Hinduism: One Truth

Hinduism is a religion but more so, a tradition – a way of righteous living.

No matter what path to spirituality, Hinduism teaches that we are all trying to get there like with a GPS – the shortest route may not be the quickest and may not be the most scenic!

So the tolerance and mutual respect of other traditions is a very important message of Hinduism.

“Truth is one, wise call it by different names.” – Rig-veda

Many Paths to the Same Summit
Many Paths to the Same Summit


“Namaste” means “I honor the Divinity within you” and is a traditional greeting in Hinduism.

In many ways, it is also the crux of Hinduism.


Investigating the Divine

Truth is one, the wise
call it by many names

Hindus believe that there is one God (Brahman). Like a single fire, The Infinite sparks are in equal amount in all humans, without any exceptions. Therefore, we are all united with that single fire and with each other. God pervades and sustains the entire universe and Hindus see the elements of the Divine everywhere – in animate as well as in inanimate objects – we are all connected!

Hinduism reaches out to other faiths with respect, rather than expending enormous amount of energy condemning the sincere beliefs of others, not to mention spilling the rivers of blood in the name of religion.

Discussion question: Why do humans engage in war in the name of “God”?

God is Infinite

Hindu Trinity: Brahma is the creator of the universe; Vishnu is the preserver of it. Shiva's role is to destroy the universe in order to re-create it.

Truth is one, the wise call it by many names.

brahman graphic


God Through Various Images

The words of Swami Vivekananda, who spoke at the first World Parliament of Religion, September 11-27, 1893 in Chicago:

“My brethren, we can no more think about anything without a mental image than we can live without breathing.”

“Hinduism is not the only religion with rituals that utilize images. “Superstition is a great enemy of man, but bigotry is worse.”

There are many gods, but their multiplicity does not diminish the significance or power of any of them. Each is seen, by those who are devotees, as a Supreme in every sense. Each is alone seen to be the creator, the sustainer, and the final resting place of all.

Discussion question: What are your favorite image(s) of the Infinite?

The Infinite Brahman has no limiting form, Hindus represent the Infinite One in numerous forms: male and female forms.

These help Hindus to develop loving relationship with the Infinite God.

God cares about us.

The divine music is constantly playing inside each of us.

Representations of God

The Infinite One in represented in numerous forms to develop a loving relationship. 
Hindus are free to choose the form which appeals most to them.

Even a simple village priest in his prayers may say “Forgive me Lord for my three mistakes: I see you in various Forms although you transcend all Forms; I sing your praises but no language, no words, are adequate enough to describe The Infinite; and by making this pilgrimage by coming to this temple, I am denying your omnipresence.” God is always more than what we can ever imagine!

"The images of the gods are not a 'likeness' of any earthly form. They are fantastic forms, with multiple heads and arms, with blue, green, or vermilion coloring, or with part-animal bodies. They are not intended to 'represent' earthly realities, but rather to present divine realities. They stretch the human imagination toward the divine by juxtaposing earthly realties in unearthly ways. Indeed, the God Shiva has three eyes. Vishnu has four arms. Skanda has six heads. The vivid variety of Hindu deities is visible everywhere in India. Rural India is filled with countless wayside shrines. In every town of some size there are many temples, and every major temple will contain its own panoply of shrines and images…. On the whole, it would be fair to say that the Western traditions, especially the religious traditions of the 'Book' – Judaism, Christianity, and Islam – have trusted the Word more than the Image as a mediator of the divine truth…. The ears were somehow more trustworthy than the eyes. Not so with Indian religion.” -Huston Smith

Worship and spiritual practice for those lovers of God with form and attributes often is devotional in nature, with prayer and meditation employed to deepen the aspirant’s pursuit of divine relationship.

Power of Personal God

All Hindus believe in one Supreme Being, the Brahman, One Supreme God – Brahman - Formless, ageless, genderless, Omniscient, Omnipotent and Omnipresent.

But the difficulty is that how does one connect with someone Formless, Ageless, Genderless. Therefore, most Hindus, not all, see the Infinite in a personal form.

“If one is struggling against a current, it is comforting to have a master swimmer by one’s side.” 
-Huston Smith

Hindus have a concept called Ishta Devata – one’s favorite personal form, for example, Krishna. There is a short Indian tale that a person tried to document all the forms of the Divine he saw along the countryside. He documented 330 million of them (it’s only a tale!) – he had turned 93 and exhausted. Then someone asked him that now you have chronicled so many, now you count them. It took him another 7 years but at the end, he wrote down – Grand Total = 1. It’s just a tale but illustrates the point that they are all forms representing the Infinite. This 330 million is just a number that someone came up with but there are 7 billion of us on this planet and there could be 7 billion forms, one for each of us. But if we subtract 7 billion from infinity, what do we get – infinity - so there is plenty to go around.

If a Hindu thinks of Sri Krishna as an Ishta Devata, then he/she may think of Krishna as the father, mother, a compatriot, perhaps as a lover – all of these, and of course as his/her God – as a charioteer who can help navigating through all the surrounding madness, of course much of one’s own making.

It is important to recognize that in addition to having a “personal God,” Hindus simultaneously have a concept of Brahman – the All Pervading, Ultimate, and Absolute. In this sense, one and many is not a paradox in Hinduism. Consider, for example a quote from Professor Diana Eck’s book called Darsan, a response from a seemingly “uneducated” Hindu – “Sister, there are many gods. There is Siva here, and there is Visnu, Ganesa, Hanuman, Ganga, Durga, and the others. But of course, there is really only one. These many are differences of name and form.”

In addition to having a Personal God, Hindus are simultaneously conscious of the Formless Brahman. As Huston Smith in his book The World’s Religions states: While giving the analogy of the Master Swimmer “It is equally important that there be a shore, solid and serene, that lies beyond the struggle as the terminus of all one’s splashings.”

God & Femininity

“Hinduism has evolved remarkable embodiments of the Divine Feminine, such as Durga and Kali.

Durga is a warrior goddess with eight arms and multiple weapons. A mix of invincible power and limitless compassion, Durga’s divine mission is saving humanity by killing demons and destroying evil.

Kali, whose name is linked to the Sanskrit root word for time, Kal, is perhaps the most provocative and challenging to Westerners raised on non-threatening images of the nurturing Mother Mary. Kali is a destroyer, both of the world, of time, and of ignorance, too, depending on which side of her countenance one encounters.

Pictured as black in color, with a ring of skulls around her neck, she hovers over the world, dancing in the cremation ground (or burning ground), and liberating souls from the bondage of mortality.”

-Quoting a Professor of Social Studies with permission.

Hinduism and Femininity

The feminine is highly active. In fact, the word for "goddess" in Hinduism is shakti, which means "power" or "energy."

Followers of Shakti or Devi, the Great Goddess, are called Shaktas. Just as the masculine aspect of Brahman is manifested in several different gods, the feminine aspect of the divine take many forms.

Gods & Goddesses

The Supreme Reality (Brahman) manifests itself in both male and female form. Every major god has a goddess counterpart. Many Hindus worship the Great Goddess exclusively.

Hindu Goddesses

Sri Saraswati is the Goddess of knowledge and Wisdom. We all need knowledge, and we all need wisdom so Sri Saraswati is popular with all Hindus. The instrument in her hand is called Veena –the original instrument of India with a very deep sound.

Sri Lakshmi the Goddess of wealth and prosperity. Who doesn’t like wealth and who doesn’t like prosperity - so Hindus celebrate her birthday in a grand style!

Sri Durga is the Goddess of power and Strength – Hindus call it Shakti. Hindus see power and strength – Shakti – in a female form. As you can see, she is riding a lion. – it takes a little bit of strength to jump on the back of a lion! Here we see mother Goddess in a most benign form. Sometime Hindus see her as Kali – her tongue hanging out, her foot on the chest of a man and she has a skull of a man in one hand and then she has a thousand arms. Perhaps 20-30 percent, a good portion, of Hindus see the Divinity through mother Goddess; such followers are called Shaktas.

How Many Gods?

There is only One – with various names and forms of the Infinite One.


So how many Gods and Goddesses are there?

“Sister, there are many gods. There is Siva here, and there is Visnu, Ganesa, Hanuman, Ganga, Durga, and the others. These many are differences of name and form. But of course, there is really only one.”

From the book Darsan – by Prof. Diana L. Eck

Embracing Other Faiths with Respect and Honor


“Hinduism is a world religion that reaches out to embrace other faiths with respect and honors the sincere beliefs of others without trying to convert them.”

-Linda Johnsen

To claim salvation as the monopoly of any one religion is like claiming that God can be found in this room but not the next, in this attire but not another.”

-Huston Smith, The World's Religions