Polytheism

Hindus believe in the existence of one and only one Supreme Being but they worship Him in various forms known as deities or Devatas. The Hindu worship of many deities (gods) is not polytheism, but monotheistic polytheism. The monotheistic Hindu pantheon is an affirmation that the Supreme Being , according to the character of individual , can be realized in many ways and worshipped in many forms.

Indian Culture recognizes the diversity of the human mind and the potential for spiritual attainments in each individual. Therefore no one is thrust into the pigeonhole of a single creed. The Mahabharata declares:

'Akaasat patitam toyam yatha gacchati sagram, sarva deva namaskarah kesavam prati gacchati'.

just as the rain water that falls from the sky eventually reaches the ocean, so also all the worship offered to Him, by whatever name you wish, or in whatever form you like, ultimately goes to the one (the only one) ultimate, infinite, Supreme Reality.

Brahman

The root of the word Brahman is 'Brih' which means 'to expand.' According to the Hindu view, the Supreme Reality can be perceived from two aspects:

Transcendent (impersonal) and immanent (personal). In its transcendent aspect, the Supreme Reality is called Nirguna Brahman, that is, Brahman without attributes. It is conceived of as one and undifferentiated and as the ultimate principle behind the universe. 'Brahman is He whom speech cannot express, and unable to reach Him, from whom the mind, comes away baffled,' states the Taittiriya Upanishad.

Nirguna Brahman is realised by meditation and knowledge. It can only be experienced in higher states of consciousness, and the most one can say is that It is absolute existence, absolute knowledge, and absolute bliss (sat-chit-ananda). It is unborn, self-existent, all-pervading, and the very cause of all the things and beings in the universe. According to the Maitri Upanishad, 'Brahman is immeasurable, unapproachable, beyond conception, beyond birth, beyond reasoning, and beyond thought.'


Ishwara


In its immanent (personal) aspect, the Supreme Reality is called Saguna Brahman, that is, Brahman with attributes. Saguna Brahman is the personal God, the creator, the preserver, and the controller of the universe. In Hinduism, the immanent (personal) aspect of Brahman is worshipped in both male and female forms.

From the male aspect, He is called by various Sanskrit names, such as Bhagwan, Pararneshvara, Paramatma, and Purusha. Although there are subtle variances in the meanings of the these Sanskrit
characterization , they generally denote God as creator, preserver, and controller of the universe.

From the female aspect, God is called by names such as Divine Mother, Durga, and Kali.

Atman

According to the Indian culture, Atman is the inner-self of an individual. It is pure, divine, immortal, perfect, omnipresent, omnipotent, and omniscient. It is described by the Vedic Rishis as:

' The Sun does not shine there nor the moon and the stars, Nor these lightnings, much less this fire, After Him (alone), and when He shines, does everything shine, (It ) is by His light (that) all this is illuminated'.

When associated with a body and under the influence of cosmic ignorance (avidya or maya), the atman forgets its true nature and mistakenly identifies itself with the body-mind apparatus which cause its bondage to material existence and the consequent pleasure, pain, and suffering in the perpetual cycle of birth and death in the phenomenal world. Thus the ultimate goal in Indian Culture is to transcend individuality, to realize one's own true nature, which is potentially divine and pure. This realization is called Nirvana  or  Moksha  thereby becoming one with God.


Hindu Deities

Hindus believe in the existence of one and only one Supreme Being but they worship Him in various forms known as deities or Devatas. The Hindu worship of many deities (gods) is not polytheism, but monotheistic polytheism. The monotheistic Hindu pantheon is an affirmation that the Supreme Being , according to the character of individual , can be realised in many ways and worshipped in many forms.

Indian Culture recognises the diversity of the human mind and the potential for spiritual attainments in each individual. Therefore no one is thrust into the pigeonhole of a single creed. The Mahabharata declares:

'Akaasat patitam toyam yatha gacchati sagram, sarva deva namaskarah kesavam prati gacchati. '

'Just as the rain water that falls from the sky eventually reaches the ocean, so also all the worship offered to Him, by whatever name you wish, or in whatever form you like, ultimately goes to the one (the only one) ultimate, infinite, Supreme Reality.


Vishnu


Vishnu is the god of preservation. Thus the Supreme Reality is known as Vishnu when It is conceived to be engaged in the preservation of the universe. Vishnu is an important member of the Hindu Trinity, consisting of Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva (see chapter 29). Vishnu is also known by the name of Vasudeva. Lord Rama aud Lord Krishna are the two most popular incarnations of Vishnu worshipped by Hindus.


Durga

Durga, the goddess of energy and power, is the divine spouse of Shiva. She represents one of the popular manifestations of the Supreme Reality in the form of the Divine Mother of the universe. She is also known by other names, such as Parvati, Kali, Shakti, Uma, Mrudani, and Chandika.

Shiva

Shiva is the god of dissolution and recreation in the continuous cycle of creation, preservation, dissolution, and recreation. He is the third member of the Hindu Trinity, with the other two being Brahma and Vishnu. The presiding deity of Transformation of Era, Shiva represents the aspect of the Supreme Reality that is responsible for dissolution of the old and recreation of the new.


Saraswati

Saraswati means 'the essence of one's own self.' Saraswati' denotes that aspect of the Supreme Reality which represents knowledge, learning, and wisdom. Since correct knowledge is necessary for anything to be created, Saraswati provides knowledge necessary for creation. She represents the status to which womanhood has been elevated and revered in Hinduism.

Lakshimi

Lakshmi, the divine spouse of Vishnu, is the goddess of wealth and prosperity, which she provides to Vishnu for the sustenance of the universe. She is the symbol of all that Hindus consider sacred, chaste, and pure in womanhood.



Brahma

In Hinduism, Brahma is the god of creation. He represents the creative aspect of the Supreme Reality. By worshipping Brahma, a Hindu worships the Supreme God as the creator of the universe. The four faces of Brahma symbolises the sacred knowledge of four Vedas .




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