Hindu Gods and Goddesses, Stephen Knapp, Jaico Publishing House, Pp 208, Rs 225.00
BELIEVERS of different faiths, other than Hinduism, often ask why there are so many gods and goddesses in it or in the Vedic culture for that matter? There are generally two ways that followers of the Vedic tradition view the Vedic divinities. Some feel that the Supreme is not a being but an impersonal force from which everything is created and treat it “like the great Brahma effulgence.” They usually think that all the Vedic divinities are but different forms or representations of the same Supreme or Absolute Truth.
Thus it does not matter whether a person worships Shiva, Krishna, Ganesha or Murugan or any other Vedic gods or goddesses because they all represent the same Absolute Truth or God in various forms. Then there are others who feel that Absolute Truth is ultimately a personality. They hold the view that it does make a difference in which of the Vedic divinities you worship because they offer varying blessings and results from such worship, so each one of them has a specific purpose to serve.
This book by Stephen Knapp, who has studied the major Vedic texts and practiced yoga and Eastern teachings for over 40 years, opens possibilities and potentials of the Vedic tradition and shows how it caters and fulfils the spiritual needs and development of Hinduism since time immemorial. It also explains the nature of the Vedic divinities, their purposes and powers and the way they influence and affect the natural energies of the universe. It also shows how they can assist us and that blessings from them help our spiritual and material development and personality, depending on what we want. The divinities include Krishna, Vishnu, the other avatars along with Brahma, Shiva, Ganesha, Murugan, Surya, Hanuman as well as goddesses like Radha, Durga, Saraswati and Lakshmi. We thus find explanations of their names, attributes, dress, weapons, instruments, the meaning of shivalingam and some of the legends and stories associated with them.
Talking of Krishna, the author says that he is the one from whom everything originates or that he is the Absolute as stated in the Katha Upanishad. He quotes from various religious texts like the Bhagawad Gita to justify this belief. He calls it a ‘mistake’ of those persons who think “Krishna is namely a representation of something higher, which is often mistaken for the impersonal Brahma.” It is the Taittriya Upanishad that explains this and the Vedanta Sutras say, “He is completely and totally spiritual for He is the Absolute Truth.” The Absolute Truth is “He from whom all else manifests.”
The avataras of Krishna are also expounded upon, like the Kumaras or four sons of Brahma, Varaha, Narada Muni, Nara and Narayana, Kapila and so on.
Lord Vishnu is described as the all-pervasive Lord who expands into everything. He represents sattva-guna. Brahma represents the mode of rajas, passion, in which the propensity of creation is found. In this way, the author goes on to describe Lord Shiva, Goddess Durga, the other goddesses like Lakshmi, Saraswati, Gayatri, etc. followed by Ganesha, Murugan and Ayypappan before coming to the demigods.
By reading this book, it is not difficult to comprehend how each of the various divinities of the Vedic culture have particular characteristics and blessings that they offer those who show respect or worship them. They all have specific purposes. Ultimately they are “one Supreme Being that oversees everything and is the source of all,” concludes the author.
(Jaico Publishing House, A-2 Jash Chambers, 7-A Sir Phirozshah Mehta Road, Fort, Mumbai-400 002; www.jaicobooks.com)