A BRIEF HISTORICAL SURVEY OF THE MONOTHEISTIC CONCEPT IN RELIGIOUS BELIEF AND PRACTICE: DEFINITION OF MONOTHEISM(4)

DEFINITION OF MONOTHEISM(4)

4. Monotheistic Tone in Hinduism

In India Hindu belief in God ranges from polytheism through abstract monism to monotheism. Though the Vedas, the most ancient Hindu religious scriptures, are polytheistic in nature but there is a suggestion of monotheism when the Vedas declare that the same one reality is called by various names. This tendency of the Vedic polytheism towards monotheism is characterized by F. Max Mullar as henotheism.

In India Hindu philosophy is characterized by monistic thought, which merges the divine reality with the world in a unity called Brahman. Here the unifying principle is strong, but the theistic quality of the unified divine reality is of lesser importance. There have always been theistic tendencies in Hinduism, but these have been associated with a variety of divine beings. Intense concern of bhakti (‘devotion to a god’) has sometimes led Hindus to raise up one god as supreme ruler, or to see the various gods as manifestations of one God. It is strongly stated in Rgveda: “They call it Indra, Mitra, Varuna, and Agni ———, but the real is one although the sages give different names”.

Among Vaisnavas, Visnu tends to become the sole supreme reality, and the same is true of Siva among Saivas. Krsna, incarnatiuon of Visnu, can be put forth as the supreme God behind all names. It is stated: “Many are the paths people follow, but they all in the end come to me.” Thus Hinduism does recognize the oneness of the divine, and it includes theistic forms of worship, even worship of one God exclusively, without denying the reality of other gods.

5. Monotheistic Inspiration also found in Buddhism

Gautama Buddha, the founder of Buddhism was silent about God when he was asked about God. From his silence his followers are divided into two groups – Theraveda and Mayayana. In Theraveda Buddhism we see an atheistic view regarding the concept of God while in Mahayana Buddhism the idea has arisen that some relevant beings who have realized their Buddhahood (i.e., Buddhas and Bodhisattvas) can function similarly to gods in theistic religions.

Mahayana Buddhism commonly holds the multiplicity of these powerful beings, but in certain schools one such Buddha becomes supreme and is worshipped exclusively. Such is the case with Amitabha (Japan., Amida), Budhisattava in Pure Land Buddhism, a stereological monolatry offering the hope of salvation for this degenerate age. Esoteric Buddhism has also developed a unified Cosmotheism, according to which the whole universe is the body of Mahavairocana, the Great Sun Buddha, with all Buddhas and bodhisattvas and thus all reality – united in this supreme Buddha reality.

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