God in the Vedas

July 2017

By Ritu Khurana

In this modern age where religion is often symbolised by ritualism, material desires, superstitions and ignorance, the Vedas stand as a beacon of purity, deep chintan, truth and inner consciousness.

At  the outset, one must confess that Vedas are as deep and unfathomable as the ocean. To add to the complexity, the Vedas have been interpreted differently by different schools of Vedic studies.

From a literal understanding of the Vedas by Max Mueller to an Indian perspective from Sri Aurobindo, the interpretations are vastly different. We don’t know whether in the Vedic times people believed only in the natural phenomena influencing human lives or in One Supreme God. Even if they did believe in God, was it considered male, female, formless or personal ?

Therefore while trying to understand the concept of God in the Vedas, one should be aware that one is playing with fire which could lead to burnt hands.

The Vedas are the oldest literature of Hinduism. They are described as ‘authorless’  but in reality, they are an anthology of various sages including women, and their revelations after deep inner thought, mindfulness, observations and contemplation.

The seers revered natural phenomenon such as wind, fire, earth, water, trees and animals. These natural phenomenons were worshipped as forms of energy, and as deities identified as  330 million in number. The cognitive and non-cognitive forces, regarded as devas helped the universe to play its functional role and bless the humankind with their bounties. However, these forms of energy were not regarded as God.

The essence of the Vedas is that God is a state of consciousness. The Absolute Reality (Brahman). The source of everything, or the cause of all causes. ‘It’ or the Brahman includes the entire universe including the human beings. This omnipresent reality encompassing time and space, is unborn, changeless and unequalled. The Vedas lay emphasis on how God is formless or ‘nirakara’ and without attributes or ‘nirguna’.

There are multiple hymns in the Rig Veda glorifying and propitiating different devas for cattle, long life and good health. Inspite of this, the Vedas lay emphasis on God as One Supreme Reality. Everything else is the material. Therefore, it is not difficult to understand, that even while venerating 330 million devas, the main veneration is that of one central all pervasive Brahman. Such is the beauty, complexity and utter simplicity of the Vedas.

It is interesting to observe, even while outlining a single, formless, bodyless sat chit ananda, the Vedas mention God as ‘sakara’ or an entity with form. They go further and give vivid, expansive descriptions of God in his bodily attributes and physical strength. How do the two understandings match? An absolute formless consciousness or  a God
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