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Image worshippers: Have you ever felt "enchained" by your rituals?

Discussion in 'Religions Q&A' started by Sirona, Apr 21, 2021.

  1. Sirona

    Sirona Hindu Wannabe

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    Last weekend, following a youtube suggestion, out of curiosity I watched a prayer rally "for the Hindu world" held by some Protestant denomination. One of the prayer intentions was "to free people from the chains of ritual". I tried to figure out what kind of "rituals" they might be referring to (after all, brushing your teeth can be a ritual, too) but I suppose the rituals they are referring to is probably what comes to your mind first when you hear the word "Hindu": worshipping and decorating an image or a statue with flowers, clothes, incense etc. So I would like to know whether you have ever felt "enchained" by your rituals?

    As for me, I like image worship a great deal because I like the esthetical aspect about it and because I found it easier to focus on the outside in prayer. Praying the Christian way had always felt a bit like I was talking to myself. The only thing I didn't really get to like was Wicca / magic, because according to what I read, rituals were "the most effective" when done at a certain time such as a specific day or time of day, or a lunar phase. For me, this focus on certain times seems constrictive, but this is really the only negative example I could come up with. How about you?
     
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  2. Unveiled Artist

    Unveiled Artist You are safe

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    The only image ritual I have is having my family's pictures and my aunts ashes. I agree with you with christian prayer, it's like talking to yourself. Even just talking with family without something to see (regardless), it doesn't feel like I'm getting the message through. Christians would call it necromancy. I don't have anything to represent things like spirit or god or anything like that. If I want to experience that type of awe, I'd go out in nature. I was out yesterday on a one mile trail in the woods. It's six miles long but I think I'll do that when it gets warmer.

    Mostly, though, I'm realizing instead of talking, I'm just sitting or standing until I'm signaled I can leave. But nothing extravagant like the Eucharist or putting flowers at the foot of Hindus gods (so saw when I went to the temple). I feel only enchained when, like you with the Wicca, if any religion has certain time frames to do X or certain prayers that supposed to achieve Y. I don't mind some structure but only insofar its used as a guide not as a "scripture."
     
  3. darkskies

    darkskies Active Member

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    Rituals have always bored me (Hindu rituals especially). So yes, I feel somewhat "enchained" when I have to take part in them. Thankfully my family isn't too religious as such.

    I like the aesthetics of magick more. As long as ritual can be short, simple, and at least a little enjoyable, it's no problem. The time restrictions I find whimsically fun. Nothing I'd subject myself to, though.
     
  4. Jainarayan

    Jainarayan ॐ नमो भगवते वासुदेवाय
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    For those whose minds are attached to the unmanifested, impersonal feature of the Supreme, advancement is very troublesome. To make progress in that discipline is always difficult for those who are embodied. Bhagavad Gita 12.5

    The verse is saying that as sensory beings we need something tangible to focus our devotion on. When we do a puja we are focusing on an image of God Himself, not the picture or statue itself. God appears the way we envision Him (or Her). We don’t worship the statue. Don’t we carry pictures of loved ones we take out of our wallets and occasionally look at, think of and maybe even talk to?

    When we do puja we’re re-enacting welcoming an honored guest, or even royalty. That’s why we keep the puja area clean, we bathe, we get dressed. The offerings we make of course already belong to God. We’re not giving Him anything He doesn’t already possess, nothing He needs. It’s for us to remember that... “See? I know this belongs to You, thank You for letting me have it” (food, water, flowers, fragrances, etc.).

    In a nutshell I think rituals performed in front of a tangible image keep us grounded. So yeah, I like my rituals. It’s one of the reasons Deism doesn’t work for me.
     
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  5. Vinayaka

    Vinayaka devotee
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    Quite the contrary. I feel freed, enlivened, joyous, peaceful, awed, after beseeching the presence of God. Enchained? Never.

    In the spirit of harmony, though, I understand why someone would be in doubt if they've never experienced it. This reminds me a lot of the movie 'Field of Dreams' where the doubter just doesn't get it until he 'sees'.
     
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  6. Rival

    Rival Ankh, Wedja, Seneb
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    I'm new to the use of statues in worship rituals. I'd never done it before.

    I appreciate both. Talking to God without images works for me on a fundamental level as it allows me almost to lose focus, in a way, by being forced to see everything around me as a kind of alter or shrine. I'm not saying folks who use statues don't see the world this way, but without the images to focus I find it's more intense. I definitely have to disagree with the poster who said it felt like talking to oneself, as I almost never had that feeling and when I did I knew that was down to me. A God without images is what I'm used to so there's likely some psychological bias there, but I could really bask in that formlessness. However, as I've pointed out in my Noachidism thread, there were no rituals and that left me feeling cold. It was something I couldn't really deal with as it made it feel like a non-religion, as though I weren't part of something. Certainly it felt like God were there - that I was loath to doubt.

    Now, I have an altar, shrine, whatever one wants to call it with statues of the God-Aspects that call me the most. Heru is foremost, flanked by Inpu and another Heru as a falcon. My altars | Religious Forums It helps with ritual worship and I can light candles, give offerings and so on. I'm still not used to talking to 'more than one' and I sometimes become anxious over favouritism. However, using the images/statues themselves in worship has proven helpful and especially when there's fire involved. It looks 'real', so to say, and has made a definite holy space. I touch the statues when I talk/pray and the touch aspect is really something. I don't know how many here have spoken with Heru but he can really come on strong in a way I like. The altar helps me get into 'the zone' and have a definite focus. It's a different experience, but not an inferior one.

    I'd compare it to praying in a Shul/Church/Masjid to praying in a field/woods/graveyard etc. They're both valuable prayer methods.
     
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  7. Yazata

    Yazata Member

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    Isn't the Protestant practice of Bible study something very akin to ritual? I sense a hint of hypocrisy in their rhetoric.

    And what's wrong with ritual in the first place? Why must ritual be conceived of as "chains"?

    To me, ritual is something akin to meditation. It gives an occasion solemnity, marking it off from the mundane world. It mobilizes the aesthetic dimension. It unifies the participants in one purpose. Perhaps most important, it puts participants in a suitable state of mind for whatever the object of the ritual is.
     
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  8. RayofLight

    RayofLight They/Them

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    No I don't feel chained
    from my understanding favoritism is natural...I wouldnt fear it too much. Some pagans have a god they worship more then others and their relationship is more intense.Others have deities they are just acquaintances with and see in passing. Your relationship with each form of your deity will be different with each one. Thats normal.
     
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  9. PureX

    PureX Veteran Member

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    I find your comments interesting. When you look at the images you pray to, what are you thinking about? The ideals/character/divine nature that they represent?

    One of the things that has always interested me about religions with "demigods" (or multiple manifestations of divinity) is how they are able to maintain them AND the idea of an 'omni-God' simultaneously. I often wonder what the practitioners are thinking about when they choose a specific god-image to relate to.
     
  10. Rival

    Rival Ankh, Wedja, Seneb
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    It's mostly, for me, which Aspect I need, which fits my character, what kind of guide will benefit - but it's more like He/She calls to you because He or She can be a good guide for the things you need. So if you need healing and such, a healing Aspect of God will call to you; if you need power, the power Aspect will call to you - and it will change form depending on which 'power' you need making manifest. If you don't need a thing then that Aspect won't call to you ; so hopefully if you're healthy you won't need the healing Aspect at that moment.

    These Aspects may be called for others though; so while you yourself may not need the power aspect, a friend may.
     
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  11. exchemist

    exchemist Veteran Member

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    Rituals are an age-old means to help people reach a state of mind and to focus their thoughts, just by observing what is going on. If one insists on throwing out all ritual, one has to make a huge, personal intellectual effort to focus, which is apt to become both difficult and boring.

    But practitioners of religious ritual are not "image worshippers". That description could be rather offensive, if it suggests that such worshippers actually think the images they employ are actual divinities. In fact of course nobody is that stupid. The images are representations of divinity or holy people that serve as an aid to devotion, just as religious music does.
     
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  12. Sirona

    Sirona Hindu Wannabe

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    I was Catholic as a kid so the form of prayer enjoy most is using a mantra or short prayer with prayer beads, focusing on the sound of the words instead. I have limited space so I do have a small altar on a shelf in my cupboard, but I mostly pray when I rest, not necessarily with an image before me.

    Sirona's home altar

    I would describe my attitude to my deities as somewhat similar to the reason why many people display photos of their loved ones. The images are not the deities themselves, but watching them makes me remember the gods, not unlike the feelings that are triggered when you watch photos of people you love. I don't think the images "eat" (but some Hindus believe they do), I don't dress, bathe them or put them to bed (but some Hindus do). I do offer flowers, though, out of a feeling of "politeness". When I look at my altar, I feel like making an acknowledgement that they're "there". Like the pictures of family on the company desk.

    If you look at, let's say, Michelangelo's David, you can describe it as a piece of marble defined by certain mathematical traits, or it may cause in you some feeling of recognition of the emotions expressed in the face and posture of said piece of art although it obviously isn't alive. In my understanding of Hindu devotion, this feeling and attachment is the beginning of a way of transcending the (mundane) self. In other words, I follow the path of emotional attachment to God, bhakti yoga. That's why I chose my deities with great care, choosing the ones that seem to represent the way I think God's "emotional state" and "attitude" is like. I think God is resting in himself, friendly and physically appealing. I think these traits are supposed to create longing for God which will take you home.

    One side not, unfortunately I accidentally broke one of my statues (I know it's a no-no but it happened). The one I broke was formed in a mold so the replacement has exactly the same shape but was painted slightly different manner. Therefore its expression is totally different, and so "I just can't get used to it". it's really weird. :D
     
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  13. PureX

    PureX Veteran Member

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    In terms of cultures and religions with multiple 'deities', traditionally, they are representations of significant aspects of existence as we humans experience it. There would be deities that represent the human experience of the sea, for example, depicted as a beings with a look and personality matching the various ways in which we humans experience being on and around the sea. There would be deities representing sexuality, as example, also imagined as beings with looks and personalities that represent our various experiences with sexuality. There would be deities representing warfare, and deities representing commerce, and so on. And people would pray to, or otherwise interact with whichever of these deities represented whatever issues happened to be on the mind of the practitioner. If he were going on a journey over the sea, then, of course he would consult with and pray to the deity representing the sea. If he were ill, or new someone who were ill, he would consult with and pray to the deity that represents health. And so on.

    But as I understand it, there is also a realization that these various deities are representations of the many and multiple aspects of a single, 'omni-God', that exists beyond humanity's ability to comprehend (hence the many demigods representing the omni-God's various aspects). The demigods are basically human conceptual inventions that we use to help us grasp the otherwise un-graspable omni-God. It's this awareness of them as representative 'parts of the whole' that I find so interesting.
     
  14. Vinayaka

    Vinayaka devotee
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    For some of us, it goes a step deeper. The Prana prathistha ceremony illustrates it. The murthies are more than mere images, but also conduits. You're beseeching a vibration via ritual. There is a definitive presence to be felt.

    In some Hindu sects even home murthies have prana prathishta (the infusion of prana (life force) into the murthy, also called eye-opening) It's a mystical science.

    So, as copper is to electricity, the murthy is to God.
     
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  15. SomeRandom

    SomeRandom Still learning to be wise
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    I mean I suppose Hindus themselves have the ultimate goal of transcending image worship, right? To realise the true atman of oneself?
    I guess being a born Hindu I never really felt constricted so much as it was just how life always was. There’s even a blend of Catholicism from my aunts and uncles. So we always had pictures of the Holy Mother Mary, various Saints and of course Jesus everywhere as well. So I don’t think this is a Hindu thing specifically
     
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