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Home > History of religion > Hinduism > Concept of God in Hinduism
Concept of God in Hinduism
The Rgvedic religion was polytheistic at the start and different hymns were addressed to various gods. Some of these gods are clearly the personification of the powers of nature like the Sun, the Earth, the Winds and so on. Varuna is as nearly the highest righteous God as any conceived in antiquity. However, in due course God Varuna was relegated to an insignificant place.

Later on, Hiranyagarbha, Visvakamia and Prajapati were as nearly monotheistic Gods as one could see. God However, the trend led the Aryans towards monism, according to which there was one, non-dual reality, without much emphasis on the personality of this reality. At first, gods are praised and worshipped in pairs e.g Varuna-Mitra, Dyava-Prithivi, Varuna-Aditi, Indra-Varuna, and so on. Then came the stage of Viswa Devah. This worship of the totality of gods paved the way for the adage.

Then later came the age of Henotheism which meant the Vedic priests indifferently chose any one god at the time of worship and at that moment that god was considered to be the highest. This is also known as monolatry in which case one god is said to be the highest, though other gods were not denied.

Atheistic trend: In about 600 B.C. Jainism and Buddhism established atheism. What is more surprising is the fact that early philosophies of India in Sutra form were atheistic. Early Mimansa too with its stand on the Vedas was wholly atheistic. For it is correct utterance of the mantras, which was all necessary for attaining the spiritual end of man. Most probably the Vedanta was a little later development. Even the theistic sutras of Nyaya have been interpreted atheistically.

The early development of Yoga made the seeker self-dependent. He hoped that by means of his own efforts it would be possible for him to achieve his highest goal. Tall claims were also made at the beginning, and even much afterwards in the rise of the tantra. However, it was felt that human powers do not achieve what they want to attain without the help of super-natural power. Hence, the Yoga smuggled in God as Ishvaraprmidhma i.e., one has to surrender oneself to God for one`s Vogic attainment.

`God` had been introduced here only abruptly as an object of devotion and one to whom all the fruits of one`s action have to be surrendered. He had not been mentioned as the creator or even as Karma-phala-data (the giver of the fruits of actions).Concept of God But whether as the result of the pressure of theistic cults at that time, or, by the inner need of Yoga itself, God began to assume great emphasis in the later thought of the Hindus. The two elements of bhakti and niskama karma came to be fully utilized in the Gita. But even in the Upanishads, the supreme reality called Brahman, was used both as nirguna (unqualified or attributeless) and Saguna (qualified or with attributes). The nirguna aspect is emphasized in a number of passages. There are also passages which support theism, or, saguna aspect of Brahman. Brahman as creator, credited with intellect and desire is also found in a number of passages.

Ramakrishna has combined both nirguna and saguna forms of Brahman. According to him Brahma is both with and without forms. Brahma with forms can be approached through bhakti and Brahman without form can be realized through jnana.
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