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Philosophical concept of God in Hinduism

The Bhagavad Gita

Sanatan Society

Aarti

Here we present the philosophical concept of God in Hindu dharma.

While Hindus worship God that has a form, where as one without a form, there is a synergy in this apparent contradiction. This is presented in the Saguna and Nirguna Brahman sections.

While Hindu believe in multiple Gods and a singular God, these concept in reality do not differ from one another.

Hindu temples have murtis (images) of Gods and Goddesses, but do God and Gods have gender?  

Is there a hierarchy amongst the Gods and Goddesses?  

And how do these God and Goddesses that Hindu worship differ from the ishta Devata that every Hindu family has?

And how does the worship in Hindu dharma lead to the ultimate communion with God?

These questions and more, are answered in the following section.

Hindu dharma accepts the existence of several Gods or deities, it accepts only one God, the Supreme.

Brahma, Vishnu and Siva. are not three independent and separate deities, but three different aspects of the same Supreme God, while engaged in the processes of creation, sustenance and destruction of the universe, in that order. It is similar to the role played by the same person as the father at home, as the boss in the office and as a customer in a shop. Other deities also should be considered in the same light, as different aspects of the Supreme God, manifesting themselves for specific purposes.

The powers of these deities which are inseparable from them - just as the power of fire to burn cannot be separated from fire itself.  This power is  conceived in the form of  their consorts,  Sarasvati, Parvati (or Sakti) and Lakshmi.

This is not to say that these deities are imaginary creations. All of them, without exception, are different modes and aspects of Paramatman, the Supreme Self or God.

"If God is our- father, why cannot God be our Mother! If we are the children of our heavenly Father, why cannot we be the children of our heavenly Mother!." This rhetorical question is the basis of why Hindus recognize and accept both male and female aspects of Nature and worship the Supreme Reality in the form of Mother, Father, Friend, Master, Guru, and Savior. Thus Lord Krishna declares in the Bhagawad Gita:

"I am the Father- of this Universe. I am the Mother of this universe, and the Creator- of all. I am the Highest to be known, the Purifier, the holy OM, and the three Vedas." (BG 9.17)

The worship of God in the form of Mother- is a unique Feature of Hinduism. Through the ages, the doctrine of the Motherhood of God has established a firm root in Hinduism. Today Hindus worship the Divine Mother in many popular forms such as Durga, Kali, Lakshrni, Saraswati, Ambika, and Uma.

By worshipping God as the Divine Mother, a Hindu can more easily attribute Mothe rly traits to the Lord, such as tenderness and forgivingness. The natural love between a Mother- and her- child is the best expression of the Lord's unconditio nal love for- us as children of God. In the most representative Hindu view, the universe is the manifestation of the creative power (shakti) of Brahman, whose essence is absolute existence, consciousness, and bliss (or in Sanskrit, sat-chi t-ananda). Since all created forms proceed from the womb of the mother, the cr eative power shakti) of God is recognized by Hindus as the female principle or t he motherly aspect of nature. In this sense we are all children of the Divine Mo ther. We are contained by Her before our - manifestation and nourished by Her th roughout our existence.

To a Hindu, the motherly aspect of God in nature is full of beauty, gentleness, kindness, and tenderness. When we look upon all the glorious and beautiful things ill nature and experience a feeling of tenderness within us, we feel the motherly instinct of God. The worship of God in the form of Mother is a unique contribution of the Hindu child. When a devotee worships God as Divine Mother, he or- she appeals to Her tenderness and unconditional love. Such love unites the de votee with God, like a child with its mother. Just as a child feels safe and secure in the lap of its mother, a devotee feels safe and secure in the presence of the Divine Mother-. Pararnaharnsa Sri Ramakrishna, one of the greatest Indian s ages of modern times, worshipped the Divine Mother Kali during his entire life. He established a personal relationship with Her and was always conscious of Her presence by his side.

In Hinduism, Divine Mother is the first manifestation of Divine Energy. Thus with the name of Divine Mother comes the idea of energy, omnipotence, omnipresence, love, intelligence, and wisdom. Just as a child believes its mother to be all-powerful, and capable of doing anything for the child, a devotee believes the Divine Mother to be all merciful, all-powerful and eternally guiding and protecting him with her invisible arms.

The worship of God as Mother- has had a significant impact on Hinduism. The position of women in the Hindu religion is dignified because each woman is considered a manifestation of the Divine Mother. Hindus view man and woman as the two wings of the same bird. Thus, a man is considered incomplete without a woman, since "it is not possible for- a bird to fly on only one wing"---Swami Vivekananda. Through the worship of God in the form of Mother, Hinduism offers a unique reverence to womanhood.

 

                     WHAT IS DHARMA ?

 

   Dharma means righteousness and good moral and ethical practices in accordance with the scriptures.  Dharma includes all duties, individual, social, and religious, and adherence to the laws of the land.  According to the Hindu philosophy, dharma is essential for accomplishing material and spiritual goals and for the growth of the individual and society.

 

Brahman represents the Supreme Reality for Hindus.  Hindus believe that the Brahman, described in the Upanishads can be viewed from two aspects transcendent (impersonal) and immanent (personal).  In its transcendent aspect the Supreme Reality is called Nirguna Brahman, or Brahman without attributes.

About Nirguna Brahman Taittiriya Upanishad states, “the Brahman is He whom speech cannot extress, and from whom the mind, unable to reach Him comes away baffled”.

According to Maitri Upanishad, “Brahman is immeasurable, unapproachable, beyond conception, beyond birth, beyond reasoning, and beyond thought”

 

The true soul or Atman is beyond the mind and does not function through thought. It envisions things but as an unfoldment of the heart, not a structure of thought.

The goal of the soul in evolution is merging into the divine of the inner Self. This brings about freedom from cycle of rebirth. To see our Self in all beings and all beings in our Self is the essence of life. Each soul has to grow for itself and must be free to gain the experiences it needs. Any soul can turn around and move to the truth.

Liberation from the world is not abandoning the world but merging into the world and beyond, becoming the all. This state has been called nirvana, kaivalya, mukti, moksha etc. .

Word Karma denotes an action that brings back results in this life or in the future life. The doctrine of karma (karmavada) is based upon the theory of cause and effect. According to this doctrine, God is not responsible for the pleasure or pain of His creatures. They suffer or enjoy owing to the consequences of their own bad or good deeds.

Stored up karmic forces from past lives is called sanchita karma. When the karmic forces mature and starts acting on the mind and body, it is called prarabdha karma. Any action done in this life or its effect is called kriyamana karma or agami karma.

Karma as a spiritual law, is not adjusted according to our various and conflicting definitions of success and failure. From an inner standpoint, the soul's happiness is often the suffering of the ego and the happiness of the ego is often the suffering of the soul.

Ultimately we must go beyond all karma, good or evil. The greatest virtue does not seek to change the world or improve us but to rest in harmony with the peace of what is.

Liberation is the highest goal of human life through which everything is accomplished. This liberation also called nirvana, kaivalya, mukti, moksha, can be brought about only through Self knowledge. All life is an experience to provide us with Self knowledge. To see ourselves in all beings and all beings in ourselves is the essence of life, hence from the highest standpoint, there is no birth and no death, no one who is born and no one who dies, there is only the unborn, perfect and infinite Self nature, beyond all limitations and possessed of all powers of Self manifestations.

Liberation is beyond all states of body and mind and not limited by them. It is everything and nothing, everyone and no one. A liberated soul possesses divine qualities such as purity, omnipresence, omnipotence, and is beyond limitations. Moksha is attained when the individual becomes liberated from the cycle of birth and death.

According to the doctrine of predestination, every event in the life of an individual has already been determined by God -everything happens only according to God's will. Individuals do not have any control over events. In the light of the doctrine of predestination the doctrine of karma cannot be accepted as a valid doctrine and vice versa.

Hindu dharma however, accepts both the doctrines as valid. The doctrine of karma is valid for a person who has the sense of agency or doership. Such a person holds himself responsible for his actions, whether good or bad. But through intense spiritual practice a spiritual aspirant's mind can be made to acquire higher and higher degree of purity. At a certain high level of mental purity the spiritual aspirant completely loses his sense of agency. He feels that he is only an instrument in the hands of God. At this high level of spirituality the doctrine of predestination becomes the only valid doctrine.

The true reincarnating entity is the causal body, wherein our karmic impressions are stored. There is not a simple correspondence of one soul or causal body or physical body. It is possible for one soul to take more than one birth at the same time, either high or low.

Less evolved souls may only experience a prolonged deep sleep between incarnations. These usually incarnate into the same location on earth and seek a similar life experience. Very advanced souls may enter into a deep meditative trance and may reincarnate quickly. Souls of intermediate development may spend much time on the different levels of the astral planes to assimilate their life experience.

"Why does a person reincarnate?" Hindu dharma says that the unfulfilled desires of departed people are primarily responsible for their rebirth. To understand this position, one should know about Hindu dharma's views on death and thereafter.

According to Hindu dharma, when a person dies, his gross physical body (physical body) is left behind and the soul with the subtle body (consisting of the mind, intellect, sense organs, motor organs, and vital energies) goes to a different plane of existence. Such a plane of existence is called "loka" in Sanskrit.

Although popular belief is that there are three lokas (svarga, martya and patala), the scriptures speak of fourteen lokas, including the earthy plane (Bhuloka). 

The lokas are : 

Satyaloka, Tapoloka, Maharloka, Janaloka, Svarloka, Bhuvarloka, Bhurloka, Atalaloka, Vitalaloka, Sutalaloka, Rasatalaloka, Talatalaloka, Mahatalaloka, and Patalaloka.

Among these, first six are considered the higher lokas, and the last seven are considered to be lower lokas. The adjectives higher and lower in this context are used in comparison to the conditions found in Bhuloka. In the higher lokas, in ascending order, there is more and more enjoyment or spiritual bliss compared to what is usually found on this earthy plane.

Moksha (Freedom or Salvation) from the cycle of birth and death is the ultimate goal of Hindu religious life.  Moksha is called Mukti (freedom) by yogis and Nirvana by Buddhists

The individual soul (atman), in its liberated state, possesses divine qualities such as purity, omnipresence and omnipotence, and is beyond limitations.  Within the individual, however, the atman is involved in the working of samsara (the cycle of birth and death in the phenomenal world), thereby subjecting itself to bondage by Law of Karma.  Moksha is attainted when the individual becomes liberated from the cycle of birth and death and attains eventual union with the Supreme Being.

This union can be achieved through true knowledge (gyana or jnana), devotion (bhakti), or right work (karma).  Purity, self-control, truthfulness, non-violence, and compassion toward all forms of life are the necessary pre-requisites for any spiritual path in Hindu dharma.  The Hindu dharma emphasizes the importance of a true guru (spiritual master) for the attainment of true knowledge of the soul and God.

Hindu dharma proclains, “Ahimsa Paramo Dharma” or, Ahimsa is the highest form of dharma (virtue).  Ahimsa means non-violence, non-injury or non-killing.  In all the Hindu paths, and especially, Jain and Buddha in dharma Ahimsa is a paramount virtue.   

Hindu dharma teaches that all forms of life are manifestations of the Supreme Self (Brahman).  We must not be indifferent to the sufferings of others. One must consider all living beings in the image of one’s own self and thus not commit acts of violence in thought, word or deed against other living creatures.

Anger and hatred cannot coexist with ahimsa.  Anger blinds reason and leads one to violence.  Greed and possessiveness are two main causes of social injustice and suffering and a practitioner of ahimsa should not hoard wealth beyond needs.  Compassion and austerity are essential elements of ahimsa. 

Concept ahimsa extends to all living beings, and therefore, protection of environment, natural habitats and vegetarianism are natural derivatives of the concept of ahimsa.

 

 

“Om” - A State of Stress-free Existence


There are various explanations of the meaning of "Om" or "Aum". If someone tells you that "Om" is the sound of God or the Universe, she is simply imagining things. I have a different interpretation. "Om" is the sound of a thoughtless state of mind - a present that is free from all tensions of life - the way to touch the depths of our real selves in its purest form.

The State of Om
The Sanskrit word "Aham", which means "I am", is a reminder of my existence in life. A normal human being leads a life full of thoughts, never getting to know his real self. "Om" is a derivative of "Aham" that rhymes easily in a person's conscious being. When a person chants "Om" she exists in her purest form without the thoughts disturbing him during the sacred moments of spiritual existence.  

The State of Existence
"Existence" indicates one state - the present. A happening yesterday is in the past that "existed". I have to imagine and build thoughts of the scenes of yesterday which is bound by time. When I plan for tomorrow, the future "will exist". It belongs to future and I have to build thoughts around the plan. The future is also bound by time. So, both past and future are bound by time and thought.

However, when I remind myself of my existence, with the sound of "Om", it can be only in the present - a state where thoughts don't get born. The present state is timeless, unlimited and with freedom from thoughts, it is free from stress. So, a person chanting Om is without stress, in other words, healthy, efficient and wise.

The State of Meditation
Yoga scriptures advise a meditator to empty the mind and keep it free from all thoughts. If I realize that thoughts are time bound, it will be clear that I have to keep in the present state of "Om", where thoughts cannot occur. In my present state I can only find my real self and this is a state of meditation.

To me meditation in life can be of two kinds: One, leading your life or Karma while always remaining in the present state of being. This brings high efficiency - without complications the whole being is dedicated to Karma in the "present". The other is as we know, when you sit for meditation in the mornings or evenings, and immerse ourselves in our thoughtless selves. In both cases, the present state serves timeless wisdom on a silver platter and you are at your efficient best.

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