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This is to answer to the critics such as Dr.

Zakir Naik of Peace TV & IRF, who affirms that the so called idol worship etc is not supported in Vedas. Let us understand the meaning of the famous and controversial verse of Yajur Veda: Na Tasya Pratima Asti . Of course, pratima means image, resemblance, or duplicate. However, the so called idols that the followers of Sanatan Dharma worship is rightly called as Shri Vigraha. Shri Vigraha means one which influences (graha means same thing) in a special way (vi- stands for vishesha). Vigraha also means form or body. 1) The existence of the transcendental body of the Lord is substantiated in Vedic supplementary scriptures like BrahmaSamhita (Ch. 5, Verse 1): TEXT 1 isvarah paramah krsnah sac-cid-ananda-vigrahah anadir adir govindah sarva-karana-karanam SYNONYMS isvarah -- the controller; paramah -- supreme; krsnah -- Lord Krsna; sat -- comprising eternal existence; cit -- absolute knowledge; ananda -- and absolute bliss; vigrahah -- whose form; anadih -- without beginning; adih -- the origin; govindah -- Lord Govinda; sarva-karana-karanam -- the cause of all causes. TRANSLATION Krsna who is known as Govinda is the Supreme Godhead. He has an eternal blissful spiritual body. He is the origin of all. He has no other origin and He is the prime cause of all causes. PURPORT Krsna is the exalted Supreme entity having His eternal name, eternal form, eternal attribution and eternal pastimes. The very name "Krsna" implies His love-attracting designation, expressing by His eternal nomenclature the acme of entity. His eternal beautiful heavenly blue-tinged body glowing with the intensity of ever-existing knowledge has a flute in both His hands. As His inconceivable spiritual energy is all-extending, still He maintains His all-charming medium size by His qualifying spiritual instrumentals. His all-accommodating supreme subjectivity is nicely manifested in His eternal form. The concentrated all-time presence, uncovered knowledge and inebriating felicity have their beauty in Him. The mundane manifestive portion of His own Self is known as all-pervading Paramatma, Isvara (Superior Lord) or Visnu (Allfostering). Hence it is evident that Krsna is sole Supreme Godhead. His unrivaled or unique spiritual body of superexcellent charm is eternally unveiled with innumerable spiritual instrumentals (senses) and unreckonable attributes keeping their signifying location properly, adjusting at the same time by His inconceivable conciliative powers. This beautiful spiritual figure is identical with Krsna and the spiritual entity of Krsna is identical with His own figure. The very intensely blended entity of eternal presence of felicitous cognition is the charming targeted holding or transcendental icon. It follows that the conception of the indistinguishable formless magnitude (Brahman) which is an indolent, lax, presentment of cognitive bliss, is merely a penumbra of intensely blended glow of the three concomitants, viz., the blissful, the substantive and the cognitive. This transcendental manifestive icon Krsna in His original face is primordial background of magnitudinal infinite Brahman and of the all-pervasive oversoul. Krsna as truly visioned in His variegated pastimes, such as owner of transcendental cows, chief of cowherds, consort of milk-maids, ruler of the terrestrial abode Gokula and object of worship by transcendental residents of Goloka beauties, is Govinda. He is the root cause of all causes who are the predominating and predominated agents of the universe. The glance of His projected fractional portion in the sacred originating water viz., the personal oversoul or Paramatma, gives rise to a secondary potency-nature who creates this mundane universe. This oversoul's intermediate energy brings forth the individual souls analogously to the emanated rays of the sun. This book is a treatise of Krsna; so the preamble is enacted by chanting His name in the beginning. Thus ends the excerpt from the Brahma-Samhita.

2) Further substantiation is found in Sri Gopal-tapani Upanishad (one of the most significant Upanishad among the total 108 Upanishads), Section 1, Verse 1: Gopala-Tapani Upanishad, Section 1, Verse 1 VERSE

sac-cid-ananda-rupaya krsnayaklista-karine namo vedanta-vedyaya gurave buddhi-saksine sac-cid-ananda-rupaya to the form of eternity, knowledge, and bliss; krsnaya to Krsna; aklista-karine to him whose every act is wonderful/ untroubled; nama obeisances; vedanta-vedyaya to him who is to be known by the Vedanta; gurave to the spiritual master; buddhi-saksine
to the witness present in the intelligence. TRANSLATION I offer obeisances to KRsna, the form of eternity, knowledge, and bliss, whose every act is wonderful, who is the object of knowledge identifi ed by the Vedanta, and who is the guru, the witness present in the intelligence. PURPORT Hail to the goddess as we begin this sacred commentary on Gopala-tapani! May the wise, as well as those without wisdom, heed her call to devotion. Blessed are the devotees! May they take pleasure in this effort despite its faults, and may those devotees senior to me in knowledge and devotion, and the pure-hearted commentators Cri Jiva, Vicvanatha Cakravarti, and Cri Prabodhananda Sarasvati in particular, be merciful to me. Above all, I offer my praNamas to Cri Guru, Gauranga, Govinda, and Gandharvika. Just as it is standard in modern times to preface a book with a statement that introduces the text and explains its scope and intention, similarly ancient Hindu texts were customarily prefaced with an introductory statement known as a maNgalacaraNa that accomplishes the same purpose and more. A maNgalacaraNa invokes auspiciousness and, by so doing, creates a sacred atmosphere. When applied to sacred texts, an auspicious invocation technically consists of four elements: the subject of the text (visaya), the relationshipbetween the text and its subject (sambandha), the goal to be attained by its study (prayojana), and the person who is qualifi ed to enter into its mysteries (adhikarin).1 The fi rst verse of Gopala-tapani contains all of these elements in the form of a prayer that offers obeisances to KRsNa. The subject of Gopala-tapani is Krsna. The relationship between the text of Gopala-tapani and its subject is that the text reveals the spiritual practices that directly lead to realization of KRsna as the highest truth. The goal to be attained is love of KRsna, or pure devotion, and the person qualified to study the text is one motivated to cultivate such pure devotion. Let us now examine how these four elements are present within Gopalatapanis mangalacarana verse. It is clear from this introductory verse that KRsna is the subject (visaya) of Gopala-tapani, for he is propitiated at its onset. It is significant that there is no mention of any fruit to be attained from studying the text, for this implies that those qualifi ed to study the text are uninterested in acquiring material gain or attaining liberation as a result of their study. Their aim is devotion for its own sake. Thus the goal (prayojana) of the text is pure devotion. The relationship (sambandha)between the text and its object (that the text reveals

KRsa as the highest truth) is implied within the magala verse. The very name of this Upanisad implies the same, for Gopala-tapani Upanisad suggests the esoteric doctrine (upanisad) that sheds light (tapani) on Gopala (KRsa). Prabodhananda Sarasvati says further that the overall import of the fi rst verse is that KRsa alone is worthy of refuge, as is apparent from the verses description of his form, nature, and qualities. Prabodhananda Sarasvati attributes the speaking of this magala verse to the goddess of revealed knowledge, Cruti-devi, who salutes the Supreme God as she begins to manifest this sacred text with the homage, I offer obeisances to KRsna. Wisdom and its revelation are thus subordinate to and dependent on KRsna, and therefore Shruti-devi prostrates herself before him (nama) with body, mind, and words, clearly demonstrating that the path to enlightenment lies in this act alone. 1. A mangalacarana often consists of more than one verse and may also involve offering of obeisances (namaskara), stating in essence what the text concerns (vastu-nirdeca), and offering a blessing (ashirvada). Stunned by the truth about the Lord, the goddess, well known as a lady of distinction and discrimination, words and wisdom, is left nearly speechless. Nonetheless, she manages to solemnly declare something inconceivable: KRsna is the form of eternity, knowledge, and bliss. He has given shape to these much sought-after idealsnot one, but all three of themthrough both example and precept as portrayed and preached in the Bhagavata Purana and Bhagavad-gita,respectively. Moreover, KRsnas nature defies and thus belittles logic. We are to think about this truth as much as we can, until the mind stops and we arrive at knowing beyond thinking. This form known as KRsna is not limited by time or space (sat). KRsna is self-luminous (cit), and joy fi nds its fullest expression in him (ananda). His nature being such, he is known by the two syllables kRs (eternity and knowledge) and na (bliss). As KRsna himself explains in Bhagavad-gita, he is the form of all-pervasive, self-illumined joy, even as he taxis Arjuna on that great bowmans chariot during the battle of Kuruksetra. He is the allpervasive moving from place to place, knowledge serving his deluded disciple, and joy in the midst of Arjunas agony. The Bhagavata Purana, which deals exclusively with KRsna and devotion to him, describes him similarly as the controller of his own form of time, he in whom all knowledge is contained, and the supreme bliss. Shruti-devi next describes KRsnas potency (shakti), by which he effortlessly accomplishes everything and through which he frees his devotees from misery. It is said that behind every great man is a great woman. Similarly, behind the parama-purusa is parama-prakrti, KRsnas primal shakti, Radha. He moves wonderfully under her infl uence. The goddess is no doubt partial to Radha, being one of her expansions, and she introduces Radha as the best of KRsnas milkmaids in the uttara section of this Upanisad, addressing her by her shruti name, Gandharvi. In this verse Shruti-devi describes KRsna as aklista-karin, one who acts wonderfully, the best example of which is his becoming the intimate friend of his devotees. Despite his exalted position, he is subordinated by love. Such is the influence of his primary shakti. When she touches ones soul, the finite conquers the infinite. His acts are wonderful, being joy in celebration of itself, and thus they are not enacted out of any necessity or motivated by any outside influence. KRsna and Radha are one soul in two bodies. Merely hearing their wonderful activities liberates one from the illusory demands of material life, for they shed light on the possibility of enlightened life beyond the constraints of matter and its masks of repeated birth and death. 2. Prabodhananda Sarasvati cites CB 10.3.26, 10. 9.13, and 10.14.32 in support of this point, showing that KRsnas lila practically demonstrates that he is the form of eternality, knowledge,and bliss. Turning her thoughts back to reason, Cruti-devi suggests that if one insists

on logical proof in support of KRsnas supremacy, it is given in the treatise known as Vedanta-sutra. KRsna is the personifi ed object of knowledge that the Vedanta speaks of, as he himself proclaims in Bhagavad-gita (15.15). As for the guru, the guide under whom one studies the scripture, Shruti-devi says that KRsna is the guru who instructs us on the meaning of the Upanisads. This too is clear from his discourse to Arjuna in Gitopanisad. Moreover, it is KRsna who manifests as the inner ability to recognize the external manifestation of guru, for he is the witness present in the intelligence (buddhi-saksine). As the presiding Deity of intelligence, KRsna is also the cause of the ability to understand what is being explained by scripture. Thus he is represented in the guru who appears before us in the form of a saint as well as the indwelling guide who presides over the intellect, mind, and senses, enabling them to act as instruments of perception and understanding, both material and spiritual. Thus ends the excerpt from the Gopala-Tapani Upanishad. There are many instances in which God has reacted with his devotees in the form of vigraha. The word prathima is perhaps the word that has come into use later. It is used to describe one of the characteristics of God. So, this verse means, There is nothing in this world which is exactly like Him. Read the full verse from YajurVeda TUD AIV AGNY TUD ADITYA TUD VAYU TUDOO CHANDRAMA, TUD AIV SHUKREM TUD BRAHMA TA AAPAH SA PRAJAPATY and immediate next to this verse is

NA TASYA PRATIMA ASTY It means- That(God) only is Fire, That is Sun, That is Air, That is Moon, That (God) only is Pure & Attractive, That is God, That is Water, That is Lord of all living beings. and His Similitude( Likeness) does not exist. Another verse that is incorrectly translated is within Ishavasyopanishad, Mantram Nine is as follows: Mantra Nine andham tamah pravisanti ye 'vidyam upasate tato bhuya iva te tamo ya u vidyayam ratah SYNONYMS andham -- gross ignorance; tamah -- darkness; pravisanti -- enter into; ye -- those who; avidyam -- nescience; upasate -- worship; tatah -- than that; bhuyah -- still more; iva -- like; te -- they; tamah -- darkness; ye -- those who; u -- also; vidyayam -- in the culture of knowledge; ratah -- engaged. TRANSLATION Those who engage in the culture of nescient activities shall enter into the darkest region of ignorance. Worse still are those engaged in the culture of so-called knowledge. PURPORT This mantra offers a comparative study of vidya and avidya. Avidya, or ignorance, is undoubtedly dangerous, but vidya, or knowledge, is even more dangerous when mistaken or misguided. This mantra of Sri Isopanisad is more applicable today than at any time in the past. Modern civilization has advanced considerably in the field of mass education, but the result is that people are more unhappy than ever before because of the stress placed on material advancement to the exclusion of the most important part of life, the spiritual aspect. As far as vidya is concerned, the first mantra has explained very clearly that the Supreme Lord is the proprietor of everything and that forgetfulness of this fact is ignorance. The more a man forgets this fact of life, the more he is in

darkness. In view of this, a godless civilization directed toward the so-called advancement of education is more dangerous than a civilization in which the masses of people are less "educated." Of the different classes of men -- karmis, jnanis and yogis -- the karmis are those who are engaged in the activities of sense gratification. In the modern civilization, 99.9 percent of the people are engaged in the activities of sense gratification under the flags of industrialism, economic development, altruism, political activism, and so on. All these activities are more or less based on satisfaction of the senses, to the exclusion of the kind of God consciousness described in the first mantra. In the language of the Bhagavad-gita (7.15), people who are engaged in gross sense gratification are mudhas -- asses. The ass is a symbol of stupidity. Those who simply engage in the profitless pursuit of sense gratification are worshiping avidya, according to Sri Isopanisad. And those who play the role of helping this sort of civilization in the name of educational advancement are actually doing more harm than those who are on the platform of gross sense gratification. The advancement of learning by a godless people is as dangerous as a valuable jewel on the hood of a cobra. A cobra decorated with a valuable jewel is more dangerous than one not decorated. In the Hari-bhakti-sudhodaya (3.11.12), the advancement of education by a godless people is compared to decorations on a dead body. In India, as in many other countries, some people follow the custom of leading a procession with a decorated dead body for the pleasure of the lamenting relatives. In the same way, modern civilization is a patchwork of activities meant to cover the perpetual miseries of material existence. All such activities are aimed toward sense gratification. But above the senses is the mind, and above the mind is the intelligence, and above the intelligence is the soul. Thus the aim of real education should be self-realization, realization of the spiritual values of the soul. Any education which does not lead to such realization must be considered avidya, or nescience. And to culture such nescience means to go down to the darkest region of ignorance. According to the Bhagavad-gita (2.42, 7.15), mistaken mundane educators are known as veda-vada-rata and mayayapahrta-jnana. They may also be atheistic demons, the lowest of men. Those who are veda-vada-rata pose themselves as very learned in the Vedic literature, but unfortunately they are completely diverted from the purpose of the Vedas. In the Bhagavad-gita (15.15) it is said that the purpose of the Vedas is to know the Personality of Godhead, but these veda-vada-rata men are not at all interested in the Personality of Godhead. On the contrary, they are fascinated by such fruitive results as the attainment of heaven. As stated in Mantra One, we should know that the Personality of Godhead is the proprietor of everything and that we must be satisfied with our allotted portions of the necessities of life. The purpose of all Vedic literature is to awaken this God consciousness in the forgetful living being, and this same purpose is presented in various ways in the different scriptures of the world for the understanding of a foolish mankind. Thus the ultimate purpose of all religions is to bring one back to Godhead. But the veda-vada-rata people, instead of realizing that the purpose of the Vedas is to revive the forgetful soul's lost relationship with the Personality of Godhead, take it for granted that such side issues as the attainment of heavenly pleasure for sense gratification -- the lust for which causes their material bondage in the first place -- are the ultimate end of the Vedas. Such people misguide others by misinterpreting the Vedic literature. Sometimes they even condemn the Puranas, which are authentic Vedic explanations for laymen. The veda-vada-ratas give their own explanations of the Vedas, neglecting the authority of great teachers (acaryas). They also tend to raise some unscrupulous person from among themselves and present him as the leading exponent of Vedic knowledge. Such veda-vada-ratas are especially condemned in this mantra by the very appropriate Sanskrit words vidyayam ratah. Vidyayam refers to the study of the Vedas because the Vedas are the origin of all knowledge (vidya), and ratah means "those engaged." Vidyayam ratah thus means "those engaged in the study of the Vedas." The so-called students of the Vedas are condemned herein because they are ignorant of the actual purpose of the Vedas on account of their disobeying the acaryas. Such vedavada-ratas search out meanings in every word of the Vedas to suit their own purposes. They do not know that the Vedic literature is a collection of extraordinary books that can be understood only through the chain of disciplic succession. One must approach a bona fide spiritual master in order to understand the transcendental message of the Vedas. That is the direction of the Mundaka Upanisad (1.2.12). These veda-vada-rata people, however, have their own acaryas, who are not in the chain of transcendental succession. Thus they progress into the darkest region of ignorance by misinterpreting the Vedic literature. They fall even further into ignorance than those who have no knowledge of the Vedas at all.

The mayayapahrta-jnana class of men are self-made "Gods." Such men think that they themselves are God and that there is no need of worshiping any other God. They will agree to worship an ordinary man if he happens to be rich, but they will never worship the Personality of Godhead. Such men, unable to recognize their own foolishness, never consider how it is that God can be entrapped by maya, His own illusory energy. If God were ever entrapped by maya, maya would be more powerful than God. Such men say that God is all-powerful, but they do not consider that if He is all-powerful there is no possibility of His being overpowered by maya. These self-made "Gods" cannot answer all these questions very clearly; they are simply satisfied to have become "God" themselves. Thus ends the excerpt from Ishopanishad. This doesnt mean that those who worship vigraha (loosely called idols), will go to hell. Yajur veda 32:3 and 32:4 verse tells: na tasya pratima asti yasya nama mahadyasha Hiranyagarbha ithyesha ma ma hingseethithyesha yasmanna jatha ithyesha Esho ha deva prathishonu sarva poorvo ha jatha sa u grabho antha Sa eva jatha sa janishyamaana prathyang janasthishttathi sarvathomugha O God! Your mightiness/supremeness is the topmost; you are immeasurable. Only you know your true form; you created the objects like sun. The God who is not born from anything is worthy of worship; let him not hurt us. The Supreme God is filled everywhere; He was in the mind and in the creations of all times. He is in everything in a secret form. He exists in all times; His strength is pervading throughout. As that God has manifested His external energy in the form of universe, it is therefore obvious that within the universe , there exists no one independent from God and exactly like God. So, there could exist no similitude( likeness or comparison) of God in the universe. Even though there are evil beings (Satan) or things in this world, even they are not independent like God. Remember that while someone makes a deity, he is not making a replica or PRATIMA(similitude) of God but rather the God Himself incarnates as non-different to that deity. Actually, the deity only seems to be manufactured to the mundane vision but rather only becomes manifest. There is a total difference of notion between the terms: manufacturing and manifestation. The deity is actually transcendental but still appears as mundane to our mundane eyes. When our eyes become totally purified spiritually, we will be able to envision the deity as completely transcendental and non-different from the God. Also, when a worshiper worships the idol he is not thinking that he is worshiping exact replica or PRATIMA (similitude) form of God. Of course, most Vaishnava followers of Sanatan Dharma when seeing a archa-vigraha of God they try to remember the transcendental form of God in their minds which is much more glorious than the vigraha in the temple. When the so called idol is called vigraha, idol worship is called archana (deity worship). Hence, the so called idols are also called archa-vigraha. Let us understand the vigraha araadhana/archana (worship of the one which influences the mind of devotee in a special way) with some details. Deity worship doesnt simply start with worshiping a material object. The process of deity worship has all the steps that is followed in the prayers done by other religious groups but there is one additional step. It involves meditating and praising the God first by closing the eyes(fixing the mind on the transcendental form of God). Bhuta-shuddhi (purification of the self) is also done. So those who wish to offer service (seva) to the God, at home or temple, see the Lord as non-different from the Vigraha. Then we offer seat, water, flowers, leaves, fragrant substances, delicious food, music, dance etc as a service (seva) to God just like we do these things to a VIP. The archana is also called upasana (approaching). Uapasana in Sanskrit literally means Sitting near but normally the term is used in Sanatan Dharma to denote a prescribed method for approaching a God or getting close to God. Read the following 2 verses from Shruthi:

avidyanatho vidyathaha = God is not someone who is knowable (fully by anyone), Apart from this, none has
understood him. (Brihadaranyaka Upanishad 3 7 23 )

Eko Avarno = It is difficult to describe God. ( Svetasvatara-Upanisad 4 1 )

This means God is not just limited to the description given in Shrutis like He has no form. God is beyond all mundane forms. This means God is devoid of any mundane attribute but always possesses innumerable and inconceivable transcendental forms innate to His transcendental nature.

Conclusion: In Sri Caitanya-Caritamrita, it is expressed by Lord Chaitanya Mahaprabhu in C.C. 2.5.96:

pratima naha tumi -- saksat vrajendra-nandana

Translation: "My dear Lord, You are not a statue; You are directly the son of Maharaja Nanda. This verse is spoken by Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu in connection with the historical deity of Lord Krishna named as Sakshi-gopal which is still located near Jagannath Puri, Orissa, Bharat. There still remains a haunting doubt as to why in Shrimad-Bhagavatam, Canto 11th, Ch. 2th, Verse 12th, the term: "pratima" has been used by Lord Krishna Himself to indicate His divine deity form. The quote is as follows: saili daru-mayi lauhi lepya lekhya ca saikati mano-mayi mani-mayi pratimasta-vidha smrta SYNONYMS saili -- made of stone; daru-mayi -- made of wood; lauhi -- made of metal; lepya -- made of clay, sandalwood and other substances laid down as a paste; lekhya -- painted; ca -- and; saikati -- made of sand; manah-mayi -- conceived of in the mind; mani-mayi -- made of jewels; pratima -- the Deity; asta-vidha -- in eight varieties; smrta -- it is remembered. TRANSLATION The Deity form of the Lord is said to appear in eight varieties -- stone, wood, metal, earth, paint, sand, the mind or jewels. PURPORT Srila Jiva Gosvami explains that certain Deity forms, such as those made of sand, are manifested for a brief time to fulfill a personal desire of the worshiper. Those, however, who desire to attain pure love of God should worship the permanent form of the Deity (made, for instance, of marble, gold or brass), and they should maintain continual worship. In Krsna consciousness there is no scope for neglecting the worship of the Supreme Personality of Godhead.

Thus ends the quoted excerpt. The answer to the above mentioned query is as follows: The term: "pratima" two meaning according to the sanskrit dicitonary: 1) likeliness/resemblance/duplicate and 2) image/form. The term "pratima" which is quoted in the above mentioned Srimad Bhagavatm verse doesn't indicate the first meaning but rathe denotes the second meaning: form. It has already been proved in this article that the Lord has divine forms but doesn't have any mundane likeliness or material resemblance.