Worship ‘through’ the deity
In Hinduism, we have over three crore (thirty million) deities that have a history and following of their own. On a daily basis, they are worshipped in temples all over India. Every family and every community has a separate deity that has been worshipped for generations. Every concept, every theory, every energy has a deity. For example, each of the nine planets has its own presiding deity, as well as each of the constellations. Hinduism is a religion that recognizes the divinity in everything on planet Earth. Even the milestones placed on highways by the British, in India during the 1800s, were worshipped as Shiva lingas (symbolic forms of the Hindu God, Shiva), in the rural parts of India, and decorated with traditional garments and turmeric paste!
The concept of many gods, unique to the Vedic tradition, stems from this view that everything in the world, including oneself, is a worthy vessel for the Divine energy. To commune directly with the energy is not easy for the average human mind, but to connect to it through a beloved form is a joy for the devotee. The thirty million deities that make up the Hindu pantheon of gods symbolize this very idea: that the Divine can be worshipped and attained through any desired form. When the Hindu worships his iñöadevatä – chosen deity – he is not worshipping the idol itself; rather, he is in direct communion with the Divine energy expressing through that idol – a subtle truth that many miss, and therefore condemn the worship of idols in the Vedic tradition.
Hinduism is an inclusive religion, open to all who walk in; there is no exclusivity of beliefs in Hindu philosophy. It is a journey of inclusive acceptance, not a destination of exclusive belief. There is a plethora of deities, but if we don’t find one we connect with, we are welcome to create our own. Whatever we feel as God, we can build a temple for it!
Jeeva, Jagat, Ishvara
The concepts of jeeva, jagat and Ishvara play a role in deity worship as well. While the jeeva remains, you – ‘the self’, Ishvara is what you want to become – God. Jagat – the world – is how you will make what you want into reality. These concepts recognize the natural inner ambition that we feel to expand, grow and become our highest reality. When we worship Sadashiva (Lord Shiva), we accept that He is our highest reality. He is what we want to become. Since the beginning, in order to fulfill this ambition, we created temples and temple-based communities. As Bhagavan describes, to maintain the Arunachaleshwara Temple and environment, the citizens formed sixteen communities, each community taking one responsibility through which their connection to the Divine thrived. In the same way, people gravitated toward temples all over India and created a beautiful civilization that was engineered for enlightenment right from the beginning.