Why The Hindus believe in many gods and goddesses ?

The Hindus believe in many gods and goddesses. At the same time they also believe in the existence on one Supreme God, whom they call variously as Paramatma (Supreme Self), Parameshwar (Supreme Lord), Parampita (Supreme Father). Iswara, Maheswara, Bhagawan, Purusha, Purushottama, Hiranyagarbha and so on.

God is one, but also many. He manifests Himself in innumerable forms and shapes. As Purusha (Universal Male), He enters Prakriti (Nature, Matter or Divine Energy) and brings forth the numerous worlds and beings into existence. He upholds His entire creation with His unlimited powers.

He is both the Known and the Unknown, the Being as well as the Non-Being, Reality as well as Unreality. As the Unknown, He is rarely known and worshipped for difficult and painful is the path for those who choose to worship Him as the Unmanifest (The Bhagavad-Gita XII.6).

He exists in all and all beings exist in him. There is nothing other than Him, and there is nothing that is outside of Him. He is Imperishable, unknowable, immortal, infinite, without a beginning and without an end. All the same when worshipped with intense devotion and unshakeable faith, He responds to the calls of His devotees and comes to their aid and rescue.

All the gods and goddess are His manifestations only. In His female aspect He is Shakti, who as the Divine Universal Mother assists the whole creation to proceed through the process of evolution in Her own mysterious ways.

The relationship between man and God is purely personal and each can approach Him in his own way. There are no fixed rules and no central controlling authority on the subject of do's and don'ts. There are of course scriptures and Smritis but whether to follow them or not is purely an individual choice.

The concept of monotheism is not new to Hinduism. It is as old as the Vedas themselves. References to One indivisible and mysterious God are found in the Rigveda itself. The concept is the central theme of all the Upanishads in which He is variously referred as Brahman, Iswara, Hiranyagarbha, Asat etc.

While the students of Upanishads tried to understand Him through the path of knowledge and there by made it the exclusive domain of a few enlightened persons, the bhakti marg or the path of devotion brought Him closer to the masses. The One Imperishable and Ancient Being was no more a God of remote heights, but down to the earth, ready to help His needy devotees and willing to perform miracles if necessary.

The rise of tantric cults added a new dimension to our understanding of Him. To the tantric worshippers the Supreme Self is the Universal Mother. Purusha is subordinate to Her and willing to play a secondary role in Her creation. By Himself He cannot initiate creation unless He joins with His Shakti.

On the abstract level He is satchitananda. Truth, Consciousness and Bliss. He is the inhabitant of the whole world. There is nothing that is outside of Him or without Him. He exists in the individual being as Atman, the Enjoyer who delights in Himself, without undergoing any change, but willing to participate in the cycle of births and deaths and bear witness to all the illusions of life.

He can be realized in many ways, which broadly fall into three main categories: the path of knowledge, the path of devotion and the path of renunciation. Of this the middle one is the best, the first one is very difficult and the third one requires immense sacrifice and inner purification. In the Bhagavad-Gita we come across the path of action which combines the rest of the three into one integrated whole in which a devotee has to live his life with a sense of supreme sacrifice, performing his actions with detachment, without any desire for the fruit of actions and offering them to God with pure devotion and total surrender.

Hindus have a very broader approach to the concept of God. The names that people give to Him are just mere reference points for the sake of our understanding. How can He have names, who is actually beyond all words and thoughts? He represent the loftiest ideal which mankind can aspire to achieve. He is the goal and reaching Him in our individual ways is the very purpose of our lives. Those who quarrel on his name are blind men who grope in darkness and go to the worlds of ignorance.

Truly the Brahman of Hinduism represents the Highest principle which the human mind can ever conceive of. He is not God of just one world or a few worlds, but represents the entire known and unknown Universe as well as the past, the present and the future that is yet to come.

Why are there so many Gods in Hinduism?
God is one. There is only one Real and True God who does not have any form or a name. It can neither be described, thought of or conceived through human faculties. But since we are so many, each one of us conceives God according to our attitude, view points and state of life -- just as a woman can be looked upon differently by different people: mother, by her children; wife, by her husband; sister, by her sisters; daughter, by her parents; granddaughter, by her grandparents; sister-in-law, by her husband's brother, etc. The woman is one and the same, but she is viewed differently by each one of her relatives. Similarly, we look upon the same God in many ways.

What we worship as so many gods are actually various powers or functions of this one God. Various gods are simply partial manifestations of the Supreme God like several limbs of a tree. Human beings have created these gods according to their understanding, needs, superstition, belief or vested interest. In our limited awareness, it is nearly impossible to associate ourselves and others without a form or a name. Even God needs to be conceived with a form and a name during an early stage of spirituality.
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. In reality, these are not independent gods. But we children look upon each one as our Supreme God. As we progress, some of these limitations will fade away and we will start realizing that actually we are all part of "That God." In Reality, everything is "That God." Period.

Really speaking there are as many Gods and Goddesses as there are human beings, as each one us is manifestation of God. Always remember that there is only one Supreme God from which every thing has come.

When you really grow up in spirituality, you will realize there is only one God for the entire universe which includes much more than our little earthly people -- Hindus, Muslims, Buddhists, Jains, Zoroastrians, Christians, Confusions, Taos, Sikhs or even those who may not care to believe in God. God does not depend upon our beliefs or acceptance. He/She merely exists whether we accept Him/Her or not. God, known as Brahman, is neither male nor female, but can be worshipped as mother or father as per our feelings or likings. In reality, God has no name or form.

Shri Krishna is considered the perfect manifestation of Brahman by Hindus, so worship Him if you wish. The Shreemad Bhagavad Gita contains the advice Shree Krishna gave to His dear devotee Arjuna, who represents an aspirant like all of us. The Gita is one book that is considered Supreme in Hinduism. Knowing, understanding and practicing this book of 700 couplets will provide you with everything you will ever need to know to guide your entire earthly life.

Those who profess to expand on the message in Gita may be called Gurus or teachers. In reality, only those who have "seen" God are true Gurus. They are rare indeed. Many people are "self styled" gurus, and usually propagate themselves and their cult, rather than God. Therefore, you should be very careful not to be trapped in gimmicks, magics, easy ways to "see" God, false promises in the name of meditations, yogas, etc. of such fake gurus.

Learning, understanding and practicing Gita is an essential aspect of a true Hindu. However, teachings of the Gita are not only for Hindus; they are universal and applicable to all people, at all times and at all places.

-- Writen By Swami Radhanandaji 

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