It is true that you can worship the Lord in any form. However, the form should be such that it invokes the devotee in you, because it is the devotee that worships God. The most important aspect of worship is that the devotee is invoked. If it is possible at all, one can certainly take a table or chair and look upon it as God.
Consider this: when can you call a person a guru? It is only when the disciple in you is invoked. Then alone is he your guru. Or, when can you look upon somebody as a father? It would be when the son in you is invoked. Otherwise, saying ‘father’ is paying mere lip service to the word. Similarly, it is only if a chair or table invokes the devotee within us that can we look upon it as God; otherwise, we cannot do so. One would be insincere in saying that the chair or table also represents God.
We are given the freedom to worship God in any name and form. Yet we select a name and form that invokes the devotee in us. For instance, when we say, ’Krishna,’ the very sound of the word or form of the Lord has a certain impact on us. Such an impact can be caused both by words and forms. Each name and form, however, has a different impact on different people, depending upon their emotional makeup, upbringing, culture, and needs. For instance, while the names Rama or Mira or Radha may mean nothing to a native of Australia, the name Mary may be very meaningful. Therefore, every culture or tradition worships God in the names and forms that it has derived.
This is why we have the concept of the Ista devta. This is the particular form of the Lord that invokes the devotee within us and for which we have reverence and love. Just as mantras or sacred verses have come down to us from the time of the ancient sages, so also, the various forms of the Lord, such as Rama or Krishna, have come down to us over time. They have great significance and possess a certain power.
When a given mantra is recited by many people and chanted over a long period of time, it gains power, This is the appeal and fascination of the gayatri-mantra. Everybody wants to know if they can chant it. This is because the mantra has been recited by millions of people over the centuries, and has thus acquired a certain amount of strength and significance. This is how the deity in a temple also acquires power over time. The immense devotion expressed in a temple by millions of people, like the Venkateswara temple in Tirupati, empowers the deity. As a result, when you go there, you can draw from the power of the deity. This is why some mantras and deities are more powerful than others.
It is true that God is everywhere, but how He manifests depends upon the name and form that is chosen for worship. Therefore, when it comes to whom or what we worship, the power of the deity and the mantra become important. Such things are not important in gaining knowledge, but become very significant when it comes to worship; one must experience the positive impact of worship. This is why forms, names, and particular methods used in worship become relevant.
Swami Viditatmanand Saraswati