By Swami Harshananda
Various Names of God
In religion, God has been described by various terms such as:
- Bhagavān - possessor of blessed qualities and power
- Dhātā - the Supporter and the Sustainer of the world
- Īśvara - the Lord
- Param-ātman - the Supreme Self
- Parameśvara - the Supreme Lord
- Vidhātā - the Creator
Base Scriptures on God
Unlike the semitic religions, it does not depend on a single scripture. However, the entire body of its philosophical literature accepts the Upaniṣads and the Bhagavadgītā as an authoritative work to a great extent. It does not go against them. Hence any concept of God based on these books is welcome to practically all the sections of religion.
Oneness of God
The oldest Hindu scriptures, the Vedas, are monistic, not necessarily monotheistic. However, that monism deeper, especially in different scriptures goes to the depth of discussing the union ('sayujya') of atma (soul) with Parmatma (Supreme Soul.)
Concepts of the Creator differ, with some worshiping a personal being, while others a non-personal being.
The forms of God can differ too whereas some of the advocates of a personal being worship God in a form, others including Mahima and certain Shaiva and Vaishnava sects worship God without a form.
"God," says the Yoga Vasishta, "is neither Vishnu alone, nor Siva alone nor any embodied being, for all bodies are merely..."
Creation of God
While deriving the concept of God, it is natural for man to start from the world in which he lives and moves. When looked upon God from this point of view he is the Creator. However, he created the entire world out of himself. After creation, he sustains it with his power. He rules over the world like an emperor who mets out justice and rewards and punishes in accordance with the deeds of the individual beings. At the end of one cycle of creation, he withdraws the entire world into himself. This is the cyclic theory of creation.
Qualities of God
- The religious scriptures are eloquent in describing the qualities of God.
- He is all-knowing and very powerful.
- He is the very personification of justice, love and beauty.
- He is the personification of all the blessed qualities that man can ever conceive of.
- He is ever ready to shower his grace, mercy and blessings on his creation.
- In reality, the very purpose of his creating this world is to shower his blessings on the creatures and lead them gradually from less perfect states to more perfect ones.
- He is easily pleased by the prayers and supplication of his devotees.
- His response to the prayers is guided by the principle, that it should not be in conflict with the cosmic laws concerning the general welfare of the world and the law of Karma concerning the welfare of the particular individual.
Concept of God
The concept of God has two special features. These features are:
- Depending upon the needs and tastes of his votaries, he can appear to them in any form they like to worship and respond through that form.
- He can also incarnate himself amongst human beings in order to lead them to his own kingdom. This incarnating is a continuing process, taking place whenever and wherever he deems it necessary.
Aspect of God
Then, there is the other impersonal aspect of God, as 'the Absolute'. ‘Brahman’ is the name usually given to this aspect. It means what is infinitely big. It is the Infinite itself. It transcends everything that is created. Yet it is unlike anything we know that defies all description. It has been stated that the only way by which it can be predicated, is the negative way: ‘Not this! Not this!’
Nature of God
In its own essential nature, it is defined as ‘Sat-cit-ānanda,’ ‘existence-consciousness-bliss’. It is the basis or substratum of all existence, consciousness and joy. Metaphysics points towards Brahman, the Absolute. A thinking mind and a feeling heart is a peculiarity of a human being. He accepts God as the Creator and the Ruler (Iśvara). The correlation between the Brahman and the īśvara, though instinctively felt by the feeling heart, will always remain an enigma to the thinking mind.
- The Concise Encyclopedia of Hinduism, Swami Harshananda, Ram Krishna Math, Bangalore