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God in Hinduism From Wikipedia Edited with Additions by Dr. Gayhart for Phil 105 World
Concept of God
Hinduism is a complex system of thought with beliefs that include: monotheism, polytheism,
panentheism, pantheism, pandeism, monism, and atheism among others. It is a mistake to find the
BASICS of Hindu Belief. This is an ancient religion that has many faces. Its concept of God is
complex and depends upon each individual and the tradition and philosophy followed. Does
Hinduism contain “contradictions” in its notion of God? Yes and No. Hindus would say that it
depends on who is asking and what answer would suit that person. If the person wants comfort in the
belief of a Personal God – then Hindus would claim that God can be known as Personal. But, if the
person would not accept a Personal God – then Hindus would claim that God is Beyond Personal.
The point is: “God” is a product of the human mind and is severely limited. This is the trademark of
both Hinduism and Buddhism. To truly “find” God – one must abandon Thought and Thinking about
God --and turn to Experience of God. Get it?? God cannot be fathomed by the human mind.
Hinduism and Buddhism agree in trying to crush the egotism of the human mind. Truth is found
Beyond the Mind. Where the Mind is not; there will God be found. Thought is not the vehicle for
capturing God.
So, the Hindus texts always present “God” as eluding human thought and human ego. Humility and
silence are the paths to God. “Be Still and KNOW that I am God”—from Judaism. The Creation
Hymn of the Rig Veda is one of the earliest texts which shows the mystery of God.
Who really knows?
Who will here proclaim it?
Whence was it produced? Whence is this creation?
The gods came afterwards, with the creation of this universe.
Who then knows whence it has arisen?
The same hymn also speaks of "The One":
Then there was neither death nor immortality
nor was there then the torch of night and day.
The One breathed windlessly and self-sustaining.
There was that One then, and there was no other.[note 67]
At first there was only darkness wrapped in darkness.
All this was only unillumined water.
That One which came to be, enclosed in nothing,
arose at last, born of the power of heat.
Most Hindus believe that the spirit or soul – the true "self" of every person, called the ātman — is
eternal. According to the monistic/pantheistic theologies of Hinduism (such as Advaita Vedanta
school), this Atman is ultimately indistinct from Brahman, the supreme spirit. Hence, these schools
are called non-dualist. The goal of life, according to the Advaita school, is to realize that one's ātman
is identical to Brahman, the supreme soul. The Upanishads state that whoever becomes fully aware
of the ātman as the innermost core of one's own self realizes an identity with Brahman and thereby
reaches moksha (liberation or freedom).
So – in an ultimate sense “my essence is divine.” The core of my being is divine. This does NOT
mean “I Am God.” NO – it means that you and I are separate manifestations of fragments of the
Divine. We are sparks of the Divine Flame. Like the light bulbs on a string of lights. You and I are
the separate bulb but the source of electricity is the same for both of us. Or -- you and I are the
separate Waves of the ocean. We emerge from the huge Ocean; and we ultimately sink back into the
Ocean. All the water of the Ocean is God. And You and I are made of water. Get it?
Dualistic schools (see Dvaita and Bhakti) understand Brahman as a Supreme Being who possesses
personality, and they worship him or her thus, as Vishnu, Brahma, Shiva, or Shakti, depending upon
the sect. The ātman is dependent on God, while moksha depends on love towards God and on God's
grace. When God is viewed as the supreme personal being (rather than as the infinite principle), God
is called Ishvara ("The Lord"), Bhagavan ("The Auspicious One") or Parameshwara ("The Supreme
Lord.” However interpretations of Ishvara vary, ranging from non-belief in Ishvara by followers of
Mimamsakas, to identifying Brahman and Ishvara as one, as in Advaita. In the majority of traditions of
Vaishnavism he is Vishnu, God, and the text of Vaishnava scriptures identify this Being as Krishna,
sometimes referred to as svayam bhagavan. However, under Shaktism, Devi or Adi parashakti is
considered as the Supreme Being and in Shaivism Shiva is considered Supreme.
The multitude of devas are viewed as avatars of the Brahman. In discussing the Trimurti, Sir William
Jones states that Hindus "worship the Supreme Being under three forms — Vishnu, Siva,
Brahma...The fundamental idea of the Hindu religion, that of metamorphoses, or transformations, is
exemplified in the Avatars.
In Bhagavad Gita, for example, God is the sole repository of Gunas (attributes) also as:
His hands and feet are everywhere, He looks everywhere and all around,
His eyes, ears and face point to all directions, and all the three worlds are surrounded by these.
Atheistic doctrines dominate Hindu schools like Samkhya and Mimamsa. The Samkhyapravachana
Sutra of Samkhya argues that the existence of God (Ishvara) cannot be proved and hence cannot be
admitted to exist. Samkhya argue that an unchanging God cannot be the source of an ever changing
world. It says God was a necessary metaphysical assumption demanded by circumstances.
Proponents of the school of Mimamsa, which is based on rituals and orthopraxy states that the
evidence allegedly proving the existence of God was insufficient. They argue that there is no need to
postulate a maker for the world, just as there is no need for an author to compose the Vedas or a God
to validate the rituals. Mimamsa considers the Gods named in the Vedas have no existence apart
from the mantras that speak their names. To that regard, the power of the mantras is what is seen as
the power of Gods.
Devas and avatars
Krishna, the eighth incarnation (avatar) of Vishnu or Svayam bhagavan, worshiped across a number
of traditions
The Hindu scriptures refer to celestial entities called Devas (or devī in feminine form; devatā used
synonymously for Deva in Hindi), "the shining ones", which may be translated into English as "gods"
or "heavenly beings".[note 70] The devas are an integral part of Hindu culture and are depicted in art,
architecture and through icons, and mythological stories about them are related in the scriptures,
particularly in Indian epic poetry and the Puranas. They are, however, often distinguished from
Ishvara, a supreme personal god, with many Hindus worshiping Ishvara in one of its particular
manifestations (ostensibly separate deities) as their iṣṭa devatā, or chosen ideal.[323][324] The
choice is a matter of individual preference,[325] and of regional and family traditions.[325]
Hindu epics and the Puranas relate several episodes of the descent of God to Earth in corporeal form
to restore dharma to society and to guide humans to moksha. Such an incarnation is called an Avatar.
The most prominent avatars are of Vishnu and include Rama (the protagonist in Ramayana) and
Krishna (a central figure in the epic Mahabharata).
Karma and samsara
Karma translates literally as action, work, or deed, and can be described as the "moral law of cause
and effect". According to the Upanishads an individual, known as the jiva-atma, develops sanskaras
(impressions) from actions, whether physical or mental. The linga sharira, a body more subtle than
the physical one but less subtle than the soul, retains impressions, carrying them over into the next
life, establishing a unique trajectory for the individual. Thus, the concept of a universal, neutral, and
never-failing karma intrinsically relates to reincarnation as well as to one's personality, characteristics,
and family. Karma binds together the notions of free will and destiny.
This cycle of action, reaction, birth, death and rebirth is a continuum called samsara. The notion of
reincarnation and karma is a strong premise in Hindu thought. The Bhagavad Gita states:
As a person puts on new clothes and discards old and torn clothes,
similarly an embodied soul enters new material bodies, leaving the old bodies. (B.G. 2:22)
Samsara provides ephemeral pleasures, which lead people to desire rebirth so as to enjoy the
pleasures of a perishable body. However, escaping the world of samsara through moksha is believed
to ensure lasting happiness and peace. It is thought that after several reincarnations, an atman
eventually seeks unity with the cosmic spirit (Brahman/Paramatman).
The ultimate goal of life, referred to as moksha, nirvana or samadhi, is understood in several different
ways: as the realization of one's union with God; as the realization of one's eternal relationship with
God; realization of the unity of all existence; perfect unselfishness and knowledge of the Self; as the
attainment of perfect mental peace; and as detachment from worldly desires. Such realization
liberates one from samsara and ends the cycle of rebirth. Due to belief in the indestructibility of the
soul, death is deemed insignificant with respect to the cosmic self. Thence, a person who has no
desire or ambition left and no responsibilities remaining in life or one affected by a terminal disease
may embrace death by Prayopavesa.
The exact conceptualization of moksha differs among the various Hindu schools of thought. For
example, Advaita Vedanta holds that after attaining moksha an atman no longer identifies itself with
an individual but as identical with Brahman in all respects. The followers of Dvaita (dualistic) schools
identify themselves as part of Brahman, and after attaining moksha expect to spend eternity in a loka
(heaven),[336] in the company of their chosen form of Ishvara. Thus, it is said that the followers of
dvaita wish to "taste sugar", while the followers of Advaita wish to "become sugar".