CONCEPT OF GOD IN HINDUISM | Answering Dr. Zakir Naik

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Hinduism is mankind’s oldest spiritual declaration, the very fountainhead of faith on the planet. It is the only religion, that is not founded in a single historic event or prophet, but which itself precedes recorded history. Hinduism has been called the “cradle of spirituality” and “the mother of all religions,” partly because it has influenced virtually every major religion. Hinduism is not a polytheistic religion. Hinduism is without doubt the most monotheistic religion in the world because it recognized that the Supreme can only be diverse and that he incarnates Himself in many forms It was Hinduism who first proclaimed God as One in this universe. A Hindu worships that One God in diverse divine forms.
The earliest statement of the Nature of Reality occurs in the first book of the Rig-Veda 1.164.46

Ekam Sat-Viprah Bahudha Vadanti. “The ONE BEING, the wise diversely speak of.”

“The source and origin of the gods, ruler of all, may Supreme God, the great seer, who anciently created the golden germ, endow us with clear intellect.” (Svetasvatara Upanishad III.4)

“Great indeed are the devas(demigods) who have sprung out of Supreme God.” Atharva Veda

Hinduism is an open-minded discipline. It is a discipline that does not use force on its follower. That is, it does not dictate the follower to act by one step by step recipe it gives, condemning all other recipes.

Hinduism describes everything as divine and sacred because God is everywhere and in everyone. Supreme Self has truly created this real world, everything belongs to him but He also pervades everywhere. Hinduism speaks about all-pervasiveness and all-controlling nature of the Supreme Being. The Changing things that appear in the physical and mental world may be realized as divine: the Supreme Self that shines unmixed in everyone and everything, beneath all names and forms and qualities of personality and world. He pervades everywhere — is explained by the use of phrases such as “He is near and also very far” (yaddure yadvantike); “He is within and without” (tadantarasya sarvasya tadu sarvasya bahyatah); “He moves and yet does not move” (taddhavato’nyanatyeti tisthat). These apparently contradictory attributes reveal his achintya shaktiunthinkable ability (which may not be understood under human senses but exists)

“All this that is in front is but Supreme God, the immortal. Supreme God is on the right, as well as on the left; Above and below too, is extended Supreme God alone. This world is nothing but Supreme God, the highest.” Mu.n.daka Upani.sad 2.2.11

“All this entire universe belongs to God: who lives in it, in every smallest bit of it. It moves; and yet it does not move. God is far beyond the furthest reach of space and time; and yet He is immediate, forever close, inseparably present here. He is here inside, in everything; yet it is outside all of this. God shines pure, through everything unconstrained by muscled body, unaffected by all ill, untouched by any taint of sin.” (Isha Upanishad, stanzas 4-8).

Katha Upanishad it is said: “Paramātmā is the same everywhere, in every world, on every level throughout the entire Cosmos. Until you recognise this you will continue to be reborn. Paramātmā remains the same – in past, present and future. It is the same in the heart of an ant or an elephant, in every living being. It is the Cause of everything.”
Thus the major difference between the Hindu and the Muslim beliefs is while Islam speaks relatively partial attributes of the God, Hinduism speaks about complete attributes.

CONCEPT OF GOD ACCORDING TO HINDU SCRIPTURES
God is experienced in two aspects – as NIRGUNA and SAGUNA .

NIRGUNA is the eternal all-pervading and omnipresent divine consciousness. The Absolute without qualities, is impersonal, without guna or attributes, Nirakara (formless), Nirvisesha (without special characteristics), immutable and eternal. This “Formless” form of God is called Sat-Chit-Ananda Rupa (Eternal-Truth-Consciousness-Bliss-Form)

SAGUNA is the manifestation of God in form. Qualified absolute, came from the Sanskrit saguṇa (सगुण) “with qualities” and brahman (ब्रह्मन्) “the Absolute.” The personal aspect of the Ultimate Reality. This saguna brahman is eternal, undecaying and non-differentiated from nirguna brahman.

Verses Describing God As Formless(Nirguna)
“Na tasya pratima asti”
“There is no likeness of Him.”
[Svetasvatara Upanishad 4:19/ Yajurveda 32:3]
There is not Form of Nirguna Brahma or God as Supreme Consciousness.

“His form is not to be seen; no one sees Him with the eye.”
[Svetasvatara Upanishad 4:20]4
His  Formless Form cant be seen. Though He manifests Himself as Saguna Brahma, but no one can see Him with present eyes or material eyes. To see His Supreme and Original Form one needs spiritual perfection. “No one can understand the transcendental nature of the name, form, quality and pastimes of God through his materially contaminated senses. Only when one becomes spiritually saturated by transcendental service to the Lord are the transcendental name, form, quality and pastimes of the Lord revealed to him.” (Bhakti-rasamrta-sindhu 1.2.234). God says: “You cannot see Me without your present eyes. Therefore I give you divine eyes, so that you can behold My mystic opulence” (Bhagavad-Gita 11.8)

shudhama poapvidham”
“He is bodyless and pure.”
[Yajurveda 40:8]6
God as Nirguna Brahma or Brahman or Supreme Consciousness is bodiless and pure. That doesn’t mean His Saguna form is impure, It is pure too.

Verses Describing God In Form(Saguna)
“The Lord of the universe, Lives inside the universe, And without being born, Appears in many forms,And only the wise realize his real form…” Rig Veda,purusha suktam 2-3

Though unborn, It appears to be born in diverse ways. Yajurveda 31.19

The Lord, takes on manifold form. Brihadaranyaka Upanishat 2.5.19

“Your form, Supreme God, which is kind, pure, free from fear and evil, with that most loving form, appear to us” SHVETASHVATARA UPANISHAD 3.3

“He does not possess bodily form like that of an ordinary living entity. There is no difference between His body and His soul. He is absolute. All His senses are transcendental. Any one of His senses can perform the action of any other sense. Therefore, no one is greater than Him or equal to Him. His potencies are multifarious, and thus His deeds are automatically performed as a natural sequence.” (Svetasvatara Upanisad 6.7-8)

He has an eternal blissful spiritual body. He is the origin of all. He has no other origin and he is the prime cause of all causes.” (Brahma Samhita 5.1)

Therefore it can be understood now that God has two forms formless form and Formed form. It these two form Characteristics of God like all-powerful, all-knowing, all-merciful, pure, infinite etc remains same. Just like water has three forms – liquid, solid and vapour, though it appears in different forms but core substance H2O remains same in all forms.

Muslim says Allah or God has no form or shape. Hindus have no objection if someone is worshiping Supreme God in Nirguna Brahma or Formless Form. However if it is said that Almighty God has no Original Form then Hindus take strong exception to it. Because all religions speaks about Saguna Brahma and Nirguna Brahma forms of the Supreme God. But throughout the ages it was either ignored as contradiction or forcefully translated as different interpretation because Semitic religions are divine commandments which give light on rightful living of humans on the earth, therefore it does not give more light on Science of God. Below i would like to give some verses from semitic scriptures to show how theory of saguna and nirguna can be found in god’s own words.

NIRGUNA & SAGUNA IN CHRISTIANITY
Nirguna Brahma-
No man hath seen God at any time. John 1:18, 4:12
No man has seen God in Formless Form ever.

Not that any man hath seen the Father. John 6:46
God as seed giving father in Formless Form cannot be seen by men. Even his Original Form or Saguna Avatar cant be seen by men without mercy of God.

Now unto the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only wise God, be honour and glory forever and ever. 1 Timothy 1:17
This verse is describing attributes of Formless Form of God.

The fact that no man has seen god does not imply god can’t be seen. People can’t see god in formless but they can see god in his original form by the mercy of god. Actually bible indicates God can be seen and has been seen in his Saguna Form.

Saguna Brahma-
And the LORD appeared unto Abram, and said, Unto thy seed will I give this land: and there builded he an altar unto the LORD, who appeared unto him. Genesis 12:7
And when Abram was ninety years old and nine, the LORD appeared to Abram, and said unto him…. Genesis 17:1

And the Lord appeared unto him [Abrham] in the plains of Mamre. Genesis 18:1
Abraham saw God several times. In His original form, God appears in front of him as Saguna Brahma.

And the LORD appeared unto him [Isaac], and said, Go not down into Egypt; dwell in the land which I shall tell thee of. Genesis 26:2

And the LORD appeared unto him [Isaac] the same night, and said, I am the God of Abraham thy father: fear not. Genesis 26:24

Isaac also saw God in his original form twice.

NIRGUNA & SAGUNA IN ISLAM 
Nirguna Brahma
“There is nothing whatever like unto Him.”  [Al-Qur’an 42:11]

Saguna Brahama
Prophet Muhammad said: “My Lord came to me in the most beautiful image”

Ibn Kutiba says “Allah has Image/Sura but not like other suwar”. Allah has body but not like other bodies. God the Allah has an existence, he has a unique personality who nobody else in this world posses. Just like Hindu scriptures Islam declares God’s Saguna Brahma Form is All-Attractive and transcendental.

Al-Tirmidhi (3234) narrated from Ibn ‘Abbaas that the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said: “My Lord came to me in the most beautiful image and said, ‘O Muhammad.’ I said, ‘Here I am at Your service, my Lord.’ He said, ‘What are the chiefs (angels) on high disputing about…’” Classed as saheeh by al-Albaani in Saheeh al-Tirmidhi.

[ Allah ] said, “O Iblees, what prevented you from prostrating to that which I created with My hands? Were you arrogant [then], or were you [already] among the haughty?” 38.75
Here God says He has made us by his hands, this whole creation comes from his Saguna Brahma Avatar or God in His All-Attractive Being Form has created this universe.

They have not appraised Allah with true appraisal, while the earth entirely will be [within] His grip on the Day of Resurrection, and the heavens will be folded in His right hand. Exalted is He and high above what they associate with Him.39.67
Whole universe will vanish within His right Hand.

From these divine verses we learn that it is proven that Allaah has an image (soorah in Arabic), in a manner that befits Him, may He be glorified and exalted. His image is one of His attributes which cannot be likened to the attributes of created beings, just as His essence cannot be likened to their essence.

Always above attributes of Allah are translated as metaphor than so called literal. Muslim sects are divided on their interpretations of Koran and accusing each other’s interpretations as blasphemy. But the truth is both literal and metaphor interpretation are true. Lack of deeper philosophical understanding leads Muslims to follow “this” or “that” interpretations and assumptions. A systematic logical and scriptural analysis resolves the confusion. The Vedic tradition teaches a higher principle that harmonizes such dualism beautifully. Formless can have form which is transcendental. Unlimited can have form which is unlimited in Itself. That Lord whom Moses called Jehovah, whom Jesus referred to as his father in heaven, whom Mohammed praised as Allah, the Vedic scriptures reveal as Brahman/Bhagwan, God as the all-attractive transcendental Supreme Person.

YajurVeda and Gita
“Andhatama pravishanti ye asambhuti mupaste”
“They enter darkness, those who worship the natural elements” (Air, Water, Fire, etc.). “They sink
deeper in darkness, those who worship sambhuti.”
[Yajurveda 40:9

“Those whose intelligence has been stolen by material desires surrender unto demigods and follow the particular rules and regulations of worship according to their own natures.”
[Bhagavad Gita 7:20]

This speaks about not to worship man-made gods or demi gods. Humans are impelled by material motivations. This is due to their inherent natures, innate attributes and over attraction to sense gratification. But people worships demi-gods of heavens like Indra who is king of heaven for fulfilment of their desired material goals. So here Supreme God says it is ignorance of people who worships demi-gods who Supreme God  Bhagwan has created. The Supreme Lord is not averse to those who worship the demigods but He makes a distinction between worship to Him and worship to others. The results of worshipping all other gods is temporary and fleeting because the inherent power invested in them has limitations being only applicable to the material worlds; but the results of worshipping the Supreme Lord are permanent and eternal because unlimited power is possessed by Him. Supeme Lord is Lord of lords of divine powers, Kings of kings of heaven,Light of the lights,  He has created unlimited heaven and unlimited heavenly kings but some people worshiping mere king of heaven who is works under Supreme Self, the ever blissful, all-powerful, all merciful Almighty God.

CONCLUSION

“Three rural students arrive one night at a railway platform with their teacher, eager to have their first sight of a train. After a long wait, when they see a bright light in the distance, the first villager asks their teacher, “Is that the train?” When the teacher nods, the student departs, convinced he has seen the train. When the train comes closer, the second student notices the engine—the form behind the light—and asks, “Is that the train?” When the teacher nods again, the second student leaves, confident of having seen the train. When the train finally comes into the station, the third student sees the train in its fullness with its driver and multiple compartments and passengers and, with the encouragement of his teacher, even meets and befriends the driver.”

Therefore Hinduism illustrates complete unity-in-diversity of the Absolute Truth. Being Mother of religions it has influenced all other worldly religions. As the oldest of religions, the mother of all religions, it accepts all religions.
Islamic Research Foundation

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Hinduism and Woman

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Hinduism is the only religion on the earth which claims almighty god as feminine also while all other world religions has proclaimed GOD as masculine power. This is the uniqueness of Hinduism which doesn’t limit GOD in human intellectual limitation; GOD being All-Powerful can perceive any gender and even no gender. Therefore, Hinduism has revealed god’s original revelation describing God as ALL-Being (Saguna/He/She/Third-gender) and also No-being (Sunyabrahma/Nirguna). This shows Hindu’s ability of Universalism.

Therefore Hinduism is has given highest respect to feminine-hood in its theosophy. Vedas are four primary scriptures of Hinduism which should be followed in day today life of Hindus say it secular or religious. In order to know status of woman in Hinduism we have to follow Vedas. Though Hindus have numerous scriptures to follow but as per Dharmic Laws those scriptures or Verses which do not cooperate with Vedic revelations should be rejected without any doubt. This paper is intended to provide a brief and authentic exposition of what Hinduism stands for status of women in Sanatana Dharma from Vedic perspective. This paper is divided tree portions childhood, adulthood and married life of a woman. I would provide detailed information about feminine-hood as described in Vedas, which not only reveals true position of them in the society but also we can know lives of women in Vedic era. This is important us to know how women were treated in Vedic period itself so we can understand that where we stand now by comparing our present perspective towards woman in the current society to the Vedic period.

CHILD-HOOD
Despite of Universal preference for Sons among the earlier civilization there is no evidence in classical India that daughter was regarded as calamity. Nowhere in Vedic society birth of girl was subject of anxiety. Vedic family pampered female child as carefully as male child. Therefore vedic period is considered as golden period for early women empowerment and development. Birth of female child was highest object of celebration and rejoices. In Vedic scriptures girl is termed as duhita,kanya,kaaneea, kanayala etc, meaning of these words can show true picture of position of girl child in Vedic era.  Of various names only two terms kanya and duhita are used frequently in Vedic literature and have survived to the present days. Kanaa,kanee,kanayala,kanenaka,kanyalaa have the same meaning as Kanya. Kanya means “desirable in the society” and “the pupil of the eye”. This shows affection for girl child in Vedic period.

“It was matter of pleasure and delight if girl child took birth in the Vedic family” – Abdul Martin, book- “social change and planning”

Both son and daughter were prayed for. The Vedas mentions some rituals which were performed by parents who wished to have son and daughter. In Brihadaranyaka Upanishad which comes under White Yajur Veda, there is a ritual with vegetable and animal diets which was performed by the parents in order to get a learned daughter.

in case one wishes, ‘That a learned (pandita) daughter be born to me! that she attain the full length of life!’–they two should have rice boiled with sesame and should eat it prepared with ghee. They two are likely to beget [her]. Brihadaranyaka Upanishad (6.4.17)

There are many hindu hymns which celebrates birth of daughter in the family

“The birth of daughter is highly meritorious” mastya puran(154.414-17)
“Men desires Son, Daughters and wife for himself.” Adi parva 1.160.3
“the son is even as one’s own self and the daughter is like unto son” Anusasana parva 3.45.11
“there is no difference between a daughter and a daughter-in-law…” virata parva 4.72.6

We have many Hindu stories of how from time to time people have prayed for birth of girl child and performed vedic ceremonies to beget girl child particularly. Himachala prayed to Adi-shakti to take birth as girl child in his family. Sage Agastya granted boon of birth of girl child to childless king Of Vidharva. Goddess Bhudevi, appears and gifts the Girl child to childless Janaka, as Ramayana says. Agni purana says Minakshi was born out of Vedic rituals. Like Minakshi, Kalabati was also born out of Vedic ritual. King Manu Vaivasta received a girl (ILLA) from his “child-producing” ritual. In Harsha-Charita, King Prabhakalavardhana says that he hated the thought of losing his daughter Rajyasri in marriage“The swelling of her bosoms darken my heart, as clouds the day…the love of daughter…far, far exceeds the love of a son.” A father is recorded in the Rig Veda as praying that he may live a full and long life in the company of his sons and daughters (Rig Veda 8.31.8). The rig Veda talks of twin sisters lying in the lap of their happy parents (RV 1. 185.5). Rig Veda speaks of a proud Mother who claims “My sons are the slayers of enemies, my daughter is the best Ruling Queen, I’m also victorious…”(RV 10.159.3)

In all cases, once a child was born, whether boy or girl, it was pampered by everyone in the family. As Bhrihadaranyaka Upanishad says “children are loved not for their own sake, but because the self lives in them…”.

In the words of Louis jaccoliot, the French writer, India of the Vedas entertained a respect for women amounting to worship. He says “What! Here is a civilization, which you cannot deny to be older than your own, which places the woman on a level with the man and gives here an equal place in the family and in the society”

ADULTHOOD
Vedic civilization was unique in itself because it is the only civilization which made education compulsory for both girl and boys. Both boys and girls underwent religious initiation called upnayana which is entitled them to study of Vedic texts. The education of girl Childs has been highly apritiacted in the Vedas. Rig Veda contains hymns composed by women; there is reference of 22 women “seers” or authors of Vedic mantras. She possessed the right to study and preach the Vedas, which was in itself a proof of her high position in this race.
Atharva Veda sates, “the success of women in her married life depends upon her perper training during the brahmanacharya.”
“mother should impact proper education to her children so as to broaden the horizon of their ideas”(RRV 5.47.6)
“O king and other nobles: make adequate arrangements to train lady teachers for imparting training to girl students who, on obtaining maturity, select for themselves their partner for marriage.” (yajurveda 10;6)
“An unmarried young learned daughter should be married to a bridegroom who like her is learned. Never think of giving in marriage a daughter of young age” (rig veda 3.55.16)
“A young daughter who has finished her studies should be married to bridegroom who is like her learned.”(Yajurveda 8.1)
“A girl also should be brought up and educated with great effort and care.”(Mahanirvana Tantra)

No other scriptures of the world have ever given to such equality with men as the Vedas of the Hindus. The very high standard of learning, culture and all round progress reached by Indian women is a well known fact. Marriage was optional for women at that time, therefore intelligent and learned women, who chose the path of Vedic studies and, lived the ideal life of spirituality were called Brahmavadinis : and the women who opted out of education and chose married life were called “Sadyavadhus”. Women rose to become vedic scholar, debater, poet, teacher etc. Female teachers were called “Upadhyayi”.

Draupadi had learnt brihaspati arthasatra from learned teachers. Gandhari was well versed in Arthasastra. Kausalya,mother of rama, and Tara, wife of Bali, are described as “Mantranid” in the Ramayana. According to Bhavabhuti, the author of Uttar Rama Charita, Atreyi, studied the Vedanta with Ram’s twins in Valmiki Ashrama. Leelabati was another lady who was extremely proficient in math. Maitryi was deeply interested in the problems of philosophy and Gargi was a dialectician and philosopher of religion. Gargi Vacaknavi, publicly debated Vedic philosophy at King Janaka’s court.

Not only religious and secular studies but girls used to study martial arts. Rig Veda refers to woman engaged in warfare. One queen Bispala is mentioned. Even as late as 5th century BC, Megasthenes, the Greek ambassador, lest by Alexander the great, mentions heavily armed women guards protecting Chandragupta’s palace. Such examples include Kaikai, queen of Dasharatha who fought war with him. Princess Subhadra drove chariot for Arjuna in a war. Satyabhama killed the demon Narakasura. Chitrangada was a heroic fighter.

“In the Vedic period, the woman held a high status. They enjoyed all rights and opportunities that were enjoyed by men. There was no discrimination against them in terms of educational opportunities, and an equality of status prevailed between both sexes.”(Dropout of girl child in schools, by- Lakshmi Jain)

No society of the world had an equal right of education for man and woman as India had. It is for this reason that India still conceives a high sense of learning and metaphysics, fine art and cultural altitudes where as other cultures have lost their traditions.”
(Perspectives On Indian Women, by- RS tripathy,T pTiwari)

WOMEN-HOOD
Hinduism describes marriage as sacred union. In the Vedic system, marriage is an optional institution. The point of human life is to know and love God. Child marriage was unknown to the Vedic people. Girls had freedom to take decisions about their life. Females were free to decide their life partner (savita gave surya to bridegroom who she loved with heart RV10.85.9).Widow remarriage was common. In every sphere of life they enjoyed equality with men.

“Be a queen to thy father-in-law, mother-in-law,sister-in-law,brother-in-law.”(Rig Veda 10.85.46)
“You enrich your husband’s home, being the mistress of it.” (Rig Veda10-85-27)
“Wife is a Home and a shelter for the rest.” (Rig Veda 3.53.4)
“Wife is a Queen”(Atharva Veda 14-1-43,44)
“Wife is a safe boat”( Atharva Veda 14-2-46)
“A women cant offend” (Virata Parva 9)

“women are deities of prosperity, the person that desires affluence and prosperity should honour them. By cherishing women one cherishes the goddess of prosperity herself and by afflicting her, one is said to pain the goddess of prosperity.”(Anusasana Parva 13.46.5,6.15)
“Even in the deep forest; the wife is the refreshment and solace of her roaming husband. He who has a wife is trusted by all. The wife therefore is man’s great means of salvation.”(Adi parva 1.74.39-43)
“wife is considered dearer than life, like a mother, she is to be cherished and like an elder sister, she is to be respected.”(virata parva 4.3.13)
“In all descriptions of misery, there is no medicine similar to a wife.”(Vana Parva 3.61.29)
“Striya devah striya pranah/Woman is divine, woman is life” — says an old Hymn in the Sarvollasa

From the above references one can understand that  Vedic people were living ideal married life and participation of woman in every aspect of life was overwhelming. The Vedic word “Dampati” means “joint legal owners of the house”. This proves wives have equal freedom in property rights. Therefore Vedic sacrifices were performed both by wives and husbands. But in the absent of the husbands, women had right to perform Vedic rituals by themselves (RV 8.91.1). “Patni” means who leads the “husband”, “dharmapatni” means “who leads the husband in the path of dharma”. Rigveda 3.31.1-2 commands daughter’s inheritance right in parental property. Hymn 2.17.7 “Calculate and give her share to her for her maintenance” clearly supports daughter’s legal right in shares of father’s property.

“There is no shelter like the mother. There is no refuge like the mother. There is no defense like the mother. There is no one so dear as the mother.” – says Bhishma, Santi Parva: Mokshadharma Parva, Section CCLXVI
“From the point of view of reverence due, a teacher is ten fold superior to a mere lecturer,a father a hundredfold to a teacher, and a mother a thousandfold to a father.” manu Smriti (ii. 45)
“MATRU DEVO BHAVA” (Let thy mother be thy God).
(Taittiriya Upanishad)

Professor H. H.  Wilson says: “And it may be confidently asserted that in no nation of antiquity were women held in so much esteem as amongst the Hindus.”
The Hindu mother is an object of reverence. It is clear that in Hindu culture a mother has more influence to her kids than the father. It is mothers who most directly affect the lives of their children. They create life and powerful force of mother’s influence on raising children is undeniable. Mothers can have a positive impact on society by raising kids who know who they are and teaching them to be responsible and respectable citizens.

———–
In Hindu society, a woman’s position and status also have undergone many changes. Now women in Indian society are more restricted and daughters are less valued. Once who used to enjoy complete equality with man, is now treated as a secondary object.  Vedic society was much more secular, bolder and stronger when it comes about giving equal rights to females. Women were more independence and free in every respect. We should be ashamed of ourselves that how we failed to protect human rights of female in Hindu society.
There is no chance of the welfare of the world unless the condition of women is improved. It is not possible for a bird to fly on one wing.” – Swami Vivekananda.
We have to bring back golden Vedic age. We have to bring back the dignity of our sisters. It is only possible when Hindus will become more Hindu and read what their scriptures commands them.
There is a Vedic saying, “Where women are worshiped, there the gods dwell.”