Hindu views on monotheism
Monotheism in Hinduism is set in the views of the spiritual world are broad and range from monism, pantheism to panentheism, aptly termed as monistic theism and even open monotheism by some scholars, but are not polytheistic as outsiders perceive it to be. Hinduism has often been confused to be polytheistic because one leading denomination, Smartism, which follows the Advaita philosophy of absolute monism, and includes worship of all kinds of personal forms of God. Absolute monists see one unity with all personal forms of God as different aspects of one Supreme Being, like a single beam of light separated into colors by a prism. Thus Smartas consider all personal forms of God as equal including Devi, Vishnu, Siva, Ganesh and Skanda but generally limit the recognized forms to be six. Other denominations of Hinduism, don't adhere to the Smarta viewpoint, but are quite unlike Western perceptions of monotheism. Additionally, like Judeo-Christian traditions which believe in angels, Hindus also believe in less powerful entities, such as devas.
Contemporary Hinduism can be categorized into four major sects: Vaishnavism, Shaivism, Shaktism, and Smartism. Vaishnavism, Shaivism, and Shaktism worship Vishnu, Shiva, and Devi - the Divine Mother, as the Supreme Being respectively, or considering all Hindu deities as aspects of the Supreme Being or Brahman (see advaita, or impersonalism). Other minor sects such as Ganapatya and Saura focus on Ganesha and Surya as the Supreme. However all these are simply aspects of God, as described in Rig Veda 1.164.46,
- Indraṃ mitraṃ varuṇamaghnimāhuratho divyaḥ sa suparṇo gharutmān,
- ekaṃ sad viprā bahudhā vadantyaghniṃ yamaṃ mātariśvānamāhuḥ
- "They call him Indra, Mitra, Varuṇa, Agni, and he is heavenly nobly-winged Garutmān.
- To what is One, sages give many a title they call it Agni, Yama, Mātariśvan."(trans. Griffith)
The Brahma Samhita 5.45 declares, Lord Vishnu is milk; Lord Shiva is yogurt. Other aspects of God are expansions or aspects of Vishnu or Shiva which is detailed in various Puranas. Vaishnavites, like other Hindus, have tolerance for other beliefs because Krishna, an avatar of Vishnu, said so in the Gita. Krishna says: "Whatever deity or form a devotee worships, I make his or her faith steady. However, their wishes are only granted by Me alone." (Gita 7:21-22) Another quote in the Gita states: "O Arjuna, even those devotees who worship other lesser deities (e.g., devas, for example) with faith, they also worship Me, but in an improper way because I am the Supreme Being. I alone am the enjoyer of all sacrificial services (Seva, Yajna) and Lord of the universe." (Gita 9:23).
Krishnaism is one notable instance of Vaishna monotheism popularized in the Bhakti movement. Krishanism refers to Krishna with the title Svayam Bhagavan, meaning 'Lord Himself' and it is used exclusively to designate Krishna as the Supreme Lord.. Certain other traditions of Hinduism consider Krishna to be the source of all incarnations, and the source of Vishnu himself or to be the same as Narayana. The term is seldom used to refer to other forms of Krishna and/or Vishnu within the context of certain religious texts such as the Bhagavata Purana.
Though Krishna is recognized as Svayam Bhagavan by many, he is also perceived and understood from an eclectic assortment of perspectives and viewpoints. When Krishna is recognized to be Svayam Bhagavan, it can be understood that this is the belief of Gaudiya Vaishnavism, the Vallabha Sampradaya, and the Nimbarka Sampradaya, where Krishna is accepted to be the source of all other avatars, and the source of Vishnu himself. This belief is drawn primarily from the famous statement of the Bhagavatam(1.3.28):
All of the descents and incarnations are either plenary portions or portions of the plenary portions of the Lord, but Lord Śrī Kṛṣṇa is the original Personality of Godhead.
Vaishnavism is one of the earliest implicit manifestations of monotheism in the traditions of Vedas. Svayam bhagavan is a Sanskrit term for the original deity of the Supreme God worshiped across many traditions of the Vaisnavism as the source of all, the monotheistic absolute Deity.  Within Hinduism, Krishna is worshiped from a variety of perspectives. However it must be noted that the Svayam bhagavan concept refers to the Supreme Being of the Orthodox Gaudiya Vaishnavism, the Vallabha Sampradaya and the Nimbarka Sampradaya, where Krishna is worshiped as the source of all other avatars (including Vishnu).   A distinguishing feature of the Vaisnava teachings is that God, Krishna or Vishnu, is a real person and His variegated creation is also real.
Krishna worshiped in Vaisnava religion as the Supreme came into being as soon as all creatures came into existence. Brahma was the first Vaisnava. In Gaudiya Vaishnavism, Shiva Mahadeva is also a Vaisnava; in Shaivism, by contrast, Shiva is the supreme God. The ancient Prajapaties are all Vaisnavas. Narada who is the born child of Brahma, is a Vaisnava. Thus pure monotheistic Vaisnava religion began with the beginning of history. In the recent times man arrived once again at the instinctive monotheism of the Aryans and Vaisnavas.
A different viewpoint, opposing this theological concept is the concept of Krishna as an avatara of Narayana or Vishnu. It should be however noted that although its is usual to speak of Vishnu as the source of the avataras, this is only one of the names of god of Vaishnavism, who is also known as Narayana, Vasudeva and Krishna and behind each of those names there is a divine figure with attributed supremacy in Vaishnavism. The theological interpretation of svayam bhagavān differs with each tradition and the translated from the Sanskrit language, the term literary means "Bhagavan Himself" or "directly Bhagavan". Gaudiya Vaishnava tradition often translates it within its perspective as primeval Lord or original Personality of Godhead, but also considers the terms such as Supreme Personality of Godhead and Supreme God as an equivalent to the term Svayam Bhagavan, and may also choose to apply these terms to Vishnu, Narayana and many of their associated avatars. Others have translated it simply as "the Lord Himself". Followers of Vishnu-centered sampradayas of Vaishnavism rarely address this term, but believe that it refers to their belief that Krishna is among the highest and fullest of all avatars and is considered to be the "paripurna avatara", complete in all respects and the same as the original.
The prime supporters of the Krishna-centered theology, Gaudiya Vaishnavas and followers of the Vallabha Sampradaya Nimbarka Sampradaya, use the Gopala Tapani Upanishad, Vedanta Sutras and other Hindu scriptures such as the Bhagavata Purana and the Brahma Vaivarta Purana, among others, to support their view that Krishna is indeed the Svayam Bhagavan. This belief was summarized by the 16th century author Jiva Goswami in some of his works, such as Krishna-sandarbha. While Krishna himself if mentioned in one of the earliest texts of Vedic literature - Rig-Veda.
In the sixth book of the Hindu epic Mahābhārata, the Bhishma Parva (better known as the Bhagavad Gita), Krishna offers numerous quotations that reaffirm the belief that he himself is the Svayam Bhagavan. Verse 7.7 of the Bhagavad Gita, is often used to support the opinion that Krishna himself is the Svayam Bhagavan, and that no impersonal form of Brahman supersedes his existence, as it is an common view that Bhagavad Gita was propounding Krishna-theism before first major proponents of monism of the Smarta school.
The system prevalent in Hinduism is defined by the Smartha philosophy; this theory allows for the veneration of numerous deities, but on the understanding that all of them are but manifestation of the one divine power (a belief sometimes called soft polytheism). That ultimate divinity is termed Brahman or Atman, and is believed to have no specific form, name or attribute. Only a Smartha, or follower of the Advaita philosophy, would have no problem worshiping every imaginable deity with equal veneration; as the view is that all names and forms of deities are merely manifestations of the same God. Other Hindu sects such as Vaishnavism and Shaivism conform more closely to a Western understanding of what a monotheistic faith is. For instance, a Vaishnavite considers Vishnu as being the one and only true God, an attitude that resonates with that of the Abrahamic religions. However, it is Advaita philosophy that defines the Smartha sect of mainstream Hinduism, and imparts to Indic spiritual and religious traditions their renowned liberalism.
Swaminarayan, founder of the Hindu Swaminarayan sect, said in verse 115 of their scripture, Shikshapatri said, "Shree Krishna Bhagwan and Shree Krishna Bhagwan's incarnations alone are worthy of meditation. Similarly, Shree Krishna Bhagwan's images are worthy. And men or devas, even if they are devotees of Shree Krishna Bhagwan or brahmavettaa (knower of divinity), they are still not worthy of meditation - and thus one should not meditate upon them."
The Brahma Samhita 5.45 declares, Lord Vishnu is milk; Lord Shiva is yogurt. Followers of Swaminaryan are Vaishnavas, but differ from the viewpoint attested by Gaudiya Vaishnavas who emphasis Shiva as a subordinate demigod expansion of Krishna. For example, in verses 47, 84, 108, Swaminaryan states: 
“ And the oneness of Narayana and Shiva should be understood, as the Vedas have described both to be Brahmaroopa, or form of Brahman, i.e., Saguna Brahman, thus indicating that Vishnu and Shiva are different forms of the one and same God. ”
- Arya Samaj
- Hindu views on God and gender
- Hiranyagarbha sukta
- Nasadiya sukta
- Svayam Bhagavan
- ^ Edward Washburn Hopkins (1896). Morris Jastrow,. ed. THE RELIGIONS OF INDIA. Jr. Ginn & Co. pp. 204. ISBN 9781603031431. http://books.google.com/?id=Dj33XvXqJO8C.
- ^ Gupra, 2007, p.36 note 9.
- ^ Bhagawan Swaminarayan bicentenary commemoration volume, 1781-1981. p. 154: ...Shri Vallabhacharya [and] Shri Swaminarayan... Both of them designate the highest reality as Krishna, who is both the highest avatara and also the source of other avataras. To quote R. Kaladhar Bhatt in this context. "In this transcendental devotieon (Nirguna Bhakti), the sole Deity and only" is Krishna. New Dimensions in Vedanta Philosophy - Page 154, Sahajānanda, Vedanta. 1981
- ^ a b Delmonico, N. (2004). "The History Of Indic Monotheism And Modern Chaitanya Vaishnavism". The Hare Krishna Movement: the Postcharismatic Fate of a Religious Transplant (Columbia University Press). ISBN 9780231122566. http://books.google.com/?id=mBMxPdgrBhoC&pg=PA31&dq=Vaisnava+monotheism. Retrieved 2008-04-12.
- ^ a b c d Elkman, S.M.; Gosvami, J. (1986). Jiva Gosvamin's Tattvasandarbha: A Study on the Philosophical and Sectarian Development of the Gaudiya Vaishnava Movement. Motilal Banarsidass Pub.
- ^ Dimock Jr, E.C.; Dimock, E.C. (1989). The Place of the Hidden Moon: Erotic Mysticism in the Vaisnava-Sahajiya Cult of Bengal. University Of Chicago Press. page 132
- ^ Mepathur Narayana Bhattatiri (2003). Narayaneeyam-Bhagavata, Condensed Edition. Sri Ramakrishna Math. ISBN 81-7120-419-8. pp.234-239
- ^ a b Mahony, W.K. (1987). "Perspectives on Krishna's Various Personalities". History of Religions 26 (3): 333–335. doi:10.1086/463085. JSTOR 1062381.
- ^ a b Kennedy, M.T. (1925). The Chaitanya Movement: A Study of the Vaishnavism of Bengal. H. Milford, Oxford university press.
- ^ Flood, Gavin D. (1996). An introduction to Hinduism. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press. p. 341. ISBN 0-521-43878-0. http://books.google.com/?id=KpIWhKnYmF0C&printsec=frontcover&dq=gavin+flood. Retrieved 2008-04-21. "Early Vaishnava worship focuses on three deities who become fused together, namely Vasudeva-Krishna, Krishna-Gopala and Narayana, who in turn all become identified with Vishnu. Put simply, Vasudeva-Krishna and Krishna-Gopala were worshiped by groups generally referred to as Bhagavatas, while Narayana was worshipped by the Pancaratra sect."
- ^ a b c d Gupta, Ravi M. (2007). Caitanya Vaisnava Vedanta of Jiva Gosvami. Routledge. ISBN 0415405483.
- ^ Essential Hinduism S. Rosen, 2006, Greenwood Publishing Group p.124 ISBN 0275990060
- ^ Klostermaier, K. (1974). "The Bhaktirasamrtasindhubindu of Visvanatha Cakravartin". Journal of the American Oriental Society (American Oriental Society) 94 (1): 96–107. doi:10.2307/599733. JSTOR 599733.
- ^ Ojha, P.N. (1978). Aspects of Medieval Indian Society and Culture. BR Pub. Corp.; New Delhi: DK Publishers' Distributors.
- ^ Bhag 1.3.28 Chapter 3: Kṛṣṇa Is the Source of All Incarnations
- ^ See McDaniel, June, "Folk Vaishnavism and Ṭhākur Pañcāyat: Life and status among village Krishna statues" in Beck 2005, p. 39
- ^ a b Richard Thompson, Ph. D. (December 1994). Reflections on the Relation Between Religion and Modern Rationalism. http://www.iskcon.com/icj/1_2/12thompson.html. Retrieved 2008-04-12.
- ^ Dalmia-luderitz, V. (1992). "Hariscandra of Banaras and the reassessment of Vaisnava bhakti in the late nineteenth century". Devotional Literature in South Asia: Current Research, 1985-8 (Cambridge University Press). ISBN 9780521413114. http://books.google.com/?id=BE40dp6SCFUC&pg=PA281&dq=Vaisnava+monotheism. Retrieved 2008-04-12.
- ^ Matchett 2000, p. 4
- ^ Knapp, S. (2005). The Heart of Hinduism: The Eastern Path to Freedom, Empowerment and Illumination -. iUniverse. "Krishna is the primeval Lord, the original Personality of Godhead, so He can expand Himself into unlimited forms with all potencies." page 161
- ^ Dr. Kim Knott, (1993). Contemporary Theological Trends In The Hare Krishna Movement: A Theology of Religions. http://www.iskcon.com/icj/1_1/knott.html. Retrieved 2008-04-12. ..."Bhakti, the highest path, was that of surrender to Lord Krishna, the way of pure devotional service to the Supreme Personality of Godhead".
- ^ K. Klostermaier (1997). The Charles Strong Trust Lectures, 1972-1984. Crotty, Robert B.. Brill Academic Pub. p. 206. ISBN 90-04-07863-0. http://books.google.com/?id=F_0UAAAAIAAJ&pg=PA109&dq=Svayam+bhagavan. "For his worshippers he is not an avatara in the usual sense, but Svayam Bhagavan, the Lord himself." p.109 Klaus Klostermaier translates it simply as "the Lord Himself"
- ^ Bipin Chandra Pal (1964, 132 pages). Shree Krishna: Letters Written to a Christian Friend. Yugayatri/New India Printing & Publishing Co.. "First edition published in 1938 under the title of 'Europe asks: who is Shree Krishna'." p. 31: Shree Krishna stands at the top of this series. He is therefore called by his votaries as Purna Avatara or the highest and fullest incarnation of the Lord.
- ^ "Sapthagiri". www.tirumala.org. http://www.tirumala.org/sapthagiri/122002/purana.htm. Retrieved 2008-05-03. Parashara Maharishi, Vyasa's father had devoted the largest Amsa (part) in Vishnu Purana to the description of Sri Krishna Avatara the Paripoorna Avatara. And according to Lord Krishna's own (instructions) upadesha, "he who knows (the secrets of) His (Krishna's) Janma (birth) and Karma (actions) will not remain in samsara (punar janma naiti- maam eti) and attain Him after leaving the mortal coil." (BG 4.9). Parasara Maharishi ends up Amsa 5 with a phalashruti in an identical vein (Vishnu Purana .5.38.94)
- ^ B. V. Tripurari (2004). Gopala-tapani Upanisad. Audarya Press. ISBN 1-932771-12-3.
- ^ Gupta, Ravi M. (2004). Caitanya Vaisnava Vedanta: Acintyabhedabheda in Jiva Gosvami's Catursutri tika. University Of Oxford.
- ^ Sunil Kumar Bhattacharya Krishna-cult in Indian Art. 1996 M.D. Publications Pvt. Ltd. ISBN 8175330015 p.126: "According to (D.R.Bhadarkar), the word Krishna referred to in the expression 'Krishna-drapsah' in the Rig- Veda, denotes the very same Krishna".
- ^ S. Devadas Pillai, ed (1997). Indian Sociology Through Ghurye: A Dictionary. Columbia, Mo: South Asia Books. p. 403. ISBN 81-7154-807-5. http://books.google.com/?id=P3uD22Ghqs4C&pg=PA283.
- ^ Sivaya Subramuniyaswami (2004). Dancing with Siva: Hinduism's Contemporary Catechism. Himalayan Academy Publications. ISBN 0945497962. http://books.google.com/?id=EWlHPAkjBKUC&pg=PA425.
- ^ http://vedabase.net/bs/5/45/en Sri Bramha Samhita 5.45
- ^ Shree Swaminarayan Temple Cardiff - Scriptures - Shikshapatri
- Gupta, Ravi M. (2007). Caitanya Vaisnava Vedanta of Jiva Gosvami's Catursutri tika. Routledge. ISBN 0415405483.
- Flood, G.D. (2006). The Tantric Body: The Secret Tradition of Hindu Religion. IB Tauris. ISBN 1845110129.
- Delmonico, N. (2004). "The History Of Indic Monotheism And Modern Chaitanya Vaishnavism". The Hare Krishna Movement: the Postcharismatic Fate of a Religious Transplant (Columbia University Press). ISBN 9780231122566. http://books.google.com/?id=mBMxPdgrBhoC&pg=PA31&dq=Vaisnava+monotheism. Retrieved 2008-04-12.
- D Hudson (1993). "Vasudeva Krsna in Theology and Architecture: A Background to Srivaisnavism". Journal of Vaisnava Studies (2).
- Matchett (2000). Krsna, Lord or Avatara? the relationship between Krsna and Visnu: in the context of the Avatara myth as presented by the Harivamsa, the Visnupurana and the Bhagavatapurana. Surrey: Routledge. pp. 254. ISBN 0-7007-1281-X.
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