God in Hinduism

In Hinduism the concept of God is complex and depends on a particular tradition. In majority of traditions of Vaishnavism he is Vishnu, God, and the text identifies this being as Krishna, sometimes referred as "svayam bhagavan". The term isvara - from the root is, to have extraordinary power. Some forms of traditional "sankhya" systems contrast "purusha" (devine, or souls) to "prakriti" (nature or energy), however term of sovereign God, ishvara is mentioned six times in the Atharva Veda, and is central to many traditions.cite book |author=Bryant, Edwin H. |title=Krishna: the beautiful legend of God; Śrīmad Bhāgavata Purāṇa, book X with chapters 1, 6 and 29-31 from book XI |publisher=Penguin |location=Harmondsworth [Eng.] |year=2003 |pages= |isbn=0-14-044799-7 |oclc= |doi= |accessdate=] In other traditions concept of God may have identification with person of Vishnu. creator Brahma, and in Shaivism he is Shiva. Less conventional concepts of God, include polytheistic interpretations or impersonal identification with all pervading Brahman.


The Sanskrit word for God with the root is referring to a being with extraordinary powers, that is used most commonly, is Ishvara, originally a title comparable to "Lord", from the roots "IAST|īśa", lit., powerful/lord/owner, + "vara", lit., choicest/most excellent). Hindus believe that Ishvara is One. This must not be confused with the numerous deities of the Hindus known as devas, which are said to number up to 330 million. "IAST|Deva" may be translated into English as "god", "demi-god", "deity", "angel" or any celestial being or thing of high excellence, and hence is venerable. The word "deva" is, in fact, cognate to the Latin "deus".Fact|date=September 2008

In the two largest branches of Hinduism, Vaishnavism and Shaivism, it is believed that Ishvara, Bhagavan and Brahman are identicalFact|date=October 2007, and God is in turn anthropomorphically identified with Vishnu or Shiva. God, whether in the form of Shiva or Vishnu has six attributes. However, the actual number of auspicious qualities of God, are countless, with the following six qualities being the "most important".Fact|date=October 2007 The ancient Brahmanical traditions in both demoninations perceive Ishvara as the Lord, Creator, Almighty, the Power that we worship and pray to.Fact|date=September 2008

The followers of Shaktism conceive the divine power of Ishvara as a female, the Divine Mother called Devi or Lalita. A famous hymn, Lalita Sahasranama, describes the 1000 names of Devi, worshipped as Goddess, the Divine Mother.Fact|date=September 2008

vayam Bhagavan

Svayam bhagavan is a Sanskrit theological term that refers to the concept of absolute representation of the monotheistic God as "Bhagavan" himself within Hinduism.

It is most often used in Gaudiya Vaishnava Krishna-centered theology as referring to Krishna. The title "Svayam Bhagavan" is used exclusively to designate Krishna, [("Gupta" 2007, p.36 note 9)] . Certain other traditions of Hinduism consider him to be the source of all avataras, and the source of Vishnu himself, or to be the same as Narayana. As such, he is therefore regarded as "Svayam Bhagavan".cite journal
author = Delmonico, N.
year = 2004
title = The History Of Indic Monotheism And Modern Chaitanya Vaishnavism
journal = The Hare Krishna Movement: The Postcharismatic Fate of a Religious Transplant
url = http://books.google.com/books?hl=en&lr=&ie=UTF-8&id=mBMxPdgrBhoC&oi=fnd&pg=PA31&dq=Vaisnava+monotheism&ots=r4RVWf2w7X&sig=ml4nbiFNep6SCtqVbOZsCv5s6g0
accessdate = 2008-04-12
] cite book
author = Elkman, S.M.
coauthors = Gosvami, J.
year = 1986
title = Jiva Gosvamin's Tattvasandarbha: A Study on the Philosophical and Sectarian Development of the Gaudiya Vaishnava Movement
publisher = Motilal Banarsidass Pub
isbn =


The term is seldom used to refer to other forms of Krishna and/or Vishnu within the context of certain religious texts such as the Bhagavata Purana, and also within other sects of Vaishnavism.

When Krishna is recognized to be "Svayam Bhagavan", it can be understood that this is the belief of Gaudiya Vaishnavism,cite book
author = Kennedy, M.T.
year = 1925
title = The Chaitanya Movement: A Study of the Vaishnavism of Bengal
publisher = H. Milford, Oxford university press
isbn =

] the Vallabha Sampradaya,cite book
author = Flood, Gavin D.
authorlink = Gavin Flood
title = An introduction to Hinduism
publisher = Cambridge University Press
location = Cambridge, UK
year = 1996
pages = 341
isbn = 0-521-43878-0
url = http://books.google.com/books?id=KpIWhKnYmF0C&printsec=frontcover&dq=gavin+flood&sig=q_waAYpO_WokCivKS2OtlwsG2dw#PPA118,M1
accessdate = 2008-04-21
"Early Vaishnava worship focuses on three deities who become fused together, namely Vasudeva-Krishna, Krishna-Gopala and Narayana, who in turn all become identified with Vishnu. Put simply, Vasudeva-Krishna and Krishna-Gopala were worshiped by groups generally referred to as Bhagavatas, while Narayana was worshipped by the Pancaratra sect."] and the Nimbarka Sampradaya, where Krishna is accepted to be the source of all other avatars, and the source of Vishnu himself. This belief is drawn primarily "from the famous statement of the Bhagavatam"(1.3.28). "Essential Hinduism" S. Rosen, 2006, Greenwood Publishing Group [http://books.google.com/books?id=VlhX1h135DMC&pg=PA124&dq=Krishna+is+the+original+Personality+of+Godhead&client=firefox-a&sig=2Yojs3j3lTcocPQ7RaIqBnpLrq0 p.124] ISBN 0275990060]

A different viewpoint, opposing this theological concept is the concept of Krishna as an "avatara" of Narayana or Vishnu. It should be however noted that although its is usual to speak of Vishnu as the source of the avataras, this is only one of the names of god of Vaishnavism, who is also known as Narayana, Vasudeva and Krishna and behind each of those names there is a divine figure with attributed supremacy in Vaishnavism.Harvnb|Matchett|2000|p=4]

The theological interpretation of "IAST|svayam bhagavān" differs with each tradition and the literal translation of the term has been understood in several distinct ways. Translated from the Sanskrit language, the term literary means "Bhagavan Himself" or "directly Bhagavan".cite book
author = Gupta, Ravi M.
coauthors =
year = 2007
title = Caitanya Vaisnava Vedanta of Jiva Gosvami
publisher = Routledge
isbn = 0415405483
] Gaudiya Vaishnava tradition often translates it within its perspective as "primeval Lord" or "original Personality of Godhead", but also considers the terms such as "Supreme Personality of Godhead" and "Supreme God" as an equivalent to the term "Svayam bhagavan", and may also choose to apply these terms to Vishnu, Narayana and many of their associated avatars. cite book
author = Knapp, S.
year = 2005
title = The Heart of Hinduism: The Eastern Path to Freedom, Empowerment and Illumination -
publisher = iUniverse
isbn =

"Krishna is the primeval Lord, the original Personality of Godhead, so He can expand Himself into unlimited forms with all potencies." [http://books.google.com/books?id=a2KPChj7lTwC&pg=PA161 page 161] ] cite journal
author = Dr. Kim Knott,
year = 1993
title = Contemporary Theological Trends In The Hare Krishna Movement: A Theology of Religions
url = http://www.iskcon.com/icj/1_1/knott.html
accessdate = 2008-04-12
..."Bhakti", the highest path, was that of surrender to Lord Krishna, the way of pure devotional service to the Supreme Personality of Godhead".]

Earlier commentators such as Madhvacharya translated the term "Svayam Bhagavan" as "he who has "bhagavatta"; meaning "he who has the quality of possessing all good qualities".cite book
author = Dimock Jr, E.C.
coauthors = Dimock, E.C.
year = 1989
title = The Place of the Hidden Moon: Erotic Mysticism in the Vaisnava-Sahajiya Cult of Bengal
publisher = University Of Chicago Press
isbn =

[http://books.google.com/books?id=EAYa1BtUTm0C&pg=PA132&dq=Svayam+bhagavan&sig=jcyEA-4tyPoddQmWg-FnYKDBgEY page 132] ] Others have translated it simply as "the Lord Himself".cite book |author=K. Klostermaier | other = Crotty, Robert B. |title=The Charles Strong Trust Lectures, 1972-1984 |publisher=Brill Academic Pub |location= |year=1997 |pages=206 |isbn=90-04-07863-0 |quote= For his worshippers he is not an avatara in the usual sense, but svayam bhagavan, the Lord himself.|url= http://books.google.com/books?id=F_0UAAAAIAAJ&pg=PA109&dq=Svayam+bhagavan&as_brr=3&sig=0MqNO6X3nyfgZTNDC1nVI_OLd0A |accessdate= p.109 Klaus Klostermaier translates it simply as "the Lord Himself"] Followers of Vishnu-centered sampradayas of Vaishnavism rarely address this term, but believe that it refers to their belief that Krishna is among the highest and fullest of all "avatars" and is considered to be the "paripurna Avatara", complete in all respects and the same as the original. [cite web
Parashara Maharishi, Vyasa's father had devoted the largest Amsa (part) in Vishnu Purana to the description of Sri Krishna Avatara the "Paripoorna Avatara". And according to Lord Krishna's own (istructions) "upadesha", "he who knows (the secrets of) His (Krishna's) Janma (birth) and Karma (actions) will not remain in samsara ("punar janma naiti- maam eti") and attain Him after leaving the mortal coil." (BG 4.9). Parasara Maharishi ends up Amsa 5 with a phalashruti in an identical vein (Vishnu Purana .5.38.94)
] According to them Krishna is described in the Bhagavata Purana as the "Purnavatara" (or complete manifestation) of the Bhagavan, while other incarnations are called partial.


The Vedantic school of Hindu philosophy also has a notion of a Supreme Cosmic Spirit called "Brahman", pronounced as / IPA|brəh mən /. "Brahman" is (at best) described as that infinite, omnipresent, omnipotent, incorporeal, transcendent and immanent reality that is the divine ground of all existence in this universe. Brahman is actually indescribable. It is at best, "Sat" + "Chit" + "Ananda", ie, Infinite Truth, Infinite Consciousness and Infinite Bliss. Brahman may be called as God, or better, as Godhead or the Supreme Cosmic Spirit.Fact|date=September 2008

In dualist Hinduism, adopted by the majority Vaishnavite brahmanical tradition, Brahman is the impersonal aspect of God, sustaining and universal in scope and nature. Brahman is in all of us, according to dvaitas. Brahman is the term used by dualists to describe that aspect of God that makes our soul entwined with the divine, with God being the source but not the substance of both our souls and our interaction with God. Brahman in dualist traditions is identical with Ishvara and Bhagavan, the distinction being one of aspect rather than of nature.Fact|date=September 2008

Another major branch of Hinduism, Advaita Vedanta, served as the fertile grounds from which one of the first monistic philosophies of God was developed. According to Advaitins, Brahman is the only Ultimate Reality in this world, and everything else is an illusion. They believe that "Māyā" is that complex illusionary power of "Brahman" which causes the Brahman to be seen as the distinct material world. When a human being tries to know the attributeless Brahman with his mind, under the influence of Maya, Brahman becomes God ("Ishvara" as described as above). God is Brahman with Maya. He is Saguna Brahman or Brahman with positive attributes. He is one and unique. He is omniscient, omnipresent, incorporeal, independent, creator of the world, its ruler and also destroyer. He is eternal and unchangeable. He rules the world with his Maya. However, while God is the Lord of Maya and she (ie, Maya) is always under His control, living beings (jīva, in the sense of humans) are the servants of Maya (in the form of ignorance). This ignorance is the cause of the unhappiness and sin in the mortal world. While God is Infinite Bliss, humans are miserable. God (Ishvara) always knows the unity of the Brahman substance, and the Mayic nature of the world. There is no place for a concept of central evil like Satan or devil in Hinduism, unlike Abrahamic religions. Advaitins explain the misery because of ignorance. God or Ishvara can also be visualized and worshipped in anthropomorphic form like Vishnu, Krishna or Shiva. The Advaita Vedanta philosophy continues with the view that once one becomes aware of the "unity of being" of Godhead, he will then be able to see beyond the illusions of division and separation from Godhead, and recognize his or her own inherent unity with the Brahman. See Advaita Vedanta.Fact|date=September 2008

Characteristics of God

The number six is invariably given, but the individual attributes listed vary. One set of attributes (and their common interpretations) are:
** "Jñāna" (Omniscience), defined as the power to know about all beings simultaneously;
** "Aishvarya" (Sovereignty, derived from the word Ishvara), which consists in unchallenged rule over all;
** "Shakti" (Energy), or power, which is the capacity to make the impossible possible;
** "Bala" (Strength), which is the capacity to support everything by will and without any fatigue;
** "Vīrya" (Vigor), or valour which indicates the power to retain immateriality as the supreme being in spite of being the material cause of mutable creations; and
** "Tejas" (Splendor), which expresses his self-sufficiency and the capacity to overpower everything by his spiritual effulgence; ("cited from "Bhakti Schools of Vedanta", by Swami Tapasyānanda.")

A second set of six characteristics are
** "Jñāna" (Omniscience),
** "Vairagya" (Detachment),
** "Yashas" (Fame),
** "Aishvarya" (Sovereignty, derived from the word Ishvara),
** "Srī" (Glory) and
** "Dharma" (Righteousness).
* Other important qualities attributed to God are "Gambhīrya" (grandeur), "Audārya" (generosity), and "Kārunya" (compassion).

Forms of Worship

In Hinduism there are two principal methods of worshipFact|date=October 2007:

# To worship God through meditation on a deity (murti).
# To worship God without deity worship.(eg. non-anthropomorphic symbols such as linga, saligrama, Ayyavazhi, or through meditation)

The early Upanishads presented the conception of the Divine Teacher, guru on earth. Indeed, there is an understanding in some Hindu sects that if the devotee were presented with the guru and God, first he should pay respects to the guru since the guru had been instrumental in leading him to God. Hence many gurus have the epithet of Bhagwan, a term often confused with God.Fact|date=October 2007

:: Hari Bhakti Vilasa mantra ( 4.344):: Prathamam tu gurum pujya tatas caiva mamarcanam:: Kuran siddhim avapnoti hy anyatha nisphalam bhavet:: "One does not directly worship one's God. One must begin by the worship of the Guru. Only by pleasing the Guru and gaining his mercy, can one offer anything to God. Thus, before worshiping God, one must always worship the Guru."

Chanted prayers, or mantras, are central to Hindu worship. Many mantras are from the sacred Vedas, and in Sanskrit. Among the most chanted mantras in Hinduism are the Vishnu sahasranamaFact|date=October 2007 (a prayer to Vishnu that dates from the time of the Mahabharata and describes him as the "Universal Brahman"), Shri RudramFact|date=October 2007 (a Vedic hymn to Rudra, an earlier aspect of Shiva that also describes Him as Brahman) and the Gayatri mantra, (another Vedic hymn that initially was meant as a prayer to the Sun, an aspect of Brahman but has other interpretations. It is now interpreted as a prayer to the impersonal absolute Brahman)Fact|date=October 2007.

anatana Dharma

It is important to add that in Hinduism ("Sanatana Dharama") God is considered the Supreme Being, and many views of God range from pantheism to dualism to monism and monotheism. His appearance, in its entirety, cannot be comprehended by the common man. His appearance with form is only a manifestation of certain characteristics. The various forms of God or deities which apparently give Smarta Hinduism a character of polytheism, are regarded as mundane manifestations of One Brahman or Ishvara, only to facilitate his devotional worship.Fact|date=September 2008

Ayyavazhi prefers almost a similar theory to Advaita Vedanta. However, Kashmir Shaivism, one notable Saivite branch disagrees and focuses on panentheism. Furthermore, it rejects the Maya (illusion) theory by stating that if God is real, then His creation must be real and not illusory.Fact|date=September 2008

See also

*Para Brahman
*Svayam Bhagavan
*Names of God
*Conceptions of God



* cite book
author = Elkman, S.M.
coauthors = Gosvami, J.
year = 1986
title = Jiva Gosvamin's Tattvasandarbha: A Study on the Philosophical and Sectarian Development of the Gaudiya Vaisnava Movement
publisher = Motilal Banarsidass Pub
isbn =

*cite book
author = Flood, G.D.
authorlink = Gavin Flood
year = 2006
title = The Tantric Body: The Secret Tradition of Hindu Religion
publisher = IB Tauris
isbn = 1845110129

*cite book
author=Matchett, Freda
title=Krsna, Lord or Avatara? the relationship between Krsna and Visnu: in the context of the Avatara myth as presented by the Harivamsa, the Visnupurana and the Bhagavatapurana

* cite Journal
author = Delmonico, N.
year = 2004
title = The History Of Indic Monotheism And Modern Chaitanya Vaishnavism
journal = The Hare Krishna Movement: The Postcharismatic Fate of a Religious Transplant
url = http://books.google.com/books?hl=en&lr=&ie=UTF-8&id=mBMxPdgrBhoC&oi=fnd&pg=PA31&dq=Vaisnava+monotheism&ots=r4RVWf2w7X&sig=ml4nbiFNep6SCtqVbOZsCv5s6g0
accessdate = 2008-04-12

* cite book
author = Gupta, Ravi M.
coauthors =
year = 2007
title = Caitanya Vaisnava Vedanta of Jiva Gosvami's Catursutri tika
publisher = Routledge
isbn = 0415405483

External links

* [http://www.stephen-knapp.com/sri_krishna.htm Sri Krishna - Differences in Realisation & Perception of the Supreme] (stephen-knapp.com)
* [http://srimadbhagavatam.com/1/3/28/en1 The full text of the Bhagavata Purana (Srimad-Bhagavatam)] (srimadbhagavatam.com)
* [http://www.sub.uni-goettingen.de/ebene_1/fiindolo/gretil/1_sanskr/3_purana/bhagp/bhp1-12u.htm GRETIL etext: The transliterated Sanskrit text for the entire work] - Bhagavata Purana (uni-goettingen.de)
* [http://www.veda.harekrsna.cz/encyclopedia/sb.htm Srimad Bhagavatam - glories, subjects, dating, concordance to Vedanta-sutra]

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