YogiBabaPrem@vedicpath.com

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Light onna tasya pratima asti”

By Yogi Baba Prem

 

Critics of Hinduism like to confront Hindus with a particular verse from the Vedas.  This verse is often used in an attempt to invalidate the existence of murtis. The purpose is likely not a sincere seeking of truth, in my opinion; rather it is with malicious intent and an attempt to sow seeds of conflict within the mind of Hindus.  I have observed numerous Hindus reach out asking for help with this topic. 

 

The verse in question is commonly referred to as “na tasya pratima asti…,” which is referencing that Divinity has no form.  This verse comes from the Yajur Veda (Shukla) and is found in 32.3.  This verse is commonly used to argue against honoring or having murtis. Critics attempt to portray this as an example, from the Vedas, that images and/or murtis in Hinduism are false.  But is this what the verse really says?  Critics and those that attempt to manipulate Vedic teachings often and conveniently omit critical facts and/or important portions of the sentence.  I will present several arguments that can be used as a rebuttal to the critic’s argument that the verse states that murtis have no place in Hinduism per the Vedas.

 

 

Rebuttal 1

Critics ignore a key word in verse threeHiranyagarbha—the cosmic womb or cosmic egg.  The cosmic egg transcends form.  The first verse states that Hiranyagarbha is Agni, Aditya, Vayu, Chandrama, Shukra, Brahma, Apas, as well as Prajapati.  This is a clear reference to form and formlessness and alludes to the presence of Hiranyagarbha behind form.  But this does not negate form, rather the subject in the Vedic verse is a subtler aspect of consciousness.

 

Rebuttal 2

In some views, Hiranyagarbha is a reference to Brahman.  A well-established Vedic teaching is that Brahman consists of two states:

1.      Nirguna

2.      Saguna

The verse is outlining this teaching by discussing the presence of form—Agni, Vayu, etc. and non-form Hiranyagarbha. 

This concept is further substantiated by the 4th verse which states, Hiranyagarbha is present in all minds, in all directions, and all cycles of time.  The 8th verse confirms this is consciousness hidden in the cave of the heart, which is a common theme in Vedic teachings, as the cave imagery is common in the Vedas and within Hindu teachings. 

 

Rebuttal 3

 

The havan/yajna becomes a type murti in the Vedic tradition.  Meaning an area is prepared, the Deva is then invoked.  Usually, the initial Deva is Agni, and the havan/yajna becomes a receptacle for Agni to manifest within.  Interestingly, in the first verse of 32 from the Yajur Veda, Agni is the first deva referenced.  Agni, in physical form, is fire. In essence, the havan/yajna with Agni is a murti, offerings are made, and those present receive the darshan of Agni.  After Agni’s arrival, the particular Devas for the yajna are invoked as well.  The square shape of the havan indicates the havan has become the earth and Devas stand in its center, in some rituals. 

 

Rebuttal 4

The Vedic verse supports the concept in Vedanta of Nirguna and Saguna Brahman.  It is focusing on the more subtle presence of Brahman that permeates the four Vedic worlds-Earth, Atmosphere, Heavens and Pure Consciousness.  It is NOT a condemnation of form rather the verse is for one that can embrace a more abstract understanding of Brahman. 

 

Rebuttal 5

The presence or absence of form is for the mental aptitude of the aspirant.  The verse is clear that form has Brahman hidden behind it.  It is a profound affirmation that all creation is form and Brahman is hidden behind it. 

 

Rebuttal 6

The verse acknowledges the adhibutic (earthly) view of the Devas as well as the Adhyatmic (spiritual) view by referencing forms that manifest in nature and on a spiritual and emotional level, but it transcends to a higher level of Brahman.

 

Rebuttal 7

The concept of form and non-form is a consistent Hindu theme, especially with the Vedic teachings and appearing with the Shiva Lingam.  The Lingam has form, to a degree, as it contains physical shape but also transcends form. Again, illustrating the pervasive ideology of form/non-form in the Vedic teachings.

 

These arguments can be supported with an additional argument that the Vedic teachings are expansive and multifaceted.  It is difficult to reduce a line or two to an oversimplification, or elementary understanding such as critics often attempt to present.  The Vedas must be understood in their greater context and teachings.  This requires a greater vision and understanding then most critics have nurtured.  This list of arguments is not comprehensive but is intended to offer a starting point when dealing with critics and many critics cannot address these rebuttals. 

 

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Yogi Baba Prem

  • Yogi Baba Prem has two books published in India, and has written numerous other books published by Universal Yoga. 

 

  • His articles have appeared in several traditional magazines and a variety of e-magazines.