Why Hindus Have Many 'Gods'

Posted by Lakshmi

Wednesday 14 December 2011

This blogpost is a continuation to  my  previous blog write-up - WISE MEN HAVE SOMETHING TO SAY, FOOLS HAVE TO SAY THING! where I had written that I would explain why Hindus  seem to have many ' Gods'.

I  am not an expert in Hinduism  and I still have much to learn about my religion.  Philosophers, saints and sages have spent lifetimes discussing and pondering  on the many facets of Hinduism and as such, I can only explain with what limited knowledge I know.

Some of the basic tenets of Hinduism are :

Who founded Hinduism

Hinduism is not a religion per se and is actually a way of life. It has been in existence about 4000 years ago from the Indus civilisation in India, which is also the oldest civilization on earth.      Unlike the  People of the Book, Hinduism has no founder or author and it is so ancient that no one knows the source of Hinduism 

The Holy Books in Hinduism

There are 4 primary and sacred scriptures called   ' The Vedas'.  Scholars have determined the Vedas  were composed about 1500 BC  namely the  Rig Veda, Yajur Veda, Sama Veda and Atharva Veda.  "  The Upanishads "   are a continuation of the Vedic philosophy, and were written between 800 and 400 B.C. They elaborate on how the soul (Atman) can be united with the ultimate truth (Brahman) through contemplation and meditation, as well as the doctrine of Karma-- the cumulative effects of a persons' actions.

The Vedas and Upanishads are an extensive collection of scriptures and philosophical texts  relating to  hymns,  incantations, rituals, spirituality and worship in ancient India  .  It details the divine duties of our earthly life  and  our soul's relationship to GOD.  Hindus believe that at the highest level , GOD  and  Soul   are one and inseparable whereas Western faiths maintain that Creator and creation are eternally distinct.

Incidently, there are also 2 great epics in Hinduism, the Mahabaratha and Ramayana

The longest story  in the world is the Mahabaratha ( 100,000 verses)  which tells the story of rivalry between the 5  Pandava brothers  and the 100  Kauravas which ends with the war at Kurukshetra, India  ( modern day Haryana)

The Sanskrit epic of   Ramayana  tells the story of Rama, whose wife, Sita, is abducted by the demon king of Lanka, Ravana .  There are many versions of Ramayana- the  Indonesion, Philippines, Laos, Thai, Burmese, Malay and others.

 How  Hindus view other religions

Hindus do not proselytise, meaning we do not convert members of other faiths.  Proselytisation or conversion is based upon the belief that  only  one's religion is the only true religion and everyone else is secondary, so others  should join it.  In the present  world environment, Christianity and Islam  subscribe to this view.

Hindus  hold the view that all faiths are beneficial and  that it is not necessary nor possible for everyone to hold the same faith .  An ancient Sanskrit verse summarizes the Hindu attitude:

As the different streams, having their sources in different places, all mingle their water in the sea, so O Lord, the different paths which men take through different  faiths, various though they appear, all lead to Thee ".  

Thus, Hindus  honor  and respect all religious traditions and the people within them.  The Hindus' motto is simply " Live and Let Live "

Why do some Hindu Gods have animal features

In dreams and visions, the inner-plane beings have revealed themselves to mankind in many forms expressing many powers.  Some appear human and others like  Lord Ganesha, have elephant  features. 

Hinduism is not alone in having Divinities with animal attributes.  This is a common link to all ancient faiths .  The Greeks worshipped the God Pan , half goat half human and the Sea God Ichthyocentaurs ( human head and torso with horse legs and serpentine tails of fish ).  The Egyptian God  of the Underworld, Anubis ( falcon head ) the Sun God, Ra,  Thoth, the God of Wisdom and Moon ( Ibis head) Bastet, his consort was in the form of cat or lioness.  The Meso-american people worshiped Quetzalcoatl, a feathered serpent.  The Assyrians , the powerful serpent Goddess Tiamat.  In Japan where Buddhism and Shintoism are intertwined, they pray to  Kitsune the fox and Tengu the bird man . Many shrines are guarded by a pair of magical lion-dogs - the Koma-inu or Shishi.  Even Christians have half human half bird winged angels called Cherubims... and in early Christianity, there were gargoyle statues as part of the Church architecture

Over the centuries, with the coming of the monotheistic religions and their   prominence,  the old Gods have been put in exile. Only in Hinduism does such worship thrive in unbroken continuity .  Food for  thought - Aren't we humans too( scientifically )   supposed to have evolved from homo sapiens , an animal specie ?

Why do Hindus cremate the dead

Hindus traditionally cremate ( burn) the dead  within 24 hours because a fiery dissolution of the body brings faster  and more complete release of the soul than burial, which preserves the soul's psychic connection to its earthly life.  After death, the departed soul hovers close to the earth plane and is emotionally attached to its physical body  and surroundings and is still able to see the material world.    The funeral rites and burning the body signify its spiritual release and notifies  the soul that death has come.  Some of the mantras chanted directs the  deceased  soul  to relinquish its attachments and continue its spiritual journey. The body is thus disposed of swiftly and cleanly as possible  as fire is the purest way to return the physical body back to its element source

Hindus belief in reincarnation - that death is merely the soul's release from the current life to another.    That's why we say " passed away " .   After  it  has taken  its journey to the inner worlds, the soul will reincarnate into a new identity/birth  in accordance to its karma .( Many Lives, Many Masters by Dr Brian Weiss/ Children Who Remember Previous Lives by Dr Ian Stevenson , Old Souls, Scientific Evidence of Past Lives  by Tom Shroder are some of the scientific and evidence based  publications  )

Why Hindus Have Many Gods

In the Hindu tradition and lore, the Trinities of Brahma ( the Creator) Vishnu ( the Preserver) and Shiva ( the Destroyer) are seen as different Gods.  But in actuality, they are all the many  manifestations of ONE SUPREME  ABSOLUTE BRAHMAN .   Hindus regard all things sacred  and every aspect of divinity is worshiped.  To a Hindu, everything in this world is a creation of GOD  and  they  see everything as an aspect and manifestation of GOD - thus the  many gods and goddess.  Although this seems  puzzling to someone looking from the outside, to a Hindu, this is a very simple concept.   A simple analogue to explain this clearly would be gold.  If we wear gold  on our finger, it is called a ring, when worn on the hand, it's called bangles or bracelet, if worn on the ear, it's called a earring , put on our necks, it's called a chain, etc., They are all from the same material  but given different names when used differently.  Thus the ONE SUPREME ABSOLUTE BRAHMAN manifests in myriad forms for the understanding of the common man.  It's like the relationship between the Sun and its rays. We cannot experience the sun itself but we can experience its rays and the qualities, which those rays have. And, although the sun’s rays are many, ultimately, there is only one source, one sun.

So, though from the outside it looks like Hinduism has many Gods, the Hindus also  understand their faith well and ultimately believe in the ONE SUPREME ABSOLUTE BRAHMAN  which has  many forms and names.

I have given a very  simplified explaination on Hinduism without going into too much details and readers  are free to raise questions or give their interpretations to the above.

 Happy reading and painting


 Some  excerpts were taken from the following source

Hinduism Today
Hinduism - Belief & Practices  Prof Jeaneane  Fowler, University of  Wales,Newport
The Many Facets of Hinduism (John Albers -eHow magazine )
Sacred - Text &

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