If you stop and ask just about anybody, you will hear them say that Hinduism is poly-theistic or that Hindus worship many Gods. Most people would say that this is the biggest difference between Hinduism and Buddhism, Christianity, Judaism, Islam, all mono-theistic religions. This line of thinking assumes that different Gods in Hinduism are different entities, like Greek Gods for example.
Nothing could be farther than the truth. The Rg-Ved is accepted as the oldest Indo-European literary monument. This Ved represents the earliest phase in the evolution of religious consciousness. This first book on religious thought shows the central thinking of the founders of the Eternal Dharma. This central thinking is encapsulated as:
To What is One Truth, the Sages give different Titles
Rg-Ved, I. 164.46
In other words, there is one central Truth or Entity to which different people or faiths give different names. This concept led to the development of the Nir-Gun & Nir-Aakaar (Nir means without) characterization of the Supreme Entity. “Gun” means property or attribute and “Aakaar” means shape.
This concept essentially states that the Supreme Entity cannot be characterized by any one form, property or shape. Any shape or property we try to ascribe to such a Supreme Entity is certainly bound to be wrong. Therefore this concept describes the Supreme Entity as Nir-Gun or without attribute or properties and Nir-Aakaar or without shape.
This, in our opinion, is a central tenet of Eternal Dharma.
The next evolution in religious thought comes from the Upanisad, a collection of treatises on the four Ved. In the Upanisad, we do not hear about any personified God but only a deep abstract principle called Atman (roughly translated as “Soul”), Brahman (eternal, infinite reality) or Param-Atman (or Ultimate Soul).
Whence are we born? In what are we established? These are the questions which begin the Upanisadic dialogues and which ultimately lead to the realized postulates of Atman, Brahman & Param-Atman. The various Upanisad discuss questions about the nature of these, their mutual relationships, the ultimate purpose of life and the means for its attainment.
What we discover in the Upanisad are philosophical speculation of an extraordinary high quality but also conclusions that have stood the test of time, at least for the past few thousand years.
So next time, some one asks you about the many Gods of Hinduism, tell them about its central Nir-Gun & Nir-Aakaar tenet – One central Supreme Entity without attribute, property or shape.
This is wonderful in an academic or theoretical setting. But what about the needs of the average individual who looks to pray in devotion to the Divine entity for either eternal salvation or more earthly needs?
The sages that wrote the four Ved were themselves believers in Divinity and the great importance of prayer in daily life. It is rather difficult to pray to a Nir-Gun & Nir-AaKaar entity. This led the development of the parallel concept of Sa-Gun or with attributes, properties and Sa-Aakaar or simply Saakaar or with shape.
We shall discuss the concept of Sa-Gun & Saakaar and its non-duality with the Nir-Gun & Nir-Aakaar concept in next week’s publication. Those who are so inclined might want to brush up on the Wave-Particle Duality.
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