If the Hindus really believe in one God, why do they worship a variety of gods like Shiva, Devi, Vishnu or Ganapati? Is it not tantamount to accepting many gods and goddesses?
Although Hinduism concedes the
existence of several gods or deities, it accepts only one God, the Supreme. Out
of these deities, Indra and others are actually ordinary souls like us, who
rose to those positions in the cosmic scheme as a result of the extraordinary
religious merit they had acquired in the previous cycle of creation. It should
be noted here that these deities who rule over certain aspects of the powers of
nature are like the officers of the government who exercise their powers
delegated to them by the Head of the State. Once their merit gets exhausted,
they have got to vacate their positions and try for Moksha or liberation.
Next, we take up the case
of Brahma, Vishnu and Siva. They are not three independent and separate
deities, but three different aspects of the same Supreme God, engaged in the
processes of creation, sustenance, and destruction of the universe in that
order. It is similar to the role played by the same person as the father at
home, as the boss in the office, and as a customer in a shop. Other deities
also should be considered in the same light, as different aspects of the
Supreme God, manifesting themselves for specific purposes.
The powers of these
deities which are inseparable from them-even as power of fire to burn cannot be
separated from it-have been conceived of as their consorts and called
Sarasvati, Lakshmi and Parvati (or Sakti). This does not mean that all these
deities are imaginary creations. All of them, without exception, are different
modes and aspects of Paramatman, the Supreme Self or God, even as all dolls
made of sugar are sugar itself. Since it is difficult for common people like us
to Worship God as He is, the ancient Rishis have given these forms and their
names after receiving them from God Himself through Tapas or austerities.
Hence,the realization that one gets through meditation on these is identical
Now a word about the
incongruities found in some of the Puranas. Since they have evolved over
several centuries, it is difficult to separate the original from the later
accretions. It is reasonable to surmise that quite a few of the latter might
have been interpolations introduced during the periods of conflicts among the
various cults and sects, to establish the superiority of one over the other.
Hence, the incongruities deserve to ignored.