In Hinduism, the Vedanta of the Upanishads mainly preaches the doctrine of the Absolute Being, the non-dual Brahman, about God. “Ekam Sat Vipra Bahudha Vadanti” (एकम सत विप्रा बहुधा वदन्ति), the Sutra quote can be traced to the Rigveda and the Upanishads. It literally means “Truth is one, the wise perceive it differently” or God is one, the enlightened or the wise, call him by different names or perceive him differently. God is self-evident, impersonal, omniscient, the Knower and Master of nature, the God of all. He is behind all worship.
What is Brahman:
Brahman is Supreme God and not “one of the four castes i.e. Brahmin which is popular in common parlance”. He is the highest Supreme Being or the God. The word Brahman is derived from the root word "brah" meaning to expand. It is a reference to his infinite power, infinite dimensions, and endless manifestations. The Brahman therefore has been classified into two categories as under:
Other Nomenclature of Brahman:
In addition to the term Brahman, God is also addressed and referred to as 'Paramatman', 'Purusha', 'Ishvara', 'Bhagavan', Narayana and the like. As it was found that the popular mind could not grasp the too lofty concept of the Upanishads, The theology of the Puranas mainly revolve around the Trinity - Vishnu, Brahma and Shiva - as also the incarnations of Vishnu and the Shakti’s of the Trinity - Lakshmi, Sarasvati and Durga - and the two sons of Shiva. The Puranas amplified the religious aspect of adoration of God.
Attributes of Brahman:
Vedas and the Upanishads speak of four aspects (Padas) of the Supreme Being viz. Avidya pada (Ignorance Aspect), Vidya pada (Knowledge Aspect), Ananda Pada (Bliss Aspect) and Turiya pada (Transcendent Aspect).
The Brahman is all inclusive and all absorbing, and described as Sat-Chit-Ananda (Existence-Knowledge-Bliss) and Satyam, Jnanam, Anantam (Truth, Consciousness and Infinite). Narayana name indicates that He possesses six glorious powers as described in Vishnu Purana. These powers are as under:
a) Aishvarya – it is Sovereignty i.e. unchallenged rule over all.
b) Jnana – It is the Power to know about all beings of all times simultaneously.
c) Bala – It is the strength or capacity to support everything by His will and without any fatigue.
d) Virya – It is the power to retain the immateriality as the supreme spirit in spite of being the material cause of mutable creations.
e) Shakti – It is the capacity to make the impossible possible.
f) Tejas – the splendor which expresses His self-sufficiency and capacity to overpower everything by His spiritual effulgence.
Creative Power of Brahman:
When Prakriti and the Jivas go into latency during Parlaya (dissolution) in their substratum, the Supreme Being or Brahman is described as causal or Karana-Brahman. When they come into manifest condition Brahman is called Effect Brahman or Karya Brahman. Prakriti and the Jivas always form an organic whole with Him in all states.
Creative Process of Brahman:
The purpose of creative process is the fructification of karma of Jivas who are countless in number. Their essential nature of consciousness and bliss is covered up by the mist of Avidya (ignorance). They attain to higher and higher evolution through the attainment of better and better body-minds suited for the adoration of the divine until they finally obtain liberation through the grace of God. The creative aids this bestowal of grace in Jivas and their release from Samsara.
Manifestations of Brahman:
According to the Sri Vaishnava doctrine, The Supreme Being manifests mainly in four forms as under:
Supreme Being has several other forms of His creative manifestation for meditative purpose as under:
These are of three types as under:
But Sri Madhvaharya holds that there is no difference between these incarnations. They are all His Svarupamasas or expression of His entire nature.
Reference: Bhakti Schools of Vedanta – by Swami Tapasyananda, Sri Ramakrishna Math, Chennai.
Emergence of various forms Deities in Hinduism
Hinduism recognizes the diverse aspects of personalities and personal preferences. Worshipping or prayer of god has its root in human desires. Various deities in Hinduism address the different aspects of human desires. For instance, Lakshmi ji is worshipped for wealth & prosperity, Sarasvati ji is worshipped for knowledge & various discipline of art, Durga ji is worshipped for power & valor, Ganesha ji is worshipped mainly to overcome obstacles, Hanuman ji is worshipped mainly for strength, Shiva represents austerity and so on. Hence, the Hinduism offers more than one options for worshipping and creating personal bond. This can be seen in parallel with the growth of general management system to specialized management system in corporate world for better results.
Since Vedic times, many forms of this divinity have been idolized such as deities of nature (Indra, Agni, Soma, Surya etc.); 33 koti deities (eight Vasus, eleven Rudras, twelve Adityas, Indra and Prajapathi Brahma); Trimurti (Brahma, Vishnu & Shiva), Panchparmeshvar (Shiva, Vishnu, Devi or Parvati, Surya and an Ishta Devata) and Vaishnava Avtars (mainly Rama & Krishna).
However, Hinduism fundamentally, establishes that there is only Brahman or one all-pervasive God or cosmic consciousness which energizes the entire universe and also deities.
Emergence of various forms of deities is discussed as below:
33 Koti Deities
In Brihadaranyaka Upanishad, it is mentioned that 33 koti deities as the important ones, namely eight Vasus, eleven Rudras, twelve Adityas, Indra and Prajapathi Brahma. These gods belong to different sphere in creation.
Please also see related article on my website named as “what is God in Hinduism” published on 19.06.2018 under the category “Principles”.
Trimurti or Trinity Deities
The triad (trimurti or trinity or Brahma, Vishnu & Shiva) appears in Maitrayaniya Upanishad, for the first time. From the 1st century CE a new type of worship known as Bhakti or devotional Hinduism spread across the Indian sub-continent, and the old Vedic gods were replaced in importance by deities like Shiva, Vishnu, Brahma, and Devi. Their worship required temples where the devoted could offer their thanks which led to construction of elaborate temples.
Please also see related articles on my website named as “Vaishnava Bhakts” published on 02.03.2018 under the category “Deities, Philosophers and Bhakts” and “Bhakti Yoga” published on 07.03.2018 under the category “Philosophy”.
One Supreme God taking multiple forms in Deities
Hence, Nirakar & Nirgun Brahman takes various forms of deities to satiate the needs & desires of human being.
Shree Hanuman – the Sankat Mochan
“अतुलितबलधामं हेमशैलाभदेहं दनुजवनकृशानुं ज्ञानिनामग्रगण्यम्। कलगुणनिधानं वानराणामधीशं रघुपतिप्रियभक्तं वातजातं नमामि॥“
(Meaning: Atulit Bal Dhaamam - Repository of incomparable strength, Hemshailaabh Deham - whose body resembles a golden mountain, Danujvan Krushanum - destroyer of forces of demons, Gyaaninaam graganyam - foremost among knowledgeable beings, Sakal Gun Nidhaanam - repository of all the virtues and good qualities, Raghupati Priya Bhaktam - dearest of all devotees to Lord Rama, I salute to the son of the wind).
Hanuman ji is known as “Sankat Mochan” (remover of problems & liberator from dangers) and great savior. The roles of Hanuman ji find mention in Ramayana. He helped Sugriva to save him from his brother Bali. Hanuman ji as greatest devotee of Shree Rama, played crucial role to find Mata Sita, brought life-saving herb from Himalayas in limited time to save Lakshman ji, killed Ahiravana & rescued Shree Rama and Lakshman and did many notable tasks mentioned in Ramayana. In Kalyug, he is saving the devotees from troubles and therefore is fondly called as Sankat Mochan.
Tulsidas ji has highlighted the great deeds in his writings as under:
Sankat Mochan in Hanumanashtak
In following eight verses in praise of Hanuman were written by Tulsidas wherein he has explained the deeds of Hanuman ji as Sankat Mochan in Hanumanashtak:
Jai Bajrangbali – Perfect combination of Power, Intellect & Devotion
“मनोजवं मारुततुल्यवेगं, जितेन्द्रियं बुद्धिमतां वरिष्ठ । वातात्मजं वानरयूथमुख्यं, श्रीरामदूतं शरणं प्रपद्ये ।“
(Meaning: Manojavam – One who is swift as mind, Maarutatulyavegam - has speed equal to the wind God, Jitendriyam - has complete control on his senses, Buddhimataamvarishtham - most senior among intellectuals, Vaataatmajam - son of wind God, Vaanarayoothamukhyam - chief of vanara army, Shree raamdootam - messenger of Rama, I take Refuge).
Shree Hanuman is with phenomenal physical, mental, intellectual, and spiritual powers and ardent devotee (bhakt) of Shree Rama. He is known for his erudition, bravery, velour and above all his great self-effacing humility. Tulsidas ji has lucidly elaborated the attributes of Hanuman ji in various verses of Sunderkand, Lankakand, Hanuman Chalisa, Hanumanshtak and Bajrang Ban. He demonstrated eight perfections while crossing Indian Ocean, entering Lanka, presenting before Mata Sita, burning the Lanka, killing demons, bringing life-saving herbs from Himalayas, killing Ahiravana, and at many other places.
Shree Hanuman (whose jaws are prominent) has many names such as Anjaneya (son of mother Anjana), Maruti (son of wind god), Pawansuta (son of wind god), Kesarinandan (son of kesari), Shankara Suvana (son of Shiva), Bajrangbali (whose limbs are as strong as vajra), Mangalmurti.
Sri Vivekananda says: Shri Rama was the Paramatma. Sita was the Jivatma, and each man’s or woman’s body was the Lanka. Sita, thus imprisoned and trying to unite with her Lord, receives a visit from Hanuman, the Guru or divine teacher, who shows her the Lord’s ring, which is Brahma-Jnana, the supreme wisdom that destroys all illusions; and thus Sita finds the way to be at one with Shri Rama, or in other words, the Jivatma finds itself one with the Paramatma.
Hanuman as Symbol of selfless Devotion & Dedication:
Hanuman ji is symbol of pure devotion, unconditional faith, total surrender to Shree Rama, absence of ego. Hanuman ji is generally seen in temples standing with a mace in the right hand or sitting in a devotional posture before the images of Rama and Sita. Sri Ramakrishna Pramhansa says, ‘Hanuman kept the “servant ego” after realizing God in both His Personal and His Impersonal aspects. He thought of himself as the servant of God.’ This is the ‘ego of Devotion’. He does not nourish any kind of ego but surrenders himself, body and soul to Shree Rama. Under Navdha Bhakti, devotion of Hanuman ji comes under Dasya Bhakti.
In Hanuman Chalisa (verses 12 to 15), Tulsidas ji has mentioned that Shree Raghu Ram praised Hanumanji and said:
As great devotee, Hanuman ji is praised by Tulsidasji all over Ramacharitramana and Hanuman Chalisa. A few verses from Hanuman Chalisa and Ramacharitramanas are mentioned hereunder:
Hanuman ji as symbol of power, courage & intellect:
Hanumanji is revered as symbol great power and supremely intelligent. Therefore, he is called as “Mahaveer” and “Mahabali”. Hanuman ji is highly intellectual, learned in Vedanta philosophy, the Vedas, a poet, grammarian etc. As per Puranas, Hanuman was taught the Vedas and all other branches of learning by Sun God himself, Surya. He learnt his lessons by trotting alongside the Sun's chariot as it moved across the sky.
Hanuman ji was granted wishes of exemplary powers by several gods viz. Indra, Agni, Vayu, Varuna, Vishnu, Shiva, Surya, Kuber, Yama, Vishwakarma and Brahma. Indra granted the wish that his body would be as strong as Indra's Vajra. Agni granted the wish that fire won't harm him; God Varuna granted a wish that water won't harm him; God Vayu granted a wish that he will be as fast as wind and the wind won't harm him. Lord Brahma granted a wish that he can move at any place where he cannot be stopped at anywhere, Lord Vishnu granted a weapon for Hanuman which is named as "Gada".Hence this wishes makes Hanuman an immortal (Chiranjivi), who has unique powers and strong. From Shiva he obtained the boons of longevity, scriptural wisdom and ability to cross the ocean. Shiva assured safety of Hanuman with a band that would protect him for life. Surya gave him two siddhis of yoga namely "laghima" and "garima", to be able to attain the smallest or to attain the biggest form . Yama, the God of Death blessed him healthy life and free from his weapon danda, thus death would not come to him. Kubera showered his blessings declaring that Hanuman would always remain happy and contented. Vishwakarma blessed him that Hanuman would be protected from all his creations in the form of objects or weapons.
A few verses from Hanuman Chalisa and Ramacharitramanas are being quoted hereunder:
Hanuman ji demonstrated his power, intellect and decision making at several places. Details as under:
Jai Shree Hanuman – the Chiranjeevi
“ॐ हनुमते नमः”
Shree Hanuman is one of the most revered deities across India. The worship of Hanuman cuts across sects and communities of Hindus. Vaishnavas worship Garuda and Hanumān alike as the mounts of Vishnu. Shaivas worship Hanuman as an incarnation of Shiva or the eleventh Rudra. Hanumān is also a manifestation of Shakti. The tantrikas worship one-headed, five-headed and eleven-headed Hanuman for spiritual attainment. Madhvacharya, the founder of the Dvaita school of Vaishnava philosophy, called himself the incarnation of Hanuman. Hanuman ji is one of the Chiranjeevis (immortals) who lives in all four ages.
Besides being a popular deity in Hinduism, Hanuman is also found in Jainism and Buddhism. Outside of India, Hanuman is known in countries which were influenced by the Hindu culture such as Myanmar, Thailand, Cambodia, Malaysia and Indonesia.
Hanuman as Chiranjeevi:
Tulsidas ji has mentioned that splendor of Hanuman ji fills all the four ages and his glory is famed throughout the world (चारों जुग परताप तुह्मारा । है परसिद्ध जगत उजियारा ॥२९॥ Hanuman Chalisa)
The legends about the Birth, Birth places, forms of Hanuman ji is mentioned hereunder:
Ashtavakra – the Self-Realised Saint
Sri Ashtavakra is a revered Vedic sage in Hinduism. His name literally means "eight bends", reflecting the eight physical handicaps he was born with. As per historians, the period of Sri Astavakra lived over 7000 years ago. However, as per Vedic calculations, it may be over one to two lakhs years ago.
Guru Ashtavakra, a self-realized saint of Advaita philosophy, held dialogue with the disciple King Janaka of Mithila Kingdom on self-realization or enlightenment. Ashtavakra Gita (298 Sutras, 20 chapters) or song of Sri Ashtavakra is the detailed account of this dialogue.
Three legends are popular relating to Ashtavakra as under:
1. Astavakra preach about spiritual experience or enlightenment as under:
a. People reside in body, mind, buddhi and ego where he feels about pleasure-pain. Anger, greed, attachment, lust etc. arise from them.
b. Away from body, mind, buddhi and ego, is pure consciousness (Jivatma, soul). Jivatma is non-doer, non-enjoyer, not bound but only witness. Experience of Jivatma is moksha. All individual jivatma combined together are Brahman.
c. Sri Ashtavakra claims that spiritual experience or enlightenment or wisdom (आत्मज्ञान) can be instantaneous. However, it has three requisites viz. one should be seeker, one should be is worthy for it and presence of enlightened teacher (सद्गुरु).
d. To be worthy, one should be free from ego, absolute surrender, free from sentiments (feelings, attitudes) of body & mind, emptiness from knowledge of scriptures and make himself free from external benefits.
मोको कहाँ ढूंढे रे बन्दे | मै तो तेरे पास में | ना तीरथ में ना मूरत में |ना एकांत निवास में | ना मंदिर में ना मस्जिद में | ना काबे कैलास में | ना में जप में ना में तप में | ना में बरत उपास में | ना में क्रिया करम में रहता |नहिं जोग संन्यास में | ना ब्रह्माण्ड आकाश में | ना में प्रकृति प्रवार गुफा में | नहिं स्वांसो की स्वांस में | खोजि होए तुरत मिल जाऊं | इक पल की तालास में |कहत कबीर सुनो भई साधो |मै तो हूँ विश्वास में |
Where do you search me? I am with you, Not in pilgrimage, nor in icons; Neither in solitary living; Not in temples, nor in mosques; Neither in Kaba nor in Kailas; Not in prayers, nor in meditation; Neither in fasting or prohibition; Not in vedic procedure; Nor in yogic postures; Not even in sky or universe; Neither in womb of nature; Not in the breath of the breaths; If you are a true seeker; In a moment than you discover; Says Kabir, listen with care, where your faith is, I am there.
List of the chapters and topics are as under:
During medieval period, the entire India was swept by Bhakti movement of Vaishnava tradition. This movement represented spiritual empowerment of the masses. The corresponding spiritual movement of the masses first happened in South India in the seventh century, and spread in various parts of India (UP, Gujarat, Maharashtra, Bengal, Orissa, Delhi etc.) in the 14th-17th centuries.
Bhakti poets such as Alwars, Raidas, Narsigh Mehta, Haidas, Meera Bai, Namdev, Ramananda, Surdas, Tulsidas, Eknath, Tyagaraja, Chaitanya Mahaprabhu and many others influenced the expansion of Vaishnavism. They wrote a large number of Bhajans (poetries) in the glory of Parmatama and taught the religion of love and kindness to society.
Bhakts (devotees) borne in different parts of nation during this period gave message of:
The details of such bhakts are as under:
The Alwars (6th to 9th Century), Tamil Nadu:
During medieval period, philosophers such as Ramanujacharya, Madhvacharya, Nimbarkacharya, and Vallabhacharya started Various Vaishnava Sampryadaya. Vaishnava-inspired scholars authored 14 Vishnu avatar-focussed Upanishads that are called the Vaishnava Upanishads. These Upanishads quote the texts included in the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad, Chandogya Upanishad, Katha Upanishad, Isha Upanishad, Mundaka Upanishad, Taittiriya Upanishad and others.
The Bhagavad Gita is a central text in Vaishnavism, and especially in the context of Krishna. The two Indian epics, the Mahabharata and the Ramayana also present Vaishnava philosophy and culture.
These philosophers established different schools of vedant which are as under:
SN Philosopher Vedant School Paramatma Jivatma (Chit) Maya (Jagat)
1 Shankar Acharya Advait Real, Nirgun Same as Paramatma Illusion
2 Ramanuj Acharya Vishishtadvait Real, Sagun Real Real
(1017-1137 AD) (Vishnu or Krishna) (Both are controlled by Parmatma)
3.Nimbark Acharya Dvaita-advait Real Real, exist Real, exist
(1028-1125 AD) (Krishna & Radha) (Both are dependent on Parmatma)
4.Madhv Acharya Dvaita Real Real Real
(1294-1317 AD) (Lakshmi Narayan) (Both are fundamentally different from Ishwar)
5.Vallabh Acharya Shuddha Dvait Real Real Real
(1479-1532 AD) (Krishna) (Different from Ishwar & Clouded by avidya) Power of Ishwar
Adi Shankaraacharya, Sri Ramanujacharaya, Sri Nimbarkacharaya and Sri Madhvacharaya were conferred title of Jagat guru.
(Part – II)
The Bhagavata Puran describes Vishnu's avatars as innumerable, though ten of his incarnations (Dashavatara), are celebrated therein as his major appearances. The commonly accepted number of ten avatars for Vishnu are Matsya; Kurma; Varaha; Narsimha; Vamana; Parsurama; Rama; Krishna; Buddha and Kalki.
Modern interpreters state that Vishnu's ten main avatars are from simple life-forms to more complexes, and compare the Dashavatara concept to the modern theory of evolution.