In Hinduism, there are many forms of God. So we follow Ram, we follow Sita, we follow Krishna. But is there one particular form of God that we should be praying to – be it Matarani or be it Krishna, or are they all just representatives of one sole God?
OK. This question actually worries or confuses lot of Hindu youngsters. And forgets about the Hindus, it confuses the non-Hindus even more. They think this weird religion has got so many Gods.
And if I ask all of you, “Look Shiva, this is ultimate, almighty?”
You say “Yes”.
“And Mother Goddess?”
“Of course, Mother Goddess, how can you forget them? She is ultimate too”
This is kind of a contradiction. Come on, you cannot have too many “ultimate”s. This is not ultimate enough. So which one is the right one? Can the real God stand up please? That is what she was asking in a nice way.
What is the answer? The answer is this. It is very interesting. You see this is important for you to know. It is very good that the question comes from you.
This religion that appears polytheistic….
It is called polytheism. Many gods.
Then you all say yes. Many Gods. Yes. We all go Yeah.
Actually it is not polytheist. It appears polytheist but is actually pluralist. It says, the same ultimate reality that you are trying to relate to, you can call it by different names and give it different forms. Names and forms can be different, but same reality – ultimate reality.
So, not many Gods – but many ways to think about God. This is a big difference.
If you say many Gods, you say naive, not well thought out religion at all. They have not thought it out properly.
And then, when you say many ways to think about God that is grand, that is majestic. It allows different individuals to relate to the idea of spirituality in his own individual mode.
So different groups will say “We love Krishna.”
“OK, sing his glory.”
“Oh! We like Shiva.”
“Go for it my friends.”
The way you are relating to the ultimate is through the name and form of Shiva. Go for it.
This is the answer.
The name the Hindus give to the comprehensive idea of God is, you’d be surprised, is Brahman. The word Brahman there is no person like Brahma is different person, not Brahma. Brahman-Brahma.
The world Brahman means spirit, not as a person at all but as a principle that underpins reality. They said the whole of this creation is nothing but an expression of this principle. Look, not a person – a principle that becomes visible, manifested as the world we see in front of us. And the same principle, Brahman, becomes more visible, (because) clearer as living things and the most clearest vision of Brahman, this principle, is humanity – men and women.
That is why I said you are the clearest manifestation of God on earth. Where else will you find your God? He is lighting you up. Not you, everybody.
So this is a principle oriented religion but then it allows a personalized approach. Because, in that case why shouldn’t we just go Brahman and why should we bother with Ram and Krishna and Shiva and Mother? The reason we have to bother is because we are human – and we got human failings, if you like, human limitations.
If we are human, the only way we can build a relationship with this principle called Brahman, is to think of this principle as a personality.
Suppose I say “Build relation with Brahman”.
You say “What do I do now?”
I say “No, No, No, think of mother Goddess, sweet with flowing hair” and you want to say “Mommy”.
It is easy to build relationship.
With Brahman how do you build a relationship? It is a principle, it is abstract. When you turn the principle into a personality, then you can build friendship, relationship, like a mother figure, father figure, friend.
See the Hindu religion is the only one that allows you to think of God in a variety of different ways. Not just father in heaven, like Christianity. Mommy in heaven. Why not mommy? Mommies are sweeter, kinder, cuddlier, less hairy than daddies. Why can’t you go like “Mommy”? Why daddy all the time? Why fixation? In fact the Gayatri (Mantra) that you just recited, gives you the clue of the Hindu tradition. This is what it translates as. Let us meditate on the glorious effulgence of that supreme being that created the universe. May she enlighten our hearts and direct our destination. She. Addressing God as She. The central part of Hindus think God is a woman.
See? Because we are human, we like to relate to this principle in a human manner, that is why we create all this imagery. Lets go for it. The same one becomes all this.
People say, how do you reconcile principle and personality?
This is how they reconcile. It is like ice and water. Water is fuzzy, like no shape nothing, just fuzzy. When you freeze it, it can take on different forms. It is the love of the devotee that freezes this principle called Brahman into the various forms that he likes. Suppose I like to think of God as Shiva, this principle reduces itself and becomes Shiva and comes in front of me and interacts with me. This is Hinduism.
The love of the devotee freezes his principle into the personality of his choice. See the power of religion. Real democracy. Spiritual democracy.