Reason why Many Gods in Hinduism.

Why does Sanatam Dharma or as it is represented today as Hinduism, have many Gods? The worship of many Gods in Sanatan Dharma has its root in Realisation of Ultimate Truth, the source of all creations. And it is based on our Vedas, the roots of this Realisation lies in Vedanta. Vedas are the sacred books upon which whole Sanatan Dharma rests. Besides details of ceremonies and worships, Vedas also have detailed records of truths concerning nature of our Universe as witnessed by our Rishis (Sages) in their super-conscious states of meditations. Apart from facts like evolution, theory of space, atomic structure of matter, Vedas have chronicled details of the presence of an Ultimate Reality which is the source of all creations.

In Vedas, the guiding book for us all, this Ultimate Reality is called as Brahman and is considered to be subtle, all pervading and infinite. It is an ocean of consciousness and according to Vedanta, from this Ocean of Consciousness originates both Matter and Living Beings. Vedanta tells us how like waves in the ocean rises, so do the entire phenomenal Universe comprising living beings (Chetan) and Matter (Jad) emanates from this Ocean of Consciousness. Like Oceans pervading the waves, the Divinity of God pervades all things; living and non-living. This is why plants, animals, rivers and mountains are all ascribed a divinity in the Hindu religion.

It is this truth that finds the expression of many deities in Sanatan Dharma. Ancient Rishis found beauty and God in everything. In air, water, fire, even in dead woods or rocks, they found the presence of the Infinite Being. They realised this God is everywhere and in everything, including you and me. 

As Swami Abhedananda, one of the direct disciples of Swami Vivekananda said: “There is no such thing as dead matter. You may call this table dead matter but there is life in it. Everything is alive and the prana or life-force is all pervading. It is the cause of molecular activity; it is the cause of the movements of the electrons. When the latent life force leaves the table it will disintegrate into electrons and vanish into the ocean of eternal energy.”

Vedanta is a rational philosophy and hence never demands blind following of any particular path or given God. Anyone can seek and find the truth and God by following any path they wish to follow for themselves. And of the many paths, one is through prayers and meditations. We focus our mind to a specific aspect of the Supreme Being, and try to manifest that into our own nature. This way the spirit is freed to unite with that Consciousness or God. For the Rishis it was possible to meditate upon the formless, the “Nirakar” but what about the common man! Inexperienced mind would find it impossible to concentrate upon the Qualitative Attributes of a Formless. Try doing so; meditate on purity of the Supreme Being, imagining a blank space or vacuum. This is because our mind best focuses through the five senses and among them Sight being the best. Keeping this aspect in mind, Adi Rishis contemplated images for various attributes of God.

Thus the Rishis, took the countless attributes of the Universal Lord, and creatively depicted each of them in the forms of the various Gods and Goddesses. For example, the three types of power of one God are known as Brahma, the creator who represents the creative, motherly power of God; Vishnu, who represents the sustaining or nurturing power of God; and Shiva, who represents the devouring power of God. Similarly, that aspect of the Supreme which guides our intellect on the path of righteousness is called Mother Gayatri, the power which enhances our creativity is Goddess Saraswati and the courage that helps us leap across oceans, is Lord Hanuman. In this way arise the multitudinous deities in Hinduism. And the purpose of these idols is to help the devotee to concentrate during prayer and meditation.

The various Hindu Gods all exist, but not independently. Just as the seven colours exist within one ray of light, so too these various Hindu Gods exist within the Supreme, as names of his different qualities. It is for this reason that the Vedas declare, “Ekam sad vipra bahudha vadanti” – God is One, whom we call by various names. Thus in truth, Sanatan Dharma or as it’s called now a day’s Hinduism, is a monotheistic religion. The many Gods of the Hindus are simply a creative acknowledgement of the numerous powers and manifestations of the One Supreme Lord. His manifestations are worshipped as the various Elements of Nature (Jad), while His Conscious Powers (Chetan) are worshipped in the form of different Gods and Goddesses.

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