According to traditional Hindu theology, the highest expression of God is the impersonal Brahman, the Source of perfect awareness and perfect bliss. However, this perfect, original Source has expressed ‘Itself’ in numerous gods and goddesses who are often found to be much less than perfect. Invariably, all of these deities have character flaws and areas of weakness or vulnerability (as is the case in all polytheistic religions). Major conflicts are recorded even among the highest gods. I realize that many Hindu people revere these gods deeply. However, I plead with such persons to prayerfully consider the following observations concerning certain deities worshiped in that worldview:
Brahma, Vishnu, and Shiva—Brahma, Vishnu, and Shiva make up the Hindu triad (Trimurti). Brahma (the Creator god) initially possessed five heads. This came about because his female companion, Saraswati, being timid, was always trying to avoid his gaze. So, he created five heads, allowing him to see her at all times, no matter where she moved. Later, his head count was reduced to four. The god Shiva irately destroyed one of his heads just because Brahma offended him.
Krishna—Krishna is described in the Bhagavad-Gita as an Avatar, the eighth incarnation of Vishnu, entering this world “for the protection of good men, for the destruction of evil-doers, for the re-establishment of piety.” (Bhagavad-Gita 4:8) His exhortations seem to answer many questions concerning life, suffering, purpose, and eternal destiny—for those who subscribe to Hinduism and some related Far Eastern or New Age worldviews. Yet this Hindu deity seems to exhibit, at times, what many would interpret as human frailties. For instance, as a child he is described lying and stealing butter. Devotees have logical explanations for these things. It is perfectly acceptable for Krishna to lie, in order to provide protection or pleasure to his people. And because Krishna made all things, the butter belonged to him anyway, so it was not actually ‘stealing.’
Another inclination that ‘outsiders’ might label ‘peculiar’ is Krishna’s habit of hiding the clothes of women who are river bathing. Devotees simply interpret this to mean Krishna’s power to remove shame. Krishna is also portrayed luring women, some the wives of other men, to dance with him in the moonlight. They become so caught up in this romantic adventure that each woman feels he is making love to her alone. This, too, is often interpreted symbolically—representing Krishna’s power to woo devotees away from human ties and worldly attachments by his overpowering love.
Though Krishna does have a preferred mistress named Radha, while he was on the earth he married 16,108 women making them his queens. Eight were married individually; the remaining 16,100 were married all at once after Krishna delivered them from the Demon King, Bhaumasura. Swami Prabhupada of ISKCON interprets this information quite literally, explaining that Krishna “expanded himself in 16,108 forms” so he could be personally and simultaneously present in a palace with each of these 16,108 wives1. In the Srimad Bhagavatam Krishna is described fathering ten sons by each of these women over a span of 125 years.
By the standards of most religions, such a large number of sexual relationships would be unacceptable behavior for any man pursuing godliness, especially one claiming to be a manifestation of God. A Krishna devotee, Romapada Swami, elucidated the ISKCON viewpoint, “Krishna’s activities are not subject to judgment by ordinary morality for he is the creator, maintainer and destroyer and thus the owner of everything in existence…Everyone…is an energy of Lord Krishna. So, it is only proper for him to enjoy his own energies.”
Ganesha—One of the more popular Hindu gods is Ganesha, depicted as having a human body, but the head of an elephant. He is worshipped as the ‘overcomer of obstacles.’ The legend goes like this. Parvati, Shiva’s female companion, created Ganesha to guard her while she bathed. When Shiva returned home, Ganesha did not know him and consequently, refused to grant him entrance. Enraged, Shiva responded with violence, unaware that Ganesha was Parvati’s ‘son.’ The result? Ganesha’s head was sliced off. Upon learning his error, Shiva sent forth his servants into the forest, directing them to cut off the head of the first creature they encountered. They found an elephant. Upon their return, Shiva replaced Ganesha’s severed head with the elephant’s.
Indra—Though he was originally chief of the Vedic gods, Indra is now given very little regard. Maybe it has something to do with the disappointing behavior and resulting appearance of this ancient, though neglected deity. He is often depicted with a thousand marks on his body that look like eyes. These are actually yonis, symbols of the female sex organ. Hindu tradition states that this abnormal appearance resulted from a curse pronounced upon this god by a sage, whose wife Indra seduced. The Ramayana 7,30,20-45 actually blames Indra with bringing adultery into the world.
Soma—This Hindu moon god, in a boastful gesture over his own strength, abducted Tara, the wife of Brihaspati, chaplain of the gods. Because he refused to restore Tara to her husband, a war erupted. The demons (asuras) assisted Soma in this conflict until Brahma intervened, compelling Soma to set Tara free.
ATTRIBUTES OF THE TRUE GOD
Contrasted to these myths, the God of the Bible is perfect in all his ways. (See Psalm 18:30, Matthew 5:48.) The following list describes his most glorious and praiseworthy attributes.
He is omnipotent—the all-powerful Creator of heaven and earth. Unlike Brahma, who lost one of his heads, the true God is not vulnerable; he cannot be damaged by an attack from any foe. Furthermore, he is the Lord of hosts, which in essence means, “the God of an army of angels who do his bidding.” He would never degrade himself by enlisting an army of demons, as Soma did, to execute his rescue. (See Isaiah 40:28, Jeremiah 32:7, Revelation 19:6.) Being omnipotent, he is also tireless. Psalm 121:3–4 declares that God neither slumbers nor sleeps. On the contrary, Hindu mythology explains that when Vishnu sleeps, creation recedes into seed form, to be re-manifested when he awakes.
He is omniscient—a God of perfect knowledge. Unlike Shiva, who mistakenly decapitated Ganesha, the true God does not make terrible mistakes through ignorance. The Bible reveals that “his understanding is infinite” and that he “knows all things.” (Psalm 147:5, 1 John 3:20, See Isaiah 46:9–10.)
He is omnipresent—Had Shiva been omnipresent, nothing could have escaped his scrutiny. He would have been fully aware of the creation of Ganesha. The true God’s omnipresence is interconnected with his omnipotence and omniscience. Because he is everywhere, he can be completely cognizant of all that is happening in his universal domain and exercise his power as he sees fit. As Proverbs 15:3 states, “The eyes of the Lord are in every place, keeping watch on the evil and the good.” (See Psalm 139:6–16.)
He is holy—a word meaning pure and separate from the world. He would never give moral standards to mankind and then fail to live up to those standards himself. He would never be found indulging in the kind of lustful, adulterous behavior associated with Indra. The Scripture plainly states God, in his transcendent state, is so holy he “cannot be tempted by evil, neither does He tempt any man.” (James 1:13, See Psalm 92:15, Isaiah 57:15, John 7:18.) In his incarnate state, Jesus still remained perfect and sinless. Even as a child, he was never involved in lying or stealing, as Krishna. Furthermore, he did not participate in human procreative actions; he was never involved sexually with any woman and he never married, after the manner of this Hindu deity. As God, he remained totally separate from such temporal, fleshly activities.
He is everlasting—Some believe that except for Brahman (the impersonal Oversoul) and possibly Krishna (for those who consider him to be ‘Ultimate Reality’) all gods mentioned above have only temporary existences. According to the Mundaka Upanishad 2,1,1 and the Taittiriyaka Upanishad 3,10,4—all deities will cease to exist when Brahman reverts back to an unmanifested state. They will be absorbed back into Brahman to be remanifested or reborn in the next era of cyclical manifestation. On the contrary, the God of the Bible is everlasting. Psalm 90:2 proclaims, “From everlasting to everlasting, you are God.”
He has a triune nature—The true God is a triune God. There is only one God, but he has manifested himself in three ways: the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. (See Deuteronomy 6:4.) The Father is the essence of the Godhead, the Holy Spirit is the emanation of the Godhead, and the Son is the “form of God,” the “image of the invisible God.” (Philippians 2:6, Colossians 1:15) All are co-equal, eternally existent, and one in substance. Though the Godhead is made up of three distinct ‘centers of consciousness,’ they are not divided. “These three are one,” according to 1 John 5:7. This concept is not tri-theistic (three separate gods manifested from one source) such as the Hindu triad of Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva springing out of Brahman, who is described as the Supreme Source and Origin of all things. In Christianity, there is no Ultimate Reality above the triune Godhead. Neither is the Christian concept of God modalistic (a mono-personal God consecutively assuming three distinct forms during different eras of manifestation). He always has been, he is, and he always will be—a triune God.
He is personal, yet perfect—Ultimate Reality in Hinduism is an ‘It,’ an impersonal, cosmic energy— perfect, yet possessing no attributes. On the contrary, all lesser deities have personalities, but they are flawed, containing both negative and positive attributes. In Christianity, God is personal, but he possesses only positive and perfect attributes. He is not without personality (as Brahman); neither does he have a flawed personality (as all other Hindu gods). So, we find the true interpretation of God’s nature exactly in the middle of the two erroneous extremes discovered in Hinduism.
The Godhead is in perfect unity—The composition of the triune Godhead is comparable to the composition of those human beings who are made in his image. Human beings are triune in nature, possessing a body, soul and spirit. If human beings were in a perfect state, these three parts would work together in perfect unity. In a similar way, though each member in the Godhead has his own individual mind, will and center of consciousness, there has never been a time when they worked in competition with, or in opposition to, each other.
When Jesus was baptized in the river Jordan, the audible voice of the Father spoke over him saying, “This is My beloved Son in whom I am well pleased.” (Matthew 3:17) Simultaneously, the Holy Spirit came upon him in the form of a dove. After that notable event, Jesus boasted, “I do nothing of Myself; but as My Father taught me, I speak these things. And He who sent Me is with Me. The Father has not left Me alone, for I always do those things that please Him.” (John 8:28–29, emphasis by author)
Even Jesus’ crucifixion took place because of his submission to the Father’s will. When the Son of God intercedes over His people, he searches the “mind of the Spirit” so intercession is made “according to the will of God.” (Romans 8:27) The Holy Spirit is then sent forth from the Father to accomplish God’s purposes in this world. Jesus explained, “When He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth; for He will not speak on His own authority, but whatever He hears He will speak; and He will tell you things to come.” (John 16:13) These few passages illustrate the perfect harmony and common purpose that always has and always will exist, unbroken and unchanged, in the eternal Godhead. This is far different than the internal strife, jealousy, and division that is often evidenced in the various pantheons of gods in other religions.
He is a Father—In none of the other main living religions is the Fatherhood of God emphasized as in Christianity. To those who accept him as their Savior, Jesus especially came to exemplify and reveal the Father. (See Luke 10:22, John 14:8–9.) Some 175 times in the Gospels alone, Jesus makes reference to the “Father.” Over 250 times, God is titled this way in the entire New Testament. Furthermore, when the Spirit of Christ enters the hearts of repentant sinners, he automatically establishes them in a son or daughter relationship with the Everlasting Creator. The Scripture reveals that once the Spirit of God’s Son enters the hearts of believers, they gain the legal, spiritual right to refer to God as “Abba, Father,” meaning “dear Father.” (See Romans 8:15, Galatians 4:4–7.) In other words, born-again believers inherit Jesus’ relationship with the Father and his accepted and blameless status in the Father’s presence.
1 A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, The Science of Self Realization (Los Angeles, California: The Bhaktivedanta Book Trust, 1998) p. 20.
Copyright © 2003 Mike Shreve