Why can He not have a form?’
It is not, of course, a matter of argument. The Hindus claim that actually God has many forms, and there have been advanced devotees who have seen these forms. I need only refer to the historical example of Sri Ramakrishna, who had experiences of the formless God and also saw God in many forms. If we are to accept his testimony, then we also have to accept the idea that God can have form. It was nothing original with him; he only confirmed what has been known through the ages in India.
In Sanskrit books pertaining to this subject there are verses called dhyanam, whose purpose is to describe the form of a particular deity to be worshipped. Many such forms have been described in great detail what kind of complexion, what kind of hair and eyes, how tall, how short, and so on. Those who worship God in a particular aspect or form memorize these verses and repeat them mentally so that they can form a mental image to meditate upon. That is why these verses are called dhyanam. Dhyanam literally means meditation’. Shiva, for example, should be meditated upon as a mountain of silver; he is white, like silver. Such descriptions are very helpful, and they are not man-made; they are not merely left to the poet’s imagination. No, they have to be very realistic, very factual, because, as I said, many devotees have actually seen those forms of God.
You can well understand that the moment you believe God has form you take a human attitude towards Him. So it came about that the worship of the Personal God consisted in entertaining Him as you would entertain someone for whom you have great love and also great reverence. Without reverence you would not have the element of holiness, which should always be present in any form of worship. It is not enough to say, Oh, I love God!’ Unless you have the sense of holiness, your love will not be spiritual, because it is in holiness that we become aware of the transcendental being or reality of the object of our worship. Until that sense of holiness has come to us, our mind will remain on this very same level, and although it is good to go through the forms of ceremonial worship because everything has some effect, they will not lead you very far. But it is expected that as a result of your going through these forms a sense of holiness will grow, and out of that sense will come the sense of transcendence you will forget your own body and ego, and your consciousness will be filled by the presence of the deity you are worshipping. And when that happens, then your spiritual life spiritual practice properly so called has begun. Henceforth, as that mood gets deeper and deeper, you make your spiritual progress.