Why do Hindus worship many gods? What are the views of Hindu scriptures on God the Supreme Being? Continue reading on to know more.
Can you recall the story about the elephant and 6 blind men? One of the men referred to the elephant like a prop upon feeling the leg. The other man compared the elephant to a fan after touching its ear, and so forth.
We can be compared to the six individuals in the narrative when it comes to matters of God. We see or describe God through attributes like dark or fair, female or male, just or compassionate, and so forth.
Regardless of how complex our belief about God, we are still bound to the imaginations of our mind.
Many religions recognize monotheism (just one god). However, Hinduism is the only religion that believes in monism (only god).
All that lives is believed to come from one entity known as “Brahman”, and this shouldn’t be muddled with the god of creation “Brahma” or the “Brahmin” hereditary class. Hinduism also believes that in the end, everything returns to its initial or original state.
According to the Hindu sacred writings, god isn’t a subject of mental comprehension, but an eventual goal of all individuals. Hinduism acknowledges that all individuals are at different stages of advancement in spirituality, and therefore the way to the Almighty differs widely.
The ancients had the view, Sarva Dharma Sambhava, meaning all ways are similar, which means that in the end, a worshiper with true loyalty finds god no matter his approach.
The Characteristics of Brahman
Yajnavalkya, the prominent sage, was once requested by his followers to discuss Brahman. He replied, “Neti neti,” meaning “neither this nor that”.
Suppose we imagined the Lord like a man who has white facial hair and sitting on the royal seat in heaven, then we would be attributing qualities like gender (man), location (heaven), age (old), and appearance (white facial hair) to God. Nevertheless, Hindu scriptures view Brahman like “nirguna”, meaning without qualities.
Any effort to utilize mental knowledge to comprehend Brahman is perceived futile, since it is far from the capability of the mind or senses. Trying to describe Brahman is comparable to describing a color such as red to a person who has not seen it before. You may know how a red color appears like, but it is impossible to describe it.
Although it is impossible to describe Brahman, the scriptures describe it as the sense of bliss, consciousness, and truth.
Just Single or Two?
There exists an unending debate in Hinduism about the connection between Brahman and “Atman” (the soul).
The “Advaita” (not two) theory has it that there’s no notable difference between Brahman and Atman. It argues that “Brahman Sta, Jagat Mithya”, the Almighty is the sole fact, and the universe is just a fantasy.
Supposing one stood betwixt two mirrors, you would see an infinite number of your reflections, despite the fact that it is just one “you”. In the same way, Advaita maintains that Brahman appears like different souls due to “Maya” (illusion).
The overall goal of each single soul is using knowledge like a tool for overcoming this ignorance and go back to one’s true nature.
“Dvaita” (meaning “two”), is another theory which argues that the difference between God and an individual soul is eternal and real.
Ramana Maharishi, a distinguished saint during the previous century, once said that both Dvaita and Advaita are just concepts, and the eventual reality is beyond any concepts.
Ishvara: A Personal God
Hindus suggests that there exists an almighty being known as “Ishvara” and has qualities like blis, compassion, and infinity. But what’s the difference between Ishvara and Brahman?
Unlike Brahman’s nature, Ishvara is seen as a loving and personal god who can be seen as an image of Brahman through Maya’s veil.
Why Have Multiple Gods?
Hindu scriptures acknowledge that an indistinct Brahman is beyond comprehension by an average individual who requires a firm character to see things.
God, who is infinitely compassionate, may be worshiped in any way a devotee wants. Transcending the life’s cycle, that is birth and eventually death, just requires true devotion.
For instance, the Almighty can be seen as a friend, child, father, or mother. More so, a seeker is always advised to go for any character that is more suitable to his or her nature.
A form of a chosen god is called “Ishta-deva”, meaning “favorite god”. Hinduism offers a wide range of forms which can be utilized for meditation and visualization.
Female or Male?
In Hinduism, Godor “Brahman” is neither female nor male. An individual soul, in Hinduism, is also neither female nor male. However, God is perceived to be “Purusha” (male) as per the static aspect. “Prakriti” (nature), describes the female and active nature of the Almighty.
Each individual is advised to unite both the female and male characters (or the Prakriti and Purusha) and ultimately reach a self-realization stage that exceeds limits of both sexes.
Such a unit is highly celebrated in a deity known as “Ardhnarishwara”, literally a supreme being who is a half-female.
Worshipping “Prakriti” (the holy female) is common in India, and includes multiple forms such as Durga, Lakshmi, Kali, and Saraswati.
The Almighty on Earth
According to most instances of Hinduism, a person who is enlightened is worshiped like God himself. Such a person can be offered titles like “Rishi” (great sage), “Bhagwan” (god), or “Maharaj” (eminent ruler).
In Hinduism, the idea of incarnation or avatar is popular, whereby God as “Vishnu” (a preserver) descends on the earth to eliminate any evil. Krishna and Ram are the most popular incarnations of Vishnu.
There are other Hindus who worship other gods like Hanuman, Karthikeya, Ganesha, the moon, the sun, and some planets. More so, millions of Indians do worship saints to symbolize divinity.
In the end, whenever a worshiper perfects the act of worshipping a god, he is motivated to not only stick to the physical characters, but go beyond and pursue unification, and get to a stage in which there exists no contrast between a worshiped being and a worshipper.
On the contrary, a few believers of “Bhakti” (loyalty) doctrine do not really pursue unification with God. They continue enjoying the contrast between a Supreme and an individual.