I often encounter questions on Sanatana Dharma, called Hinduism, as to why there are many Gods in it and one is confused by this.
Also while the other Religions talk of Only One God, why is it that Hinduism talks of many Gods?
I have been receiving a lot of queries on this and I am quoting one.
“Usually, we all say God is one but in Hindu Dharma we have Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva for Creation, Preservation and Destroy. Why it is so? Why other religion is praying and naming one God. Can you please explain”
As to other Religions , Christianity, Islam, they talk of God in an Impersonal way.
Christianity talks of God as The Father and there are no descriptions or attributes except the generalities like All merciful and one who would condone your sins if you repent your sins through His Agent, Jesus Christ.
Hinduism does not believe in Agents nor does it absolve you from the results of your actions, simply because you repent.
One has to face the consequences of his actions, this includes the Avatars of Gods as well.
Godhood is a Principle, Impersonal and Laws doe not distinguish between people.
In Islam the same generalities.
God is One who lays down the Rules,he punishes you if you do not follow Islam!.
Hinduism is different.
It knows Religion is an experience and it can not be dictated by Logic alone, even if the Logic is impeccable.
The Truth, according to Hinduism, is One.
It is called Brahman, The Reality.( This is different from Brahma , the Creator).
This Brahman is without Attributes, it is a Principle , just as Gravity is.
But it is difficult to know it through the Mind.
Just as we can not know Gravity, we think we know Gravity, but what we really know is because of the feeling of Gravity.
The scientific explanation is only an expression born out of the feelings of Gravity.
Imagine that we do not feel Gravity.
Would we have tried to form a Theory on Gravity?
So even if the Reality is an abstract principle,it has to be made understandable to be of use to us.
Hence even though the Reality Brahman is the Truth,Hinduism devised ways to reach/realize it.
The Truth, The Brahman, the Reality is Knowable, to Be Known.
That is the Truth.
This knowledge about Brahman is called ‘Apara Vidya'( beyond this world of names and forms)
The knowledge about Brahman and its attributes are called Apara Vidya.
The general descriptions of Brahman are Sat, the State of Being, Chit(Consciousness) and Ananda(Bliss)
Apart from this, the Upanishads,a part of The Vedas, the scriptures of Hindus, try to explain the qualities of Brahman by excluding the attributes normally known to us stating that the Brahman is Beyond all this and also this.
For example the Upanishads,describe Brahman as,
‘Neither Tall nor Short, nor of medium height,
Neither Male, Female,nor transgender ,
Neither the Knower nor the Known,
Yet It is All of These’
You would find this is difficult to comprehend even at the intellectual level.
Knowledge, if it can not be understood or used is useless.
Therefore Hinduism devised a way.
If we have to Know, it must be easy for us to follow.
The instrument to know is the Mind.
The instrument to feel is the Heart.
For those who want to have a glimpse , Hinduism provides Gnana Yoga and Raja Yoga.
Raja Yoga is the path of Yoga being practiced by many.
Here one prepares the mind to understand Reality.
Gnana Yoga prepares one to discern the Reality by developing Vairaagya, the discerning capacity to distinguish between practical knowledge,Para Vidya and the Apara Vidya.
There are two more methods.
Bhakti yoga, the path of Loving God.
The other one is karma Yoga, the Path of Action.
For loving God, one needs an object to concentrate for the Mind , to enable the Heart to feel it.
So Gods have been named In Hinduism.
It is difficult for the Humans to empathize with qualities which are not known to them.
The emotional connect is strong in the case relationships.
Father, Mother, Children, Wife, Children and relatives.
And if one attributes Reality/God with the qualities of Humans , it is easy for the Humans to understand.
So the Gods of Hinduism are attributed with Human qualities.
Then why many Gods?
Some love Mother, some Father, some Lover, some friends, some a master.
God, in Hinduism, is portrayed with all these qualities.
This makes it easy for Humans to relate to God than being asked to relate to an Impersonal God.
Once people start this step, over a period time, they will be able to feel the Impersonal God and the concept of god with Attributes withers away.
This first step is like LKG, while understanding, feeling Reality is like Phd..
After reaching Phd, the LKG would seem to be of no use.
But without that one could not have reached Phd.
At another level, there are principles that represent the Physical world.
Thus we have Brahma who represents the Potential energy, Vishnu, the Kinetic energy, and Shiva, the Potentio-Kinetic Energy.
Similarly all the Gods present the Principles of Nature as well.
Yet the fact that the Gods Rama ,Krishna, Shiva , Subrahmanya existed, as proved by Historical and astronomical Data, there is an unexplored area.
In short, Hinduism talks of not only Monotheism but Monism as The Truth but devised a way to understand them by Gods with attributes..
Kindly read my post Gods Hinduism, with name and form, Yes and No.
Another point is that even thought Gods with Names and Forms are only a tool to understand Brahman, these Gods, when prayed deliver results, as Lord Krishna explains in the Bhagavad Gita.
‘What ever Form you worship, I deliver you the results in the form you worship”
( This is not a literal translation)