Perceptions of God, and Interfaith


Gnōthi seauton
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Terra Firma
In Hinduism, the ultimate Godhead is understood in (at least) two significant ways. Nirguna Brahman refers to "God without attributes." This is very abstract - purely so, in fact. We may speak of spiritual qualities, and these belong to the second conception of God, Saguna Brahman ... "God with attributes."

Is one of these right and the other wrong? No. Hindus acknowledge and respect both ways of conceptualizing Godhead. It is therefore acceptable to say that one has a personal relationship with God ... especially if one is a bhakti, practicing the devotional approach in religion.

It is also acceptable to say that one's relationship with God is impersonal, as the practitioner of jnana yoga or raja yoga will relate. The use of religious icons, or depictions of the Gods and Goddesses, is not necessarily any less signficant just because one believes in Nirguna Brahman, but the idea is that God is beyond all of these representations, utterly.

Some people would say that it is impossible, or difficult to follow a spiritual or religious path without a concrete visualization or conception of God. And it isn't always in the image of humanity that we create our understanding of the Divine. For the Egyptians, and certainly people of other cultures, the Gods and Goddesses were often interpreted through the symbolism of the animal kingdom. Examples are Thoth (Tehuti) the Ibis-headed, and Bastet the cat goddess ...

The test of our desire for anything like Interfaith dialogue, will be our willingness to hear another person's description, understanding or experience with the Sacred. For many people, there is a one-pointed focus on a specific object, or limited number of objects of devotion. This corresponds, certainly, to the Hindu belief in Saguna Brahman.

Yet for others, the Sacred takes on many forms - conceivably even all of them. This is certainly a huge number of forms, but it also includes the tiniest, smallest of manifestations (be that a quark, an atom, a mustard seed, or a human being). To speak of Godhead manifesting through all forms, in all times, and in all places - yet being limited to none of them - is very much in line with the Hindu belief in Nirguna Brahman.

And again, is one of these views right, the other wrong?

Nope. Just two sides of the same coin. An apparent duality, but really just two different ways of understanding. A plurality, or multiplicity of ways to regard ... and approach, the Divine.

To assert that there is no divine, is atheism, or materialism. Secularism, but as a belief, and not simply in order to be "politically correct."

To state, or to be willing to admit, that one really does not know whether or not there is a God, or Gods, is to be agnostic.

And of course, to say that one knows, suggests gnosticism, in one form or another. Surely, if such exists, it does so in degrees ... so that as with all else in life, there is a spectrum of possibilities, rather than a black & white.

If one desires Interfaith dialogue, and has any true interest in learning, in opening one's heart, and expanding one's mind (knowledge, understanding, wisdom) ... then the proper approach to any discussion, and any exchange, will not be a contest to see who can score the most points, who can seem the most knowledgeable, who can win the most converts, or who is most skilled in sophistry & casuistry.

Perhaps it will also help, if we think good and hard about Ben Kenobi's statement to Luke Skywalker, in Empire Strikes Back (Star Wars series) ... after Luke complains that Ben concealed the truth from him, regarding his father:
Luke, you're going to find that many of the truths we cling to depend greatly on our own point of view.​
Each person's pov, I would suggest, is inescapable. And that's not a bad thing. Just something we must remember, and at all times & in all situations, allow for, or factor in. Otherwise, it is we who hold truth, create truth, are truth ... and not any God, Gods or Goddesses that we profess to believe in.


I just finished a book that explains this from a Qabalistic point of view, so I'd have to say I definitely agree. Personally, I think I am more attracted to Nirguna Brahma or Vast Face, as it is called in the book, but the Small Face has equal validity as well. I think that certain religions, however, do focus a little too much on God with attributes and pay more attention to the attributes than the God. I'm not sure about athiesm though...

Sorry, I don't have much else to add other than agreement. :p