By Swami Mukundananda
The brilliance of the night sky captivates everyone with its gleaming moon and billions of stars. Scientists inform us that these countless stars are manifold times larger in size than our planet earth, and the Milky Way galaxy is just one of the many galaxies in this immeasurable universe. The vastness of our universe is so baffling that people have dedicated their entire lives to decipher its mysteries.
Albert Einstein once said, “I don’t pretend to understand the universe – it’s much bigger than I am.”
Be it the universe’s origin, vastness or existence, all aspects are being studied and researched today, and though we take pride in our achievements as a human civilization, there is little knowledge of how much more there is yet to be discovered in the material realm. For a very long time now, the most intriguing topic of inquiry and arguments has been the origin of our universe. How did it come into existence?
The most commonly discussed theory in this regard is the Big Bang theory which claims that there was a big mass of concentrated matter which exploded and cooled down as it scattered and, the world came into being. There is a humorous anecdote regarding this theory; Maxwell, one of the greatest scientists in history, was a firm believer in God. His fellow scientist, and close friend, did not believe there was a God. He would argue that the world was created by itself. One day, Maxwell made a model of the solar system, and put it in motion in his study room.
His friend came to meet him, and on seeing the model, he exclaimed, “This is amazing! Who made it?”
“Nobody made it,” Maxwell replied. “I was working on my table when I heard an explosion. I turned around and saw this had been created.”
“How ridiculous,” his friend retorted. “How can this be created by an explosion? Someone must have definitely made it.”
Maxwell said, “My friend, you are not willing to believe that a little model of the solar system could be created by itself. And you want me to believe that the real universe, consisting of many such solar systems has come into existence without a Creator. If it is logical to believe that someone has created this model, it is also commonsensical to conclude that the real world must have a Creator too.”
This is exactly how the Vedas describe God:
Yato va imani bhutani jayante… ( Taittiriya Upanishad 3.1.1 )
“God is he, who has created this world; God is he, within whom the entire world exists; God is he, within whom the whole world will merge at the time of annihilation.”
The Vedānt Darśhan gives the definition of God in the same manner. It begins by stating in the first aphorism:
Athato brahma jigyasa (Vedānt Darśhan 1.1.1)
“Now try to know God.” However, on reading the aphorism, the natural question arises, who is God? This is answered in the second aphorism of the Vedānt Darśhan:
Janmadyasya yatah (Vedānt Darśhan 1.1.2)
“God is he, who has created this world.”
Different religions across the globe advocate their respective concepts of Almighty God, and use different names to worship. The Hindus worship Bhagavan, the Christians worship Christ, the Muslims worship Allah, the Jews worship Yahweh, the Parsis worship Ahura Mazda, the Jains worship Alakh Niranjan, the Sikhs worship Ikomkar, and the Buddhists worship Shunya. So a natural question arises that are they all different Gods? Very often religious practitioners develop intense enmity with each other on the basis of the God they worship. History is witness to some of the biggest battles fought in the name of religion.
The Vedic scriptures however give us a broader vision.
They clearly state:
Ekam sat viprah bahudha vadanti (Rig Veda 1.164.46)
“The Absolute Truth is one, but devotees call him by many names.” The Creator of the world is one. All the religions are worshipping the same allpowerful God. Quarrels are due to lack of understanding. This is like the story of some blind people who went to see an elephant. One of them put his hand on the elephant’s stomach and exclaimed, “This creature is just like a wall.”
The second man caught the leg of the elephant and stated, “This animal is like a tree.”
The third caught the tail and said, “The elephant is like a rope.”
The fourth caught the elephant’s ear and said, “It is like a fan.” Now they all started fighting.
One man was watching these blind men. He pacified them, “Do not fight. None of you is wrong. You are all describing parts of the same elephant. All that you have said together makes the complete elephant.” Similarly, the Vedas, with the eyes of knowledge, tell us not to fight on the basis of religion. They teach us to respect all devotees, explaining that they are all worshipping the same allpowerful Creator, but calling him by different names.
The God is All-powerful, All-knowing, omnipresent and divine. If we understand that He possesses the power to create this vast universe we behold, He also, without doubt, possesses the power to create a form for Himself. Even though many spiritual practices argue that God is only formless, their argument is baseless as it implies that they do not accept God as All-powerful. If we admit that God is All-powerful, then we must accept that He possesses the power to manifest Himself in a form.
God is perfect and complete, and so he is both, formless and possessing forms. He exists everywhere in the world and pervades all matter as the Formless God. This fact is stated in the Vedas:
Dve vava brahmano rupe… ( Brihadaranyaka Upanishad 2.3.1)
“God is formless and Allpervading, but He also manifests in a personal form.”
Talking about the personal form of God, there are many different forms of the same God worshipped in Hinduism as Krishna, Ram, Shiva, Durga, and Vishnu, etc. But due to lack of knowledge of the scriptures, people are bewildered by the large number of forms of God. People often complain that Hinduism is a very complicated religion, which confuses them and they would rather adopt something simpler. The truth is that its diversity is indicative of its depth and treasure of enlightening knowledge passed down since eternity. Through proper guidance one can dispel such doubts and realize that Hinduism in fact presents the profoundest knowledge in the simplest manner. Different forms of God are not different from each other; none is bigger or smaller than the other. We, too, have different dimensions/ aspects to our personality. When a father goes to the office, he is dressed very formally. When he goes out to the park, he is dressed semi-formally. And when he is at home, he is dressed very informally. Now, one does not become confused, thinking how come one man has become three fathers? The child knows very well that these are three different appearances of one father. Similarly, Krishna, Ram, Shiv, Vishnu, etc., are not different Gods; they all are different forms of the same one God.
This is stated in the Vedas:
Ekam santam bahudhaya kalpayanti (Rig Veda 10.114.5)
“The Absolute Truth is one but it has been described in a variety of ways by the saints.”
While comparing the example of a worldly father with God, we must also note the difference. A worldly father is not all-powerful; he cannot exist in all three places at the same time. However, God is Supremely powerful. He can manifest in as many forms as he wishes and exist in all of them simultaneously. Therefore, he eternally exists in the forms of Krishna, Ram, Shiv, Vishnu, etc. The true devotee respects all these forms of God while doing devotion to any one of them.
Many people also worship the celestial gods for material rewards. However, we must remember that these devat