In the present multi- cultural age, we are beginning to see beyond our limited horizons of national and religious boundaries. We now think in terms of global relationship and world brotherhood. This has given rise to interfaith understanding and religious tolerance. The Muslim saint has rightly said, ‘ Ask those who have attained God, all speak the same word; all the enlightened have left the same message—it is only those in the midst of journey who hold diverse opinion.’ In fact all the scriptures of the world describe the nature of the Supreme in their own ways and the ways too are various. These descriptions can be called as monotheism, polytheism or even as non- theism although the Supreme remains the same. There exists only the one and the same substance underlying, though appearances seem pluralistic, multiple or single.
The Christian, Islam and Judaism are religions generally accepted in the west as monotheist. They claim to believe in the existence of one God and the only one god. The Islamic concept is the concept of Towhead i.e. Monotheism. It is like a seed to the Islamic tree that explains to the multi-faced explanation of a single basic conception. It believes not only in one God but also in God’ oneness. The Quran says ‘God, there is no God but He is living. the Eternal One. Neither slumber nor sleep overtakes Him. His is what the heaven and the earth contains. Who can, therefore interfere with Him unless by His leave?” God is further glorified thus, ‘ He throws the veil of night over the day, swiftly they follow one another. It was He who created the sun, the moon and the stars and made them subservient to His will. His is the creation, His the command,blessed be God, the Lord of all creation.” Islam contains multifaceted name- expressions of God. There are at least ninety names denoting different attributes of God. Al Awwal is the first who was before the beginning. Al Akhir is the last to be at the end of the creation. Then there is Al Bari, the maker, from whose hands all come and Al Badi, who is the contriver of all creation. Al Batin, the inner, who is immanent with all things. Al Halim who is kindly, Al Hamid who is praiseworthy, Al Khaliq who is the creator, Al Rahman, who is the merciful, Al Razzaq who is the provider, Al Samad , the eternal ,who begets not and is not begotten and such other gods are quoted in the Islam. Nothing in the universe is independent of God. It is the God who manifests in every thing. He is the one appearing as two but ever remaining the one without a second. The one Being ,only the One ,enjoys the status of Eternal Being and no other Being has a separate share in it.
Hebrew Bible describes the singleness of God. Judaism once recognized the dual- facedness of the Supreme though it was fully aware of its omnipotent nature. Later Judaism declared belief in the singularity and unity of God. “ I am the Lord and there is no other beside me’ In fact all the Jews Gods were named after Maloch. Israel called Yahweh or Maloch Yava as the Supreme God. It was that with the declared supremacy of the tribe, its tribal God became supreme God and was called the omnipotent God. The monotheism among them was developed in this way; as the God of the conquering tribe came to be treated as an Eternally omnipotent God.
The monotheism of the Christians avoids worship of the deities though they believe in angels, saints, and Holy spirit All of them perform duties like the polytheists duties The Christian notion of trinity or God in Three--- Father, son, and Holy spirit—point at polytheistic tilt. In the main stream Christianity, the image of Mother as seen in Thunder, Perfect Mind, and Aramaic Texts, the Gospel of Peace of Jesus Christ—we find divinity imbibed.
Monotheism aims at avoiding clutter of many gods or their separate existence of any nature. It does not believe in a power other than God, though it does believe that God manifests in various forms and ways and yet remains the same Omnipotent and omniscient, the one without a second. Rev (I.8 ) quotes, ‘I am Alpha , Omega , the beginning and the ending’ Geeta also says,’ I am the beginning and the middle and the end of things.( Chap.10 ) In this sense Christianity may claim monotheism.
Let us now examine the absolute claim of Hinduism to monism. Lot of misunderstanding prevails in the west, based on various causes. The learned philosopher Max Muller was most confused when he devised a new term,’Henotheism’or Kathenotheism. He mistakenly concluded that different Vedas speak of different gods from hymn to hymn though through their description they directly address to one and the only one God who is the Supreme God, The eternal God. While calling it Henotheism, he concluded that Hinduism believes in the worship and devotion to one God but allows the existence of other gods. Prof. Easwaran comments that Vedas treatment of God is not exactly Pantheism. Max Muller dubbed it as Kathenotheism, thinking that whatever god is before the singers mind at the moment is God, the Eternal One. Let us know how clearly the Upanishads speak of monotheism.
The Attareya Upanishad says, ‘Before the world was created, the Self alone existed.’ Taittriya reconciles multiplicity with a divine oneness in the belief that ‘seeing things separate is the sole cause of otherness.’ Katha says, ‘I will tell you the word that all the Vedas glorify, all self- sacrifice express, all sacred studies and holy life seek. That word is OM. He was in the beginning and existed through all ages.’ The Sikhs believe in One Omkar—the one without a second. He is Niramkar, the formless, without any equal.
Kena says ‘He is that which can not be expressed by speech, that by which speech is expressed, that alone is Brahmana, that which mind can not comprehend, but by which mind comprehends, that alone is Brahmana. Brahmana is the self that exists in all objects. He is the inner operator by which one sees, by which one hears, by which one smells odors and by which one utters speech and by which one tastes the sweet and the sour. The Upanishad seers visualized the Truth thus, ‘The Infinite pervades all and nothing pervades It.
Geeta describes the Being of the Infinite Form thus, ‘O Great Souled One, bow to thee. You are greater than all else, the primal cause even of Brahma, O Infinite Being, Lord of Lords, O Abode of the Universe, you are imperishable and beyond both the manifest and the unmanifest.’ Geeta (7/24) very specifically states about the nature of God. It says that ‘ The unintelligent think me as unmanifested becoming manifest, not knowing my higher nature which is imperishable and supreme.’ and that,’ I am not manifest to all veiled by magic illusion; this deluded world knows me not as unborn and immutable.’
Vedas say that He is the One by knowing which one can know the nature of every thing else, call Him by any name. Islam says that there is one God and no other. Hinduism says that there is nothing else but God. This is monism of Hinduism
A unique and unparalleled character of Hinduism is that it accepts freedom of choice in worship. Worship is the inevitable part of common mans salvation. Hinduism evolves different ways for different types of people at different levels according to their requirements and this has given rise to innumerable gods and goddesses and such images of worship. Hinduism, being a way of life, does not discard anything as evil or sinful. It aims at evolution from lower to higher and still higher stages. No form of worship is anti- God. Hinduism accepted various groups into its fold with their own inherent customs, beliefs, and traditions unconditionally. There never had been any bloodshed on this score. So people of different tastes, inclinations and mental moulds have their own images of worship and it is through them they reach the same God which others worship. It is a fact that the man generally finds the Absolute Self more easy to relate to if it is pictured in human form or some image. Has not God created man in His own image? So the creator is seen as male whereas the female aspect of divinity is embodied in maternity, often seen as Mother Earth. The worshipper knows that the Absolute, in inaction, is the Impersonal God and the Absolute in action is the Personal one. The Absolute and the Personal God are identical. Jesus says,’ my father and I are one. Father, just as I am with you, so make them all one with me.’ John ( Xvii- 23 ) quotes, ‘I in them and thou in me, , that they may be made perfect in one.’ This kind of thought is called the worship of the Impersonal God. It expresses nearness to God and that He is his own self.
Vivekanand says that there is no polytheism in India. In every temple, if one stands by, and listens, one will find, the worshipper applying all their attributes to God, including omnipotence and omniscience to the images. It is not polytheism nor would the name of Henotheism explain the situation. The rose called by any other name would smell as sweet.’ Carlyle says ‘ all worship is by symbol and symbolism is not idolatry. St. Francis beheld his master in the leper. Saints have seen the poor as the veils of the Lord. Sufi poet Jami says, ‘Beneath the veils He hides.’ Thomas quotes Jesus as saying ‘Split a piece of wood and I am there. Lift up the stone, and you will find me there.’(61-67)
Then what is dualism? It is a belief in a personal God with inference that God favors His devotees. It means that He hates others and does not favor them. The God is not so. He sends light and rain to all with out any favor or discrimination. All of us belong to God equally. When a sense of superiority in ones personal God gets conscious and one places his God over others God, it is duality which is destructive and horrifying. The very description of God with a rod in hand ready to punish is horrible. It has caused bickering and bloodshed.
It is not that the Christian attains another God and the Hindu or Muslim goes to another God. It is the same God. There is no dualism. In any divine manifestation there is no sense of separateness or duality. Geeta says, ‘You are the father of the world moving and unmoving. You are to be adored by the world. There exists none that is equal to you. How can be there another superior to you in the three worlds, O Being of unequalled power.’ We witness a trinity in all religions, indicative of triple designation of God. The Hindu Brahmana is Om Tat Sat. It denotes each one and the other aspect of reality. Om is transcendental Absolute. Tat is the universal Truth and Sat is the Reality—the sense of reality and goodness. The Christian trinity consists of Father, Son and the Holy Spirit. In Islam, the Quran mentions the trinity--- Rabba is the creator, Rahman is the merciful protector and Malike Yomiddin is the Lord of the day of Judgement It is evident that each such name is the name of only one God. the Eternal God.. So all the world religions lead to only one and the same God.
The monism of Hinduism goes still further. Islam says that there is no God but Allah. Hinduism says that there is nothing that is not God. The living God is within the Self. The only God to worship is the human soul in the human body. Vivekanand says,’ The Self of man, the Atman higher than the sun and the moon, higher than the heavens, greater than the great universe itself-the glory of self, no science, no book, no scripture can even imagine, appears as man, the most glorious God, that ever was, the only God that ever existed or ever will exist with wisdom, sacrifice and renunciation’ In the worship of God we have always been worshipping our hidden self.
The Bible says, ‘Know ye not, that ye are the temple of God, and that the spirit of God dwelleth in you?” (Corinthians 3; 16) The sun when reflected in many waters is seen with many different images, yet it remains the same. So is the case with mankind. There is one and the same God in every equipment, though in separate physical and mental bodies, it seems outwardly divided into many souls. God and man are one and the separateness is only apparent. John ( Vi. 57 ) quotes, ‘ He dwelleth in me and I in him’ Geeta says ,’ I never depart from him and he never departs from me.’ The proof of the existence of God is found in man himself, as it is an inner experience. Do we not sometimes witness extreme calmness, satisfaction and serenity during prayer or meditation or in the performance of any charitable deed? Then the duality of experience, the string of the pair of opposites such as pain and pleasure, love and hate, hot and cold no longer trouble us. This is the state of pure Bliss and God is not something other than Bliss. We believe in God because He is realized in life and his presence is inwardly manifested to us in certain circumstances.
We have the cosmological proof of the existence of God. We have the realized seers who from conscience and the sense of perfection have reached the pure consciousness, we call God. Some reach through inference and the seers grasped Him through intuition. It is through intuition that the Absolute Truth, Absolute Knowledge and the Absolute Bliss is realized. It is the state where all interpretations and angularities vanish into nothingness. It is the Bliss consciousness or the Infinite Truth that pervades all our actions and thoughts in life. This is the ultimate Truth. This is the common truth adhered to by all varieties of religions without any distinction of caste, creed or color, sex, faith, age, power and pelf. John (xiv. 6) in the New Testament quotes, “ I am the way , the Truth and the life.’ This indeed is the universal religion of the God of humanity.
God is not abstract and is not away from our life. God is not a person as we narrowly conceive, nor He is an impersonal being as is commonly acknowledged. He is a person in the transcendental sense. He is the Impersonal Absolute yet not beyond the reach of our inner intuition. He is the Bliss and we need His grace. So we try to transcend our joy and sorrows in Bliss. In Bliss we live in God.
Let us know it clearly, as Gautama Buddha says, ‘Where self is, Truth can not be, where Truth prevails, self disappears. So we should live in Truth forever. Knowing that self is death, truth is life, the clinging to self is a perpetual dying while moving in Truth is partaking of Nirvana which is life everlasting.’ Buddha does not speak of God but of Suchness and the Bliss. For him, nirvana is a stage where flames of lust, ignorance, hatred and the likes are finally extinct and thereafter oneness is established with all that is. This is a state of Pure Bliss in the company of the God of humanity