Supreme Consciousness, Soul and Salvation
Continued from Part XIII
Hinduism (Sanatana Dharma) is widely acclaimed as the ‘oldest religion’ in the world. Many scholars regard Hinduism as a fusion or synthesis of various Indian cultures and traditions, with diverse roots and no single founder unlike other religions of the world. It’s true that Hinduism is not a simple syncretic or codified religion like those of Abrahamic religions, instead it’s more like a value system and code of conduct with the spiritual freedom as its core element. With no single known founder, it finds roots in the earliest and oldest known Hindu scripture the Rig Veda, followed by other Vedas, Upanishads and texts, as the recorded synthesis continuously enriched by the knowledge and learning of the ancient rishis and sages in the quest of the cosmic truth.
Archaeological resources & artefacts and historical records & accounts suggest that Mesopotamia (Most of Iraq, Kuwait and adjoining areas of Saudi Arabia, Syria and Turkey), ancient Egypt, ancient India (Indus Valley civilization of today’s northwest India and Pakistan) and ancient China were the oldest civilizations; even the conservative estimates put them of at least four to five thousand years vintage. Scholarly findings and interpretations of scripts/writings of these civilizations, which are partly logical and partly speculative, suggest that these societies were largely polytheistic with a belief in multiple gods & goddesses and spirits, and some even venerated natural objects, animals and plants. Among the formal religions, various estimates assess Hinduism as of 2500-1500 BCE, Zoroastrianism 1000-500 BCE, Judaism 900-500 BCE and Confucianism (China) 600-500 BCE vintage. Buddhism and Jainism are Indian religions of 6th and 8th century BCE vintage with several commonalities and strong resemblance with Hinduism.
The later part of the ancient world history suggests that apart from the ancient India and China in Asia, the Greek and Roman empires in South Europe and Ezypt in South-west Asia and northern parts of Africa were well developed, prosperous and powerful civilizations. Greek and Roman people as also Ezyptians too were essentially polytheistic in nature as they believed in multiple gods, goddesses and spirits with different forms and epithets. For instance, among Greek mythological deities, Zeus was the King of Gods and other important gods and goddesses were Aphrodite, Apollo, Ares, Artemis, Athena, Demeter, Dionysus, Hades, Hephaestus, Hera, Hermes, Hestia and Poseidon. Other civilizations too have their own nomenclature and forms of deities. These people also used to perform rituals such as prayers, offerings and sacrifices to please the intended gods and gain their favour.
In the above context, it may be a moot point of anyone’s question or curiosity as to how Hinduism has survived and flourished so long when all other contemporary formal and informal religions could not bear the brunt of time and ribbings only to vanish largely in the same span. Theodosius I, the Roman Emperor from 379-395 AD is believed to be one who had endorsed Christianity as the official religion imposing punishable ban on prayers to old gods and goddesses, rituals and sacrifices, that included even the destruction of old temples and people not amenable to the new order. A little later, Islam was established by Prophet Mohammad in 7th century on the same theme of monotheism. It is now a part of history how Zoroastrians in Persia were persecuted by Arab invaders through conversion and killings, a few that escaped to India sub-continent on boats are what we know as Parsis community today (total population less than two lakh).
Thus two relatively more recent religions gradually expanded globally both in terms of the countries and population largely replacing their earlier faith and value systems. During all these phenomenal changes, Hinduism (Sanatana Dharma) too faced similar onslaught and aggression for centuries by the same elements, undergone topical changes yet retained its identity, originality, strength and candour. Besides bearing the honour of being the oldest surviving religion, Hinduism still has the third largest following the world over. Moreover, it also has the credit of being precursor and progenitor of the other Indian religions like Jainism, Buddhism and Sikhism in the Indian sub-continent. Currently, it is estimated that the world has approximately 2.4 billion Christians (33%), 1.8 billion Muslims (Islam 24%), Hindus 1.15 billion (15%), Buddhists 0.52 billion (7%) with remaining others as formal and informal believers and agnostic/atheist population.
The chief strength for Sanatana Dharma (Hinduism)’s continued sustenance and survival through all ages appears to be its soft appeal and all-encompassing nature in a fusion with the wisdom and knowledge, and the spirit of allowing debate, discussion, dissent and criticism. It has no single founder or prophet and the earliest reference is found in Rigveda, with an ocean of knowledge on variety of subjects stored in other Vedas, Upanishads and other scriptures. Another strength of the Sanatana Dharma is that it is God (Brahman) centred instead of being prophet centric as in the case of Abrahamic religion. Besides, it is more of practice and experience based rather than being belief based. Scholars define it as a religion which is ingrained and transcendent, inherent and inclusive, from within the world and above the world, and a system of faith that has love and place for every living being.
The tolerant and all-encompassing nature of the Hinduism could be gauzed by the fact that many scholars formally endorse it as a polytheistic religion yet when religious movements like Brahmo Samaj, Arya Samaj and Prarthana Samaj with monism or monotheistic concept were started by reformers in various parts of the country during the nineteenth century, they too sought inspiration and strength from the ancient Hindu scriptures and were welcomed by a large following among Hindus. It is because the basis of the Sanatana Dharma is one God and basic unity of all religions. The philosophy and concept of the Nirguna (without attributes) Brahman and Saguna (with attributes) Brahman with its trinity and other associated deities has been explained in a logical and tenable manner. The adherents with high mental order or faculty find it easier to directly concentrate and connect to Nirguna Brahman (Supreme God). The Saguna Brahman and associated idol worship serve the same purpose for the common and not so evolved devotees through the concept of Sadhya (deity), Sadhak (devotee), Sadhan (medium) and sadhana (devotion).
Rightly so the more appropriate nomenclature for the Hinduism is Sanatana Dharma, the ancient and original name. More than being mere a religion, it could be described as a code of ethics, a way of living and a path of self-realization and Moksha (i.e. salvation). Because of its inherent virtues and all-encompassing nature, it has survived and flourished over the thousands of years sustaining the long periods of the aggression and onslaught, and still going stable and strong. Today, it is recognised as the world's most ancient cultural, spiritual and religious tradition of over one billion people on the earth. It is perhaps the only religion that provides its adherents with a holistic worldview, a healthy way of life and a coherent and rational path in pursuance of the supreme reality.
Basic Metaphysical Concepts
Perhaps no other religion from the ancient past to present in the world has ever talked about the metaphysical concepts like Brahman (Supreme Consciousness), Atman (soul), Prakriti (material world) and Moksha (salvation) as is provided in the scriptures and texts of Sanatana Dharma. Consequently, we have no corresponding terms with exact meaning are synonym in the Western literature. Here the corresponding words provided in the brackets can at best be treated as the terms nearly carrying the similar meanings.
Brahman is what we know as the Supreme Consciousness or Supreme Soul, also known as the Supreme Self or the Universal Consciousness or God. In Hinduism, we commonly address Him as Bhagwan or Ishvara or Parameshvara or Sachchidananda. Based on references in the various hymns and verses of Hindu scriptures, Brahman could be described as absolute, eternal, indescribable, inexhaustible, incorporeal, omniscient, omnipresent, original, both transcendent and immanent, infinite existence, and the ultimate entity Who is without a beginning and end, Who is hidden in all and Who is the cause, source, material and effect of all creation known, unknown and yet to happen in the entire universe. He is both creator and created, known and unknown, with form and formless, and hidden in all. Brahman could only be realized through self-realization only and those who attain Him are said to have attained Moksha (salvation).
Atman is the Individual Self or the Individual Consciousness distinct from the manas (mind) and the sthula sarira (physical body). This Self is the real entity without any name, gender, race, nationality or such other attributes, which passes through the karmic cycle in repeated births and deaths till it attains Moksha. Various traditions in Hinduism interpret and define it differently, broadly under two distinct classifications of Advaita (monism) and Dvaita (dualism).
Moksha, also known as vimoksha, vimukti and mukti, is again have a unique position in the Sanatana Dharma with no exact synonym elsewhere, though it is loosely referred to as salvation, enlightenment, liberation or emancipation in the Western literature. In metaphysical sense, the Moksha refers to the freedom from samsara i.e. the cycle of death and rebirth, while in epistemological and psychological sense, it is used for the enlightenment (freedom from ignorance), self-realization and self-knowledge. In Hindu philosophy, Moksha is a central concept and the utmost aim to be attained through purushartha i.e. Dharma, Artha, Kama and Moksha.
According to the popular Dvaita Vedanta philosophy, Atman (soul) and Brahman (the Supreme soul) are two distinct realities that exist simultaneously and independently. The Atman is eternal, infinite, indestructible and without imperfections. For Atman, the physical body is just clothing which is discarded at the death. All the living beings including humans, animals, birds, insects and other creatures possess Atman which travels through a repeated cycle of births and deaths till it attain Brahman; the ultimate goal of Atman is attainment of Moksha. As the Atman is different from the body and mind, it can be perceived only in a transcendental state when the mind and senses are inert and silent. On the other hand, Advaita philosophy talks about one soul which is all pervading and identical to Brahman in the universe.
What Early Scriptures Say!
The Vedas are considered to be the oldest and original scriptures as also a source of inspiration and infallible knowledge in the Hinduism, which has been variously derived, interpreted and assimilated by its all subsequent denominations, sects and traditions. According to many scholars who worked on Vedic scriptures and texts, Brahman is the Ultimate Reality, without a beginning and end, and the cause, source, material and effect of all creation known, unknown and yet to happen in the entire universe.
The term Brahman finds a mention in hymns at numerous places in the Vedas, particularly Rig Veda and Atharva Veda. The Brahman also finds several references in different embedded texts like Vedic Samhitas, Brahmanas and Aranyakas. The concept is also extensively discussed in the early Upanishads as well as in the vedangas (the limbs of Vedas) such as the Paraskara Gryha sutra and Srauta sutra. However, different texts do not present a single unified concept or theme; instead these hymns portray a variety of themes and multiple possible interpretations. Consequently, in the post-Vedic era different schools of Hindu philosophy have analysed and interpreted Brahman with different premises and conclusions. According to some Western scholars, the Vedas conceptualise Brahman as the “the essence of the universe”, the “deeper foundation of all phenomenon” and the “essence of the Self (Atman or soul).
Similarly, the term Atman too finds a reference in various hymns of Rig Veda. Atman is considered a true self of an individual that relates to the truth of life. According to scholarly interpretation of Rig Veda hymn 10.48.5, Atman is the cause; it supports all that exists in the universe; one may never turn away from Atman – the innermost self; one may never accept another God in place of the Atman nor worship other than the Atman.
The early Upanishads talk about the Brahmavidya and Atmavidya, that is the knowledge of Brahman and the knowledge of Atman (soul), respectively. Many Upanishads deal with Brahman and Atman at length. According to Dr Radhakrishnan, the Indian philosopher, statesman and Ex-President of India, the Upanishads teach Brahman as the ultimate essence of material phenomena that cannot be seen or heard, but whose nature can be known through the development of self-knowledge (atma-jnana).
In the Taittariya Upanishad, Brahman has been described as the "satyam jnanam anantam brahma" (Brahman is of the nature of truth, knowledge and infinity). Brahman is a real, eternal, absolutely independent, non-contingent, and the source and ground of all things. He is both immanently present in the realm of materiality, interpenetrating the whole of reality as the sustaining essence that gives it structure, meaning and existential being; yet Brahman is simultaneously transcendent.
Among the oldest Upanishads, the Sandilya doctrine in the Chandogya Upanishad explains the metaphysical concept of Brahman in many ways. It insists that the Brahman is identical to Atman (soul), thus the Brahman is inside man. The Atman is stated to be the central theme in the most of Upanishads, underlining that the core of a person's self is not the body or the mind but the "Atman" as the spiritual essence, eternal and ageless, of all living beings. In Brihadaranyaka Upanishad too, the Atman has been similarly described. The hymn 4.4.5 of the same Upanishad that equates Atman with Brahman, reads as under:
“That self is indeed Brahman, as well as identified with the intellect, the Manas and the vital force, with the eyes and ears, with earth, water, air and the ether, with fire, and what is other than fire, with desire and the absence of desire, with anger and the absence of anger, with righteousness and unrighteousness, with everything identified, as is well known, with this (what is perceived) and with that (what is inferred). As it does and acts, so it becomes; by doing good it becomes good, and by doing evil it becomes evil it becomes virtuous through good acts and vicious through evil acts…”
According to many scholars, the Moksha (salvation) appears to have been ritualistic in the Vedic period, such as yajna and sacrifice before Agni (fire). Later during the Upanishadic period, the focus shifted towards the knowledge for the attainment of Moksha with emphasis on the personal development through knowledge and meditation rather than rituals. Daniel Ingalls, a scholar and professor of Sanskrit in the Harvard University in 20th century, opined that in the Vedas, three stages of life viz. studentship, household-ship and retirement were prescribed, while in the Upanishadic era, Hinduism expanded this to include a fourth stage of ‘complete abandonment’ in life. Similarly, the Vedas provided three goals (purushartha) of man namely Kama, Artha and Dharma, and to this Moksha was added during the Upanishadic era.
Bhagavad Gita: Metaphysical Concepts
The Bhagavad Gita (BG) explicitly acknowledges the existence of Brahman (Supreme Soul or Supreme Consciousness) and the individual soul(s) as eternal and real entities in several verses in various chapters. The concept of the incarnation of the individual souls, their delusion and bondage to the cycle of birth and death because of their gunas or qualities and desire-ridden actions are explained at length, including solution for their salvation. The Chapter Two is a sort of summary of the entire Gita with subjects like karma yoga, jnana yoga, sankhya yoga, buddhi yoga and the Atman (soul) well explained. Similarly, questions and curiosities about the Brahman (Supreme Soul), spiritualism and action have been answered in Chapter Eight.
Lord Krishna Himself explains the nature of the Brahman in the verse 8.3 of Bhagavad Gita as under:
aksaram brahma paramam svabhavo’dhyatmam ucyate
bhuta-bhavodbhava-karo visargah karma-samjnitah.
(Sri-Bhagavan said: The indestructible, transcendental living entity is called Brahman, and his eternal nature is called adhyatma, the self. Action pertaining to the development of the material bodies of the living entities is called karma.)
In another Chapter 13 verse 13, Brahman finds a mention as under:
jneyam yat tat pravaksyami yaj jnatvamrtam asnute
anadimat param brahma na sat tan nasad ucyate.
(I shall now reveal to you that which ought to be known, and by knowing which, one attains immortality. It is the beginningless Brahman, which lies beyond existence and non-existence.)
About the Moksha or salvation, the following verses 8.12 and 8.13 are relevant:
sarva-dvarani samyamya mano hrdi nirudhya ca
murdhny adhayatmanah pranam asthito yoga-dharanam.
(The yogic situation is that of detachment from all sensual engagements. Closing all the doors of the senses and fixing the mind on the heart and the life air at the top of the head, one establishes himself in yoga.)
om ity ekaksaram brahma vyaharan mam anusmaran
yah prayati tyajan deham sa yati paramam gatim.
(After being situated in this yoga position and vibrating the sacred syllable om, the supreme combination of letters, if one thinks of the Supreme Godhead and quits his body, he will certainly reach the spiritual planets.)
Lord Krishna said that only by knowing Brahman one can achieve liberation from the cycle of births and deaths. It is through the liberation that an embodied Self returns to its original state of pure consciousness, which is immortal, blissful and imperishable because in that embodied state, the Self is the same as Brahman in their original nature. However, as entities the Supreme Self is absolutely expansive, pervasive and independent, while the Individual Self is dependent upon Him.
Lord Krishna who Himself was a manifestation of Brahman avoided being specific about the Ultimate Reality when he explained that Brahman was beyond ‘existence and non-existence’. How do we know then that what a devotee experiences in a transcendental and non-dualistic state is the Brahman Himself? Some scholars believe that Lord Krishna resorted to this narrative because He did not wish to draw boundaries around the Ultimate Reality that cannot be explained, defined or limited in definitive terms. At another place (verse 14.27), Lord Krisna personified Himself as the impersonal Brahman, which is immortal, imperishable and eternal and is the constitutional position of ultimate happiness.
brahmano hi pratishthaham amritasyavyayasya cha
shashvatasya cha dharmasya sukhasyaikantikasya cha.
(I am the basis of the formless Brahman, the immortal and imperishable, of eternal dharma, and of unending divine bliss.)
The Bhagavad Gita provides a lot of insight into the Atman (soul) and its nature through several verses in Chapter Two. The sufferings and paths of embodiment of the soul to achieve salvation have been meticulously explained. The sufferings are the outcome of the ignorance and delusion due to imbalances of the triple gunas i.e. sattava, rajas and tamas, and their impact on the mind and body. To overcome this and achieve self-realization, a divine centred life to transcend the mind and body is essential which can be achieved through various yogas.
The following verses under Chapter Two of the Bhagavad Gita explain the nature and qualities of the soul.
antavanta ime deha nityasyoktah sharirinah
anashino ’prameyasya tasmad yudhyasva bharata. (BG 2.18)
(Only the material body is perishable; the embodied soul within is indestructible, immeasurable, and eternal. Therefore, fight, O descendent of Bharat.)
na jayate mriyate va kadachin nayam bhutva bhavita va na bhuyah
ajo nityah shashvato ’yam purano na hanyate hanyamane sharire. (BG 2.20)
(The soul is neither born, nor does it ever die; nor having once existed, does it ever cease to be. The soul is without birth, eternal, immortal, and ageless. It is not destroyed when the body is destroyed.)
nainam chhindanti shastrani nainam dahati pavakah
na chainam kledayantyapo na shoshayati marutah. (BG 2.23)
(Weapons cannot shred the soul, nor can fire burn it. Water cannot wet it, nor can the wind dry it.)
achchhedyo ’yam adahyo ’yam akledyo ’shoshya eva cha
nityah sarva-gatah sthanur achalo ’yam sanatanah. (BG 2.24)
(The soul is unbreakable and incombustible; it can neither be dampened nor dried. It is everlasting, in all places, unalterable, immutable, and primordial.)
From the Bhagavad Gita, it emerges that the soul and the body are different; the body is transient and perishable, but the soul is eternal and indestructible; the soul wears the body like a cloth and discards it at the time of death; the desire-ridden actions, which are induced by the triple gunas, are responsible for the bondage of the soul; and for salvation, one should overcome desires and become absorbed in the Self.
Vedanta: Advaita and Dvaita Concepts
Among the six major schools of orthodox Indian Hindu philosophy i.e. Nyaya, Vaisheshika, Samkhya, Mimansa, Yoga and Vedanta, the last one is the most debated and followed among the adherents of Hinduism. Vedanta literally means "end of the Vedas", and largely reflects analysis and interpretations of the core concepts and philosophies put forth in the Upanishads. Vedanta is again an admixture of multiple sub-traditions mainly based on dualism and non-dualism derived from the principal Upanishads, Brahma Sutras and Sri Bhagavad Gita.
All Vedanta sub-traditions talk about three principle entities or core elements i.e. Brahman – the Supreme Consciousness and ultimate metaphysical reality, the Atman or Jivatman (the individual soul or Self) and Prakriti that represents the empirical universe or existence in terms of physical world, body and matter. Brahman along with the individual Atman (soul) are key metaphysical aspect of the Hindu philosophy and all traditions while what we experience day-to-day is Prakriti, a third dimension and reality, ever changing and perishable, also known as ‘Maya’ in Hindu philosophy.
The various sub-traditions of Vedanta are either based on dualism or non-dualism with essential difference on the nature of Atman (soul) i.e. if it is distinct from Brahman or identical as Brahman. The dualistic Dvaita Vedanta holds Brahman and Atman as distinct entities, while the non-dualistic Advaita Vedanta uphelds the metaphysical premise that Brahman and Atman are same entity. Dualistic nature of Brahman and Atman also gets support from the Nyaya school of Hindu philosophy while non-dualistic nature is endorsed by the Samakhya and Yoga schools.
According to Advaita Vedanta, Brahman is the root source, origin and end of every thing, material and spiritual. Brahman remains the sole unchanging reality with no duality, no limited individual or unlimited cosmic soul, instead all souls across all space and time is one and the same. In other words, the universe and the soul inside each being is Brahman, and the universe and the soul outside each being is Brahman. The objective goal of Advaita is to learn that one's Self (Atman) gets obscured by Avidya (i.e. ignorance and false-identification). Once Avidya is removed, the Atman (soul or Self) is realized as identical with Brahman. Thus Brahman is not outside and separate but within each living being. Also Brahman is nirguna i.e. without attributes, ultimate and sole reality.
Advaita Vedanta considers Atman (soul) as self-existent awareness, limitless and non-dual. To put it in a simple way, the Atman is the Brahman, the Brahman is the Atman, the Self is non-different from the infinite. Thus the Advaita Vedanta holds that there is no distinction between Atman and Brahman. The knowledge of Atman (soul or Self) is synonymous to the knowledge of Brahman inside the person and outside the person. The realization of this cosmic truth leads to the sense of oneness with all existence, self-realization, eternal bliss and moksha (salvation). In a long list of distinguished scholars and gurus of this tradition, some prominent personalities are Gaudapada (700-780 AD), Adi Shankara (788-820 AD), Jagadgurus of the Four Advaita Mathas, Swami Dayanand Saraswati, Ramakrishna Paranhamsa and Swami Vivekanand in 19th and 20th century.
Dvaita Vedanta is said to be a dualistic interpretation of the Vedas by theorizing the existence of two separate real entities. The Dvaita Vedanta tradition believes that Brahman (Vishnu as Supreme Soul) and the individual soul (Atman or Jivatman) are distinct and exist as independent realities. Here Brahman (Vishnu) is the supreme Self, somewhat similar to God of other monotheistic major religions, and the other dependent reality is the visual universe comprised of individual souls and physical bodies.
In Dvaita Vedanta, the Moksha means the blissful and eternal union of the individual soul with the distinct and separate entity Brahman. Thus Brahman in Dvaita Vedanta of Hinduism is perceived as the highest perfection of existence, and an ultimate goal that every individual soul is expected to seek in its arduous journey of existence for achieving Moksha (salvation). Madhva Acharya (1238-1317), a Hindu philosopher and scholar was the chief proponent of the Dvaita School of Vedanta. Some other prominent saints and scholars of the dualism philosophy are Nimbarka, Vallabha Acharya and Chaitanya Mahaprabhu.
A cursory look at the ancient history and archaeological findings of major civilizations of the world reveals that religion has always been a major and essential component of every society with a belief system in their own gods and goddesses, and even spirits and natural objects including contemporary and mythical animals and plants. Among the old religions, only the Sanatana Dharma (Hinduism) is known to have continuously evolved and survived till date boasting over one billion adherents across the world with the majority population in the Indian sub-continent. Other religions from the contemporary past have either been perished or left with few survivors in small groups here and there. Such religions were dominated and replaced by either of the two major Abrahamic religions of more recent origin.
So how come the ancient religions in other parts of the world could not survive the onslaught and brunt of the time while Sanatana Dharma did it and still going strong, despite having faced similar adversities and challenges. To author’s mind, the answer is rather simple. Any architect would tell that a solid foundation and appropriate combination of bricks, cement and steel is a must for any building to survive for long. It is just like a person building a house with solid material by digging deep and laying the foundation on the solid rock. So when the tremors shook it or the floodwaters rise to break against the house, it stands firm because it is well built and strong. This is what precisely happened with the Hinduism (Sanatana Dharma) through the ages vis-à-vis others.
The firm foundation laid by the Vedas and the treasure of the knowledge created and supplemented through the Upanishads, Agamas, Shashtras and other texts based on truth, logic and rationale are the basis of the impregnable strength of the Hinduism. A case in point could be the medieval era in the last millennium, when the Hindu society and religion was experiencing the worst rot at the hands of alien rulers under the constant threat and pressure to succumb to the their culture and religion, and reformist were looking for the help and guidance for their movements, and the needful basic source of knowledge and inspiration came from none other source than our own ancient Vedas and Upanishads.
Apart from the rich and solid knowledge base, the ever tolerant and all-encompassing nature of the Hinduism makes it distinct and unique from all other religions. While many scholars formally endorse it as a polytheistic religion yet it has the flexibility and capacity to peacefully endorse, assimilate and co-exist with monotheistic, nonreligious, agnostic and atheist individuals and groups as part of the same society. The concept of Brahman (God) possesses infinite potential and existential reach, and therefore not limited by a single definition, name or form.
In Hindus view, the Brahman has both the impersonal and personal aspects. The impersonal aspect is the Nirguna Brahman, as referred to in the early scriptures (Vedas and Upanishads), beyond conception, reasoning and thought. He has no attributes hence can only be reached through the meditation and knowledge. The personal aspect is Saguna Brahman with attributes yet not different from Nirguna Brahman. The trinity of Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva and/or other deities are only manifestation of Brahman for pious and easy devotion by the adherents – the same truth from different perspectives.
Despite the transcendent and abstract concept of (Nirguna) Brahman, the majority Hindus worship Brahman's less abstract form with attributes, such as Lord Vishnu, Shiva or Shakti. Many of them do so knowingly or unknowingly for a practical reason. It is easier to concentrate on to a personal being than to an abstract being. Similarly those following the dvaita-advaita traditions worship Brahman as an infinite and yet personal being. The methods of devotion and deities may be different but the object for all is the same.
Continued to Part XV