BRIEF EXPLANATORY NOTE ON HINDUISM by ER. SUDHIR PANDE, B.Sc. (Engg.)
Hinduism is inherently monistic/monotheistic and this is widely misunderstood.
[A] DIVINE REVELATION ‘SRUTI’
‘Even more than any other scriptures of the world the Vedas make a special claim to be Divine in their origin, whereas the Bible, the Koran and other revelations of the World of God owe their sacred authority either to Divine Inspiration or to deliver the sacred message through an angel or other special messenger from God unto certain chosen persons, the Vedas are said to be “Apaurusheya” [unaided by human agency] or simply Divine in their origin. They are themselves authority being knowledge of God’
[from page 18, VEDAS & THEIR TEACHINGS BY SWAMI PRABHAVANANDA, Head of the Vedanta Center, Hollywood, U.S.A. published by Ramakrishna Math, Madras, India]
This pivotal central fact of divine revelation is of as paramount significance to Hinduism as the oneness of God and the incarnation of Jesus, and oneness of God and the prophethood of the Holy Prophet Mohammed (peace be with Him) for Christianity and Islam respectively.
DOCTRINE OF HINDUISM
[B] Monism/Monotheism — Purely Mystic Dimension: FUNDAMENTAL TENET OF HINDUISM
Vedas are monistic, accept one underlying Supreme Cosmic TRANSCENDENTAL Reality the PARA-BRAHMAN. Vedanta is the Supreme wisdom the knowledge of the Brahman (Brahma Vidya) and is classified as ADVAITA [associated with the Indian philosopher Shankara (c. 788–820)] comparable to doctrine of Wahdatul Wajud [Sufi “The Unity of Existence”].
Bhagavad Gita which is comparable to the Holy Bible of Hinduism is a ‘SMRITI’ i.e. it derives its authority from the doctrines of the revealed scripture ‘SRUTI’. Here the personal aspect of the PARA-BRAHMAN as PARAM-ISHWAR or God is brought in sharp focus with whom personal relationship and ultimate union is the goal. However it is clarified that PERSONAL/IMPERSONAL transcendental are not two but obverse and reverse of the same coin. Over this fundamental doctrine in later era other doctrines emerge as superstructure viz.
[C] Monotheism — Vaishnava doctrines with mythology:
In these the personal GOD, PARAM-ISHWAR is considered the supreme Godhead. These doctrines are quite comparable to the Semitic religions and the idea of Divine Grace, Compassion is paramount.
Incarnations of the God are acceptable here and principal incarnations are KRISHNA and RAMA therefore a close parallel with Christianity exists. (Lord BUDDHA is also considered an incarnation).
SRI KRISHNA — 16 PHASES OR FULL MANIFESTATION
SRI RAM — 12 PHASES OR SOMEWHAT LESSER
Other incarnations are considered partial manifestations, though mentioned are not commonly worshipped.
[D] Pantheism under Aegis of Monism/Monotheism with Mythology
In Hinduism, there is some worship of mythological forms which are an accretion of much later era compared to ancient mystic wisdom of the Vedas. However this need not be confused with freewheeling polytheism practiced in pagan or primitive tribal societies. Here the bias is always the monistic monotheistic doctrines of VEDAS, and in some cases the gods simply symbolize the various aspects of the Supreme God. Say *Brahma, Vishnu, Mahesh as the creation, sustaining and dissolving aspects of the Supreme. Others are mere local powers or local manifestations, comparable say to angels etc. (*Brahma — the creative aspect of the Cosmic order; not to be confused with BRAHMAN = the Cosmic SELF)
for instance, compare:-
HOLY KORAN 11/9
‘Each has guardian angels before him and behind him who watch him by Allah’s Command.’ In Hinduism also gods are all subordinate to the Supreme and their limited jurisdiction is fully understood by Hindus.
It is understood in Hinduism, that ordinarily speaking, the average human entity deluded as it is considering this world as the only reality in a superficial psychic field in the mechanistic plane of cause and effect; and therefore is susceptible to go into repeated cycles of birth and death, under this casual law.
If it awakes to the REALITY then it may follow a path of return and reunion say as advocated by the Gita. Gita suggests an integral path in which thought, feeling and action all operate to harmonize with the free universal nature. Thus one achieves both freedom from cyclic birth, and bliss of reunion. This reunion has been described as ‘Ananda’ or Joy ineffable. Gita however does not advise liberation merely for ones own ‘self’ but once liberated to act for the liberation of all others. This according to commentators is implied by the last chapter “RENUNCIATION OF LIBERATION”.
A close resemblance exists with the doctrine of Mahayana Buddhism where the liberated one the “Bodhisattva” resolves to liberate all ‘sentient beings’.
(I) Many Hindu sects limit their faith to the fundamental doctrine [B] of the VEDAS ONLY and there is no question of any idol worship here; nor incarnations are accepted.
(II) Anyone who does not accept authority of the Vedas is considered ‘NASTIK’ (NON-BELIEVER) therefore not a Hindu.
(III) Therefore all the later emergences have taken pains to establish link with the Vedic doctrines e.g. All the VAISHNAVA ACHARYA’S (OR MASTERS) have written commentaries on the knowledge aspect of the Vedas viz. Upanishads, Gita, and Brahmasutra (called Prasthantraya).
(IV) Therefore Hinduism is inherently monistic/monotheistic and this is widely misunderstood.
(V) To give another example: In Ram charita manas by Tulsidas an Epic which is extremely popular in North India
It is always that SRI RAMA is the incarnation of the Supreme Parabrahman and all the gods are in awe of him, worshipping him for his mercy.
Frequently ridiculed as ‘selfish’ and merely categorized as being just higher than human thus comparable to angels.