An excerpt from Jaiva-dharma.
Eternal Dharma and Idolatry
Chapter Eleven of Śrī Jaiva-dharma
Śrīla Bhakti Vinod Ṭhākur
Published in Śrī Gauḍīya Darśan,
Volume 3, Issue 6,
Saturday, 11 January 1958.
Mullah Sahib: Matter is distinct from the Lord. It is said that Satan established the worship of matter to bind souls within matter. Therefore, according to our teachings, it is better to not worship matter.
Gorāchā̐d: The Lord is non-dual, and there is no one equal to Him. Everything within the world is created by Him and dependent on Him. Therefore, He can be satisfied by using anything with which He can be worshipped. There is no such thing that, if worshipped, will arouse His envy. He is supremely benevolent. Therefore, if there were anyone known as Satan, he would have no power to do anything contrary to the Lord’s will, and if he did exist, he would simply be another soul who is subservient to the Lord. In our conception, however, it is not possible for such a monstrous being to exist. Why? No action contrary to the Lord’s will can occur within the world, and there is no one who is independent of the Lord.
You may ask, “From where was sin been created?” We say that the soul, by nature, is a servant of Bhagavān. Awareness of this is knowledge (vidyā), and forgetfulness of this is ignorance (avidyā). All souls who have taken shelter in ignorance, for whatever reason, have sown the seed of sin in their hearts. This seed of sin does not exist in the hearts of the souls who are eternal associates of the Lord. Rather than imagining this mythological Satan, it is necessary to properly understand the nature of ignorance. Therefore, to worship a Deity of the Lord made of material elements is not an offence. It is especially necessary for the lesser qualified and greatly beneficial for the highly qualified. “According to our conception, Deity worship is not proper.” Such a statement is simply dogma. It is not based on reason or authentic scripture.
Mullah Sahib: Attachment to the Lord does not develop by worshipping a Deity. The restraints of material nature always constrain the mind of a worshipper.
Gorāchā̐d: If you study ancient historical texts, you will find that your conclusion is mistaken. Many lesser qualified persons began to worship deities. As their higher bhāva developed through the association of the sādhus, they realised the spiritual nature of the Deity and became immersed in an ocean of divine love. The proper conclusion is that the association of the sādhus is the root of everything spiritual. When someone associates with spiritual devotees of the Lord, spiritual bhāva for the Lord arises within them. To the extent that spiritual bhāva for the Lord arises, the bhāva that the Deity is material disappears. Gradual advancement is the result of good fortune. On the contrary, the followers of non-aryan dharmas are typically opposed to Deity worship. But please consider, how many of them have ever attained spiritual bhāva for the Lord? Their days pass in debate and hostility. When have they attained devotion to the Lord?
Mullah Sahib: If with bhāva one serves the Lord internally, then even if Deity worship is accepted, there is no fault. But how can worshipping dogs, cats, snakes, debauchees, and so on, ever be service to the Lord? Our venerable prophet has severely condemned such idol worship.
Gorāchā̐d: Human beings are naturally grateful to the Lord. As much as they may sin, eventually they come to believe in the Lord as the one Supreme Being and bow down to the wonders throughout the world. Out of gratitude to the Lord, ignorant persons by nature excitedly bow down to deities of the sun, rivers, mountains, large animals, and so on; they express their hearts to these deities and offer themselves to them. Although there is a great difference between spiritual devotion to the Lord and such worship of deities, the ignorant are gradually benefitted by their acknowledgement of gratitude to the Lord and reverence for these deities. Therefore, if you look at it reasonably, they should not be faulted. Meditating on an all-pervading formless Lord and offering Him namaz is also devoid of pure spiritual bhāva, so what is the difference between it and worshipping the deity of a cat? According to our conception, awaking and developing bhāva for the Lord is completely necessary, whatever form it may take. If all the people in such a stage are laughed at and rebuked, then the door to their gradual progress is slammed shut. Those who become sectarian on the basis of dogma have no magnanimity. They cannot see any sort of worship other than their own, and they laugh at and rebuke others. This a great mistake on their part.
Mullah Sahib: So, should we say that all things are the Lord and any sort of worship that can be performed is worship of the Lord? Is worshipping sinful things also worship of the Lord? Is worshipping sinful propensities also worship of the Lord? Is the Lord satisfied with all such worship?
Gorāchā̐d: We do not say that all things are the Lord. The Lord is an entity distinct from all other things. Everything is created by the Lord and dependent on the Lord. Everything has a relationship with the Lord, and through the link of this relationship, enquiry about the Lord can be made through all things. According to the aphorism jijñāsāsvādanāvadhi, by enquiring within all things about the Lord, His spiritual nature is gradually realised.
You are a great scholar. Kindly be broadminded and consider this subject. We are insignificant Vaiṣṇavas. We do not wish to enter into further debate. If you allow us, we can listen to some of these auspicious songs about Śrī Chaitanya.
It could not be understoodd what the mullah decided after hearing all these points. He remained silent for a little while and then said, “I am pleased with your analysis. I will come another day and enquire further. Today, much time has passed, and I wish to return home.”
Saying this, the mullah and his party mounted their horses and set out towards the district of Sātsaikā. The Bābājīs joyfully chanted the Name of the Lord and returned to the kīrtan.