Recently, Dwarka Shankaracharya, Swami Swaroopanand Saraswati stirred controversy by claiming that since Shirdi Sai was a human and that there are no mention of him any Hindu scripture, he shouldn't be worshipped.

Is there any basis for his allegation? Does Hindu scripture prohibit worship of humans?

Is a seer right in issuing a carpet ban on worship of a 'god' on this basis?

Reference: Times of India

EDIT1: I haven't made myself sufficiently clear on this, I answered a question couple of days before asking the same things here.

With the minimal understanding of Hinduism I have, what Swami Swaroopanand Saraswati said is not fair.

Hindu Pantheon was never static but fluid and very dynamic. Our concept of gods were very different in vedic times, which included Indra, Agni, Mithra, Varuna and other Rigvedic deities.

Later, the concept of god shifted from these gods to the gods which we know, right now i.e. the Trimurty (Vishnu, Shiva and Brahma) and various incarnations of Vishnu, Sons of Shiva and Shakti. Rigveda doesn't have mention of these gods, rather later Puranas were entirely dedicated to them, which made up the myth base for these gods.

  • I am sure people will not listen to them. because they are not as much popular as Sai Baba. why should people listen them? even, I think it depends on individuals and their beliefs.
    – Mr_Green
    Jul 7 '14 at 9:34
  • 5
    Being the head of Dwarka pitha, he has somewhat authoritative control over Hinduism. Jul 7 '14 at 9:42
  • 1
    @VineetMenon Questions title sounds opinion based, please edit it out with Does Hindu scriptures prohibits worship of humans? if you want to make a legit question else this should be closed
    – Mr. Alien
    Jul 7 '14 at 16:06
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    Saraswati is right. The worship of Sai Baba is a folk practice, and not canonized in formal Hinduism. Lots of people in India do it, since Sai Baba had huge popular appeal. Nonetheless, he was primarily a politician and not a religious figure or authority. Mar 25 '15 at 11:58
  • 2
    @Vineet- Shankaracharya of Dwaraka is not wrong. all these are recent phenomenons. There is no scriptural validity. Now, someone may question that why not? Well, if someome wants to worship Sai baba as guru, it is upto them. Also, Popularity cannot be yard stick to prove that these recent phenomenons are gods. If, that was the Ravana, Duryodhana etc had more numbers in their ranks, but they all are people with demonic nature. You can go on arguing..But, in my opinion in this case Shankaracharya of Dwaraka is right, whatever his political affliations may be.
    – user808
    Mar 25 '15 at 13:06

The Swami has every right to hold such an opinion. Ordinary Hindus also have the right to disagree with his opinion. The Swami does not have authority over Hindus.

Bhishma said in Mahabharata Santi Parva Section 132 that a man

"is said to be conversant with duty, who knows duty as depending on all four foundations§".


§ These four foundations of duty are (1) as laid down in the Vedas, (2) as laid down in the Smritis, (3) as sanctioned by ancient usage and customs and (4) as approved by the heart or one's own conscience."

Thus whether a Hindu worships Sai Baba is a matter of his conscience. Nobody can interfere in such a matter.


Bhishma might be referring to Manusmriti 2.12:

वेदः स्मृतिः सदाचारः स्वस्य च प्रियमात्मनः ।
एतच्चतुर्विधं प्राहुः साक्षाद् धर्मस्य लक्षणम् ॥ १२ ॥

vedaḥ smṛtiḥ sadācāraḥ svasya ca priyamātmanaḥ |
etaccaturvidhaṃ prāhuḥ sākṣād dharmasya lakṣaṇam || 12 ||

The Veda, the Smṛti, the Practice of cultured Men, and what is agreeable to oneself—these directly constitute the fourfold means of knowing Dharma.—(12)

  • Exactly, a person' s beliefs, whatsoever they may be should never be influenced by others. Every individual has the right to believe what (s)he wants to, follow whom (s)he wants to.
    – Shamayeta
    Jul 8 '14 at 7:45
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    While every one has free will to believe or not believe in a certain thing, the citation of Mahabharata is talking about all four things not just one's own conscience. If the last one was the only metric Duryodhana cannot be blamed as wrong! Nov 6 '14 at 7:13
  • @sv the block quote contains both Bhisma's statement and Ganguli's footnote explaining the four foundations. Unfortunately Ganguli does not give any scriptural source. May 27 '16 at 9:49

The acarya of a particular institution will have the right to decide the matters based on scriptural injunctions. However, those who are faithful to that acarya will follow the ban and not others. Generally speaking, depending on an individual's nature and motivation he or she will worship a particular personality or energy. This topic is very ancient and Arjuna asks Krishna in Bhagavad Gita 17.1:

Arjuna inquired: O Kṛṣṇa, what is the situation of those who do not follow the principles of scripture but worship according to their own imagination? Are they in goodness, in passion or in ignorance?

It is described further that those in goodness worship various devatas (like Candra, Surya, Ganesa, Indra and so on). Those in passion worship some powerful persons including demons (raksasas). Those in ignorance worship ghosts and spirits (bhutas, pretas)

To summarize:

  1. No, worship of humans is not denied in the scriptures but such type of worship is not considered on the same level of worship of devatas or the Supreme Vishnu tattvas.

  2. I think he has a valid reason since reference to Saibaba is not found in the major texts like Bhagavadgita, Ramayana, Mahabharata and other major puranas that are prevalent.

  3. Yes, an acarya can ban like this for his followers because he is guided by scriptures for the goals he and his followers are after.


Is there any basis for his allegation? Does Hindu scripture prohibit worship of humans?

No, the allegation is wrong.

Because the Upanishads say who is a knower of Brahman is Brahman himself. So, such a self-realised person, Yogi or a saint is very much recommended to be worshipped much like one prays to the Brahman, even though he is a human being.

Proofs are from the Mundaka Upanishad.

Yam yam lokam manasA samvibhAti vishuddhasatvah kAmayate yAmshcha kAmAn |
Tam tam lokam jayate tAmshcha kAmAmastasmAdAtmagyam hyarched bhutikAmah ||

Whatever destinations (loka) and objects of pleasures (kAmAn) the man (the AtmagyAni), whose mind is free from impurities (shuddhasattva; nirmala antakarana; this is to be attained by sAdhanA), desires, he obtains those destinations and those objects of pleasures. Therefore, a person who himself desires those lokas or objects of pleasures (bhutikAmah), shall worship that AtmagyAni.

Mundakopanishad 3.1.10

So, this verse is talking about worshipping a self-realised person with the desire of attaining some worldly goals.

And, the very next verse says that if worship of that AtmagyAni is done without any such worldly desires, then that leads to liberation.

Sa vedaitat param brahma dhAma yatra viswam nihitam bhAti shubram |
UpAsate purusham ye hyakAmAste shukrametadativartanti dhirAh ||

The self-realised man knows that Brahman, the whole universe is embedded in whom and who reveals himself as a pure form of light. If, those persons, who are non-desirous of worldly goals and pleasures, worship such a self-realised person, then they are not born again.

Mundakopanshid 3.2.1

So, the conclusion is , worship of such self-realised persons, who has attained God consciousness, is clearly allowed and recommended in Hinduism.

Also, in Hinduism, the Guru, who is none other than a human being, is to be worshipped as well.

But, verifying whether a particular saint is truly self-realised or not is virtually an impossible task. That saint's devotees will know best. We can't find answers to such questions in scriptures.

NOTE: This answer was originally prepared keeping this question in mind , but that's closed now, so posted here.

  • 1
    unless you claim to be self realised person, I don't know we can categorically say Archarya is wrong. I would rather trust in Shankaracharyas than other gurus these days. At least they are based in scriptures...
    – Kanthri
    May 3 '20 at 21:19

Is a seer right in issuing a carpet ban on worship of a 'god' on this basis?

Absolutely not. Sri Krishna clearly says in the Bhagavad-gītā:

3.25 O scion of the Bharata dynasty, as the unenlightened people act with attachment to work, so should the enlightened person act, without attachment, being desirous of the prevention of people from going astray.

3.26 The enlightened man should not create disturbance in the beliefs of the ignorant, who are attached to work. Working, while himself remaining diligent, he should make them do all the duties.

[Tr. by Swami Gambirananda]

Now assuming the religious leader in the question is 'the enlightened man' and the followers of Sai Baba, 'the ignorant men,' then according to BG 3.26, the religious leader, despite his best intentions, should not create a ruckus by issuing a ban on the worship of Sai Baba.

  • "The enlightened man should not create disturbance in the beliefs of the ignorant" Enlightened men don't create disturbances anyway otherwise they won't be enlightened.
    – Pinakin
    Sep 30 '16 at 5:37
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    -1 Shankaracharya is not disturbing ignorant believers. He is stopping his institution and believers to stop purposeless worship of non-vedic gods or gurus out of main stream guruparampara. He is a guru/acharya to advaitins and they have to follow his commands or incur sins.
    – Yogi
    Jun 13 '17 at 22:03
  • -1 May I mention that you are understanding these verses out of context. The context is "doing one's enjoined duty" vs "giving up". Arjuna was inclined to give up, and Krishna insists that even if one is qualified for jnana yoga ( a later stage of stable-mindedness), one should still perform one's duties so as not to lead common people (people not yet qualified for jnana yoga, but only qualified for karma yoga) astray from their duties. What then is the relation between doing one's duties and worshiping some random human? The duties here are referring to Varnasrama duties.
    – rk567
    Jun 13 '17 at 23:09
  • @Yogi "He is stopping his institution and believers to stop purposeless worship" - Please read the question and the linked article again. His comments are clearly directed at all Hindus and not just his followers. Jun 15 '17 at 21:35

Actually not that difficult to answer. But it depends on individual thoughts and followings. Its up to us whom we worship or follow.

The way I see it is: In the Ramayan, Lord Sri Ram explains the nine types of devotion or penance to Shabri:

नवधा भगति कहउं तोहि पाहीं। सावधान सुनु धरु मन माहीं॥

and the very first said:

प्रथम भगति संतन्ह कर संगा। दुसरि रति मम कथा प्रसंगा॥

The first step to devotion (Bhakti) is to keep company of the saints (Satsang). The second step is to enjoy listening to legends/discourses pertaining to the Lord

So yes I follow Sai Baba as he was a saint and also because I completely trust Lord Sri Ram's words.

And about worshiping him, as I said, its up to individual's beliefs. They feel happy/relaxed by worshiping Sai Baba, so be it.

And let me complete it:

गुरु पद पंकज सेवा तीसरि भगति अमान। चौथि भगति मम गुन गन करइ कपट तजि गान॥

Selfless service to the Guru's lotus feet without any pride is the third step. The fourth step is to earnestly sing praises of the Lord's virtues with a heart clear of guile, deceipt or hypocrisy.

Here... Many people also considered/accepted Sai Baba as their Guru and that's also one of the reason they worship him as their Guru. And Worshiping Guru is not wrong because we only chant: Guru Brahma... Guru Vishnu...

मंत्र जाप मम दृढ़ बिस्वासा। पंचम भजन सो बेद प्रकासा॥

Chanting My Name with steadfast faith is the fifth step as the Vedas reveal.

छठ दम सील बिरति बहु करमा। निरत निरंतर सज्जन धरमा॥

The sixth, is to practice self-control, good character, detachment from manifold activities and always follow the duties as good religious person.

सातवँ सम मोहि मय जग देखा। मोतें संत अधिक करि लेखा॥

The seventh step is to perceive the world as God Himself and regard the saints higher than the Lord.

आठवँ जथालाभ संतोषा। सपनेहुं नहिं देखइ परदोषा॥

The eighth, is a state (which one arrives at when one travels the first seven steps) where there is no desire left, but the gift of perfect peace and contentment with whatever one has. (In this state) one does not see fault in others, even in a dream.

नवम सरल सब सन छलहीना। मम भरोस हिय हरष न दीना॥

In this state, one has full faith in the Lord, and becomes (child-like) simple with no hypocrisy or deceit. The devotee has strong faith in the Lord with neither exaltation or depression in any life circumstance (but becomes equanimous).

नव महुं एकउ जिन्ह कें होई। नारि पुरूष सचराचर कोई॥

सोइ अतिसय प्रिय भामिनी मोरें। सकल प्रकार भगति दृढ़ तोरें॥

Sri Ram adds that Shabri’s Bhakti is perfectly complete. Yet if anyone were to have taken even one step towards devotion, out of all nine, he/she would be very dear to the Lord.

Now, my question is: Didn't Sai Baba had all these 9 qualities?

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