why does hinduism have so many gods
Most Hindus believe in one, all-pervasive Divine Reality, that is formless (Brahman) or manifests and is worshiped in different forms (Ishvara or God/Goddess). PThis belief in the existence of one Divine Reality with diverse manifestations can best be described as monism. PHindu monism is the foundation for understandings of God that range from non-dualistic that existence and the Divine are not separate, but one and the same, to dualistic that existence and the Divine, while sharing divine qualities, are separate. Hinduism also encompasses theologies of pantheism, that all of existence is Divine, to panentheistism, that all of existence is within the Divine, to a theology of the Divine being external to all of existence. The Sanskrit hymn, Rig Veda I. 164. 46:
Ekam sat vipraha bahudha vadanti Truth is one, the wise call it by many names. And just as Hindus believe that Truth is one, called by many names, so too is God called by many names. Because Hinduism teaches that all of nature is Divine, Hindus believe that God manifests in the various forms that are found in nature, including animals, rivers, mountains, and earth.
PFor example, Ganesha, the Remover of Obstacles, is depicted with an elephant head, which symbolizes wisdom, as elephants are recognized to be among the wisest of animals. Hanuman, worshiped as the perfect devotee and depicted as a monkey, symbolizes the individual s ability to quiet the ever-racing human mind through loving devotion to God and selfless service. Thank you, Padma Kuppa, for answering this weeks question! To learn more about Padma, From the God is one. There is only one Real and True God who does not have any form or a name. It can neither be described, thought of or conceived through human faculties. But since we are so many, each one of us conceives God according to our attitude, view points and state of life -- just as a woman can be looked upon differently by different people: mother, by her children; wife, by her husband; sister, by her sisters; daughter, by her parents; granddaughter, by her grandparents; sister-in-law, by her husband s brother, etc.
The woman is one and the same, but she is viewed differently by each one of her relatives. Similarly, we look upon the same God in many ways. What we worship as so many gods are actually various powers or functions of this one God. Various gods are simply partial manifestations of the Supreme God like several limbs of a tree. Human beings have created these gods according to their understanding, needs, superstition, belief or vested interest. In our limited awareness, it is nearly impossible to associate ourselves and others without a form or a name. Even God needs to be conceived with a form and a name during an early stage of spirituality. For example, the three types of power of one God are known as Brahma, the creator who represents the creative, motherly power of God; Vishnu, who represents the sustaining or nurturing power of God; and Shiva, who represents the devouring power of God. In reality, these are not independent gods. But we children look upon each one as our Supreme God.
As we progress, some of these limitations will fade away and we will start realizing that actually we are all part of That God. In Reality, everything is That God. Period. Really speaking there are as many Gods and Goddesses as there are human beings, as each one us is manifestation of God. Always remember that there is only one Supreme God from which every thing has come. When you really grow up in spirituality, you will realize there is only one God for the entire universe which includes much more than our little earthly people -- Hindus, Muslims, Buddhists, Jains, Zoroastrians, Christians, Confusions, Taos, Sikhs or even those who may not care to believe in God. God does not depend upon our beliefs or acceptance. He/She merely exists whether we accept Him/Her or not. God, known as Brahman, is neither male nor female, but can be worshipped as mother or father as per our feelings or likings. In reality, God has no name or form. Shri Krishna is considered the perfect manifestation of Brahman by Hindus, so worship Him if you wish.
The Shreemad Bhagavad Gita contains the advice Shree Krishna gave to His dear devotee Arjuna, who represents an aspirant like all of us. The Gita is one book that is considered Supreme in Hinduism. Knowing, understanding and practicing this book of 700 couplets will provide you with everything you will ever need to know to guide your entire earthly life. Those who profess to expand on the message in Gita may be called Gurus or teachers. In reality, only those who have seen God are true Gurus. They are rare indeed. Many people are self styled gurus, and usually propagate themselves and their cult, rather than God. Therefore, you should be very careful not to be trapped in gimmicks, magics, easy ways to see God, false promises in the name of meditations, yogas, etc. of such fake gurus. Learning, understanding and practicing Gita is an essential aspect of a true Hindu. However, teachings of the Gita are not only for Hindus; they are universal and applicable to all people, at all times and at all places. -- Swami Radhanandaji
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