Being a proponent of Advaita i wonder What did Adi Shankara say on idol worship ?

  • 1
    Adi Shankara was a proponent of advaita, but that doesn't mean he dismissed - davita! He also wrote enormous hymns, praises, songs (bhakti) for the gods that are primarily davita (dual) means of worshipping God. Idol worship (or Murti) is a tantric concept of worship that requires special methods to install idols and an ordinary brahman is not capable of doing that. Idol worship doesn't appears in any vedas or upanishads.
    – user29449
    Commented Nov 1, 2023 at 5:01

5 Answers 5


Adi Shankaracharya exponent of Advaita vedanta had re-established the worship of shanmatha(saguna worship according to six agamic schools) in vedic way thus He is known as Shanmatha sthapanacharya/prathishtapaka.

Panchayatana Puja , Several Stotras of various manifestations of One Brahman is attributed to Adishankaracharya.

Acharya had bestowed a treatise called Prapanchasara tantra, that detail various upasaka murtis , (as hinted in Vedas) for the benifit of upasakas.The following presentation details the treatise elegantly with apt illustration of deities.

Prapanchasara tantra
Advaita academy

Upasana is only a means to develop the steadiness of mind .Jneya Brahman is Nirguna brahman in Advaita, is not realized as a direct effect of any cause such as Upasana.


I am not sure what Shankaracharya said about idol worship. However, he did write about Saguna Brahman.

Saguna Brahman is Brahman conceived of as the Creator, Preserver and Destroyer of the Universe corresponding to Isvara. Advaita Vedanta, however, considers Nirguna Brahman as the only Reality. So what does Shankara think of Saguna Brahman? Shankara writes the following in his Brahma Sutra Bhasya:

'Hence in sentences of this kind, the formless Brahman alone, just as It is spoken of by the texts themselves, has to be accepted. But the other texts, speaking of Brahman with form, have injunctions about meditations as their main objectives. So long as they do not lead to some contradiction, their apparent meanings should be accepted. But when they involve a contradiction, the principle to be followed for deciding one or the other is that, those that have formless Brahman as their main purport are more authoritative than the others which have not that as their main purport. It is according to this that one is driven to the conclusion that Brahman is formless and not its opposite, though texts having both the purports are in evidence.'

Brahma Sutra Bhasya III.II.14 of Sri Sankaracharya

Adi Shankaracharya did not oppose worship of Saguna Brahman. However, Saguna Brahman worshippers would ultimately have to follow Jnana Yoga in order to get moksha. No Yoga other than Jnana Yoga will suffice in attaining moksha.

All this is erroneous. Sruti clearly teaches that no road other than knowledge leads to moksha. Vide: "Knowing Him alone one conquers death: no other road is available for going there" (Svetasvatara Upanishad 3.8). Further, 6.20 (ibid) teaches that the non-knower's achievement of moksha is as impossible as the folding up of the sky like a hide. Puranas, too, teach that moksha is won through knowledge.

Sankaracharya Gita bhasya 18.66.6 translated by A. G. Krishna Warrier

Sri Sankaracharya’s settled conclusion is that the worship of Saguna Brahman prepares a person for Jnana Yoga. It doesn’t directly lead to the attainment of Advaita moksha.


The formless God is called the Nirguna Brahman. The Nirguna Brahman is worshipped by those in the Jnana Marga or Jnana Yoga – the Yoga of Wisdom. It is very difficult to worship God as the formless. Hence the various forms in which He manifested to His devotees and the forms of His various avatars are worshipped. Adi Shankara who taught Advaita – worshipping of the One Form, and walked the Jnana Marga, realised later that worshipping of the form was easier and sweeter to the heart and being and hence he built many temples of Shakti – the Mother Goddess, in India and worshipped Her in these holy spots.

  • thanks..u may add some quotes by him Commented Oct 31, 2023 at 20:22
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    Commented Nov 1, 2023 at 2:12

The concept of idol worship (also called Murti) is a tantric concept of worship. In Tantra, there are specific methods of installation of statues of different deities, gods, and so on. The vigraha puja has rites of Prana Pratishtha where the prana (life force) is infused inside a murty that gets human-like properties with prana. In tantric cultures, it is said that such installation of the murti of deities acts as a shield to the whole village - hence protecting a certain degree of parameter of the whole village from natural calamities, epidemics, etc.

Tantra is an alternative mode of worship to Vedas. Both Vedas and tantras have their own concepts of pujas, in Vedic methods, the worship is usually done in open spaces as a sacrifice to fire (or hawan).

Adi Shankaracharya was an 8th-century Vedic philosopher who preached smarta tradition as well as a proponent of both - Advaita as well as Davita. He advocated advaitic interpretation of the Upanishads but he didn't dismiss dual forms of worship either. It is very unlikely he had any to say against or in favor of Murti puja (which is NOT a Vedic form of worship). He preached meditation but also composed various bhakti hymns during his lifetime.

Murti Puja is not considered to be an advaitic practice of worship. In Advaita Vedanta, the major modes of worship are through the path of gyan yog, i.e. - reading of Vedic Upanishads, self-inquiry, and meditation.

While it is possible that practitioners of Advaita Vedanta also follow davita as well as murti puja, Advaita Vedanta follows an alternate path to tantra too - that doesn't require external murti for the same effect via different mantras, yantras (geometrical shapes), posture of meditation.

In summary, there are various paths in worship to reach the same goal. Advaitic traditions might not follow murti puja specifically but they have their own tantric alternative methods for the same. It is important to acknowledge that advaita vedanta doesn't dismiss idol worship but rather has its own interpretation to do the same without having a separate murti from the self.


Sri Adi Shankaracharya accepted the idol worship (as the nirguna worship is not possible for everyone) but only as a substitute in the form as a gauna bhakti or virtual dualistic worship of Saguna Brahman. But the highest worship is said to be of the Nirguna Brahman (Self) according to the Jabalas (Upanishad).

Adi Shankara Prashna Upanishad Bhasya 5.2. states.:

That Brahman who is the supreme purusha alone is the ever existed supreme primordial entity which is the Jiva ( athman ) of universe from him the sound ' Om ' was born and indeed he the supreme purusha alone is to be known by Om the supreme syllable . He who is beyond all attributes the nirguna purusha is not accessible with senses and on the meditation of omkara meditating upon him is not possible hence we use substitutes like the images/idols of Vishnu to meditate upon . Therefore , he who knows thus , attains either the higher or the lower Brahman.

Adi Shankara Brahma Sutra Bhashya 4.1.3 states:-

The supreme 𝗟𝗼𝗿𝗱 𝗣𝗮𝗿𝗮𝗺𝗲𝘀𝗵𝘃𝗮𝗿𝗮 is to be realized as the supreme absolute reality just like the way how 𝗝𝗮𝗯𝗮𝗹𝗮𝘀, 𝘄𝗵𝗶𝗹𝗲 𝘀𝗽𝗲𝗮𝗸𝗶𝗻𝗴 𝗮𝗯𝗼𝘂𝘁 𝘀𝘂𝗽𝗿𝗲𝗺𝗲 𝗣𝗮𝗿𝗮𝗺𝗲𝘀𝗵𝘃𝗮𝗿𝗮 address him as the eternal absolute Brahman the self, that oh 𝗘𝘁𝗲𝗿𝗻𝗮𝗹 𝗕𝗵𝗮𝗴𝘄𝗮𝗮𝗻 though you appear deity (Devata) thou indeed art me (𝗧𝗮𝘁 𝘁𝘄𝗮𝗺 𝗮𝘀𝗶), I indeed am thee (𝗮𝗵𝗮𝗺 𝗯𝗿𝗮𝗵𝗺𝗮𝘀𝗺𝗶), As a matter of fact, the Vedic texts make us understand Brahman as absolute The self is the supreme absolute, that absolute supreme self is the only reality. "That is Truth, that is the Self, and That thou art". As for the argument that on the 𝗮𝗻𝗮𝗹𝗼𝗴𝘆 𝗼𝗳 𝗮𝗻 𝗶𝗺𝗮𝗴𝗲 𝗯𝗲𝗶𝗻𝗴 𝗩𝗶𝘀𝗵𝗻𝘂 𝘁𝗵𝗶𝘀 𝗶𝘀 𝗼𝗻𝗹𝘆 𝗮 𝗺𝗲𝗱𝗶𝘁𝗮𝘁𝗶𝗼𝗻 𝘄𝗶𝘁𝗵 𝘁𝗵𝗲 𝗵𝗲𝗹𝗽 𝗼𝗳 𝗮𝗻 𝗶𝗺𝗮𝗴𝗲 𝘄𝗵𝗶𝗰𝗵 𝗶𝘀 𝗮𝗰𝘁𝘂𝗮𝗹𝗹𝘆 𝗶𝗻 𝘁𝗵𝗲 𝗰𝗮𝘀𝗲 𝗼𝗳 '𝗜' 𝗶.𝗲 𝗶𝗻 𝘁𝗵𝗲 𝗺𝗼𝗱𝗲 𝗼𝗳 𝗲𝘅𝗶𝘀𝘁𝗲𝗻𝗰𝗲 𝗼𝗳 𝘀𝗲𝗰𝗼𝗻𝗱 𝗲𝗻𝘁𝗶𝘁𝘆 𝗵𝗲𝗻𝗰𝗲 𝗶𝘁𝘀 𝗶𝗺𝗽𝗿𝗼𝗽𝗲𝗿 𝘁𝗼 𝘃𝗶𝗲𝘄 𝗶𝘁 𝗶𝗻 𝘁𝗲𝗿𝗺𝘀 𝗼𝗳 𝗮𝗯𝘀𝗼𝗹𝘂𝘁𝗲 𝘂𝗻𝗶𝘁𝘆.

I hope this clarifies all your queries. Prd..

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