Idol worship in Hinduism refers to a devotee worshipping a God or Goddess in the form of a statue, a physical symbol or a painting.
The concept of idol worship remains widely accepted among Hindus.
Hinduism is a vast religion and accommodates thoughts of all the devotees depending upon the spirtual evolution of a person. Hinduism caters to both the type of seekers: a person who engages in idol worship to achieve his or her material desires and the Yogi who mediates internally to achieve liberation
On one hand, the Upanishads explain the truth about consiousness and creation by delving into philosophy and mental speculation using dialgoues and debates; on the other hand, the Puranas explain the truth by reciting stories about Gods, their dialogues and anecdotes.
The intent of both these literatures is the same but the wise sages in their wisdom have left two different commentaries to appease to both the categories of people.
The Vedas and The Bhagavad Gita speak about the “Virat Purusha” or “Absolute Consiousness” that teach us about the omniscience of God prompting us to find the “Brahman” or “Supreme Truth” by looking inside us. Similarly, Hinduism has scriptures that teach one about the material and spiritual merits available by idol worship.
The truth about idol worship is explained beautifully by Lord Shiva to Sage Vasistha in an ancient story mentioned in the scripture “Yoga Vasistha”.
IDOL WORSHIP IN HINDUISM- DIALOGUE BETWEEN LORD SHIVA AND VASISTHA
Sage Vasistha, once visited Kailasa, the abode of Lord Shiva. Sage Vasistha started meditating in the forest in Kailasa. After a few days a great light emanated in front of Sage Vasistha.
With his insight, Sage Vasistha, inquired into the nature of the light and realized it was Lord Shiva.
Sage Vasistha bowed to Lord Shiva, and asked “Lord what is the way of worshipping which destroys all sin and promotes auspiciousness?”
Lord Shiva replied: “O Sage, Do you know who God is? God is not Vishnu, Brahma or Shiva; he is not the wind nor the sun nor the moon; he not the ascetic nor the king: God is nor I nor you; he is not Lakhsmi nor the mind. God is not found in idol worship.
“Know this, God is without form and undivided. That magnificence which is not made and which has neither beginning nor end is known as God. God, Devas or Lord Shiva is nothing else but pure consciousness. That alone is fit to be worshipped; and that alone is all.
“If one is unable to worship this pure consciousness form of Shiva, then by all means, let him or her worship a form or an idol. O Sage, idol worship facilitates mental contemplation of God. Sometimes, even wise sages like you worship an idol playfully. Know this O Sage, whoever worships an idol worships a finite form and he will achieve finite results to fulfuill his desires. But the one who worships the infinite consciousness, gets infinite results and achieves the bliss of truth.
So people, depending on their past karma and spiritual evolution can worship the finite form in idols and get their finite desires fulfilled. Or they can worship the infinite form and attain liberation.”