Last Sunday happened to be what I had actually not bargained for. I happened to visit a  local temple to inquire about the availability of their community hall for an event. I had stopped there on my way back from my office. While I was chatting up with the temple manager, I noticed a gentleman in the temple, in his smart casuals, sitting crossed legged, doing Puja (worship) with the Priest. By the time, I was finished with the manager that gentleman had finished his Puja and came to the managers’ desk to donate some money.

I got a bit curious. How come this smart, educated, 21st Century gentleman, in USA,  was doing idol worship? Actually, I along with my family have been members of the Arya Samaj. In  Arya Samaj, we abhor idol worship.

I approached him saying, Can I have a question?

He said, ‘Sure. How may I help you?’

I said, why were you doing idol worship?

He said, how do you know I was doing idol worship?

I said, you were sitting in front of an idol, doing Puja with the help of the Priest.

He said, would you realize that you are attributing intent to my actions, without knowing my actual intent. To know my actual intent, you got to ask me, check out with me; not go attributing on your own. If you read on the subject of attribution of intent, you would be shocked to know that attribution of intent more often than not happens to be wrong. The attribution of intent is more a reflection on the mind and psychology of the person who attributes intent to the action of others.

He said, what is your faith?

I said, Arya Samaj.

O’ now I see where you are coming from.

Can I ask a question to you?

I said, for sure.

He said, do you keep a picture of Swami Dayanand Saraswati in Arya Samaj temple or your home?

I said, yes.

He said, think for a moment, how is that picture different from what you called my idol?

It is the difference of material these are made from.

How if I tell you that you are also an idol, of course walking idol, made of the same basic source material.

And hope you would realize that all basic materials and material forms are created by the same One and the Ultimate.

The founder of Arya Samaj was not the first one to criticize idol worship.

The founders of Christianity and Islam also criticized idol worship long ago;  first of their own tribesmen; and later of every follower of Sanatan Dharma. The idol worship by followers of the Sanatan Dharma have been the target of Arya Samaj, Christianity and Islam for years.

Let me tell you I am a follower of Sanatan Dharma. I don’t have the sword of anyone on my head. I am free to make my own choice, to follow or not follow Sanatan Dharma.

Sanatan Dharma pre-dates all the sects or religions.

Sanatan Dharma had perceived and realized, ‘Nirgun Nirakar’ and ‘Sagun Sakar’ concepts of God.

That ‘Nirgun Nirakar’ is what Arya Samaj, Christianity, Islam have been propagating, as newfound;  and despising ‘Sagun Sakar’.

If you want to understand ‘Nirgun Nirakar’ and ‘Sagun Sakar’ concepts of God, you may go to read Bhagwad Gita (Chapter 7). You will be amazed to see these two concepts so well explained and stated as two paths to realize the same One and Ultimate. Every human being has the freedom to choose and follow of the two, depending upon one’s individual nature and preference. No one will tell the other, you are wrong. It is complete co-existence and love for individual freedom and choice.

How many bodies do you have? he said.

I said, what do you mean? I have only one, that is right here before you; that you are talking to.

He said, come on, I see three.

I said, three? What do you mean?

He said, you have a gross body that I see that as you said, right here; the other is your thought body, which I don’t see outwardly; and third is your cause body. That cause body, we in Sanatan Dharma call, Atman, that is the ultimate life force for each of us; that is the presence of a particle of the Nirgun Nirakar in each one of us and every form (Sagun Sakar) that you see.


And he went on:

My dear friend, hope you know about the modern visualization industry. I am a data visualization scientist. According to the DATA VISUALIZATION MARKET- GROWTH, TRENDS, AND FORECAST (2020-25), “the global data visualization market is expected to register a CAGR of over 9% during the forecast period (2020 – 2025). Visualizing data is a concept that is used in different terms and technologies, including dashboards, infographics, scorecards, analytics, big data, and business intelligence. Data Visualization helps extract a meaningful report from the diverse and rapidly increasing volumes of business data. Many users believe that the usage of big data by data visualization helps in better decision making.” The global data visualization market is expected to reach a value of USD 10.67 billion by 2027 at a CAGR of 9%. Visualization is the new game in the town.

It shouldn’t be a surprise. Visualization leverages the visual senses of a human being. Do I need to say, why Radio lost to TV? TV engages visual senses, in addition to audio senses. Those who prescribe and demand a certain dress code, whether in a corporation or sport or religion, are actually making good use of visualization effect. None of us started in School without visuals. It is the same visualization effect, the so-called idol worshipers, like me and others know and use. We, the followers of Sanatan Dharma,  know that the origin of all is the Nirgun Nirakar. Nirakar means formless. No less than Arya Samaj or Christianity or Islam, we know that God is One and formless. No less than them we know that no one can draw a picture or make idol of that that is formless, Invisible. All forms including religious Gurus, Prophets, Messengers and books are facilitations to help realize the Ultimate. A modern Guru, described all Gurus and guides as modern GPS to find our way to the Formless, Invisible. Sanatan Dharma has been a faith of personal freedom and choice. You may follow a person or a book, as a means to the end of realizing the Ultimate, or may not follow any and do it yourself.

I am sorry for this long, but I hope you now know what was I doing there in the temple? I was worshiping the Ultimate Nirgun Nirakar with the help of Sagun Sakar.


Since you seemed quite curious, one last for you may be that modern Artificial intelligence can also be understood as an application of Nirakar and Sakar. The artificial intelligence framework can be broadly characterized into three layers, like our cause, thought and gross bodies.

“The infrastructure layer includes the core AI chips and big data that support the sensing and cognitive computational capabilities of the technology layer.

The technology layer sits on top of this. Which has machine learning, deep learning, AI platform, speech recognition, image recognition, biometric etc.

The topmost layer is the application layer, which technologies in the second layer, uses to develop robotics, autonomous driving, business intelligence, smart factory, personal assistance, customer service, etc.”

Hope it helps. Please feel free to ask me if you still have any questions or doubt.

I said, to be honest, you have made me rethink. And I am thankful for your time. I will definitely read Bhagwad Gita and review the literature on the attribution of intent. I got altogether a new perspective.


Dr Sat Parashar, PhD is former Director, IIM Indore. He teaches at University of California, San Diego, and is a Financial Services Professional. He may be reached at writetospp@gmail.com




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