by Jayaram V
The Hindus believe in many gods and goddesses. At the same time
also believe in the existence on one Supreme God, whom they call
variously as Paramatma (Supreme Self), Parameshwar (Supreme Lord),
Parampita (Supreme Father). Iswara, Maheswara, Bhagawan, Purusha,
Purushottama, Hiranyagarbha and so on.
God is one, but also many. He manifests Himself in innumerable
forms and shapes. As Purusha (Universal Male), He enters Prakriti
(Nature, Matter or Divine Energy) and brings forth the numerous
worlds and beings into existence. He upholds His entire creation
with His unlimited powers.
He is both the Known and the Unknown, the Being as well as the
Non-Being, Reality as well as Unreality. As the Unknown, He is rarely
known and worshipped for difficult and painful is the path for those
who choose to worship Him as the Unmanifest (The Bhagavad-Gita XII.6).
He exists in all and all beings exist in him. There is nothing
other than Him, and there is nothing that is outside of Him. He
is Imperishable, unknowable, immortal, infinite, without a beginning
and without an end. All the same when worshipped with intense devotion
and unshakeable faith, He responds to the calls of His devotees
and comes to their aid and rescue.
All the gods and goddess are His manifestations only. In His
female aspect He is Shakti, who as the Divine Universal Mother assists
the whole creation to proceed through the process of evolution in
Her own mysterious ways.
The relationship between man and God is purely personal and each
can approach Him in his own way. There are no fixed rules and no
central controlling authority on the subject of do's and don'ts.
There are of course scriptures and Smritis but whether to follow
them or not is purely an individual choice.
The concept of monotheism is not new to Hinduism. It is as old
as the Vedas themselves. References to One indivisible and mysterious
God are found in the Rigveda itself. The concept is the central
theme of all the Upanishads in which He is variously referred as
Brahman, Iswara, Hiranyagarbha, Asat etc.
While the students of Upanishads tried to understand Him through
the path of knowledge and there by made it the exclusive domain
of a few enlightened persons, the bhakti marg or the path of devotion
brought Him closer to the masses. The One Imperishable and Ancient
Being was no more a God of remote heights, but down to the earth,
ready to help His needy devotees and willing to perform miracles
The rise of tantric cults added a new dimension to our understanding
of Him. To the tantric worshippers the Supreme Self is the Universal
Mother. Purusha is subordinate to Her and willing to play a secondary
role in Her creation. By Himself He cannot initiate creation unless
He joins with His Shakti.
On the abstract level He is satchitananda. Truth, Consciousness
and Bliss. He is the inhabitant of the whole world. There is nothing
that is outside of Him or without Him. He exists in the individual
being as Atman, the Enjoyer who delights in Himself, without undergoing
any change, but willing to participate in the cycle of births and
deaths and bear witness to all the illusions of life.
He can be realized in many ways, which broadly fall into three
main categories: the path of knowledge, the path of devotion and
the path of renunciation. Of this the middle one is the best, the
first one is very difficult and the third one requires immense sacrifice
and inner purification. In the Bhagavad-Gita we come across the
path of action which combines the rest of the three into one integrated
whole in which a devotee has to live his life with a sense of supreme
sacrifice, performing his actions with detachment, without any desire
for the fruit of actions and offering them to God with pure devotion
and total surrender.
Hindus have a very broader approach to the concept of God. The
names that people give to Him are just mere reference points for
the sake of our understanding. How can He have names, who is actually
beyond all words and thoughts? He represent the loftiest ideal which
mankind can aspire to achieve. He is the goal and reaching Him in
our individual ways is the very purpose of our lives. Those who
quarrel on his name are blind men who grope in darkness and go to
the worlds of ignorance.
Truly the Brahman of Hinduism represents the Highest principle
which the human mind can ever conceive of. He is not God of just
one world or a few worlds, but represents the entire known and unknown
Universe as well as the past, the present and the future that is
yet to come.
Suggested Further Reading