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God in Hinduism

God in Hinduism

Hinduism is a diverse system of thought with beliefs spanning monotheism, polytheism, panentheism, pantheism, monism, and atheism among others; and its concept of God is complex and depends upon each individual and the tradition and philosophy followed. It is sometimes referred to as henotheistic (i.e., involving devotion to a single god while accepting the existence of others), but any such term is an overgeneralization.

The Rig Veda, the oldest scripture and the mainstay of Hindu philosophy does not take a restrictive view on the fundamental question of God and the creation of universe. It rather lets the individual seek and discover answers in the quest of life. Nasadiya Sukta (Creation Hymn) of the Rig Veda thus says:


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?


Most Hindus believe that the spirit or soul — the true "self" of every person, called the atman — 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 atman is identical to Brahman, the supreme soul. The Upanishads state that whoever becomes fully aware of the atman as the innermost core of one's own self realizes an identity with Brahman and thereby reaches moksha (liberation or freedom).
The schools of Vedanta and Nyaya states that karma itself proves the existence of God. Nyaya being the school of logic, makes the "logical" inference that the universe is an effect and it ought to have a creator.
Dualistic schools 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 atman 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 Samkhyapravacana Sūtra 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. seehindu God



In Hinduism, the concept of gods varies from one sect to another and from one book to another. In Hinduism, forms of explicit monotheism find mention in the canonical Bhagavad Gita. These derive from the philosophical system of Advaita or non-dualism developed by Adi Shankara in the 9th century, within the framework of the Vedanta school of classical Hindu philosophy.

Shankara's non-dualism postulated the identity of the Self or Atman with the Whole or Brahman, and as such can be better described as monism or pantheism than as monotheism. The shift to explicit monotheism is initiated by the South Indian Alvars with their emotional or ecstatic devotion (bhakti) to Vishnu-Krishna. This form of monotheism, also known as Krishnaism, became immensely popular in medieval India, spreading to North India by the 15th century. Besides giving rise to schools of Vaishna monotheim such as Gaudiya Vaishnavism, it also affected non-Vaishna sects of Hinduism, viz. Shaivism, Shaktism, and Smartism. But Vaishnavism, and especially Krishnaism within Vaishnavism, remains the most explicit form of monotheistic worship of a personal God (Svayam Bhagavan) within Hinduism, while other sects tend to assume the existence of a singular God, but not necessarily with aspects of a personality but rather envisaged as an impersonal Absolute (Brahman).
The term Ishvara may refer to any of the monotheistic or monistic conceptions within Hinduism, depending on context.


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