history : Why do Hindus worship many gods if they believe in only one god? 2
Answer by Pradip Gangopadhyay:
The best answer that I have come across has been given by Sri Ramakrishna which is recorded in 'Ramakrishna Kathamrita' (translated as 'The Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna):
'No one can say with finality that God is only 'this' and nothing else. He is formless and again He has forms. For the bhakta He assumes forms. But He is formless for the jnani, that is, for him who looks on the world as a mere dream. The bhakta feels that he is one entity and the world as another. Therefore God reveals Himself to him as a Person. But the jnani – the Vedantist, for instance – always reasons, applying the process of 'Not this, not this'. Through this discrimination he realizes, by his inner perception, that the ego and the universe are both illusory, like a dream. Then the jnani realizes Brahman in his own consciousness. He can not describe what Brahman is.
Do you know what I mean? Think of Brahman, Existence-Knowledge-Bliss Absolute, as a shoreless ocean. Through the cooling influence as it were, of the bhakta's love, the water has frozen at places into blocks of ice. In other words, God now and then assumes various forms for His lovers and reveals Himself to them as a Person. But with the rising of the sun of knowledge, the blocks of ice melt. Then one doesn't feel any more that God is a Person, nor does one see God's forms. What He is can not be described. Who will describe Him? He who would do so disappears. He cannot find his 'I' anymore.'
Brahman is the Ultimate Reality while the Divine forms are frozen Brahman designed to help human seekers. What then is the nature of Brahman the ultimate source of everything? Actually nothing whatsoever can be said about Brahman except that It exists. Let me again quote Sri Ramakrishna on the nature of Brahman:
"What Brahman is cannot be described. All things in the world – the Vedas, the Puranas, the Tantras, the six systems of philosophy – have been defiled, like food that has been touched by the tongue. Only one thing has not been defiled in this way, and that is Brahman. No one has ever been able to say what Brahman is.
Brahman is beyond word and thought. It is said in the Vedas that Brahman is of the nature of Bliss. It is Satchidananda. In Samadhi one attains the knowledge of Brahman – one realizes Brahman. In that state reasoning stops altogether, and man becomes mute. He has no power to describe the nature of Brahman."
Sri Ramakrishna also says,
" Brahman is without comparison. It is impossible to explain Brahman by analogy. It is between light and darkness. It is light, but not the light we perceive, not material light."
Then again Brahman has also been compared to a chameleon by Sri Ramakrishna:
"Listen to a story. Once a man entered a wood and saw a small animal on a tree. He came back and told another man that he had seen a creature of a beautiful red color on a certain tree. The second man replied:'When I went into the wood, I also saw that animal. But why do you call it red? It is green.' Another man who was present contradicted them both and insisted that it was yellow. Presently others arrived and contended that it was grey, violet, blue and so forth and so on. At last they started quarrelling among themselves. To settle the dispute they all went to the tree. They saw a man sitting under it. On being asked, he replied,'Yes, I live under this tree and I know the animal very well. All your descriptions are true. Sometimes it appears red, sometimes yellow, and at other times blue, violet, grey, and so forth. It is a chameleon. And sometimes it has no color at all. Now it has a color and now it has none.'
In like manner, one who constantly thinks of God can know His real nature; he alone knows that God reveals Himself to seekers in various forms and aspects. God has attributes; then again He has none. Only the man who lives under the tree knows that the chameleon can appear in various colors, and he knows, further, that the animal at times has no colors at all. It is the others who suffer from the agony of futile arguments……..
God reveals Himself in the form which His devotee loves most."
Brahman is silence, according to Sankara (c. 788-820 AD):
"'Sir,' said a student to his master, 'teach me the nature of Brahman.' The master did not reply. When he was asked a second and a third time, he replied: "I teach you, but you do not listen. His name is silence.'"