The Concept Of God In Early Hinduism

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Published on Dec 1, 2017
This video explains the reasons why the early Vedic Indians did not invoke Brahman directly in the rituals although they were aware of His existence. It may not be correct to assume that the early Vedic Indians had no knowledge of a universal supreme God. The early Vedic religion has elements of monotheism. There are verses in the Rigveda extolling and identifying the unity of the entire universe and the unity underlying all the divinities know to the Vedic people. Although they were aware of the prinicple of monotheism they didn't worship a single unitary God at that point of time in history because the highest supreme Brahman was an impersonal God. He is an impersonal God who cannot be communicated, who is beyond the mind and the senses, who can reached only through the inner Self. So for the Vedic priests, who were interested in the mundane aspects of human life, and who tried to invoke the various divinities through invocations and prayers, invoking Brahman was not an ideal call because Brahman wouldn't respond to the invocations. He is incommunicable, except through the meditative and contemplative means. That is why we do not find any invocations to Brahman in the Vedas. But when we go to the Upanishads, the end part of the Vedas, we find very frequent references to Brahman. because in the contemplative mode, Brahman is the ultimate goal. Logically speaking you cannot communicate with Brahman because Brahman is universal, infinite, absolute. He is beyond the languages, beyond the words and forms, beyond the material manifestations, which we experience through our senses. Brahman does not communicate with anyone because there is nothing to communicate; everything exists within Himself. Brahman does not communicate because there is no duality in His absolute state; there is no distinction between the knower and the knowing, or the knower and the known. Brahman is not subject to predicate relationships. So logically speaking it is not possible to communicate with Brahman or for Brahman to communicate with people or anyone else. In the Upanishads and in the Vedas we find that even the divinities were not familiar with Brahman. In the Kena Upanishad when Brahman confronts the divinities Indra, Agni and Vayu, they could not fathom who He was. It was only when they hear about from Uma Haimavathi they come to know about Him. And since Indra was the first God who went closest to Him, he became the leader of the Devas or the leader of the heavens. From this it is clear that the Vedic scholars of the Rigvedic times were aware of the difficulties in understanding Brahman, in approaching Him and invoking Him. So they did not bother to refer Him in the prayers or seek His help. Rather they spent time invoking lesser divinities who they thought were helpful and easier to approach. It was only in the later times the impersonal Brahman became personal, probably because of the influence of bhakti movement or the devotional movement and the growing popularity of Vaishnavism and Saivism. And when the impersonal Brahman became the personal God in the form of either Vishnu, Siva or Brahma, then we find that the unmanifest, unknowable, Brahman assumed some qualities and distinct personalities whereby people could relate to Him, invoke Him and seek His assistance in human endeavors. I believe it is wrong to presume that the Rigvedic people had no knowledge of supreme, universal God. They had knowledge of Him. Just, they didn't communicate with Him and they did not invoke Him directly in the prayers.


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