CAN our God-men promote Advaita as the universal religion? —Author
The Aryans offered their prayers to the “Bright one”- to the forces of nature. These forces became gods overtime. This was the first step.
The gods began to multiply. To millions! So did their faiths! Result? Conflict among men. And loss of unity.
The Jews worshipped many gods. They were divided and weak. Moses, one of the Jewish prophets, decided to unite them under one God. He chose Yahweh from among the gods. He was a warrior God. He became the God of all the Jews. The Jews promised to worship only him and no other God. And Yahweh promised to dwell among them only.
Thus was born Monotheism—perhaps for the first time in the world. It was a belief in one God, not in many Gods. But Yahweh was not a universal God. He was not a God of mankind. He was only the God of the Jews.
It was then that Jesus appeared on the scene. The Jews took him to be the Messiah come to deliver them. But Jesus spoke against them and against their religion. To give one instance: The Jews believed in violence. But Jesus preached non-violence. Thus was born a new religion—Christianity. The Christians broke away from the Jews, but they retained Yahweh and Monotheism. It took years for Christianity to take roots in the face of Roman opposition. Did Christians say that Yahweh was a universal God? Never. There is no evidence of it. Like Jews, Christians remained tribal. The Arabs too worshipped a number of Gods. They were weak and disunited. Like Moses, Mohammed decided to unite them under one God His goal was to create an Arab empire.
There were 365 Arab gods. Mohammed destroyed all but one of them. The one who escaped the axe was Allah, the God of the Quraish tribe to which Mohammed belonged. That is how Arabs came to have only one God. They also became Monotheists. But Allah was no universal God. He was Arab in every way. What is more, the concept of a universal God—a God of all mankind—was beyond the understanding of the Arabs. To Arabs, Monotheism meant worship of Allah and no other God.
Hindus never believed in Monotheism. There is mention of a supreme God in the Rig Veda, but there is also mention of hundreds of Gods who were manifestations of the One. The Hindus were thus free to worship any of the manifestations. Indeed, it is they who created these manifestations.
Thus Pasupati was the God of the Harappans. He became Rudra in the Vedas, the warrior God. Then, again, he became Shiva, the auspicious, in the Puranas, and a member of the Trinity, and God of both the Aryas and Dravidas. Shiva appears in different forms in the Puranas.
As Pasupati, He was a tribal God of the Harappans. But as the Vedic God Rudra, He was the God of the Aryan people. But as Shiva of the Puranas, he was the God of both Aryans and Dravidians.
Dear Reader, it was Shankara, the greatest philosopher of Hinduism, who pioneered the concept of a universal God and a universal religion. But the ideas were in the Vedas. The Rig Veda speaks of Prajnanam Brahman. Yajur speaks of Aham Brahmasmi. According to Vivekananda, “Advaita is the last generalisation to which one can arrive.” Beyond Brahman we cannot go.
Brahman is without form, without a habitat, without attributes. Thus he has the character of a universal God. There had been no God like him before. Brahman does not belong to Hinduism or to India. He is free from all attachments. Which is why we cannot worship Brahman, why we cannot love him or have any feeling for him. In short, we cannot have any emotions about Brahman. Advaita rejects even Bhakti, because Bhakti promotes dualism.
According to Shankara, God is the only truth and self is not different from Atman. And Atman is part of Paramatman. Thus man and Brahman are the same.
Advaita did not become a religion because it was born at a time when the Puranas were being written. They were more popular with the masses. Only the scholars could understand Advaita. It was too complex for the masses.
Advaita is the third step. It is also the last step in our quest for the truth. As Vivekananda said: “Advaita is the last generalisation to which we can arrive.
It is true Advaita remains an enigma to most of the Hindus. But it is a challenge to the world which is in search of a universal God and a universal religion. As in so many other instances, only India can provide a new faith to the world.