The Vedic Concept of God ~ Eastern Philosophy ~ Vedas
The Vedic God
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Note: By ‘God’ we imply Ishwar or the Supreme Entity and NOT ‘Devata’. ‘Devata’ is a different term but often wrongly considered to mean ‘Supreme Entity’.
While Ishwar is also a ‘Devata’, any entity – living or non-living – that helps us or is useful for us is termed ‘Devata’. But that does not mean every entity is Ishwar and should be worshipped. To avoid confusion, we shall use the term ‘Ishwar’ in this article.
The Supreme One who represents selflessness, controls the entire universe, is present everywhere and is the Devata of all Devatas, alone is source of bliss. Those who do not understand Him remain drenched in sorrow and those who realize Him achieve unconditional happiness. (Rigveda 1.164.39)
Q: How many Ishwar are there in Vedas? We heard there are huge number of Ishwar in Vedas.
A: You have heard from wrong sources. Vedas clearly specify that there is One and only One Ishwar. And there is no mantra in Vedas that can be interpreted to imply multiple Ishwars.
Not only this, Vedas also refuse existence of any angel or Prophet or incarnation who is necessarily required to act as an agent between You and Ishwar.
To give a rough analogy:
Ishwar of Vedas = God of Christianity minus the concept of Trinity minus the necessity to surrender to Jesus
Ishwar of Vedas = Allah of Islam minus the necessity to accept Muhammad as final Prophet.
In other words, If someone says first part of Shahada : lâ ilâha illallâh (There is no other God except one and only Allah) but rejects the second part : Muḥammadur rasûlullâh(Muhammad is his messenger), that is close to concept of Vedic God.
In Islam, it is Shirk or greatest sin to worship anything except Allah. If you take this concept further and also refuse to accept any Muhammad or Gabriel as necessary to be remembered apart from Allah, you are avoiding Shirk as per Vedas.
Q: What about the various Gods or Devatas mentioned in Vedas? What about 33 crore Gods?
1. As mentioned earlier, Devata refers to entities that are useful for us. But nowhere it is mentioned in Vedas that we should worship these entities. Of course, Ishwar is the Devata or Devatas and hence called ‘Mahadeva’. He alone is to be worshipped.
2. The Vedas refer to not 33 crore Devatas but 33 types (Koti in Sanskrit) of Devatas. They are explained in Shatpath Brahman very clearly. These include -
8 Vasus (Earth, Water, Fire, Air, Sky, Moon, Sun, Stars/ Planets) that form components of universe where we live,
10 Life Forces in our body or Prana (Prana, Apana, Vyana, Udana, Samaana, Naga, Kurma, Kukala, Devadatta) and 1 Soul called Rudra,
12 Aditya or months of year,
1 Vidyut or Electromagnetic force that is of tremendous use to us
1 Yajna or constant noble selfless deeds done by humans
The master of these 33 Devatas is the Mahadeva or Ishwar who alone is to be worshipped as per 14th Kanda of Shatpath Brahman.
The concept of 33 Devatas is a great research based subject in itself and requires in-depth study for proper understanding. However, it has been made very clear in all Vedic texts that they are NOT Ishwar and hence NOT to be worshipped.
3. Ishwar has huge number of properties. Ignorant people wrongly consider these properties of Ishwar to be different Ishwars. For example, in today’s newspaper there were 2 headlines – One referred to Dr Singh and other to Manmohan. That does not mean India has two Prime Ministers!
4. To dispel such confusions, there are several mantras in Vedas that clearly state that there is One and Only One Ishwar without any assistants, agents, prophets or juniors to liaison between Him and Us. For example:
This entire world is embedded within and managed by the One and Only One Ishwar. Never dare do any injustice or desire riches through unjust means. Instead follow the righteous path and enjoy His bliss. After all He alone is source of all bliss!
Ishwar alone is omnipresent and manager of entire universe. He alone provides victory and eternal cause of world. All souls should look up only to Him in same manner as children look up to their Father. He alone provides for our sustenance and bliss.
Ishwar enlightens the entire world. He is undefeated and undying. He is the creator of the world. All souls should seek bliss through seeking knowledge and acting thereupon. They should never shun the friendship of Ishwar.
Ishwar alone provides true knowledge to truth seekers. He alone is promoter of knowledge and motivates virtuous people into noble actions to seek bliss. He alone is the creator and manager of the world. Hence never worship anyone else except one and only Ishwar.
There is One and only One Creator and Maintainer of the entire world. He alone is sustaining the earth, sky and other heavenly bodies. He is Bliss Himself! He alone deserves to be worshipped by us.
He is neither two, nor three, nor four, nor five, nor six, nor seven, nor eight, nor nine, nor ten. He is, on contrary, One and Only One. There is no Ishwar except Him. All devatas reside within Him and are controlled by Him. So He alone should be worshipped, none else.
Ishwar alone is greatest and worth being worshipped. He is the source of all knowledge and activities.
Ishwar resides at each point in universe. No space is devoid of Him. He is self-sustaining and does not need help of any agent, angel, prophet or incarnation to perform His duties. The soul which is able to realize this One and only One Ishwar achieves Him and enjoys unconditional ultimate bliss or Moksha.
There are innumerable such mantras in Vedas that explain One and Only One Ishwar and instructs us to worship Him directly without invoking any other entity – Incarnation, Prophet, Angel or Agent.
Q: How do you establish existence of Ishwar?
A: Through direct and indirect evidences.
Q: But direct evidence of Ishwar cannot be possible. How do you then establish Ishwar?
1. Evidence means the clear knowledge determined through stimuli received from sense organs. But note that sense organs capture the properties and not the ’cause of these properties’.
For example, when you read this article, you do not capture existence of Agniveer, but only certain images coming on your screen that you interpret into meaningful knowledge. And then you conclude that there has to be some writer of this article and claim that you have evidence of existence of Agniveer. So this is ‘indirect evidence’ even though it appears ‘direct’.
Similarly, this whole creation that we observe via its properties through sense organs imply existence of Ishwar.
2. When you can link a sensory input directly to an entity, you claim to have ‘direct evidence’. For example when you eat a mango, you feel the property of sweetness and associate it with the mango that you consumed. What is important is that you can associate such ‘direct evidence’ ONLY with specific sense organ that was used to observe that property.
Thus in previous example, you cannot have ‘direct evidence’ of mango through ‘ears’ but only through ‘tongue’ or ‘nose’ or ‘eyes’.
Also in reality this is also ‘indirect evidence’ though we term it ‘direct evidence’ for sake of simplicity.
Now since Ishwar is the most subtle entity existing, it is impossible to have ‘direct evidence’ of Ishwar through coarse sense organs like eyes, nose, tongue, skin or ears. For example we cannot see subatomic particles even through most powerful microscopes, we cannot hear ultrasonic sound, we cannot feel the touch of each individual molecule.
In other words, Ishwar is impossible to be evidenced through these coarse and weak sense organs just as mango cannot be sensed through ears or subatomic particles cannot be sensed through any sense organ for that matter.
3. The only organ that can sense Ishwar is mind or Mana. When mind is fully controlled and devoid of involuntary disturbances (like thousands of thoughts coming all the time) and adequate knowledge about properties of Ishwar has been obtained through study and practice, Ishwar can be evidenced directly through intellect in same manner as a mango is evidenced through its taste.
This is the goal of life and this is what a Yogi attempts to do through all the various methods of mind control that include cultivating traits like non-violence, truth-seeking, compassion, seeking bliss for all, high moral character, fighting against injustice, unity among people, etc etc.
4. In a way we get hints of direct evidence of Ishwar everyday in our life. When we try to indulge in any wrong act like theft, cheating, brutality, we hear that faint ‘inner voice’ in form of fear, shame, doubt etc. And when we indulge in noble deeds like helping others, blessing a child etc, we again hear that ‘inner voice’ in form of fearlessless, sense of satisfaction, enthusiasm and feeling of bliss.
This ‘inner voice’ is from Ishwar. Often we reduce its audibility by trying to silence it through loud DJ Music of stupid tendencies around. But then we all at times feel this ‘inner voice’ getting louder now and then, when things are relatively silent.
5. And when the soul purifies itself from mental disturbances and gets away from the DJ club, it is able to directly evidence itself as well as Ishwar.
Hence both through direct and indirect evidence, Ishwar is established as clearly as other entities witnessed by us.
Q: Where does Ishwar live?
1. Ishwar is omnipresent and hence resides everywhere. Had Ishwar been living at a particular place like some special sky or on some special throne, He could not have been omniscient, omnipotent, manager of all, creator of all and destructor of all. You cannot perform actions at a place where you are not present.
2. If you say that Ishwar manages the world from one place just like sun illuminates earth from far off or you watch TV through remote control, this is defective logic. Because sun is able to illuminate the earth or remote control is able to operate the TV only through radiation waves that travel through the interim space. Just because we are unable to see them we call it remote control. In reality there is nothing like a remote control. Thus the very fact that Ishwar is able to manage something implies that it is present there to manage it.
3. Further, if Ishwar is omnipotent, why would He be scared to restrict Himself to a small space. This makes Ishwar limited. Christians say God is on 4th sky and Muslims say that Allah is on 7th sky. And their followers keep fighting each other to prove themselves right. Is it that God and Allah decided to live in separate skies so that they also do not start fighting like their angry followers?
In reality these are childish talks. When Ishwar is All-Powerful and controls entire universe, there is no reason why He would be scared to limit himself to a small part of universe. And if He is, he cannot be termed All-Powerful.
Q: Does it mean Ishwar is also in dirty things like alcohol, urine, excreta?
1. The entire creation is within Ishwar. Because Ishwar is also outside these things but these things do not exist outside Ishwar. So all things in world are pervaded by Ishwar. To give a very rough analogy, we are within Ishwar in similar manner as a pice of cloth within tub of water. There is water within, outside and all around the cloth. There is no portion of cloth which is not wet with water but there is water beyond the cloth as well.
2. Anything is dirty or good for us depending upon our duty towards it. The same set of atoms that form the tasty mango we eat is so lovely for us. But when the atoms disintegrate, interact with other chemicals and form excreta, that becomes dirty for us. But in essence all these are merely different combinations of particles of nature. Since we have a mission on this earth, we analyze each thing with regards to the mission and accept some/ reject rest. What we reject is dirty or trash for us and what we accept is good for us. But for God, such duty does not exist and hence nothing is dirty for Him. On contrary, His duty is different from ours – to help us achieve bliss in just manner – and hence nothing in His entire creation is untouchable for Him.
3. If you look from another analogy, Ishwar is not like a pampered social worker who would prefer to plan remotely in his air-conditioned office but would desist from visiting the slums where actual social work has to be done. He, on contrary, exists to manage the most dirty of the places for our benefit.
4. And since He alone is most perfect, despite He being everywhere and everything being within Him, He is separate and different from these things.
Q: Is Ishwar Kind and Just?
A: Yes. He is the epitome of kindness and justice.
Q: But these are opposite traits. Kindness means to forgive a criminal. And justice means giving punishment to criminal. How can both exist at same time?
A: Kindness and Justice are basically one and same. Because both serve the same purpose.
1. Kindness does not mean forgiving a criminal. Because if that be done, several innocent people would become victims. Thus unless justice is meted out to a criminal, one cannot be kind to innocents. It will also be not justice to the criminal because he would not be prevented from further crimes.
For example, if a dacoit is forgiven, he would harm several innocent people. And if he is imprisoned, it would not only prevent harm to innocents but also allow him opportunity to improve himself and not do further crimes. So in justice alone lies kindness for one and all.
2. In reality, kindness refers to the purpose of Ishwar and justice to the process. When Ishwar punishes a criminal, He does it to prevent the criminal from doing further crimes. And he also prevents innocent people from getting punished for no offense of theirs. Thus the entire purpose of justice is kindness to all.
3. As per Vedas, and observation, the source of sorrow is ignorance which causes one to do wrong acts called crimes. So when a soul does such wrong acts, Ishwar restricts his freedom to do crimes and allows him opportunities to remove his ignorance and remove sorrow.
4. Mere saying sorry is not sufficient to receive pardon of Ishwar. The source of sin or crimes is ignorance and until that is removed, the soul would continue to get rightful punishments or rewards for its actions every moment throughout several births and deaths. And the purpose of all this justice is His kindness towards the soul to gift it with ultimate bliss.
Q: Does that mean, Ishwar will never pardon my sins? Islam or Christianity are better. There, if I confess or say sorry, all my past records are deleted and I am given fresh opportunity.
1. Ishwar does pardon your sins. His pardon lies in the just results of your actions that He provides and not in deleting your past records.
2. If He were to delete your past records, He would be doing greatest injustice and brutality to you. Because in this case, He has allowed you to be promoted to next class even when you have not gained the competence to pass the present class. And in process he is doing injustice to others also who interact with you.
3. Pardoning means providing opportunity to improve your competence and not giving you 100% when you deserved a zero. This is exactly what Ishwar does. And remember that improving competence does not happen in one moment or through one word of ‘Sorry’. It demands dedicated practice and efforts over a period of time. Only lazy people seek shortcuts like trying to get 100% without even studying the course.
4. Unfortunately, those who attract people to their religion by saying that God will forgive their sins are fooling themselves and people. Suppose someone has diabetes. Does it get treated merely by saying sorry? When a physical disease takes much more than a sorry to be treated, how can mind – the most complex thing known to humanity – be treated by a sorry?
5. Actually these ideologies have a blatant flaw – they believe in one life and do not believe in rebirth. So they want to create artificial hurry formula to attract people. And scare them to Hell of they do not agree to them. We have already covered the loopholes of One Life theory in God must be crazy!
6. Vedic philosophy is much more natural, amenable to logic and reasonable. Neither is there a Hell where you would be thrown to burn forever by an Ishwar who is as loving as Mother, nor would He debar you from opportunities to actually raise your competence through efforts and achieve what you truly deserve. After all what is more satisfying:
a. Rank 1 through a fake mark sheet when we know that actually we had got zero, or
b. A proud Rank 1 through hard work and burning midnight oil, when we know that we did the best we could to become masters of the subject!
So in vedas, there are no shortcuts or longcuts to success. There is only the right cut! And the success is much more satisfying than what any illusionary and illusive shortcut can be imagined to provide!
Q: Is Ishwar with form or formless?
A: He is formless as per Vedas and commonsense.
1. He cannot be omnipresent if He has form. Because form implies existence of boundary. And hence He should not exist beyond the boundary if He has form.
2. Form can be seen only if Ishwar is coarse. Because any object finer than what can reflect light waves cannot be seen. Now Vedas clearly define Ishwar as the most finest, without gaps and uniform everywhere. (Refer Yajurveda 40.8 for example). Hence He cannot have form.
3. If Ishwar has a form, it means that someone created His form. This is not possible. If you say that He himself made His form, it means He was formless earlier.
4. If you say that Ishwar is both formless and with form, it is not possible because both are contradictory.
5. If you say that He takes divine forms at times, kindly specify what divine means. Say Ishwar took divine form of a man. Now how will you define boundary of Ishwar atoms and non-Ishwar atoms. Further since He is present everywhere with same density (uniformity), how we distinguish between man-Ishwar and rest of world. And if Ishwar is same everywhere, how are we seeing the boundary?
6. What we see as human body is actually continuous exchange of matter and energy with rest of the world. It is impossible to distinguish each atom as part of human body or rest of the world. So it will be impossible to segregate even body of man-Ishwar. For example, will the spit, urine, sweat and other excreta from man-Ishwar also be divine?
7. In Vedas there is no concept of Ishwar being with form. Further there is nothing that Ishwar cannot do without form that He must assume a form.
8. What we normally consider as divine Ishwar forms – for example people like Ram and Krishna – were actually divinely inspired. Remember, we talked about ‘inner voice’ of Ishwar? These legends were epitome of Ishwar worship and purity of mind. And hence for normal people, they were Ishwar themselves. However Vedas prohibit worship of anyone except Ishwar. Thus, these persons should instead be emulated (their examples be followed in our own real lives) to offer our gratitude to them. This hero-followership is as per Vedas and explained in The power of Now! – Know Vedas.
9. Had Ishwar taken form and worship of these forms been the recipe for salvation, Vedas would have detailed description on this topic. But Vedas do not even hint at such concepts.
Q: Does it mean all these temples and worship of Ram, Krishna, Durga, Lakshmi wrong?
A: Take example of a pious mother living in a remote village. Her son gets bitten by snake. She rushes to local Tantrik for Jhaad Phoonk in an attempt to save life of her child. Would you call her wrong or right?
The bulk of Ishwar worshippers today, be it Hindu, Muslim, Christian or whatever are in same state. Their intentions are genuine and worth greatest respect. But out of ignorance, they adopt wrong practices of worshipping Ishwar. This is obvious from the fact that hardly anyone even knows about the Vedas, even though, at least the Hindus agree that Vedas are supreme.
The right way to show our gratitude to great legends of past should be by imbibing their virtues and doing noble deeds accordingly. For example, we see Ravans all around in form of corruption, terrorism, immorality etc. If we can unite to counter these in rightful manner, that would be true glorification of Ram. Same with Krishna, Durga, Hanuman etc.
I have been a fan of Hanumanji throughout my life. My way of his glorification has been preservation of my moral character and putting efforts for a strong and healthy body that serves the society. What point is in worshipping Hanuman with weak body and irritable stomach yet consuming heavy laddus!
While the motive behind all these modes of worship is worth greatest respect and we humbly bow to the purity of true devotees of any cult, it is our wish to see all devotees to adopt the same methods of worship that Ram or Krishna adopted in their own lives!
Q: Is Ishwar Omnipotent or All-Powerful?
Yes, He is omnipotent. But that does not mean He can do whatever He wants. Doing whatever one may want is sign of indiscipline. On contrary, Ishwar is most disciplined. Omnipotence means that Ishwar does not need help of any other entity to conduct His duties – creation, management, destruction of universe. He is self-sufficient to conduct His duties.
But He would act only as per His duties. For example, He will not kill Himself to create another Ishwar. He cannot make Himself an idiot. He cannot do theft or dacoity etc.
Q: Does Ishwar has a beginning?
Ishwar is without any beginning and without any end. He was always present and will always remain. Further His properties remain same at all times.
Soul and Nature are two other beginningless and endless entities.
Q: What does Ishwar want?
A: Ishwar wants bliss for all souls and wants them to achieve this bliss through deserving efforts purely on basis of merit.
Q: Should we worship Ishwar or not? Why? After all He never forgives!
A: Ishwar should be worshipped and He alone should be worshipped.
It is true that by worship of Ishwar, you will not receive any shortcut pass certificate when you have actually failed. Only lazy and cheaters desire such unscrupulous means to success.
The benefits of worship of Ishwar are different:
a. By worship of Ishwar one is able to understand Ishwar and His creation better.
b. By worship, one is able to better understand His properties and adopt those in his own life.
c. By worship, one is able to hear ‘inner voice’ better and get constant clearer guidance from Him.
d. By worship, one eradicates ignorance, gains strength and is able to withstand toughest challenges in life with confidence and aplomb.
e. Ultimately, one is able to remove ignorance completely and achieve Moksha or salvation with ultimate bliss.
Please note that worship does not mean some mechanical recitations or blankness of mind. It is a proactive approach to imbibe wisdom through actions, knowledge and contemplation.
We shall discuss this in detail subsequently. For now, you can refer to: How to worship?
Q: When Ishwar does not have limbs and sense organs, how does He conduct His actions?
A: He does not need coarse organs for his actions that happen at most microscopic level. He does so through His inherent powers. He sees without eyes because his eyes are present at every points in space, He does not have legs, but is fastest, He does not have ears but listens to everything, He knows everything but is beyond complete cognizance of everybody. This shloka comes in Upanishad. Ishopanishad also describes this in detail.
Q: Does Ishwar know His limits?
A: Ishwar knows everything. This means that He knows whatever is truth. Since Ishwar is limitless, He knows Himself as limitless. It would render Him ignorant if He tries to know His limits when none exist.
Q: Is Ishwar Saguna or Nirguna?
A: Both. Ishwar is Saguna if you refer to properties like Kindness, Just, Creator, Maintainer etc. But He is Nirguna, if you refer to properties that He does not possess – like dumbness, senselessness, anger, cheating, birth, death etc. Its only a semantic difference.
Q: Please summarize major properties of Ishwar as per Vedas.
A: His properties are infinite and cannot be expressed in words. But here are some major properties:
- He exists
- He is animate
- He is source of all bliss and happiness
- He is formless
- He is unchangeable
- He is all-powerful
- He is just
- He is kind
- He is unborn
- He never dies
- He is infinite
- He is omnipresent
- He has no defects
- He has no beginning and no end either in time or space
- He is uncomparable
- He maintains entire universe
- He creates entire universe
- He knows everything
- He never deteriorates and remains perfect always
- He is fearless
- He is pure
- He has no agents and establishes direct relationship with all souls.
He alone deserves to be worshipped without invoking anyone else.
This alone is the path to bliss and removal of all miseries!
Courtesy ~ By Sanjeev