Hindu idea of God is a unique religious and philosophical design among world religions. However, upon closer examination of its content, one can see the relationship between the different concept of God, especially their message or point of view on God, particularly in other religions such as Islam or Christianity. It is true that God, like existence of human, can bear its own meaning and if projected particularly vividly, as during the Renaissance period in Italy, it can well translate into the manifestation of a signal that the person or family intends to convey to others.
In the context of Islam, God is seen as a means of achieving honor. God becomes the path where an individual, depending on his status in life or what he did, would have a funeral suitable to the honor that he is worth. In addition to this, God is also seen as a means of showing power and ambitions of an individual. Islamic religion and philosophy was able to provide examples to support these claims and is able to infuse the readers with the symbolisms or of a different perspective about God.
On the other hand, as a background of Hinduism as a philosophy and religion it should be mentioned that it lacks a uniting belief system. In other words, Hinduism is actually many beliefs and practices labeled as a single philosophy. Thus, it can well be enumerated that Hinduism is more of a compilation of different conflicting school of thoughts unlike more modern traditional religions like Christianity or Islam. Hinduism can be compared to sociological or artistic theories like expressionism or surrealism or for that matter modernism or post modernism. Here the concept of God is wide spread and the general belief states that nature is the beginning of the other world. (Skilton, 112)
However, from the parameters of Hinduism it can be stated that no such alignments have been observed in connection to God. Furthermore, the basic of Hinduism is based on six parallel theories, the Shadadarshan or the ‘Six Philosophies’. These are Shyankhya, Yog, Patanjjal, Dbytabad, Adbytabad and Mimansa. Out of these six, only two believe in the existence or the need of existence of God. Furthermore, the saints of Hinduism never referred to these schools as philosophies. Rather they called it Dharma- the way of life, or how a ‘life’ should be led. Dharma is a code of conduct for citizen more in the pattern of Capitalism or Communism. It is this place, in the entire world, where we find that people are free to choose their own philosophy as practice. The government or even the society is most reluctant about this choice. God in this context is a part of life and a common existence. (Skilton, 165)
The Hindu desire for liberation, or nature, from earthly existence is found in Yog and Dbytabad, the only two segments that believe in the existence of God. However, majority of the population of Indian subcontinent believe in these two segments, their subdivisions, and these two philosophies favors the reincarnation of the human soul. These reincarnations are called the devotional phases of spiritualism where the ultimate goal is achieving the ‘Moksha’ or the singularity of existence. However, ‘Moksha’ one can be aligned with the ‘Paramatma’ or the ultimate entity of existence. This process takes several cycle of birth, nature and rebirth till the ‘Moksha’ is achieved. Thus, God in accordance to the composite Hindu religion is a transition period than an ultimate result.
It can be mentioned that there are widely misunderstood conceptions about Hinduism as it is unique in the entire world only Taoism and Confucianism comes close to Hinduism as concepts. It also would be impractical to recommend a wide spread of Hinduism for a better understanding rather it could be mentioned that the basic concepts of Hinduism should be taught in universities for students to be acquainted with Hinduism and its true nature thus nullifying the regular misconceptions and the concept of God remains a stepping stone of life.
Hinduism and the philosophy of God have an often-overlapping quest for the ultimate end in life- Enlightenment. The concept of assimilation with God in Hinduism is called Nirvana, a Sanskrit word that connotes extinction or extinguishing (of passions). It is a state of mind and existence that is free from emotions and thoughts of desire, lust or cravings- the ‘Kileshas’, and is marked by inner peace, contentment, and freedom from sorrows or ‘Dukha’. This state of “the highest happiness” as defined by the Hindu philosophy in ‘Dhammapada’, is not a ephemeral, material happiness, but an enduring and transcendental one integral to the calmness attained through enlightenment (Skilton, 79). The Hindu religion elucidates immersion into Nirvana as achieving ‘naturelessness’ (in Pali amata or amaravatai) or ‘ the unconditioned’ and the highest spiritual attainment, which can be acquired through following a life of virtuous conduct in accordance with ‘Dharma’ (Bechert, 123). Thus, from a different perspective of realization of God is the alignment of the higher soul.
Hinduism, again, approaches the concept of enlightenment through a sense of the higher and inner Soul or the “I” in contrast to Dytva school of Hindu philosophy that describes the notion of void and selflessness. In Hinduism, as per Shyankha philosophy, nature, ‘Moksha’, or salvation happens when the soul or ‘jivatman’ recognizes its union with the source of all phenomenal existence – the Brahman. Advaita Vedanta says that the Self or Supreme Soul is formless, beyond being and non-being, beyond tangibility and comprehension (Bhaskarananda, 9). An analogy is that the soul is like a drop of water, which upon salvation, merges with the ocean or the Supreme soul. The concept of non-duality through enlightment is best summed through the Sanskrit phrase – ‘Tat Tvam Asi’ or ‘Thou Art That’. The quest of life is to break free of separation of the ‘me’ and ‘you’ and see everything as ‘I AM’ (Bhaskarananda, 10). The ‘I’ here is not the ego but the ‘True Self’. Everything is part of this larger ‘I’ and when awareness shifts from the egocentric ‘me, mine and I” to the real ‘I’, you actually see all that is just you and break free from all duality (Bhaskarananda, 11). Thus the path to selflessness is a deep, truthful understanding of the self rather than creating a void. Moksha is seen as a final release from one’s worldly conception of the self and breaking free of the shackle of experiential duality and re-establishment of one’s own fundamental nature (Sinha, 45). The state of salvation is seen differently from each ones’ perspective depending on the inner soul. It is stated in Karmasutra that nature, atman is “Na Hanyate hanyamane sharire”, or there is no nature to nature. It is universal but it is a temporary position in the circle of life.
The Bodhyan School of philosophy in Hinduism, on the other hand, considers the world as a place of sorrows and pain and the objective of human life as defined by the religion is to end this sorrow. It calls for joining the Order or quest for the ultimate alignment with God or ‘Nirvana’, i.e., enlightenment at any stage in life depending on individual spiritual preparedness. The ‘Four Noble Truths’ point towards preparation of Nirvana. Bodhyan School of philosophy also defined an Eightfold path of Dharma, which was a middle way between materialism and idealism (Skilton, 33). Avisatta School in contrast sees life as having four ‘arthas’ or aims, which every human being should pursue. These include the pursuit of ‘Dharma’ or right actions aligned with highest inner principles and religious duty, ‘Artha’ or wealth and material possessions, ‘Kama’ or desires or passions and ‘Moksha’ or salvation (Bhaskarananda, 115). It also prescribes stages in human life or ‘Ashramas’ to follow each of these pursuits. The path to ‘Moksha’ is achieved through both justice to each phase and dedication to achieving it in the last phase of life and the beginning of assimilation with God.
Nirvana is accessible to men and women alike (Smith, 240). Moksha is also attainable for both men and women though the responsibilities that are part of earlier stages in life are different and must be fulfilled virtuously to reach the path of Moksha (Smith, 243). Though Hinduism sees the human form as supreme against all other living creations, the cycle of birth and nature and Moksha is open to all forms of being and animals (Sinha, 119). Buddhism also supports the idea of Nirvana being attainable by any living being, which follows a life of virtue (Bechert, 87).
Thus while Hinduism schools share the concept of enlightenment as the ultimate goal in life, they differ in the approach of attaining non-duality or shift of awareness based on egocentric perception to the one true reality, which leads to enlightenment and nature is the carrier. While Bodhyan sees non-duality as the absence of a sense of separate ego, Hinduism finds it in the unification of the self with everything around in the purest, truthful form. Thus, it is obvious that different cultures saw the aspects of God in different notions. While the Islam or Christian world considered it as a part of achievement of completion and destination in a proper way the Hindu way of life took God as a transit point of beginning of a new birth where assimilation with nature is possible only through the God and God is the pathway of this assimilation.
Bechert, Heinz & Richard Gombrich. The World of Hinduism. London: Thames & Hudson, 1984.
Bhaskarananda, Swami. The Essentials of Hinduism: a comprehensive overview of the world’s oldest religion. Seattle, WA: Viveka Press, 1994.
Sinha, Hiralal. 1993. Bharatiya darshan ki ruparekha (Features of Indian Philosophy). New Delhi: Motilal Banarasidas Publication, 1993.
Skilton, Andrew. A Concise History of Hinduism. London: Windhorse Publications, 1997.
Smith, Huston. The World’s Religions: Our Great Wisdom Traditions. San Francisco : Harper: San Francisco, 1991.