QUESTION: THE HINDUS BELIEVE IN GOD BUT, THERE ARE THOUSANDS OR PERHAPS MORE GODS THAT INDUS WORSHIP. HOW CAN THIS BE EXPLAINED?
Upanishads came later than the Vedas. So here too, we find a great diversity in thought and interpretations. In order to take the message to the masses, Puranas were written. This was a voluminous stock of stories and parables about the Gods and Goddesses. The inexplicable and infinite started taking shapes, symbolising the different aspects of the ONE. There came Brahma, Vishnu and Mahesh, the three universal powers. Brahma the creator, Vishnu the protector and Mahesh the destroyer, and all these three powers work harmoniously, in balance and at all times. Then there came several Gods and Goddesses, each one with his or her glory, power and personality, like and dislikes preferences and weaknesses. Most of these divine personalities have their origins in the Puranas.
This probably is the point where Hindu theology could be linked with the theism of other religions. The Hindu craving for happiness, detestation for pain and misery, fear of death and calamity, are default settings. Destiny has its own plan which is beyond our comprehensions, and beyond our powers to change. But hope, undoubtedly, is a great healer. It strengthens the will and contributes to uplift the mind from depression and agony. That is why or present Gods became saviors, so kind and compassionate, capable of forgiving all our wrongs, offering a way to repent, retribute and regain the balance of life. Faith, they say has a great power, one that gives impetus to live, and to fight to live. That is what gives us hope and perhaps the purpose for our life!
Now, people had choice. They started worshiping whatever God they thought would bring them all the luck they desired for, would save them all from ailments and predicaments, would actually fall for their appeasement and favor them in critical situations. Some such people facing challenges, searching for a way to achieve their dream spoke of an appearance of a divine figure showing them the way (probable outcome of their own mental activity). People with helpless, timid minds, and those with superstitious beliefs, began thinking of all this as a divine grace, a miracle, and this figure in their dreams became ‘their’ God, their vigilante, their savior and protector.
The great tradition of saints in India showed many the paths to reach the infinite and the eternal ONE. What is actually required is unwavering faith and love for the whole creation of God. With this came the “Japa and Naama sadhana” (chanting). Remembering God at all times, and seeing God’s presence in everything and everyone your see, and mindful devotion to God in everything you do. This would seclude your mind and soul from all worldly attachments, and take you closer to the reality, the ONE or OM, the place of ultimate eternal bliss. You start with the worship of one idol because it is easy to focus on a shape and concentrate your mind on something that you can physically see and feel. But over a period, your mind gradually transcends into the land of the eternal ONE. Atonement with the ONE is the highest aim of life, and this is the Hindu belief and faith.
There had been several thoughts and several arguments during ancient times about the creation. There were different schools of thoughts. They exist to this day. The school of Shankaryacharya, believes in the principle of “Adwaita”, meaning that only the ONE existed, and nothing else. The school of Madhvacharya believes in “Dwaita”, the principle of duality. The starting elements of the Universe , must have been between the two, not one. The school of Ramanuja is the golden mean of the two ideologies. And then there is the school of thought of Charwaka, who was an atheist, and the great skeptic of the time. He believed that to be able to have faith, one must first be able to doubt it. The prime issue then was, how on earth (literally) the ONE became many??? If this could be explained satisfactorily, then the creation of the whole Universe could be (or cannot still be) explained relatively with ease.
The ONE has no character attached to it at all, no shape, color, size and dimensions, no will, no feeling, never moving, omnipresent and eternal. There must be atleast two elements to start with the “Purusha”, the same as the ONE and “Maya” or the “Prakriti”, the counterpart of the Purusha, again omnipresent, full of love, and will and lively activity or “Chetana”. Through Maya the Universe was evolved. Only Maya could have been sufficient. The Dwaitas believe in the interaction between the Purusha and Maya or Prakriti. On the other hand, the Adwita school would not accept Maya as a separate entity. It is not separate from the ONE. Maya, in reality is only an appearance, a kind of hallucination, unreal, mind games , Likewise the Universal play that we live in is also a kind of hallucination, unreality. This idea was put forth as, “Brahma satyam; jagat mithya”, meaning that only Brahma (the ONE), is the only Reality and all the rest of the universal play is mere imaginary.
This I think is a very difficult concept for a westerner to believe, leave alone accept. So it may also be the same for many Hindus as well. This someone does not connect with our day to day lives, where we use all our 5 senses to believe what we believe. If I try to elucidate the idea a little further, it may not be altogether out of place.
Above, I have only quoted the literal meaning of “Brahma satyam; jagat mithya”. What this actually means is that when the Reality of the ONE is experienced or atoned, everything else disappears from one’s mind and imagination. The experience of the ONE is the prime condition, and only then the other part of the statement would have some sense or meaning.
…to be continued into section 1.3