1. Some Hindu traditions recognize millions of gods while other speak of a single, underlying divine reality. Is it possible for these notions to coexist within a single, religious tradition or must one speak of several irreconcilable traditions.
2. Over its long history, Hinduism has demonstrated remarkable religious tolerance and flexibility. What are the implications of having such a flexible religious system? What are the advantages and disadvantages?
3. Many people have heard of the caste system even if they have not studied it in detail. To what extent should external moral and social norms be permitted to limit, infringe or supersede indigenous religious beliefs and customs?
Some Hindu traditions recognize millions of gods while other speak of a single, underlying divine reality. Is it possible for these notions to coexist within a single, religious tradition or must one speak of several irreconcilable traditions?
This question equivocates on the idea of "God." When a Christian or Muslim speaks of God, he is speaking of an all powerful creator. When a Roman citizen spoke of gods, he spoke of highly limited, flawed beings not unlike himself. The fact that the same term is used is misleading. The "gods" of the Hindus are no different than the gods of Greece and Rome. What is different is the conception of God, in the true, more ordinary sense.
God of Hinduism is to be approached with "ignorance." That is, humans cannot ascribe to him any aspects of earthly like such as goodness or completeness. God here is formless. It is not so much that he is without form, but rather human speech could not grasp or describe it. It is perfectly consistent for a God of this type to have, under him, many spirits (rather than use "gods" again) that serve specific purposes. In some cases, they emanate from the deity, in others, they are manifest by it.
Hinduism was motivated by the skeptical challenge of Buddhism to show that a ground of Truth exists, and that is absolutely certain. Early Hindusim had rejected the concept of God altogether. The problem is that, in the Nyaya Sutra, God turns out to be a recitation of semi-Aristotelian categories. This particular Sutra viewed the world as self-contained and coherent. At best, God is manifest in its actions.
In the Bahgavad Gita, lesser spirits are not in the realm of moral human action. In fact, that work explicitly states that a person who lives only to gratify his basest desires worships one of these lesser spirits. Here, there is one God, but the multiplicity of gods is a corruption due to man's demand that his passions be projected onto the world. Hence, the multiplicity of spirits come into existence.
The Upanishads are not too far from this. They stress that God has no beginning, no parentage and therefore, is eternal. Because of this peculiar ontology, no likeness of the deity can be made, since he corresponds to no earthly form. In the Yajurveda, similar things are said: God is formless, beyond words, infinite and eternal.
This conflicts with the doctrine of Brahma, who, quite explicitly, has a body. It is questionable whether this god exists, or is rather a complex of symbols manifesting different social and natural powers. Since there is a sense that he "used" elements in creation, he is not really a creator, but rather an architect, using preexisting materials to bring order out of chaos.
It might also be mentioned that the gods, such as the list in the well known Encyclopedia of Hindu Gods and Goddesses, that these beings do not exist. They are personification of other things. In other cases, they were human beings of extraordinary ability that have been, so to speak, deified after their death. These can also be aspects of a specific locale. This is not a literal deification, but merely a strong respect for that person's ...
The Hindu traditions recognize millions of gods while other speak of a single is determined. The moral and social norms permitted to limits are given.