Today, the two most popular theological beliefs in the West are monotheism (the belief in a single all-powerful divinity) and atheism (the belief that there is no divine entity). 1. Finally, many Hindus would classify themselves as adherents of. Second, if Hinduism is not monotheistic, the general implication is that Hinduism must be polytheistic, meaning heathen, pagan, primitive, superstitious and idolatrous. The Abrahamic religions of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam preach the former, while those who base their world view exclusively on material or scientific rationality tend to adhere to the latter. Technically speaking, polytheism is the belief in many gods, none of whom participate in the divine essence of any of the others. Brahman is the unchanging, infinite, immanent, and transcendent reality which is the Divine Ground of all matter, energy, time, space, being, and everything beyond in this Universe. Every Hindu has the right to decide which embodiment of God to give preference to, at which point in time. The many deities are like the spokes, all of which emanate from the hub and each playing an important role. Polytheistic and Monotheistic. Hence, Hinduism is monotheistic, At the most henotheistic but not polytheistic as there is only one God and the others are Brahman's manifestations. Songs are sung and festivals are celebrated just like any Temple. This paradox can be traced to the history of Hinduism. Then, is Hinduism monotheistic polytheistic or atheistic? Judaism is monotheistic, while Hinduism is polytheistic. While such systems may be comforting to those who "belong" to the right tribe or belief system, a solitary all-powerful ruler is a threat to those who do not. The other criteria for polytheism is that these separate and autonomous gods are all of equal status with each other and are worshipped simultaneously. They believe that God cannot manifest … It depends on how the practitioner of the religion understands it. Sikhism is a relatively young religion. Hinduism. Is Hinduism monotheistic, or polytheistic? A polytheistic religion. Additionally, one can choose to focus exclusively on a divinity who appeals to one's own personality. Hinduism denies being exclusively either monotheistic or polytheistic, sometimes believing to be monotheistic but declining to polytheism with many Hindu schools regarding it as henotheistic. Add your voice. Not satisfied, he continues to ask and gets the response, "There are only three gods." The term “Hinduism” embraces a wide array of philosophies and practices, and while certain Hindus may think and worship in an essentially monotheistic way, the practices of others may be more readily labeled polytheistic or pantheistic. Therefore, while there are many different types of Hinduism (and therefore many different types of "isms" with which these different traditions can be labeled), none of them is technically polytheistic. Monotheism and Polytheism Reconciled. To this he is told, "Three thousand and three." In that state, it may be called Ram, Krishna, Shiva, Devi, etc. The belief in many gods. Hinduism is a polytheistic religion. Mesopotamia and Egypt. Are the Semitic religions monotheistic or polytheistic? Thus, in many ways polytheism is a pragmatic theological view that, as mentioned above, reflects aspects of a democratic style system. Hinduism is both monotheistic and polytheistic. It is said to be the source, the hub, from which all deities are manifest. Advaita means not two. Over time, Hinduism has evolved from a polytheistic religion to one that is widely monistic. One then approaches and propitiates the being with the requisite power to fulfill his or her needs or desires. Believed to be the first religion known to mankind. Hinduism is a decidedly theistic religion; the difficulty lies in determining whether it is a polytheistic, pantheistic, or perhaps even monotheistic religion. Whereas a traveler of spiritual path, follower of teachings contained in Bhagavad Gita and Upanishads considers Hinduism to be monotheistic. Important conversations are happening now. When Waking Up is Falling Asleep, "The Church supports the use of vaccinations", The GOP's Double Standard on Christianity, The Soul of Gospel Music Explored in New Netflix Series "Voices of Fire", Seven Ways to Think About Christian Mysticism. One who finds self incapable of indulging in spirituality unable to follow teachings […] It was started at around 15 th century by Guru Nanak Dev. The latter can include forces of nature, such as rain, thunder, a celestial body, the seasons, or may involve dominion over characteristics of human personality, like love, devotion, compassion, jealousy, revenge, and so forth. While such individuals are then believed to not receive divine assistance, they are typically not understood to be punished for this choice. Professor of Religion, University of Hawai’i, Sign up for membership to become a founding member and help shape HuffPost's next chapter. Hinduism will be used as a primary example, since it offers a good example of polytheism and how it can be blended with the Hindu understanding of monotheism into a useful and practical theology. A polytheistic religion, on the other hand, is a religion that believes in the existence of many gods or deities. So they worship the personal forms of Brahman in different ways. Both were correct in their perception. On the human level, one typically finds such a being in monarchies, dictatorships, and societies run by a ruling tribal leader or warlord like those currently found in many Middle Eastern countries. And there is one Hindu school that is more explicitly monistic than others: Advaita Vedanta or just Advaita. This is seen as the only means of survival. That being the case, we should focus instead on the ramifications and practical usefulness of the various theological conceptualizations on the people who hold them as well as on the rest of the world. Hinduism is a philosophy of different levels of reality/perception. Who was the first of the 10 Gurus of Sikhism. Ultimately one perceives only Unity-without-qualities. Therefore, Hinduism is not polytheistic. Hinduism. In the explanation that follows, the teacher tells him that the many are all ultimately manifestations of the one indwelling presence. It allows people to believe in and pray to their own conceptualizations of the divine in whatever form they choose, while at the same time elevating all of them to their ultimate reality, which is the singular omnipotent, omnipresent, and omniscient divinity, who demands no allegiance, punishes no one for lack of belief, yet provides wisdom, comfort, compassion, and freedom to those who seek it. Different divinities, like different bureaucrats, have different powers. From time to time you will also receive Special Offers from our partners that help us make this content free for you. "Polytheism" (from the Greek polutheos, "many gods") denotes a theological system involving a belief in and worship of multiple divinities. When did Hinduism begin? Literature, especially Indian, has its crux implanted in the Hindu beliefs and ideas as the Indian way of life is the Hindu way. Finally, singular devotion to one specific divinity is not necessary. Then, there is the Hindu form of monotheism, in which the Divine is formally referred to as Brahman (not Brahmin, the priestly caste). Today is National Voter Registration Day! Simultaneous propitiation of several deities tends to be common and accepted. These may include gods, goddesses, semi-divine beings, good or evil spirits, or the spirits of departed ancestors. Is Hinduism Pantheistic, Panentheistic, Polytheistic, monotheistic or henotheistic? Kathenotheism, a system wherein one recognizes many gods but only worships one of them at a time. In Hinduism, polytheism and monotheism coexist in a relationship much like the parts of a wheel. 30 million deities which are nothing but forms of ONE God. Jews and Muslims would surely say that Hinduism is polytheistic—for them, worship of anything that is not the Supreme Being is a sin. This thing about everything being one, is sometimes called monism. With over a billion adherents, many claim that the religion is monotheistic and helmed by the supreme being, Brahma. Because of this all encompassing nature, it is the One to whom all prayers are offered. “…But in reality Hinduism is monotheistic. All theories regarding the divine are based on faith, supposition, and individual experience. The vast majority of individuals in such societies remain weak and powerless unless they observe strict adherence to the being in power and do whatever they are told. Please also opt me in for Exclusive Offers from Patheos’s Partners. At the same time, one can choose to ignore all deities. There are several significant characteristics typically found in nearly all polytheistic traditions. The Gods have 33 (Siva Visnu) etc. An organized system of beliefs, ceremonies, and rules used to worship a god or a group of gods ... Polytheism. This is a nondualistic monotheism. The deity worshipped in each is seen by Hindus to simply be a different manifestation of the deity they already worship. The Ancient Greeks had polytheistic beliefs and this Hellenistic tradition has greatly influenced modern western thought due to the stories of these gods. One enfolds the other. How Awake Are We? As it says, it is only one god who has manifested and taken many forms like one body with many different parts. The origin of Hinduism is shrouded in antiquity of the distant past far beyond the times of known history. Hindus as i have already said can be pluralistic. Religion. Other forms that spirits may embody include those of animals, of aspects of nature like a volcano, or a combination of several, thus making reverence toward and worship of both human-like and non-anthropomorphic forms commonplace. Answer #11 | 11/12 2014 00:44 It can be any of them. It is not only the source and reality of all other deities, but also of all creation, both animate and inanimate. In monotheism, especially as expressed in the Abrahamic religions, ultimate power is in the hands of a single male divinity. For them, their respective Gods are most important, just like in any other Temple. Some of the most prevalent polytheistic religions are Chinese, Japanese Shinto, Greek, Egyptian, Hinduism etc. Hinduism incorporates diverse views on the concept of God. What Is the Purpose of Spiritual Gifts, and How Do You Discover Yours? Is Sikhism Monotheistic Or Polytheistic? Modern Semitic religions are monotheistic, namely Judaism and Islam. They may work in conjunction with one another or at cross purposes. He asks again and is told, "There are six." 3. Like with the gods in polytheistic traditions, he has human personality traits. Atheists and Western monotheists together denigrate polytheists and their beliefs as either ignorant or pagan. Monolatrism, a religious system wherein one recognizes many gods (though in Hinduism, these are not of different essences) but only worships one of them. It transcends all attempts at defining or qualifying it. Is Hinduism really a polytheistic religion or is in fact an amalgam of monotheistic religions? ), that it controls a particular realm (such as a spirit realm or a specific location in the physical world), or that it possesses a specific power or range of powers. The merging of polytheistic and monotheistic concepts in this way is unique to Hinduism. In monotheism, there is belief in and worship of only one god that is a separate entity. Hinduism is a diverse system of thought with beliefs spanning monotheism, polytheism,panentheism, pantheism, monism, and atheism, and its concept of God is complex and depends upon each particular tradition and philosophy. The purpose here, then is to make the case for the inclusion of polytheism as a legitimate belief system, for it has animated people throughout the world since ancient times and has often provided an understanding of divinity and reality that is more rational than Abrahamic monotheism and has been the cause of far less violence in the world. However, Hindus rarely worship all of the gods and goddesses simultaneously; instead, Hindus generally worship only one God/Goddess as being higher than the others (although, in theory, they are all equally Brahman). PLAY. In the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad, an important Hindu sacred text, a man asks a great teacher, "How many gods are there?" Panentheism, a system wherein Divinity/God is believed to be both transcendent of and immanent within the world. Hindu monists, then, would argue that Hindu gods and goddesses have only a provisional reality and are, ultimately, illusory/unreal. In conceptualizing such a theology, then, the adherents obviously drew upon their own human experiences. Monotheism and polytheism are two very different belief systems. Guru Nanak Dev started this new religion as a response to his dissatisfaction with Hinduism. Identity Politics vs. Transactional Politics. It is frequently found in cultures with a clearly stratified social and/or political hierarchy, where power is held in the hands of different individuals based on their position within the hierarchy, and that these powers are there to benefit those who approach the various divinities seeking assistance. At some levels one perceives gods, at another, God. However, to call Hinduism monotheism would be, in most cases, erroneous as well. Polytheism characterizes virtually all religions other than Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, which share a common tradition of monotheism, the belief in one god. Among these are a belief that each divinity or spirit being has a specific function (such as healing, protection in travel, etc. The term was first popularized in the writings of eighteenth century European ethnographers as they encountered, then sought to identify and label the religious beliefs of "primitive" peoples they studied. This view also implies the superiority of monotheism over different formulations of the sacred that may have their own value. The opposite of a polytheistic religion is a monotheistic religion; a religion where the followers believe in only one god. STUDY. Polytheism, the belief in many gods. In Sanskrit, this concept is "tat tvam asi," which can be translated as "you are that" or "that you are.". Again he asks and is told, "One and a half gods." Reflecting on how this approach can be understood on a human level, it parallels in many ways the functioning of democratic society in which power exists in the hands of various individuals who can be approached in turn or simultaneously for assistance. 2. Hindu texts and practices suggest the simultaneous existence of polytheism and what seems to be monotheism, but some Hindus find it insulting to be called polytheists. No human has demonstrable or irrefutable proof for or against a belief in a divinity or a lack thereof. So it got me thinking. With characteristics, the Divine can love, protect, and show compassion; beyond qualifications, it is all encompassing. All rights reserved. Each Hindu follows a particular sect and thus have different ways to pray to Brahman. Therefore, Hinduism is not polytheistic. Sri Swami Chidananda. Depending upon the tradition, there may be an established and recognized hierarchy of worshipped beings or they may be seen to act independently. Buddism. In the Jewish creation story, the gods (elohim) say "Let us make man in our image, in our likeness." God’s essence and character are believed to be unique and fundamentally different from all other beings that can be considered more or less comparable—e.g., the gods of other religions. After one final query, the teacher says to him, "There is one god." One of the most well known and widespread polytheistic religions is Hinduism. Explore the world's faith through different perspectives on religion and spirituality! Different traditions of Hinduism have different theistic views, and these views have been described by scholars as polytheism , monotheism , henotheism, panentheism, pantheism, monism, agnostic, humanism, atheism or Nontheism. Monotheism is the belief in one god and polytheism is the belief in more one than one god. (Poly = many.) He is all knowing, all powerful, and ever present. Learn more about polytheism, including such religions as Hinduism. For Hindus, this makes total sense. It is not male nor female, has no form or description. Monism, a system wherein Ultimate Reality is believed to be the unpersonified essence underlying (or encompassing) all life. It takes on apparent form or characteristics solely to allow humans the ability to relate to it. ©2020 Verizon Media. Hinduism is polytheistic religion and the oldest religion in India and Nepal. So they are technically a monotheistic religion. Church and ministry leadership resources to better equip, train and provide ideas for today's church and ministry leaders, like you. So then technically, Hindus are not polytheists because most Hindus are nondualists and believe that all of the gods and goddesses are manifestations/embodiments of the one Ultimate Brahman/Bhagvan. Is Buddhism Monotheistic, Polytheistic, or Nontheistic? It should be noted at the outset, however, that this is chiefly a western difficulty: the Indian mind is much more inclined to regard divergent views as complementary rather than competing. Nowadays, the term is essentially used to refer to any belief system in which multiple spirit beings are worshiped. Patheos has the views of the prevalent religions and spiritualities of the world. The more conservative monotheists even equate them with evil and demonism. Polytheism is the belief in, and worship of more than one god. Hinduism is polytheistic, monotheistic and atheistic, depending on what level you're looking at and how you define things. But Hinduism is unique, at least in the scope of my own knowledge about religion, in the way it presents its "monotheistic" and "polytheistic" facets. Hinduism names hundreds of gods, … Unlike what is found in most polytheistic traditions, he demands allegiance and punishes those who do not worship him exclusively. What may be more accurate is that humans create the gods in their image and likeness, believing that what happens on earth must be a reflection of what happens in the heavens. In the process, he alludes to a concept found in various Upanishads that equates the unchanging reality that exists in each individual with the Supreme Changeless Divinity. Yet, in much of the rest of the world, polytheism, or a belief in multiple divinities, has been a long held and popular conviction. 4. The more common of these deities to be propitiated by rural agriculturalists Bhudevi (Mother Earth), Surya (the Sun God), Ganesh (Lord of Auspiciousness and Success), regional deities, and various river goddesses. Among the myriad of others who receive attention and reverence are Lakshmi (Goddess of Wealth), Saraswati (Goddess of Knowledge and Learning), and Hanuman (Devotion Incarnate), to name just a few. Christianity is a monotheistic religion. So you can say that Hinduism is polytheistic, monotheistic, or monistic. By. *Ex. Polytheism, then, often mirrors the human experience of family, village, and state. This is why it is commonplace for Hindus to be seen in Buddhist or Jain temples, in Sikh gurudwaras, and in mosques and churches. It is impossible to unambiguously answer the question about the nature of religion: the direction shows signs of both polytheistic and monotheistic religion that honors the Hinduism Brahman. When he questions this answer, he receives the reply, "There are thirty-three gods." they believe many Gods. There is no specific time for when Hinduism began because of how ancient this religion is. Different traditions of Hinduism have different theistic views, and these views have been described by scholars as polytheism, monotheism, henotheism, panentheism, pantheism, monism, agnostic, humanism, atheism or Nontheism. All these names thus refer to a Qualified Absolute that is simultaneously beyond qualifications. In Hinduism a believer of religion indulging in rituals considers Hindu religion to be polytheistic. Such narrow minded views and biases have hampered many who adhere to western thinking from understanding the value and validity of polytheistic beliefs for the people who hold them. You can opt out of these offers at any time. The merging of polytheistic and monotheistic concepts in this way is unique to Hinduism. Show more answers (5) Countless deities are regularly propitiated, often together. We made it easy for you to exercise your right to vote! Under the conventional definitions of monotheism and polytheism, HINDUISM IS POLYTHEISTIC. Monotheism - Monotheism - The spectrum of views: monotheisms and quasi-monotheisms: The God of monotheism is the one real god that is believed to exist or, in any case, that is acknowledged as such. India's 1st major religion. If one looks at the monotheistic concept, in which there is a solitary omnipotent divinity, on the other hand, we find a very different approach to the divine and also to the likely world experience of those who formulated it. I mean Islam and Christianity are monotheistic. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Hinduism incorporates diverse views on the concept of God. Another common belief is that spirits possess or adopt a specific form, often human-like, and are endowed with human-like characteristics, such as love and compassion, but also jealousy and revenge. Tap here to turn on desktop notifications to get the news sent straight to you. All they need to do is look within. Hinduism is a religion that defies definite classification, and in practice, it has both monotheistic and polytheistic components. In some cases, this is seen as practical and necessary, since different spirits control different realms or powers. Hinduism is the most ancient religion among all the great living religions in the world today. "Polytheism" was used to contrast these beliefs with Judeo-Christian monotheism. I have come to the conclusion that Hinduism is neither, but monistic. A polytheistic religion is when the followers of a religion believe in more than one god. Part of HuffPost Religion. Especially in contemporary times, religious narrow-mindedness is a prevalent and major cause of much of the violence and hatred in the world, and both Western monotheistic and atheistic thinking have been major contributors. Among the most ancient of these concepts is polytheism.