As Many Faiths, So Many Paths
The world we live in is a wonderful creation of the Almighty. People of different religions, castes, clans and faiths live on this planet. This materialistic world is plagued by many natural and man-made problems. In particular, the inter-conflict of different races, religions, castes, clans or beliefs is increasing. Excluding all, if only the intra-religious conflict of the traditional Hinduism is written, then it will be a very long essay. Controversies on the topic, “as many faiths so many paths” (jata mat tata path), are also going on since the ancient period. Today I will write something on this particular topic briefly. If in my writing someone’s faith is inadvertently hurt, I would like to apologise in advance.
Different Sects in Hinduism
Traditional Hinduism is basically divided into four sects. These are Vaishnavism, Shaivism, Shaktism, and Smartism. These sects are again seen to be divided into many sub-sects or ideological Hindu communities. The sects or sub-sets typically focus on bhakti, or devotion, to one deity. But the truth is that among the different sects or sub-sects, a cold war has been going on for ages. But the truth is that all the ways or paths in this world have merged into oneness or one great Creator religiously named Param Brahma or Supreme Godhead.
Hindu Mythological Stories and Supreme Godhead
All of us who believe in traditional Hinduism certainly believe in Hindu mythological or scriptural stories. Now I would like to make my today’s topic clearer giving a few examples from Hindu mythological stories.
We know that followers of the Hindu Shakta, Shaiva and Vaishnava sects worship mainly the different forms of Divine Mother or Shakti (the female form of Supreme Being), Lord Shiva and Lord Vishnu and his different incarnations respectively. According to Hindu mythology, Goddess Durga appeared from a combined energy of many gods including Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva to fight and defeat Mahishasura (a demon) who earned the favour of Lord Shiva after a long penance and started his reign of terror over the universe. Now Durga Puja is the biggest religious festival of Bengali Hindus. We know that Lord Rama, the incarnation of Lord Vishu worshipped Devi Durga before going to war with the demon king Ravana. According to Mahabharata, Arjuna prayed to Goddess Durga on advice of Lord Krishna before commencemet of the Kurukshetra war on the tenth day. In the last devotional pastime of Lord Krishna with Arjuna at the end of Kurukshetra war Lord Shiva was present. Now I would like to tell another story of Lord Krishna and Lord Shiva.
It was a bright moonlight night of Sharad Purnima (the full moon night of Autumn). Lord Krishna was playing his flute in Vansivat (a place in Vrindavan). At that time
Lord Shiva was meditating on Mount Kailash. The entire Maha Raas was so pleasurable that Lord Shiva was mesmerized by the sweet sound of the flute being played by Lord Krishna in Vrindavan. His samadhi was disturbed. Lord Shiva left his abode and left for Vraj-Vrindavan. Parvati, the consort of Lord Shiva tried to dissuade him from going, but Lord Shiva did not listen to her. Lord Shiva left for Vanshivat in Vrindavan along with Shriyasuri Rishi, Parvati, Nandi, Ganesh, and Kartikeya and enjoyed Lord Krishna’s Maha Raas. Another story says that the gopis of Vrindavan worshipped Devi Durga to be united with Lord Krishna during Raasleela. They oserved vrata to Devi Durga and chanted the mantra-
“Kaathyaayani Mahaamaaye Mahayoginyadheeswari
Nandogopa sutam devi patim me kurute namah” [Srimad Bhagavatam, Chapter:22, Canto:10].
So, a Vaishnava devotee can’t oppose the worship of Goddess Durga after reading the above episodes.
Many of us know a popular story that relates to the power greater than Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva. As per the story, they were boasting about each other’s greatest power. At the end of that story the three gods realized that they were living in a delusion. They also realized that there is a power behind their power that is greater power.
According to Chaitanya Bhagavata, Mahaprabhu appeared to his intimate devotees in the form of Shiva. Ramakrishna Paramhansa said that there Hari and Har are the same. In the Skanda Purana, Vishnu and Shiva are shown the same. Again in the Mahabharata, Lord Krishna himself is Shiva Sambhu.
Photo credit:Hindu Cosmos
Polytheism and Hinduism
Hindus believe that all gods and goddesses are personification of different qualities of Supreme Godhead. It is known as Polytheism in Hindu religion. This philosophy of Hinduism shows that a devotee of a particular deity can never avoid other deities. Somehow they are related one another. We should understand that all the paths of our religious beliefs have in fact merged with the same great Creator. No one’s faith is small or big. For this reason, a devotee has to find his own way to meet the Paramatman. The Vedic sages and famous Hindu monks did the same. Thus, the philosophy of religion that has developed in the Indian subcontinent over the ages as a result of ‘as many faiths so many paths’ (jata mat tata path) is collectively called Hindu philosophy. In the Bhagavad Gita, Lord Krishna says,
ye yathā māṁ prapadyante tāns tathaiva bhajāmyaham।
mama vartmānuvartante manuṣhyāḥ pārtha sarvaśhaḥ।।BG Chapter:4, Verse:11।।
Meaning:O Partha! I show kindness to those who worship me. Human beings follow my path in all ways, that is, they can reach me in all ways, no matter which path they follow.
Ramkrishna Paramhansadeva, a famous Indian Shakta saint, believed in this philosophy. Now it is used as a tagline of Ramkrishna Math and Ramkrishna Mission organization. Ramkrishna Paramhansadeva also believed that Param Brahma and Adishakti are the same.
Union or Yoga with Paramatma
In Hinduism, there are many paths to worship the Almighty. Any one or more of these can be followed as per your choice. In any of these ways, union or yoga with Paramatma is established and salvation or ‘moksha’ is attained in the end. This is called yoga. In fact, Sanatan Hindu religion is like open source software. The more programmers, the more coding. The purpose is the same. So, we can firmly say that the devotees of a particular sect can never be the rivals of the devotees of another sect. A real devotee should always respect the beliefs and opinions of others.