Hindu Views on Monotheism

Hinduism is a religion which incorporates diverse views on the concept of God. Different traditions of Hinduism have different theistic views, and these views have been described by scholars as polytheism, monotheism, henotheism, panentheism, pantheism, monism, agnostic  humanism, atheism or non-theism.

Monotheism is the belief in a single creator God who is almighty, omnipotent, omniscient and omnibenevolent. Hinduism does not posit or require such a belief, and is considered a non-monotheistic religion by scholars of religion. Many traditions within Hinduism share the Vedic idea of a metaphysical ultimate reality and truth called Brahman instead. According to Jan Gonda, Brahman denoted the “power immanent in the sound, words, verses and formulas of Vedas” in the earliest Vedic texts. The early Vedic religious understanding of Brahman underwent a series of abstractions in the Hindu scriptures that followed the Vedic scriptures. These scriptures would reveal a vast body of insights into the nature of Brahman as originally revealed in the Vedas. These Hindu traditions that emerged from or identified with the Vedic scriptures and that maintained the notion of a metaphysical ultimate reality would identify that ultimate reality as Brahman. Hindu adherents to these traditions within Hinduism revere Hindu deities and, indeed, all of existence, as aspects of the Brahman. The deities in Hinduism are not considered to be almighty, omnipotent, omniscient and omnibenevolent, and spirituality is considered to be seeking the ultimate truth that is possible by a number of paths. Like other Indian religions, in Hinduism, deities are born, they live and they die in every kalpa (eon, cycle of existence).

Krishna with his consorts Rukmini and Satyabhama and his mount Garuda, Tamil Nadu, India, late 12th–13th century

Krishna with his consorts Rukmini and Satyabhama and his mount Garuda, Tamil Nadu, India, late 12th–13th century

In Hindu philosophy, there are many different schools. Its non-theist traditions such as Samkhya, early Nyaya, Mimamsa and many within Vedanta such as Advaita do not posit the existence of an almighty, omnipotent, omniscient, omnibenevolent God (monotheistic God), while its theistic traditions posit a personal God left to the choice of the Hindu. The major schools of Hindu philosophy explain morality and the nature of existence through the karma and samsara doctrines, as in other Indian religions.

Contemporary Hinduism can be categorized into four major traditions: Vaishnavism, Shaivism, Shaktism, and Smartism. Vaishnavism, Shaivism, and Shaktism worship Vishnu, Shiva, and Devi — the Divine Mother — as the Supreme respectively, or consider all Hindu deities as aspects of the formless Supreme Reality or Brahman. Other minor sects such as Ganapatya and Saura focus on Ganesha and Surya as the Supreme. A sub-tradition within the Vaishnavism school of Hinduism that is an exception is dualistic Dvaita, founded by Madhvacharya in the 13th-century (where Vishnu as Krishna is a monotheistic God). This tradition posits a concept of monotheistic God so similar to Christianity that Christian missionaries in colonial India suggested that Madhvacharya was likely influenced by early Christians who migrated to India, a theory that has been discredited by scholars.

Vedic ideas

According to Rigveda 1.164.46,
Transl: Klaus Klostermaier

Indraṃ mitraṃ varuṇamaghnimāhuratho divyaḥ sa suparṇo gharutmān,
ekaṃ sad viprā bahudhā vadantyaghniṃ yamaṃ mātariśvānamāhuḥ

“They call him Indra, Mitra, Varuṇa, Agni, and he is heavenly nobly-winged Garutmān.
To what is One, sages give many a title — they call it Agni, Yama, Mātariśvan.”

Vaishnavism

In Vaishnava Puranic scriptures, Brahma emerges on a lotus from Vishnu's navel as Vishnu (Mahavishnu) creates the cosmic cycle, after being emerge by Shiva, Shiva told Vishnu to create, Shiva order Vishnu to make Brahma.

In Vaishnava Puranic scriptures, Brahma emerges on a lotus from Vishnu’s navel as Vishnu (Mahavishnu) creates the cosmic cycle, after being emerge by Shiva, Shiva told Vishnu to create, Shiva order Vishnu to make Brahma.

Krishnaism is a sub-tradition of Vaishnavism wherein Krishna is considered Svayam Bhagavan, meaning ‘Lord Himself’ and it is used exclusively to designate Krishna as the Supreme Lord. Krishna is considered as an avatar (manifestation) of Vishnu himself or to be the same as Narayana. Krishna is recognized to be Svayam Bhagavan in the belief of Gaudiya Vaishnavism and Dvaita sub-school of Hindu philosophy, the Vallabha Sampradaya, in the Nimbarka Sampradaya, where Krishna is accepted to be the source of all other avatars, and the source of Vishnu himself.

The theological interpretation of svayam bhagavān differs with each tradition and the 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.

Gaudiya Vaishnavas and followers of the Vallabha Sampradaya Nimbarka Sampradaya, use the Gopala Tapani Upanishad, and the Bhagavata Purana, to support their view that Krishna is indeed the Svayam Bhagavan. This belief was summarized by the 16th century author Jiva Goswami in some of his works, such as Krishna-sandarbha.

In other sub-traditions of Vaishnavism, Krishna is one of many aspects and avatars of Vishnu (Rama is another, for example), recognized and understood from an eclectic assortment of perspectives and viewpoints.

Vaishnavism is one of the earliest single God focussed traditions that derives its heritage from the Vedas. Within Hinduism, Krishna is worshiped from a variety of perspectives.

A different Vaishnavism viewpoint, such as those in Sri Vaishnavism, opposing this theological concept is the concept of Krishna as one of the many avatar of Narayana or Vishnu. The Sri Vaishnavism sub-tradition reveres goddess Lakshmi with god Vishnu as equivalent, and traces it roots its roots to the ancient Vedas and Pancaratra texts in Sanskrit.

See also

Adapted from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

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