God in Hinduism
|Conceptions of God|
In Hindu monotheism, the concept of God varies from one sect to another. Hinduism (by its nature as a regional rather than a doctrinal religious category) is not exclusively monotheistic, and has been described as spanning a wide range of henotheism, monotheism, polytheism, panentheism, pantheism, pandeism and monism, etc.
The philosophical system of Advaita or non-dualism as it developed in the Vedanta school of Hindu philosophy, especially as set out in the Upanishads and popularised by Adi Shankara in the 9th century, would become the basis of mainstream Hinduism as it developed in the medieval period. This non-dualism postulates the identity of the Self or Atman with the Whole or Brahman, and can be described as monism or pantheism.
Forms of explicit monotheism find mention in the canonical Bhagavad Gita. Explicit monotheism in the form of emotional or ecstatic devotion (bhakti) to a single external and personal deity (in the form of Shiva or Vishnu) became popular in South India in the early medieval period. Ecstatic devotion to Krishna, a form of Vishnu, gained popularity throughout India during the Middle Ages and gave rise to schools of Vaishnavism. Ecstatic devotion to Goddess Durga became popular in some parts of India in the later medieval and early modern ages. Vaishnavism, particularly Krishnaism, Shaktism and some forms of Shaivism remain the most explicit forms of monotheistic worship of a personal God within Hinduism. Other Hindus, such as many of those who practice Shaivism, tend to assume the existence of a singular God, but do not necessarily associate God with aspects of a personality. Rather they envisage God as an impersonal Absolute (Brahman), who can be worshipped only in part in a human form.
The term Ishvara may refer to any of the monotheistic or monistic conceptions within Hinduism, depending on context.
- Brahman 1
- Nirguna Brahman 2
- Saguna Brahman 3
- Ishvara 4
- Svayam Bhagavan 5
- See also 6
- Notes 7
- References 8
- External links 9
In Hinduism, Brahman (ब्रह्मन् brahman) is the one supreme, universal Spirit that is the origin and support of the phenomenal universe. Brahman is sometimes referred to as the Absolute or Godhead which is the Divine Ground of all matter, energy, time, space, being, and everything in and beyond this universe. Brahman is conceived as personal ("with qualities"), impersonal ("without qualities") and/or supreme depending on the philosophical school.
The sages of the Upanishads teach that Brahman is the ultimate essence of material phenomena (including the original identity of the human self) that cannot be seen or heard but whose nature can be known through the development of self-knowledge (atma jnana). According to Advaita, a liberated human being (jivanmukta) has realised Brahman as his or her own true self (see atman).The Isha Upanishad says:
Auṃ – That supreme Brahman is infinite, and this conditioned Brahman is infinite. The infinite proceeds from infinite. If you subtract the infinite from the infinite, the infinite remains alone.The devas) arose:
"Great indeed are the devas who have sprung out of Brahman." — Atharva Veda
The later Vedic religion produced a series of profound philosophical reflections in which Brahman is now considered to be the one Absolute Reality behind changing appearances; the universal substrate from which material things originate and to which they return after their dissolution. The sages of the Upanishads made their pronouncements on the basis of personal experience (revelation or sruti) as an essential component of their philosophical reflection.Several mahā-vākyas (great sayings) from the Upanisads indicate what the principle of Brahman is:
|Sanskrit||Advaita translation||Vaishnava translation|
|brahma satyam jagan mithya||"Brahman is real, the world is unreal"|
|ekam edvadvitiyam brahma||"Brahman is one, without a second"|
|prajnānam brahma||"Brahman is knowledge"||Brahman knows everything|
|ayam ātmā brahma||"The Self (or the Soul) is Brahman"||JivaAtma (soul) is of same eternal spiritual transcendental nature as Brahman|
|aham brahmāsmi||"I am Brahman"||I am as eternal as Brahman|
|tat tvam asi||"Thou art that" ("You are the Supreme")||"You are the servant of the Supreme"|
|sarvam khalv idam brahma||"All this that we see in the world is Brahman" ("everything in this material world is Maya, illusion")||Brahman is everything, and all we see are His different energies — material or spiritual|
|sachchidānanda brahma||"Brahman or Brahma is existence, consciousness, and bliss".||Brahman, has sat-cit-ananda-vigraha — eternal spiritual body which is full of bliss, and He is Supreme Person (conscious Absolute Person/Truth)|
In the Upanisads the sages teach that brahman is infinite Being, infinite Consciousness, and infinite Bliss (saccidananda).
It is said that Brahman cannot be known by empirical means — that is to say, as an object of our consciousness — because Brahman is our very consciousness and being. Therefore it may be said that moksha, yoga, samādhi, nirvana, etc. do not merely mean to know Brahman, but rather to realise one's "brahman-hood", to actually realise that one is and always was Brahman. Indeed, closely related to the Self-concept of Brahman is the idea that it is synonymous with jiva-atma, or individual souls, our atman (or soul) being readily identifiable with the greater soul (paramatma) of Brahman.
The above is a short description of Advaitic philosophy. There is another half in Hinduism which is called dualistic reality (Tattava vada)
Hinduism is a term given by the Persians for those who live on the other side of River Indus. The British inherited it.
Nirguna Brahman, (Devanagari निर्गुण ब्रह्म, nirguṇa brahman, the supreme reality without form, quality, attribute) signifies in Hindu philosophy the Brahman that pervades the Universe, considered without form (guna), as in the Advaita school or else as without material form, as in Dvaita schools of philosophy.
According to Adi Shankara, the famous reviver of Advaita Vedanta, the nirguna brahman is non-different from the supreme personality, God, whatever qualities we attribute to the divine. By the power of Maya (illusion) the supreme lord (Ishwara) playfully creates multiple worlds and deludes all beings, who are in essence non-different from Him. This world is only relatively real and the real self is not affected by it. The lord appears time and again in this world to show the path of liberation: He seems to take birth but that is an illusion because He is birthless. His body is transcendental, unlike our bodies which are created and destroyed. One can worship Him as one's own self or as (fully or partially) distinct from oneself. If one worships any deity one will reach the world of that deity (Hiranyagarbha) but, perhaps after millions of years, deity and devotee will reach para vasudeva or "beyond the divinity". The desireless soul can reach this state here and now: this is called Jivanmukta or "free while alive". This school essentially advocates God as being immortal and formless.
Saguna Brahman (lit. "The Absolute with qualities") came from the Sanskrit saguṇa (सगुण) "with qualities" and Brahman (ब्रह्मन्) "The Absolute", close to the concept of immanence, the manifested divine presence. According to Advaita as taught by Sankara, saguna brahman refers to the lord identical with his own infinite jnanam. Sankara refers to him by names such as Shiva, Vishnu as specified in the vedas and upanishads. This saguna brahman is Paramartha, eternal, undecaying and non-differentiated from nirguna brahman. He is not affected even when he appears in this world as he controls the effects of his own maya shakti. Hiranyagarbha, the collection of deities in the Hindu pantheon of gods, is not saguna brahman as popularly miscontrued. Sankara clearly says that hiranyagarbha is called brahman only because of nearness to brahman. After many millions of years, the devotees who reach the worlds of gods (hiranyagarbha), will reach the state of vishnu.
In Yoga,Rājarshi (2001: p. 45) conveys his estimation of the historical synthesis of the School of Yoga (one of the six Āstika schools of Hinduism) which he holds introduces the principle of "Isvara" as Saguna Brahman, to reconcile the extreme views of Vedanta's "advandva" and Sankhya's "dvandva".
Saguna Brahman of the various schools of Vaishnavism means Brahman with infinite attributes, including form. Saguna Brahman is immortal, imperishable, eternal, and thus the basis of the impersonal Nirguna Brahman, as clearly stated in the Bhagavad Gita. The personal form indicated is generally Narayana, or Krishna, or Vishnu. Practically all schools of Vaishnavism adhere to this viewpoint.
The Sanskrit word for God that is used most commonly, Ishvara means a being with extraordinary powers. It is originally a title comparable to "Lord", from the roots īśa, lit., powerful/lord/owner, + vara, lit., choicest/most excellent. Some forms of traditional sankhya systems contrast purusha (consciousness, awareness, knowing) to prakriti (agency that acts, nature, matter), however the term Ishvara is mentioned six times in the Atharva Veda, and is central to many traditions.
It is most often used in Gaudiya Vaishnava Krishna-centered theology as referring to Krishna. The title Svayam Bhagavan is used exclusively to designate Krishna. Certain other traditions of Hinduism consider him to be the source of all avatars, and the source of Vishnu himself, or to be the same as Narayana. As such, he is therefore regarded as Svayam Bhagavan.
When Krishna is recognized to be Svayam Bhagavan, it can be understood that this is the belief of Gaudiya Vaishnavism, the Vallabha Sampradaya, and the Nimbarka Sampradaya, where Krishna is accepted to be the source of all other avatars, and the source of Vishnu himself. This belief is drawn primarily "from the famous statement of the Bhagavatam"(1.3.28).
A different viewpoint, opposing this theological concept is the concept of Krishna as an avatar of Narayana or Vishnu. It should be however noted that although it is usual to speak of Vishnu as the source of the avataras, this is only one of the names of god of Vaishnavism, who is also known as Narayana, Vasudeva and Krishna and behind each of those names there is a divine figure with attributed supremacy in Vaishnavism.
The theological interpretation of svayam bhagavān differs with each tradition and the literal translation of the term has been understood in several distinct ways. Translated from the Sanskrit language, the term literary means "Bhagavan Himself" or "directly Bhagavan". Gaudiya Vaishnava tradition often translates it within its perspective as primeval Lord or original Personality of Godhead, but also considers the terms such as Supreme Personality of Godhead and Supreme God as an equivalent to the term Svayam bhagavan, and may also choose to apply these terms to Vishnu, Narayana and many of their associated Avatars.
Earlier commentators such as Madhvacharya translated the term Svayam Bhagavan as "he who has bhagavatta"; meaning "he who has the quality of possessing all good qualities". Others have translated it simply as "the Lord Himself". Followers of Vishnu-centered sampradayas of Vaishnavism rarely address this term, but believe that it refers to their belief that Krishna is among the highest and fullest of all Avatars and is considered to be the "paripurna Avatara", complete in all respects and the same as the original. According to them Krishna is described in the Bhagavata Purana as the Purnavatara (or complete manifestation) of the Bhagavan, while other incarnations are called partial.
- Hindu views on monotheism
- Adi parashakti
- Para Brahman
- Svayam Bhagavan
- Names of God
- Conceptions of God
- Rogers, Peter (2009), Ultimate Truth, Book 1, AuthorHouse, p. 109,
- Chakravarti, Sitansu (1991), Hinduism, a way of life, Motilal Banarsidass Publ., p. 71,
- "Polytheism". Encyclopædia Britannica. Encyclopædia Britannica Online. 2007. Retrieved 2007-07-05.
- Pattanaik, Devdutt (2002), The man who was a woman and other queer tales of Hindu lore, Routledge, p. 38,
- The Oxford Dictionary of World Religions, ed. John Bowker, OUP, 1997
- Both terms are used by Radhakrishnan
- The phrase 'Divine Ground' was in modern times coined by Aldous Huxley in his widely read comparative study of mysticism The Perennial Philosophy. Divine Ground (Paul Tillich popularized the expression 'Ground of Being' to refer to God) is a neutral term to express the common experience of mystics in diverse religious traditions of an Absolute Ground in which phenomena appear to have their root and origin. Theistic religions refer to this ground as God or Godhead whereas Eastern transtheistic religions use terms such as Tao, Dharmakaya or Clear Light. Among modern authors who use the expression 'Ground' is Tibetan Buddhist teacher Sogyal Rinpoche (see his book The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying)
- pp.77, Radhakrishnan, S, The Principal Upanisads, HarperCollins India, 1994
- Aitareya Upanishad 3.3
- Brihadaranyaka Upanishad 4.4.5,
- Brihadaranyaka Upanishad 1.4.10,
- Chhāndogya Upanishad 6.8.7 et seq.
- Madhavacarya, Mayavada sata dushani, text 6
- Chhāndogya Upanishad 3.14.1
- Nrisimhauttaratāpini, cited in Swami Nikhilananda, The Upanishads: A new Translation Vol. I.
- In the Bhagavad Gītā, Krishna also describes the nature of Brahman. For example, he says "And I am the basis of the impersonal Brahman, which is immortal, imperishable and eternal and is the constitutional position of ultimate happiness" (brahmano hi pratishthaham...) B-Gita (As-it-Is) 14.27 Translation by A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada
- The Shambala Encyclopedia of Yoga (p. 247), by Georg Feuerstein, Ph.D., ISBN 1-57062-137-3
- Bryant, Edwin H. (2003). Krishna: the beautiful legend of God; Śrīmad Bhāgavata Purāṇa, book X with chapters 1, 6 and 29-31 from book XI. Harmondsworth [Eng.]: Penguin.
- (Gupta 2007, p.36 note 9)
- Delmonico, N. (2004). "The History Of Indic Monotheism And Modern Chaitanya Vaishnavism". The Hare Krishna Movement: the Postcharismatic Fate of a Religious Transplant.
- Elkman, S.M.; Gosvami, J. (1986). Jiva Gosvamin's Tattvasandarbha: A Study on the Philosophical and Sectarian Development of the Gaudiya Vaishnava Movement. Motilal Banarsidass Pub.
- Dimock Jr, E.C.; Dimock, E.C. (1989). The Place of the Hidden Moon: Erotic Mysticism in the Vaisnava-Sahajiya Cult of Bengal. University Of Chicago Press. page 132
- Kennedy, M.T. (1925). The Chaitanya Movement: A Study of the Vaishnavism of Bengal. H. Milford, Oxford university press.
- "Early Vaishnava worship focuses on three deities who become fused together, namely Vasudeva-Krishna, Krishna-Gopala and Narayana, who in turn all become identified with Vishnu. Put simply, Vasudeva-Krishna and Krishna-Gopala were worshiped by groups generally referred to as Bhagavatas, while Narayana was worshipped by the Pancaratra sect."
- Essential Hinduism S. Rosen, 2006, Greenwood Publishing Group p.124 ISBN 0-275-99006-0
- Matchett 2000, p. 4
- Gupta, Ravi M. (2007). Caitanya Vaisnava Vedanta of Jiva Gosvami. Routledge.
- Knapp, S. (2005). The Heart of Hinduism: The Eastern Path to Freedom, Empowerment and Illumination -. iUniverse. "Krishna is the primeval Lord, the original Personality of Godhead, so He can expand Himself into unlimited forms with all potencies." page 161
- Dr. Kim Knott, (1993). "Contemporary Theological Trends In The Hare Krishna Movement: A Theology of Religions". Retrieved 2008-04-12...."Bhakti, the highest path, was that of surrender to Lord Krishna, the way of pure devotional service to the Supreme Personality of Godhead".
- p.109 Klaus Klostermaier translates it simply as "the Lord Himself"
- "Sapthagiri". www.tirumala.org. Retrieved 2008-05-03. Parashara Maharishi, Vyasa's father had devoted the largest Amsa (part) in Vishnu Purana to the description of Sri Krishna Avatara the Paripoorna Avatara. And according to Lord Krishna's own (instructions) upadesha, "he who knows (the secrets of) His (Krishna's) Janma (birth) and Karma (actions) will not remain in samsara (punar janma naiti- maam eti) and attain Him after leaving the mortal coil." (BG 4.9). Parasara Maharishi ends up Amsa 5 with a phalashruti in an identical vein (Vishnu Purana .5.38.94)
- Sharma, Baldev Raj (2011). Philosophy of God - Ishadarshanam. Shivani Publication.
- Elkman, S.M.; Gosvami, J. (1986). Jiva Gosvamin's Tattvasandarbha: A Study on the Philosophical and Sectarian Development of the Gaudiya Vaisnava Movement. Motilal Banarsidass Pub.
- Matchett, Freda (2000). Krsna, Lord or Avatara? the relationship between Krsna and Visnu: in the context of the Avatara myth as presented by the Harivamsa, the Visnupurana and the Bhagavatapurana. Surrey: Routledge. p. 254.
- Delmonico, N. (2004). "The History Of Indic Monotheism And Modern Chaitanya Vaishnavism". The Hare Krishna Movement: the Postcharismatic Fate of a Religious Transplant.
- Gupta, Ravi M. (2007). Caitanya Vaisnava Vedanta of Jiva Gosvami's Catursutri tika. Routledge.
- The full text of the Bhagavata Purana (Srimad-Bhagavatam) (srimadbhagavatam.com)
- Hinduism God
- GRETIL etext: The transliterated Sanskrit text for the entire work - Bhagavata Purana (uni-goettingen.de)
- Srimad Bhagavatam - glories, subjects, dating, concordance to Vedanta-sutra