Swami Vivekananda has explained the truth of idol or image worship most remarkably:
During the days of his wanderings, the Swami was once questioned by the Maharaja of the State of Azhwar, India, on idol worship. The Maharaja said he had no faith in idol worship and that he could not worship wood, stone or earth. Looking around, Swami Vivekananda's eyes alighted upon a picture of the Maharaja. Taking it down he asked the courtiers to spit upon it. Shocked at the request, they declined to do it. Swami Vivekananda turning to the Maharaja said, "The picture has the likeness of you. It brings you to their minds and they naturally look upon it with respect. In the same way. the image in the temple brings to the mind of the devotees their chosen aspect of God. They do not worship the wood, stone or earth of which the deity is made from. The idol remains an idol but the worship goes to the Lord"
He further says, "A symbol is absolutely indispensable for fixing the mind. The mind wants a prop to lean upon. It cannot have a conception of the Absolute in the initial stages. Without the help of some external aid, in the initial stages, the mind cannot be centralized. The people of the whole world, save a few Yogis and Vedantins, are all worshipers of idols. They keep some image or other in the mind."
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