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A Hierarchy of Gods Guide Hinduism

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This article is taken from Hinduism Today

A unique and all-encompassing characteristic of Hinduism is that one devotee may be worshipping Ganesha while a friend worships Siva or Vishnu or Kali, yet both honor the other's choice and feel no sense of conflict. The Hindu religion brings us the gift of tolerance that allows for different stages of worship, different and personal expressions of devotion and even different Gods to guide our life on this earth.

Hinduism is a family of four main denominations - Saivism, Shaktism, Vaishnavism, Smartism - under a divine hierarchy of Mahadevas. These intelligent beings have evolved through eons of time and are able to help mankind without themselves having to live in a physical body. These great Mahadevas, with their multitudes of angelic devas, live and work constantly and tirelessly for the people of our religion, protecting and guiding them, opening new doors and closing unused ones.

In the Vedas, God is called Brahman, the Supreme Being who simultaneously exists as the absolute transcendent Parabrahman, as omniscient consciousness or shakti power and as the personal prime Deity. The word Brahman comes from the Sanskrit root Brh which means to grow, manifest, expand, referring to the Brahman Mind of pure consciousness that underlies, emanates and resonates as all existence. Brahman is simultaneously Purusha, the Primal Soul. He is perfection of being, the original soul who creates/emanates innumerable individual souls - including the Gods. Some Gods, such as Lord Ganesha, did not undergo evolution as we know it, but were emanated as mature Mahadevas whose minds simultaneously govern and interpenetrate specific orders of space and time. They are so close to Brahman that they fulfill their cosmic functions in perfect accord with God's wisdom, intent and action.

"He who is beyond all exists as the relative universe. That part of Him appears as sentient and insentient beings. From a part of Him was born the body of the universe, and out of this body were born the Gods, the earth and men."
- Rig Veda

As God and the Gods are individual soul beings, so too is humankind. The soul body is a body of light which evolves and matures into the likeness of Purusha Brahman just as the seed of a tree one day becomes a tree. Within this body of light and consciousness exist, without beginning or end, the two perfections of Parabrahman and Satchidananda. Satchidananda is the superconscious mind of the soul body - the mind of Brahman. Parabrahman is the inmost core of the soul. We are That. We do not become That.

"He who sparkles in your eyes, who lights the heavens and hides in the souls of all creatures is God, your Self."
- Siva Yogaswami of the Natha Sampradaya

Our soul body is slowly evolving. Man has five bodies, each more subtle than the last. Visualize the soul of man as a light bulb and his various bodies or sheaths as colored fabrics covering the pure white light. The physical body is the outermost body. Next comes the pranic body, then the physical body's subtle duplicate, the astral body. Then there is the mental or intellectual body in which one can travel instantaneously anywhere. Then comes the body of the soul. This is the body that evolves from birth to birth, that reincarnates into new outer sheaths and does not die when the physical body returns its elements to the earth. The soul body eventually evolves as the body of golden light, the golden body of the soul. This soul body in its final evolution is the most perfect form, the prototype of human form. Once physical births have ceased, this soul body still continues to evolve in subtle realms of existence. This effulgent body of the illumined soul, even after Nirvikalpa Samadhi, God-Realization, continues to evolve in the inner worlds until the final merger into Brahman.

"When beholding by this yoga, he beholds the Gold-colored maker, the Lord, the Purusha, Brahman, the cause."
- Maitrayana Upanishad

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Concept of God in Hindu Dharma : Main Page
Pictorial Outline of Concept of God
Saguna Brahman
Nirguna Brahman
Ishta Devata
God and Gods of Hinduism
This six part article
Gods and Gods of Hinduism - Part 1
hand.gif (968 bytes) A Hierarchy of Gods Guide Hinduism
Do God and the Gods have Gender-
Communicating with God and the Gods
How God and the Gods Help Us
Toward Ultimate Communion- Yoga
God and the Gods of Hinduism was created and published by Himalayan Academy, 107 Kaholalele Road, Kapaa HI 96746.

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