If we look at Islam, the concept of God in it is completely clear and free of doubt that that there is no God but Allah and Muslims should not worship anything other than Allah. Nowhere in Islam two things are pointing against each other.

Again, I have absolutely no intentions of converting to Islam or any other religion. And also, in no way am I saying that Hinduism is a false religion because if it was false... it wouldn't have been alive right now. It would've been long gone in the time of Emperor Aurangzeb when he cut the head of the great Guru Teghbahadur of Sikhism. It is a miracle that Hinduism is being sustained without any terrific or convulsive movements where people are forced to accept Hinduism despite being one of the oldest religions and having suffered so many attacks, but still alive haven't executed any violent attacks forcing any one into the religion as done before in Islam and Christianity. Though, it should be noted that these kind of movements are prohibited in Islam and Christianity. I personally have also experienced small miracles and have been told of unbelievable miracles witnessed by my parents that have no doubt in my mind that Hinduism is not a false religion.

Nevertheless, these are still some of the facts about Hinduism that boggle me and I would like to know if any of you have a true answer to this question.

Briefly, I would like to know:

1: Doesn't it look like the Vedas and the Bhagavata Purana are opposing each other? Why do different Hindu scriptures look like they're opposing each other?

2: Will we never know the true meaning of "God is formless, as well as with form" written in the Vedas in this life?

3: In Bhagavad Gita 7:24 it states:

"The ignorant believe that un-manifest Para Brahma (One God) incarnates or takes manifestations, because they do not completely understand My highest, immutable, incomparable, and transcendental existence."

Doesn't this clearly state that God has no avatars? But we still believe in divine incarnations.

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    The problem is that in hinduism the scriptures are many and varied and all of them at many times contradict with each other..So,one can't get the "whole" idea by reading just one of those many scriptures.. And even if one studies all of them chances are that still he will remain confused..The scriptures are not that easy to decipher at all.. – Rickross Dec 7 '16 at 16:36
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    "Hinduism is extremely confusing for me" is not a good title. A big turn off for many to even read your question fully. I suggest you break it up into multiple individual Q-s. Also see How do I ask a good question? Your confusion can be broken down into multiple, individual, logical Q-s. And if you break them down enough, you'll find answers to most of your doubts on this site already exist!!! – sv. Dec 8 '16 at 0:09
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    The translations you quoted are mostly used by Islam preachers to attract Hindus who don't know much about scriptures into their religion. I have seen many doing thatTo know the proper meaning of Bhagavad Gita, read authentic commentaries of scholars like Ramanuja, Adi Shankara, Madhwa etc., – Sarvabhouma Dec 8 '16 at 3:32
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    Please be specific on one topic and don't ask multiple questions in one post. Consider to visit How do I ask good question and What types of questions should I avoid asking?. – Paṇḍyā Dec 8 '16 at 10:10
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Don't believe blindly what you see on internet. Hinduism or सनातन धर्म (Sanātana Dharma) can't be false as name itself says it is eternal and has "Dharma" in it. Hinduism is confusing for some people because they don't read scriptures in Sanskrit or in other language with proper interpretations of Guru or Acharyas.

To understand Hinduism properly, first you should have some knowledge about Sanskrit Language or Veda Bhasha. Sanskrit is language of Attributes. It doesn't have proper nouns. Krishna is named for person who is "black". Shiva is named for a person who is "auspicious". But a person has many attributes. You can call a person by any of his attributes. But Lord or Parabrahma has infinite attributes. So, Parabrahma has infinte names. Unlike other languages, a Sanskrit name gives some info or qualities a person possess. So, if you come across a name "Shiva" in scripture, you should understand that person has an attribute "auspiciousness" besides other additional attributes.

Sanskrit has fixed Dhatus (Verb roots), by which you can analyze the meaning of word by yourself without help of any dictionary. You can even guess Sanskrit word for modern English words. For example, we can derive Sanskrit words for upload and download. Quoting from blog by Gurudev:

Edit: Since many readers asked about giving a practical example of creating new words in Sanskrit by giving one for Download, have updated the article with one for download and upload. The attribute of descending or fetching is Avataara in Sanskrit, so one word for Download in Sanskrit could be Avataarayati or the act of fetching. Avaroha represents the attribute of going down, so Download can also be Avarohayati

Similarly for Upload we can call it Urdhvayati where Urdhva is an attribute representing upwards in Sanskrit. Aaroha also represents the attribute of ascent or going up and hence Upload can also be called Aarohayati

Not only these, you can create any number of words for upload and download in Sanskrit using the attributes representing upward or ascent, and downward, fetching or descent. For instance consider the terms Unnati and Avanati, which represent progress and downfall respectively. Take the Sanskrit attribute which can represent File, Patrika. So File uploading and File downloading could be Patrikonnati and Patrikavanati respectively! The options are limitless!

My intention is not to boast Sanskrit language, but to affirm that Sanskrit language is eternal and so the language of Vedas (Veda Bhasha). Sanskrit has no need to evolve in vocabulary like other languages, though there may be changes in grammar.

Many people have common attributes. An attribute can refer to multiple persons. Meaning of words in a Sanskrit sentence depends on context. Some foreign authors who translated our scriptures failed to derive meaning based on context and rather they translated literal meaning. Quoting from the same blog:

Take for instance the translations making round about people eating beef or killing the cow during the vedic period. The whole basis of this myth is translations of Sanskrit verses like the one which actually means “control your sense organs” which was translated as “kill the cow“, all just because the word used was go/gau can refer not only to cow, but also to sense organs in Sanskrit. So when taken out of context and translated using its most popular object, you end up with misinterpretations like these. Sanskrit translation can never be done by going word by word, the entire context should be used as the basis to understand the meaning. And there are multiple rules and hints to understand the context of words which we shall learn in the future lessons of this series

You can read introduction lessons to Sanskrit by Gurudev, where author explains beautifully about Sanskrit language. Nothing can replace reading our Hindu Scriptures in Sanskrit. Root problem for misinterpretations is lack of Sanskrit Knowledge.

It is also believed Vedas are source of all languages. Refer this question to know more details.

Vedas are eternal scriptures and they are valid for all times. It doesn't matter which yuga you live or which epoch (Kalpa) you live or in which Loka you dwell. Vedas are infallible truths where each and everything can be verifiable. This is what Sri Swami Prabhavanada says in the book Spiritual heritage of India,

The authority of the Vedas does not depend upon anything external. They themselves are authority, being the knowledge of God. And, as we shall see later, their truth is verifiable by any spiritual aspirant in transcendental consciousness.

The Rishis who have gone into deep Tapsya heard them (in transcendental consciousness) . We may not understand them properly and verify all their contents by our limited consciousness. Thus, we need to study them under a knowledgeable Guru (preceptor).

Now coming to your question, you main question is about idol worship. No scripture explicitly rejects idol worship, including Vedas. Indeed, they are not just idols. They have prana in them. We invite Lord or Consciousness into them with Mantras. This process is called Prana Pratishta. Those who condemn idol worship are just half baked Jivas. However, we don't need to invite Lord into Swayambhu (self manifested) murtis, such as Tirupati Venkateswara and Jyotirlingas of Shiva.

Do Vedas and Gita reject idol worship?

This question is already answered here and here . Quoting some verses from the above mentioned answers.

dve vāva brahmaṇo rūpe, mūrtaṃ caivāmūrtaṃ ca [Brh. Up - 2.3.1]
- God (Brahman) has two modes, formless (nirakara, asambhuta) as well as form (sakar, sambhuta).

So, Lord is both Sakara (with form) and Nirakara (without form). You can worship Lord in Sakara or mediatate on Him in Nirakara. Indeed, Lord is everything. He is also Saguna (with attributes) and Nirguna (without attributes).

Yajurveda Sloka 40.9 you mentioned in the question refers to verse 9 of chapter 40 in Vajasaneyi Samhita of Shukla Yajurveda. Vajasaneyi Samhita is available now only in two recensions, "Kanva" and "Madhyandina", since many recensions are lost due to various historical reasons. This chapter 40 of Vajasaneyi Samhita is also called as Isha Upanishad.

Above Sanskrit verse 40.9 is from Madhandiya recension.

अन्धं तमः प्रविशन्ति ये ऽसम्भूतिम् उपासते
ततो भूय इव ते तमो य उ सम्भूत्याम् रताः

andhaṁ tamaḥ praviśanti ye 'sambhūtim upāsate
tato bhūya iva te tamo ya u sambhūtyām ratāḥ

Kanva recension of same 40.9 is

अन्धं तमः प्रविशन्ति ये ऽविद्याम् उपासते
ततो भूय इव ते तमो य उ विद्यायाम् रताः

andhaṁ tamaḥ praviśanti ye 'vidyām upāsate
tato bhūya iva te tamo ya u vidyāyām ratāḥ

Same verse with "Sambhutim" is present in 40.12 of Kanva and same verse with "Vidyam" is present in 40.12 of Madhandiya. Only order of verses are changed in different recensions. Let us analyze these two verses.

Verse with "Vidya" is easy to understand.

andhaṁ tamaḥ praviśanti ye 'vidyām upāsate
tato bhūya iva te tamo ya u vidyāyām ratāḥ

They who worship Avidya alone fall into blind darkness ; and they who worship Vidya alone fall into even greater darkness. (or)

Into blinding darkness pass they who adhere to karma and into still greater darkness, as it were, they who delight in meditation.

Adi Shankara says

Now follows a statement of the distinction between the respective fruits of meditation and karma, as an argument for their simultaneous practice. Otherwise, if of the two thus proximately stated, one only is known to bear fruit and not the other, the relation between them would be (according to rules of interpretation, not one of co-ordination but) only that of subordination.

Refer introduction section of the this page to know summary of first 8 verses. This verse says both Meditation and karma are important. Indeed, verses 9 to 18 give emphasis for both Karma and Upāsanā.

Now, verse 12 says

andhaṃ tamaḥ praviśanti ye'sambhūtim upāsate |
tato bhūya iva te tamo ya u sambhūtyāṃ ratāḥ || 12 ||

Into blinding darkness pass they who are devoted to the unmanifest, and into still greater darkness, as it were, they who delight in the manifest

As we know the context of verses, we can properly understand verses. Adishankara says

Saṃbhavanam means birth. That which is born and is an effect is sambhūti. asambhūti is [Page 23] what is other than sambhūti i.e., prakṛti, the undifferentiated cause whose essence is nescience and which is the source of all activity and desire. They who devote themselves to such Cause enter (as may be expected) darkness which is correspondingly blind in its nature. Sambhūtyām i.e., in the phenomenal Brahman known as Hiraṇyagarbha. They who delight only in Him enter darkness which is, as it were, more blinding still.

Griffith also uses the words "Sambhuti" and "Asambhuti" in his translation. So, Sambhuti and Asambhuti are manifested and unmanifested and this verse says one must worship both states of Supreme Brahman.

You can also see Vaishnava interpretation of above verse here.

The translation in your question says it is bad to "worship natural things". But on the other hand, we see divinity in everything. This divinity can be explained with simple logic as said by Swami Krishnananda in his book "lessons on upanishads". I don't quote it here as this will make answer very lengthy.

Verse 32.3 from Vajasaneyi Samhita of Shukla Yajurveda with translation of Griffith

ná tásya pratimā́ asti yásya nā́ma mahád yáśaḥ \
hiraṇyagarbʰá íty eṣáḥ \
mā́ mā him̐sīd íty eṣā́ \
yásmān ná jātá íty eṣá \

3.There is no counterpart of him whose glory verily is great. In the beginning rose Hiranyagarbha, etc. Let not him harm me, etc. Than whom there is no other born, etc.

This verse describes formless and unmanifested aspect. As we know, Brahman is manifested and unmanifested and at the same time He has form and He is formless.

Some people just misinterpret or give too much emphasis for certain words.

Krishna Paramatma never explicitly rejected idol worship in Bhagavad Gita. I think translations you come across were given by some Hindu haters or by haters of idol worship (to uphold their own Religion).

Lord says the following in Bhagavdgita 7.20 (translated by A Mahadeva Sastri),

bahūnāḿ janmanām ante
jñānavān māḿ prapadyate
vāsudevaḥ sarvam iti
sa mahātmā su-durlabhaḥ

20.Those whose wisdom has been led away by this or that desire resort to other Gods (Devatas), engaged in this or that rite, constrained by their own nature.

Adishankara commentary says

Their desires for progeny, cattle, svarga and the like deprive them of their power of discrimination, and they resort to other Gods (Devatas), other than Vasudeva, the Self. They engage in rites peculiar to the worship of these Gods ; they being constrained to do so by their own nature (prakriti), by that peculiar tendency (samskara) which they acquired in the previous births.

1. Doesn't it look like the Vedas and the Bhagavata Purana are opposing each other? Why do different Hindu scriptures look like they're opposing each other?

No. Vedas never explicitly support or reject idol worship but on the other hand Puranas extol idol worship. Indeed, we are worshipping Lord inside the idol not idol itself.

2. Will we never know the true meaning of "God is formless, as well as with form" written in the Vedas in this life?

Brihadaranyaka Upanishad 2.3.1 (translated by Swami Madhavananda) says

ढे वाघ ब्रह्मणो रूपे-मूर्त चैवामूर्त च, मत्र्य चामृत च, स्थितं च यच्च, सच्च त्यश्च ॥ १ ॥

Brahman has but two forms-gross and subtle, mortal and immortal, limited and unlimited, defined and undefined.

Adishankara says

Brahman or the Supreme Self has but two forms, through the superimposition of which by ignorance the formless Supreme Brahman is defined or made conceivable. The word "Vava' (indeed) is emphatic. Which are those two forms? The gross and subtle. The other phases of the gross and subtle are included in them; so they are counted as two only. What are those phases of the gross and subtle? These are being mentioned: Mortal, subject to destruction, and inmortal, its opposite. Limited, which goes a little distance and stops, and unlimited, which goes on, is pervasive, the opposite of "limited.' Defined, having particular characteristics that distinguish it from others, and undefined, the opposite of that, which can only be distantly referred to, as something we know not what.

Water exists as liquid at room temperature but changes its state to ice at 0 °C. Water exists as liquid, solid and Vapour (Gas). It depends on certain physical conditions. Similarly, Supreme Brahman, who is beyond dualities, is perceived differently by different people. He is the one with form and without form. He is both unmanifested and manifested.

3. BG 7.24 clearly state that God has no avatars? But we still believe in divine incarnations.

This is what Lord says in 7.24 (translated by A Mahadeva Sastry),

avyaktaḿ vyaktim āpannaḿ
manyante mām abuddhayaḥ
paraḿ bhāvam ajānanto
mamāvyayam anuttamam

Unintelligent men, who do not know Me perfectly, think that I, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Krishna, was impersonal before and have now assumed this personality. Due to their small knowledge, they do not know My higher nature, which is imperishable and supreme.

Sri Adishankaracharya explains this verses as follows

The foolish regard Me as the unmanifested coming into manifestation, knowing not My higher, immutable, unsurpassed nature. Not knowing my higher nature as the Supreme Self, theignorant think that I have just now come into manifestation, having been unmanifested hitherto, though I am the ever luminous Lord.

Here Krishna never condemns any worship of Saguna form or idol worship. He just says that fools and ignorant people do not know his higher nature which is immutable and unsurpassed. Here Krishna says about His highest nature but this doesn't mean that Lord won't descend by donning Physical body. Lord has both manifested and unmanifested form. He says only few persons know His true form by going into transcendental consciousness. Lord says His true nature at highest level was unborn and imperishable. This is what Adishankaracharya says,

I am not manifest to all, veiled (as I am) by Yoga-Maya. This deluded world knows not Me, unborn and imperishable.

I am not manifest to all people ; that is to say, I am manifest only to a few who are my devotees. I am veiled by Yoga Maya. Yoga Maya is the Maya which is none other than the Yoga or union of the three gunas. Or, Yoga is the firm will of the Lord or Isvara. The Illusion or veil thereby spread is called Yoga Maya. Wherefore people are deluded and know Me not as unborn and imperishable. That Yoga Maya by which I am veiled and on account of which people do not recognise Me, is Mine, i. e, subject to My control, and, as such, it cannot obstruct My knowledge— the knowledge of the Isvara, of the possessor (or wielder) of the Maya, just as the glamour (maya) caused bya juggler (mayavin) does not obstruct his own knowledge.

Though Sun is present all the times, we can only see it with normal eyes during day time. Even Lord can only be seen by few of His sincere devotees. Maya stops us from seeing Him and only true knowledge can break that Maya.

This doesn't talk anything about Avatara. Lord says in 4.7

yadā yadā hi dharmasya
glānir bhavati bhārata
abhyutthānam adharmasya
tadātmānaḿ sṛjāmy aham

Whenever and wherever there is a decline in Dharma (righteousness), O descendant of Bharata, and a predominant rise of Adharma —at that time I descend Myself.

So, finally to know proper meaning of Hindu Scriptures either read them in Sanskrit (Veda Bhasha) or in any language with commentaries of knowledgable Acharya or learn them under a knowledgable Guru.

You can read this answer to know how Vedas are preserved. However, some portions of Smriti got interpolated over the vast period of time. But you get essence of Hinduism by reading translations of commentaries of knowledgeable Acharyas.

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    You have made me understand these misconceptions further more. Thank you very much for that. Please pray for me that my faith may be strong. And I may very well have offended you a little too with my extremely unwise words. Please forgive me for that. – Pardeep Kumar Dec 7 '16 at 18:10
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    @Pardeep No need to get offended.Such is power of Maya. It deludes even those sages. Ask questions and get answers.Truth is what we need. Don't stop questioning. May Lord Shiva destroy your doubts by imparting knowledge. – The Destroyer Dec 7 '16 at 18:22
  • @Pradeep edit your question with misinterpreted verses and exact questions what you want to know. We can open it. – The Destroyer Dec 7 '16 at 18:26
  • Thank you very much brother. I have updated the question. See if you can clarify any further. The answer I most want is the 3rd one. Which is: In Bhagavad Gita 7:24 it states: "The ignorant believe that un-manifest Para Brahma (One God) incarnates or takes manifestations, because they do not completely understand My highest, immutable, incomparable, and transcendental existence." Doesn't this clearly state that God has no avatars? But we still believe in divine incarnations. Or is this also another case of wrongly translated verses due to Sanskrit language being unique? – Pardeep Kumar Dec 8 '16 at 20:33
  • @PardeepKumar Sorry for delay. I updated my answer. – The Destroyer Feb 5 '17 at 10:21
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Your question shows your confusion and not that Hinduism is a confused and corrupt religion. While I did not like the tone of your question (fake Hinduism), I decided to answer to clear your confusion. I am posting couple of passages about the nature of God as explained by Sri Ramakrishna.

No one can say with finality that God is only 'this' and nothing else. He is formless and again He has forms. For the bhakta He assumes forms. But He is formless for the jnani, that is, for him who looks on the world as a mere dream. The bhakta feels that he is one entity and the world as another. Therefore God reveals Himself to him as a Person. But the jnani – the Vedantist, for instance - always reasons, applying the process of 'Not this, not this'. Through this discrimination he realizes, by his inner perception, that the ego and the universe are both illusory, like a dream. Then the jnani realizes Brahman in his own consciousness. He can not describe what Brahman is.

Do you know what I mean? Think of Brahman, Existence-Knowledge-Bliss Absolute, as a shoreless ocean. Through the cooling influence as it were, of the bhakta's love, the water has frozen at places into blocks of ice. In other words, God now and then assumes various forms for His lovers and reveals Himself to them as a Person. But with the rising of the sun of knowledge, the blocks of ice melt. Then one doesn't feel any more that God is a Person, nor does one see God's forms. What He is can not be described. Who will describe Him? He who would do so disappears. He cannot find his 'I' anymore.

The Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna

If you read through the passages you will see that God has both the formless aspect of ordinary water and the form aspect of water frozen into ice. The formless aspect can not be worshipped because the human mind is like a little bottle that can not contain the whole of the infinite sea of Brahman. The form aspects of Brahman can be worshipped because the little human mind is capable of thinking about a form. There is no confusion here. If you want to attain the formless then you have to use methods like 'Neti Neti' or try to answer questions like 'Who am I?' since it is not possible to worship It. If your interest is in God with form then you can worship the form. Worship of a form is the easier method.

Additional Material

I am adding this section in response to the references given in the question. Let us look at the very first one which says: “They enter darkness those who worship natural things.They sink deeper in darkness those who worship sambhuti (created things)" (Yajurved 40:9)

The above translation should be read with extreme caution. For example,the Arya Samaj translation of Sri Devi Chand translates the shloka differently:

Abandoning God, deep into the shade of the blinding gloom fall the worshippers of eternal unborn Matter. They sink to darkness deeper yet who are engaged in the material pleasures of the world.

(Yajur Veda translated by Sri Devi Chand Chapter 40 shloka 9).

This particular shloka is a criticism of materialists and hedonists and not as critics say of idol worship. One should be extremely careful in reading the internet. I would also like to point out that interpreting the Vedas and the Gita in such a manner as to show that they say opposite things can be done only by ignoring centuries old traditional commentaries which have harmonized the Gita and the Vedas. There is no reason to believe these modern interpreters and throw away the centuries old interpretations without some important reason to do so.

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    @PardeepKumar There is no confusion here-There are two forms of upasanas described in Hindu Scriptures and both are valid.1) Pratika & 2) Ahangraha,,In the first one we have some form to meditate upon and there is no such form in the second..the first one is easy the second one is a lot more difficult..& the first form of upasana gradually leads to the second form.. – Rickross Dec 7 '16 at 16:50
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    @PardeepKumar there is nothing against using pratika (you are calling idol worship).Please give exact references where the Vedas or Upanishads say that murthi puja or pratika upasana is wrong. Hindus do not worship idols but worship God through a murthi. – Pradip Gangopadhyay Dec 7 '16 at 17:00
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    Hindus do not worship idols but worship God through a murthi. Yes,tht's the most common misconception that many people have... – Rickross Dec 7 '16 at 17:05
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    That Hindus worship only idols..actually they don't understand that the idol is not just an object..the prana of the deity has already been invoked in it through the mantras prescribed in scriptures..In yajnas we invoke god in fire and they can be invoked in water too(as in tarpanam)..So idol here is not important at all..anyone can invoke any deity in a flower too.. – Rickross Dec 7 '16 at 17:11
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    What you stated is exactly what I meant when I wrote that 'God is worshipped through a murthi'. When the prana is invoked in the murthi then God is worshipped through that murthi. The point I am trying to make is that @PardeepKumar, like Muslims and Christians, is alleging that Hindus worship a lifeless piece of stone (idol in his words) and not God. I am saying that he is wrong and Hindus are worshipping God through the murthi. – Pradip Gangopadhyay Dec 7 '16 at 17:17
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“They enter darkness those who worship natural things.They sink deeper in darkness those who worship sambhuti (created things)" (Yajurved 40:9)

"God Supreme or Supreme Spirit has no ‘Pratima’ (idol) or material shape" (Yajurved chapter 32 verse 3)

“Those whose intelligence has been stolen by material desires they worship demigods i.e. idols." (Bhagavad Gita 7:20) He became formless himself, They became formless... The Idol worship is to create the awareness of his life in means of science and that doesn't mean that God will look alike the Idol.. The one who admires God will love to be the way he was... And the "way" will lead to dharma and outer bliss ....

"The ignorant believe that un-manifest Para Brahma (One God) incarnates or takes manifestations, because they do not completely understand My highest, immutable, incomparable, and transcendental existence." (Bhagavad Gita 7:24) True they are formless, Only through determined love and devotion, he becomes a form. Incarnation must have a reason

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I can only say, those are not contradictory at all. you just have to understand some simple concepts. It is easy to get confused as the underlying knowledge is not clearly written and were expected to be taught by the guru only because written knowledge can be misinterpreted unless there is any interactive session. Well, as far as I realized, 1. God is eternal and formless. As God is formless, He can not have a physical boundary because if he has a boundary, the boundary will define His form. Therefore, He is omnipresent. If He is omnipresent, He lives inside every objects in this universe and beyond (including the idols and pictures). So, there is nothing wrong to assume a stone (or any other object) as the God and worship it. Now the question comes if I worship a random object as God, does it actually connect us with God? Isn't it like sitting inside a pool and thinking of water? then what is the nessecity of idols or temples? the answer is it is not important what form you are thinking about, the important thing is you are thinking about Him. Now if I ask you to think about a formless, propertyless object (even object word is not applicable) you will find it difficult to imagine. So we have to imagine a form. ok, so which form you should imagine? it is easiest to imagine something or someone you can respect. What or whom do you respect most? People you want to be like or objects you desire most. Mother (God), Father (God), teacher (God), Money (God, Laxmi), The wealthiest entity (God, Laxmi), Knowledge and most knowledgeable entity (Saraswati), Most powerful (Shakti). This way every entity you think to be God is connected to your desire. Sounds negative? Not at all. This is the way you and your desires get connected to the God. This is the preliminary step. without it you will think your desires and emotions as something disconnected from God. You may even start thinking them as evil (like buddhism, I am not criticising buddhism, its just another approach). Well, talking about avatars, I think avatars are not born, they are forged. It is a position to gain. People who are the most adept in specific field are the avatars. How do we know? Because one of the avatars was adept in self-realization. Lord Krishna. Read Bibhutiyoga chapter in Bhagbat Gita. Now lets connect the missing link. Moksha. It is not about seeing or meeting God. Its about becoming God. If you can become YOUR God, you got moksha. Say you are a scholar and you imagine God to be a person with infinite knowledge. You may become your God if you gain infinite knowledge. Ya, its impossible (apperently). But if you go enough beyond the imagination of people, to world you are already God. We know lord Rama to be the God. Albert Einstein is an avatar of Saraswati (atleast to me. who knows if Balmiki was present in modern world, he could recognize him). Now if you are too orthodox to accept possibility of this concept, I will request you to re-read the scriptures once with keeping this in your mind.

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    Welcome To Hinduism SE ! With fully appreciating your views regarding the subject ,I would like to request you to add some sources from authentic Hindu Scriptures in your answer.Citing sources is a must on this site ,otherwise your answer will be just like a personal comment and might get deleted. – SwiftPushkar Jul 24 '17 at 17:12
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I am bewildered why this question has been downvoted. So i took the liberty of upvoting. It's an important consideration that could easily be lost in translation. Now i need to say straight up that i am not Hindu, nor Indian, nor do i speak Sanskrit. Although I wish I was all of these things. I would like to say that, I've been studying ancient texts - especially in relation to polytheistic religions for 15 years as a hobby. I think the part of the Vedas that you are referring to, ultimately is epitomized by the saying:

"He who worships ignorance, enters blind darkness. He who worships knowledge, enters blind darkness, as it were yet deeper. It is different they say for knowledge; it is different they say for ignorance. Or so we have heard from the wise before us. For by ignorance one crosses mortality, and by knowledge one crosses immortality"

This is taken i believe from the Upanisads. I believe you're reading from: VÂGASANEYI-SAMHITÂ-UPANISHAD. A long translation of which, can be found here:

VÂGASANEYI-SAMHITÂ-UPANISHAD

However translations like this can end up too verbose for their own good. Something more succinct I actually found more meaningful; like the penguin translation of this chapter summarised by the quote above.

I recommend the penguin translation for the Bhagavad Gita, the Upanisads and the Rig Veda. If you are missioning it through the vedas (as i did - good on you!) I recommend Ralph Griffith - not because he's a good translator, more because he dedicated his entire life to try and translate the vedas, and that must count for something - and there are few alternatives. Ralph's translation of the Sama Veda is actually very good - especially initially. The translation starts like the beginning of Shakespeare's Macbeth; which is particularly befitting of white / light-grey witchcraft of this calibre.

In relation to your references of symbolism. I'd say that Hindus, prefer to represent the philosophical concepts of Jains through symbolic representation. This may manifest itself as idols, however the idiology is only a method of abstraction to assist in remembering the hundreds of thousands of pages of text in the Vedas. This is much like almost all other religions have done, and in my view does not constitute idol worship - since it is just a psychological mechanism of helping to remember one of myriad concepts that are presented in the Vedas and the Upanisads.

As an aside, my interpretation of Hinduism, is that it's a colourful devolution of Jainism. I mean no offense by this, on the contrary; i prefer Hindu methods of expression, since I believe I can remember them more clearly under Hinduism than Jainism. Now, I would say at this point that I believe Hinduism, like Jainism is a Pantheist religion; not Panantheist. That is to say that God and reality are synonymous. Or, to quote a Jain tenant:

The absolute is impersonal.

In relation to your quotation:

śailī dāru-mayī lauhī lepyā lekhyā ca saikatī mano-mayī maṇi-mayī pratimāṣṭa-vidhā smṛtā [SB - 11.27.12]

I believe this means that God (the one God, as mentioned in the Bhagavad Gita as being the "Poet" / "Creator") has various manifestations in nature. The way I think about this is in relation to the God "Shiva". If you see a picture of Shiva, Shiva has many arms each holding a celestrial weapon, each weapon represents a force of nature that can destroy. In my view - not just in Hinduism, but also in religions like egyptology different Gods represent different aspects or forces of nature, in the same way that Shiva has many arms.

Also I'd like to take the opportunity at this point to express my interpretation of "creator" in the context of religions, such as Hinduism. Thanks to religions such as Christianity, we have come to accept creation as a Biblical Genesis creation of heaven and earth. Yet, when you compare this to the creation versus of the Rig Vedas, you seen interesting comparisons, and a new perspective on Genesis. See it could be that in Genesis when it says:

Genesis 1New International Version (NIV) The Beginning

1 In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. 2 Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters.

3 And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. 4 God saw that the light was good, and he separated the light from the darkness. 5 God called the light “day,” and the darkness he called “night.” And there was evening, and there was morning—the first day.

6 And God said, “Let there be a vault between the waters to separate water from water.” 7 So God made the vault and separated the water under the vault from the water above it. And it was so. 8 God called the vault “sky.” And there was evening, and there was morning—the second day.

9 And God said, “Let the water under the sky be gathered to one place, and let dry ground appear.” And it was so. 10 God called the dry ground “land,” and the gathered waters he called “seas.” And God saw that it was good.

11 Then God said, “Let the land produce vegetation: seed-bearing plants and trees on the land that bear fruit with seed in it, according to their various kinds.” And it was so. 12 The land produced vegetation: plants bearing seed according to their kinds and trees bearing fruit with seed in it according to their kinds. And God saw that it was good. 13 And there was evening, and there was morning—the third day.

You see, my interpretation of this would be from a Solipsistic perspective. In my view this wasn't the creation of Heaven and Earth, this was the creation of consciousness of an individual. The waters were the womb, the light was the birth of a baby, the creation of various things were the eyesight of the baby extending in focal length. If you compare this interpretation to the creation versus of the Rig Veda it talks of the pillars of the Mind that support the sky and the universe, in so much as consciousness is necessary to appreciate the concept of existance, and without this concept, existance really has no meaning. Or:

Cognito ergo sum

Quite literally:

I think, therefore [consequently] I am.

My interpretation of Descartes meaning is not so much a logical conclusion; instead i see the meaning that his [meaningful] existence is a consequence of of his thoughts. That his consciousness, in a sense brought his existence into being. And that without interpretation existence is void of meaning or presence.

Indeed Arthur Schopenhauer would take it one step further and tie meaning into something more, such as:

Life without pain has no meaning.

However in the case of Hinduism, I think that the Poet is not the creator anything specific, but the creator of each and every moment in the now. Quite literally "it" is the creation of time in perpetuity. The movement of one instance of time to the next. This is crucial, there cannot be existence without time; in fact the explanation of all things, is time. This is why i believe in the Bhagavad Gita, in chapter 7 it refers to precisely one God, and all other Gods being a conduit to that one God. The poet, i believe is quite literally the God of Time and all metaphysical constructs are a derivation from this one concept.

Anyway, I am digressing...

Re the contradiction. It is my belief that the Bhagavad Gita states that God is the superlative in all aspects of existence, and exists as idealistic construct that humanity aspires to, yet never can obtain. Although a Jain tenant is that:

Through supreme effort one can become Godly.

Therefore I see no contradiction whatsoever between BG and SBP. Since this can never be idolized, and idol worship in my view is the hollow dogmatic doctrine of following a principle-less existence devoid of meaning and content - see Aristotle's philosophy about how the principles of something comes to be define the entity.

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