by Jayaram V
The Trimurthis or the Trinity
Brahma, Vishnu and Mahesha are considered the highest gods of
Hinduism, next only to Brahman in importance and hierarch.
Functionally they represent the triple functions of Manifested
Brahman. Hence they are also called the Trimurthis or the
Trinity of Hinduism.
Brahma is the creator, Vishnu is the preserver and Shiva is the destroyer.
They are assisted in their duties, by their consorts, or associated
goddesses namely, Saraswathi, Lakshmi and Parvathi respectively.
Saraswathi is the goddess of speech and Lakshmi, of wealth while
Parvathi is usually worshipped as Mother Goddess. These three gods
are rulers of three different worlds. Brahma is the ruler of Brahmalok,
Vishnu of Vaikunth and Shiva of Kailash.
The earliest references
In the Vedas we do not find any reference to the concept of Trinity.
During the Rigvedic period, Vishnu was a minor solar deity, while
Shiva was almost unknown. The Rigvedic hymns speak of Rudra, a fierce
god of the skies and thunder, father of Maruts, who was invoked
mostly as the healer with wondrous medicines. But we are not sure
whether he was in any way connected with the Shiva of later times.
It is quite possible that the concept of Trinity was not a Vedic
concept but another from another native religious tradition of
the subcontinent, and probably with some minor modifications and
name transference, especially in case of Brahma and Vishnu, it
was assimilated into the Indian religious tradition. It is now
well established beyond doubt that the subcontinent had a number
of religious traditions spanning over at least two to three
millenniums before the time the Vedic Civilization was firmly
established in the North. Contrary to the popular opinion, it
was probably not the Vedic culture which prevailed during the
progress of Indian civilization, but other traditions which
absorbed it and assimilated it into their practices
acknowledging, either fully or conditionally, the validity of
the Vedas, which gradually gave birth to a complex and diverse
tradition that we today identify as Hinduism.
Significance of Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva
Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva, the triple gods of Hinduism, are different
in a limited sense only. They are considered manifestations
of the same Supreme Isvara, who is also known as the Saguna Brahman
or the awakened or dynamic Brahman. Isvara Himself is considered
by the monists as a reflection of Supreme Brahman in (the triple
gunas of) Nature. Since ordinary human minds cannot
comprehend the oneness of the universe, it becomes difficult for
us to understand this concept clearly. To summarize the idea briefly
let us take the analogy of a person performing different tasks.
Just as a person becomes different persons while performing different
roles or duties in the mental plane though not in the physical plane,
God who exists in innumerable planes simultaneously appears as the
Trinity in three different roles. The difference if any is in appearances
which is part of the grand illusion that He weaves all around us.
Where do they exist?
The triple deities (Trimurthis) do exist in space and time, although it is difficult
to explain the nature of their existence, as well as their true
potentialities since they belong to the very highest realms of creation. In
the human beings they exist beyond the mind as potentialities of
the divinities of the super-mind
or the divine mind, who are envisioned only by a handful of
adept yogis in deep meditation. Seemingly there is nothing physical about them
although in their ignorance people tend to consider them human beings
with flesh and blood. From the experiences of adept yogis and
self-realized souls, we understand that although the triple
deities remain in their
ethereal aspect as pure energies and consciousness with dimensions
beyond our imagination and comprehension, they can assume physical form
when they deem fit, appear anywhere in the universe at will, and
manifest themselves in whatever way they choose. They are God's most pleasing and benevolent aspects
in the manifested creation, personifying His dynamic functions.
They represent His will in cognizable forms with which the human mind
can interact and relate well.
Are these gods different from each other?
To the question whether these gods are different, the answer
is both yes and no.
They are different because, from human point of view they
perform different tasks, have qualities and energies that differ
widely from one another and also control different worlds that seem
to set widely apart. But as we have mentioned earlier, at
the highest level they are the three aspects of the one and the
same supreme Reality. Together they are like a mighty flow
of energy branching out into three different streams at the point
of contact with human awareness.
It is difficult for us to understand them, because we can understand
reality in terms of comparisons, with reference to one another,
not by the thing itself and because we can concentrate our attention
upon only one thing at any given point of time, while our minds
cannot hold two thoughts at a time. Imagine an intelligence that
can understand infinity without the need for any comparisons and
hold an infinite number of things simultaneously in its unlimited
field of consciousness without any reference to each other, without
the need to know, without any effort to know, and knowing them all
at a time! This is the consciousness of these divine planes.
Which God should we worship?
Brahma is the creator who is seemingly preoccupied with his task
of creation. People therefore do not prefer to worship Brahma, although
it is true that he helps people with wonderful creative ideas whenever
they approach Him for help. Many however worship Saraswathi because
she is the goddess of knowledge and refinement and believed to help
those who want to refine their character through education and spirituality.
Worship of Brahma and Saraswathi is ideal for those who pursue knowledge,
creativity and academic excellence in their lives. Students, artists
and craftsmen, and those who are endowed with special talents and
skills, should worship these two for success and spiritual progress
in their lives. The worship of Brahma is also ideal for those who
want to pursue Jnana marg or the path of knowledge. Prajapati Brahma
is indeed referred as the spiritual teacher in many Upanishads and
Vishnu is the preserver and maintainer of the worlds. His primary
task is to protect dharma and maintain the universal order. He does
it by encouraging people to be on the side of dharma and pursue
their religious duties as householders with a spiritual bent of
mind. His consort, goddess Lakshmi provides all the material resources
necessary for the management of the worlds. Vishnu and Lakshmi
are therefore an ideal choice for people who want to live ordinary
lives and pursue materialism with an eye towards religion and spirituality.
The worship of Vishnu is ideal for those who want to follow the
path of devotion.
Shiva is a god of anger and destruction. He destroys all that
is evil, that is bad and that is wasteful or excessive. Shiva is
not a negatively destructive power. His destruction is an essential
aspect of creation because without destruction you cannot really
create anything. It may sound strange, but it is true that in reality
destruction is the other face of creation. Both compliment each
other, depend upon each other and initiate each other.
For example you cannot experience the next moment unless your
experience of the present moment is replaced or rather destroyed
by the experience of the next. In reality your existence is but
a series of destructions of each and every passing moment. The apparent
continuity of our existence is an illusion, because in truth
we are born and we die every single moment. The plant cannot come
into existence unless the seed is destroyed and its energies are
In the same manner you cannot achieve success in any field unless
you transform things, either within yourself or within your environment.
You cannot achieve spiritual progress unless you eliminate many
undesirable habits, thoughts and tendencies that are otherwise self
destructive and come in your way of creating a better future for
yourself. Destruction is therefore an integral part of progress
and change. Creation leads to destruction and destruction to creation.
And at the end of it all a more lasting death is required for the
soul to review its plans and options for its next birth. Shiva is
therefore not a destroyer in the negative sense, but a god of immense
energies who ensures our material and spiritual progress through
Who should worship Lord Shiva? It is ideal for those who
are willing to undergo inner transformation for their material and
spiritual success. In other words follow Lord Shiva if you
want to achieve self realization through a path of constructive
destruction and radical transformation of your personality. The
worship of Shiva is ideal for those who are willing to follow the
path of renunciation or lead radical lives through courageous decisions.
For better understanding of the subject we summarize these conclusions
in the following manner:
1. Students, learners, scholars in the pursuit of knowledge,
artists and craftsmen should worship Brahma and Saraswathi for inspiration
2. Householders who want to continue their household duties and
remain amidst the humdrum of life, should worship Vishnu.
3. People who are spiritually inclined, willing to explore their
inner worlds through meditation and tantra, turned away from the
lures of the worldly life, drawn to secluded places and loneliness,
willing to undergo hardships, uncertainty and social disapproval
through self discipline and austerities should follow the path of
A note of caution: If you are not following these guidelines
please do not bother because God in his infinite wisdom provides
innumerable paths to his devotees and gives them immense freedom
to exercise their free will in accordance with their inner nature.
In such matters it is always wiser to follow ones own inclinations
and inner promptings of the soul rather than the advice of others.
Suggested Further Reading