Does Idol worship by Hindus promote religious feeling?
Hindus are often criticised for their overwhelming belief in idol worship. In every Hindu home one finds pictures and small idols of gods. When Hindus believe in one Supreme Being and the omnipresence of God, what's the need for idol worship?
This question is convincingly answered by modern psychology. To have faith in God it is necessary to have pictures or idols before an individual. When one sees a picture or idol, one is able to relate to it much faster. Visualisation plays an important role in identifying with God. A devotee cannot benefit from prayer or offerings to God unless the mind is under control. The picture or the idol helps focus attention, concentrate and gradually control the mind. Thus, an individual gradually develops a relationship with the Supreme Being and is able to find personal spiritual growth from within.
When one is face to face with an imposing idol of a deity, one is reminded of its many virtues and is able to concentrate better. In due course, one can concentrate without a picture or idol. Therefore, through a picture or idol, one moves from reality to a much higher plane that is not visible. Besides, in a temple, an idol has an aura of its own. Offering prayers there ensures fulfilment.
In the Shrimad Bhagwat, it is said:
I am present within every living being in the form of a soul. It is sheer hypocrisy and mockery when people disregard this fact and follow unnecessary rituals of offering prayers.
Pictures and idols help focus attention and concentration. For that reason they are useful. Hinduism has survived thousands of years because of their use.