To the Hindus, God was a spirit at first. The way of the wind must have inspired this thought. Which is why the Vedic priest (more often, the patriarch of the family) invoked the spirit (which had no form) to enter the pooja articles (samagrih) and be present at the yaga to bless the family. After a thousand years and the transformation of the spirit to an anthropomorphic God, the priest would have asked his God to sit on a stool placed within the temple.
Remember, Hindus were against idols. Manu had proscribed them. And there were no temples in Manu's time. (How could one contain an airy spirit within the walls of a temple?) But once the spirit took form?a human form, if you like?He had to be provided a home and a peeta to sit on, though he was invisible to man.
So, here was a dynamic process?of a formless spirit transforming itself into one with form?an idol.
The Jew gave up idols (external symbols) by internalising the image of his God. But what was the image of his God? The Bible says: ?God made man in his own image.? Surely, God must have appeared like an ?old man with a white beard?. This was true of Christianity and Islam, whatever they might say today. This is how God is represented by da Vinci at the Sistine Chapel in the Vatican.
Hinduism is a continuing quest for truth. But the truth is already in their books, assert the Semitics. It is clear, they are incapable of reform or self-renewal. They are condemned to a repetitive existence of lies. For example, the belief in the genesis.
It is unfortunate that the dynamic nature of the Hindu religion has been lost on the way. It is not reflected in modern Hindu life. This has to be corrected. But how? By linking the four stages of a Hindu'slife to the four known ways of looking at God. Once we do this, our life will be above reproach.
The Hindus have divided life into four stages: Brahmacharya, Grihasta, Vanaprasta and Sanyasa. Each stage is important. Similarly, there are four ways of looking at God: Pantheism, Polytheism, Monotheism and Monism. Both (stages and the way we see God) are closely inter-related. Thus, to the child (Brahmacharya) God is everywhere (Pantheism). A Grihasta worships many gods (Polytheism). During the Vanaprasta stage, he prefers an ?ishta-devata? (Monotheism)?a God of his choice. And when he enters the stage of Sanyasa, he is expected to become a Monist (Advaitist). He is no more expected to ?worship?, but to contemplate.
Thus, during the four stages of a man'slife, he also goes though the four ways in which we see God. But this is not true of all Hindus. Some may lag behind.
What does this mean in practice? It means the child sees God in everything. At the second stage, the Grihasta propitiates several gods. Hence Polytheism. But as he passes from Grihasta to Vanaprasta he begins to think of his own salvation, which is why he concentrates on one God. He gives up worship of many for the worship of one. In other words, he becomes a Monotheist.
With Sanyasa, he realises that God is one reality (not two) and that it has no form. We now pass from Monotheism to Monism. What is more, he also realises that he is part of the divine spark (tat tvam asi). With this, all worship must cease, for worship involves recognition of duality.
How will these affect our daily lives? Not much. The child and Grihasta will continue to worship many gods and goddesses in the temple. At Vanaprasta, we will worship only an ishta-devata. But at the stag e of Sanyasa, we must take to temples of meditation, devoted to learning and knowledge. This is truly in the spirit of Hinduism, which is committed to the eternal quest for truth.
Hindus are also idolatrous. We worship idols from birth to death. The rishis used to take to forests and caves to meditate over the great imponderables. Which is why we were able to produce the great speculative thoughts of the Upanishads. They worshipped no idols.
I am not saying that we should go back to forests. We will restore to Hinduism its original dynamism. I am, however, prepared to concede, like Shankara, that those who are unable to think of God without idols may continue to worship idols.