Concept of God in Hinduism
Personal God
In general Hinduism considers God not just as the Supreme All-powerful Gigantic One, Who commands the humanity to tread the way He/She/It says, but also a personal God Whom the individual can worship out of love and not necessarily out of fear ! The fear brings one only upto certain point and beyond that it repels, but love takes through to the point. Devotion or bhakti as often referred to is a very key concept in Hinduism, even for the philosophically inclined ones. While the shashtras - be it vedas, Agamas, purANas - describe the Glory of God, one finds abundance of stotras that praise the God in love.

God is Formless or with Form?
For Hindus God, as is, is beyond any attributes of form, color, shapes ... That is, God does not have any specific form or name. In this state, God is referred to as nirguNa brahman (attributeless god). However God takes forms as perceived by humans and this perceived form is called saguNa brahman (god with (good) attributes). These forms could range from calm to fierce to yogic (1). Each form has its significance. For example, when one is depressed and sees the form of God Strong and Powerful, the seeker feels the moral boost that God would definitely be the support for the right thing. Similarly when in an auspicious ceremony would like the God to be the calm provider of boons. In a spiritually elevated state, the choice would be the yogic form of God. The forms provide a basis for the Hindu worshipper to easily pursue the otherwise incomprehensible Supreme. So Hinduism supports both form as well as formless worship of the God. Whether one worships in saguNa or nirguNa way, it is ultimately the same God.

Is there an evil force against God ?
God is the Almighty and Supreme. So how can there be anything good or bad against It ? If the good things are the creation of God and bad things of some other evil force, will the gravitational force of the earth be attributed to God or the other force, as it is vital good element for us to live at the same time kills somebody who falls down from a high-rise building! In the system made by God, normally one gets to enjoy the good or bad things based on what have been their inclinations and the actions they made because of that. (This is called karma). There is no evil (satan type) against God. In fact atharva veda puts it very clearly,

"na dvitIyo na tR^itIyashchaturtho nApyuchyate 
na pa.nchamo na ShaShThaH saptamo nApyuchyate 
nAShTamo na navamo dashamo nApyuchyate 
ya etaM devamekavR^itaM veda"

There is none second to It, neither third not even fourth. 
There is none fifth to It, neither sixth not even seventh.
There is none eighth to It, neither ninth not even tenth.
It is the only Supreme. This is to be known.

The concept of good and bad things is at a lower level and that too in a different way than strictly good and evil. The divines called devas are the protectors and the essentials who support the worlds. For example, air, sun, moon, water, fire etc. Those who disrupt the life supporting mechanism are the daemons called asuras. The conflicts between the two often arise and the Hindu epics talk in detail about them. However it should be kept in mind that as specified in purANas all the devAs are not the perfect beings and the asuras the worthless evils.

Is God in some heaven beyond ?
God is not just something that stays in a far off heaven, who would be met with after death, if one gets to heaven etc. God is omnipresent. It is right in front of us. Oh, It is right inside us too. Well, It is in each and every minute of the minute particle present/void anywhere! Does It stay in a world beyond ? Of course It does there too. (Very renowned gAyatri mantra hails the Supreme to be the earth, the world around and the skies beyond). One need not wait for the whole lifetime to get to meet God. The important concept in Hinduism is that God can be realized right here in this world and the God is not just Magnificent Almighty, but is also a sweet lovely One, with whom you can have a relationship - devotee, spouse, sibling, child, parent... God is not just in some heavens, It is right in us. It is both transcendental as well as intermixed in everything. Those who realize Its presence reap the grand reward.

Those who say He resides up in the sky, say so; 
Those who say the Lord of divines residing down in the world beneath, say so. 
I would say, the Lord of wisdom, Who got His throat brightly adorned with the stain of poison, is residing in my heart ! (2)

Is God a He ?
Hinduism says, God is not just a He. It is beyond the created contours of gender. For this reason the scriptures very often use the term "It" to refer to God apart from using He and She. Especially when it comes to the Supreme in the natural state (Formless, Attributeless), they prefer It to He or She. The form of Lord ardhanArIshvara(3) clearly conveys that God is masculine, feminine and neuter. When the God is called the Lord of all creatures, It is the God irrespective of the gender, animal race, or whatever other differentiation one could think of.

God is understood not only postulated
The beauty of Hinduism is that the concept of God is tried to be understood, experienced. There are purANas that elaborately tell through the voice of the divines the glory of God. These are one part. On the other hand the scriptures like upaniShads analyze through questioning and reasoning the concept of God. These two types go very much hand in hand. Neither the divine glory limited to the reaches of the human mind with the purANa like scriptures telling the things beyond the normal human reach. At the same time they do not command a blind following of some super-human texts, but also very much permit analysis. The presence of a range of philosophies in Hindu system is the testimony of this. There are texts like yogasutras that cover the scope from reasoning to divine glory too. So the total and complete spectrum of human verification to super-human wisdom is richly available for the smooth progress of the follower in Hinduism. No need to be blind-folded, explore your way to the Supreme !!

The earliest statement of the Nature of Reality occurs in the first book of the Rig-Veda: Ekam Sat-Viprah Bahudha Vadanti. "The ONE BEING, the wise diversely speak of."

The tenth book of the Rig-Veda regards the highest conception of God both as the Impersonal and the Personal: The Nasadiya Sukta states that the Supreme Being is both the Unmanifest and the Manifest, Existence as well as Non-existence, the Supreme Indeterminable.

The Purusha-Sukta proclaims that all this Universe is God as the Supreme Person – the Purusha with thousands of heads, thousands of eyes, thousands of limbs in His Cosmic Body. He envelops the whole cosmos and transcends it to infinity.

The Narayana-Sukta exclaims that whatever is anywhere, visible or invisible, all this is pervaded by Narayana within and without.

The Hiranyagarbha-Sukta of the Rig-Veda declares that God manifested Himself in the beginning as the Creator of the Universe, encompassing all things, including everything within Himself, the collective totality, as it were, of the whole of creation, animating it as the Supreme Intelligence.

The Satarudriya or Rudra-Adhyaya of the Yajur-Veda identifies all things, the high and the low, the moving and the unmoving, the good and the bad, the beautiful and the ugly, nay, every conceivable thing, with the all-pervading Siva or Rudra as the Supreme God.

The Isavasya Upanishad says that the whole Universe is pervaded by Isvara or God, who is both within and without it. He is the moving and the unmoving, He is far and near, He is within all these and without all these.

Brahma
                                                                          Brahma

The Kena Upanishad says that the Supreme Reality is beyond the perception of the senses and the mind because the senses and the mind can visualise and conceive only the objects, while Reality is the Supreme Subject, the very precondition of all sensation, thinking, understanding, etc. No one can behold God because He is the beholder of all things.

The Kathopanishad has it that God is the Root of this Tree of world existence. The realisation of God is regarded as the Supreme blessedness or Shreyas, as apart from Preyas or temporal experience of satisfaction.

The Prasna Upanishad says that God is the Supreme Prajapati or Creator, in whom are blended both the matter and energy of the Universe. God is symbolised in Pranava, or Omkara.

The Mundaka Upanishad gives the image of the Supreme Being as the One Ocean into which all the rivers of individual existence enter and with which they become one, as their final goal.

The Mandukya Upanishad regards the Supreme Being as the Turiya, or the Transcendent Consciousness, beyond the stales of waking, dreaming and deep sleep.

The Taittiriya Upanishad regards the Reality as the Atman, or the Self, beyond the physical, vital, mental, intellectual and causal aspects(sheaths) of the personality. It also identifies this Atman with the Supreme Absolute, or Brahman.

The Aitareya Upanishad states that the Supreme Atman has manifested itself as the objective Universe from the one side and the subjective individuals on the other side, in which process, factors which are effects of God's creation become causes of individual's perception, by a reversal of the process.

The Chhandogya Upanishad says that all this Universe is Brahman Manifest in all its states of manifestation. It regards objects as really aspects of the one Subject known as the Vaishvanara-Atman. It also holds that the Supreme Being is the Infinite, or Bhuma, in which one sees nothing else, hears nothing else, and understands nothing else except the Self as the only, existence.

Vishnu
                                                                             Vishnu

In the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad we are told that the Supreme Being is Pure Consciousness, in which subjects and objects merge together in a state of Universality.

The Supreme Being knew only Itself as 'I-Am', inclusive of everything. As He is the Knower of all things, no one can know Him, except as 'He Is'.

The Svetasvatara Upanishad says, 'Thou art the Woman', 'Thou art the Man', 'Thou art Girl', 'Thou art Boy', 'Thou deceivest us as the old man tottering with the stick', 'Thou movest everywhere, in the form of everything, in all directions', 'Thou art the dark-blue Butterfly, and the Green Parrot with red eyes', 'Thou art the thunder cloud, the Seasons and the Oceans', 'Thou art without beginning and beyond all time and space', 'Thou art That from which all the Universes are born'. 'That alone is Fire. That is the Sun. That is Air, That is the Moon, That is also the starry firmament, That is the waters, That is Prajapati, That is Brahman.'

That Divine Being, who, though Himself formless, gives rise to various forms in different ways with the help of His Supreme Power for His own inscrutable purpose, and Who dissolves the whole Universe in Himself in the end – may He endow us with pure understanding.

He is the Great Being who shines effulgent like the Sun, beyond all darkness. Knowing Him alone one crosses beyond death. There is no other way of going over there.

The One God, Creator of the heaven and earth, is possessed of all eyes, all faces, all hands, and all feet in this Universe. It is He who inspires all to do their respective functions, as if fanning their fire into flames of movement.

Manu says in his Smriti: In the beginning, all this existence was one Undifferentiated Mass of Unmanifestedness, unknown, indefinable, unarguable and unknown in every way. From this Supreme Condition arose the Universe of name and form, through the medium of the Self-existent Creator, Swayambhu.

The Mahabharata says that Narayana alone was in the beginning, who was the prius of the creative, preservative, and destructive principles, the Trinity known as Brahma, Vishnu and Siva – the Supreme Hari, multi-headed, multi-eyed, multi-footed, multi-armed, multi-limbed. This was the Supreme Seed of all creation, subtler than the subtlest, greater than the greatest, larger than the largest, and more magnificent than even the best of all things, more powerful, than even the wind and all the gods, more resplendent than the Sun and the Moon, and more internal than even the mind and the intellect. He is the Creator, the Father Supreme.

The Bhagavadgita in the Mahabharata, says: The Supreme Brahman is beyond existence and non-existence. It has hands and feet everywhere, heads, mouths, eyes everywhere, ears everywhere, and it exists enveloping everything. Undivided, it appears as divided among beings; attributeless, it appears to have attributes in association with things. It is the Light of all lights, beyond all darkness, and is situated in the hearts of all beings.

Shiva
                                                                            Shiva

He is the sacrifice, He is the oblation, He is the performer thereof, He is the recitation or the chant, He is the sacred fire, He is what is offered into it. He is the father, the mother, the grandfather, the support, the One knowable Thing, He is the three Vedas, the Goal of all beings, the Protector, the Reality, the Witness, the Repository, the Refuge, the Friend, the beginning, the middle and the end of all things. He is immortality and death, existence as well as non-existence. He is the Visvarupa, the Cosmic Form, blazing like fire and consuming all things.

According to the Bhagavata and the Mahabharata, God especially manifested Himself as Bhagavan Sri Krishna, who is regarded as the foremost of the divine Incarnations, in whose personality the Supreme Being is fully focussed and manifest.

Srimad Bhagavata says: He is Brahman(the Absolute), Paramatman(God), Bhagavan(the Incarnation).

According to the Pancharatra Agama and the Vaishnava theology, God has five forms: the Para or the Transcendent, Antaryamin or the Immanent, Vyuha or the Collective(known as Vasudeva, Sankarshana, Pradyumna and Aniruddha), Vibhava or the Incarnation, and Archa or the symbolic form of daily worship.

According to Saiva tradition, God is Pati, the Lord who controls the individuals known as Pasu, with His Power known as Pasa.

According to the Sakta tradition, God is the Divine Universal Mother of all things, Adi-sakti, or the original Creative Power, manifesting Herself as Kriya-Sakti or Durga, Ichha-Sakti or Lakshmi, and Jnana-Sakti or Sarasvati. But the Supreme Mother is beyond all these forms. She is One, alone, without a second.

According to the Bhakti tradition, God is the Supreme Object of Love, in respect of Whom love is evinced as in respect of one's father, mother, friend, son, master, or one's own beloved, in the five forms of affection, known as Shanta, Sakhya, Vatsalya, Dasya and Madhurya.

To the Vaishnavas, God is in Vaikuntha as Vishnu. To the Saivas, God is in Kailasa as Siva, or Rudra. To the Saktas, God is in Manidvipa, as the Supreme Sakti or the Divine Mother. To the Ganapatyas, God is Ganesa, or Ganapati. To the Sauras, God is Surya, the Sun. To the Kaumaras, God is Kumara, or Skanda.

To the saints like Tulasidas, God is Rama; to those like Surdas, He is Krishna. To those like Kabirdas, He is the Impersonal, Attributeless One, known by various names for purposes of worship and meditation.

All the Vaishnava saints worship Him as either Rama or Krishna, Narayana or Vishnu. The Saiva saints worship Him as Paramasiva. The Saktas worship Him as Adi-sakti. The philosopher-saints worship Him as Brahman, the Absolute, as Isvara, Hiranyagarbha, and Virat or the Cosmic Being.

The Virat-Saivas worship God as Siva, especially manifest as the Linga(symbolised in the rounded sacred stone which they wear round their necks).

The symbol of Vishnu is the Saligrama, the symbol of Siva is the Linga, and the symbol of Devi is the Yantra(sometimes, a Mantra).

According to the Nyaya and Vaiseshika schools, God is the instrumental cause of creation, like a potter fashioning a pot of clay, but not the material cause of creation.

The Samkhya school holds that there are only two Primary Principles, Purusha and Prakriti, and creation is only a manifestation or evolution of the constituents of Prakriti due to the action of Purusha's consciousness. There is no other God than these two Principles.

The Yoga school of Patanjali accepts God's existence as a Special Purusha free from all afflictions, Karma the effects of Karmas and impressions or potencies of a binding nature. But this Purusha, known as Isvara, according to Patanjali's Yoga System, is not the creator of the world, but a Witness thereof. Nor is He the goal of the aspirations of the Jivas or individuals.

The Yogavasishtha defines Reality as the Consciousness which is between and transcends the subjective and objective aspects in perception and cognition, etc. Consciousness is the Absolute, Brahman, the only existence, of which the world is only an appearance.

The Brahmasutra states that God is That from Whom this Universe proceeds, in Whom it subsists, and to Whom, in the end, it returns.

Kalidasa, in his Raghuvamsa and Kumarasambhava, points out that God is the Supreme Being, is prior to the forms of Brahma, Vishnu, and Siva, who are three aspects or phases of God, and that Brahma, Vishnu and Siva, being three forms of one and the same Reality, are equal to one another in every respect, without inferiority or superiority among them.

Bhartrihari prays to that Infinite Consciousness, which is Peaceful Effulgence, which is undifferentiated by the interference of space, time and causal relation, etc., and whose essence is Self-Experience alone.

Madhusudana Sarasvati blends Advaita Vedanta and Bhakti-Rasa, and he is the author of the most polemical and authoritative Advaita text, known as the 'Advaitasiddhi', and of an unparalleled compendium of the various processes and stages of devotion to God, known as 'Bhaktirasayana'. His commentary on the Bhagavadgita is a monument of a fusion of knowledge of the Impersonal Absolute with devotion to the Personal God.

Religions are founded on a metaphysical rock-bottom. There is a philosophical import behind every ethical canon.

Generally, the tradition of worship of Deities in India is according to a sort of protocol which the devotees associated with the importance of the Deities. For instance, worshippers of a particular Deity, such as Ganesa, Siva, Vishnu, Surya or Skanda, will place their own Deity as the first in importance and every other Deity as secondary. There is another tradition according to which the order of worship places Ganesa as the first, to be worshipped on any occasion, and then Devi, Siva, Vishnu, Surya, and Skanda. This order may get slightly changed in different circles of religious belief. But the discourses recorded in this book do not follow any of these patterns but a chronological arrangement according to the festivals that come one after the other, seriatim, during the course of the calendar of the year, that is, from the beginning of the year to the end of the year. The functions and festivals repeat themselves every year on specific days or dates. Thus, the order in which the functions or the Deities of worship are mentioned here follow their calendar-wise chronology.


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