Thursday, May 23, 2013

TO Somesh Bhargava: 'Hindu' devata Vs Abrahamic God/god

This post is in response to a comment by Dr. Somesh Bhargava. I hope to make a separate posting on my perspective of ABRAHAMIC AND 'HINDU' CONCEPTS OF GOD.

Thanks Dr. Bhargava, I sincerely appreciate such comments, as they lead to discussions and debates, which I believe help us grow and connect with one another at a deeper level.

We may have differences in opinions and inferences or comprehensions but our intentions seem similar. I would invite you to please refrain from using strong words and making sweeping statements. Please educate me, I would be happy to, but please do refrain from passing prejudiced judgments. We can respect each other despite our differences :)  "sangacchadvam samvadadvam" :)

Here is Dr. Somesh Bhargava's objection:
"Just as "Puja" is not worship similarly "Devta" is not God/god of Abrahamic religion. U must be aware of something called non-translatable as introduced by Rajiv Malhotra in his book "Being Different:An Indian challenge to Western Universalism". Your problem is self inflicted due to your acceptance of western frame work as universal frame work and then trying to fit yourself into that. Get yourself cured for colonial consciousness and you won't have such artificial problems.

One God vs many Gods is problem of theology not spirituality."

Before I continue this posting, I would like to provide the 'dictionary' references to a few key words here (these are not my own definitions, and I am not very exhaustive here; I have provided only a few primary associations of these words):
1) दॆव ('deva' - दिव्-अच्; div-ach): 1) Divine, 2) shining; यज्ञस्य दॆवमृत्विजं; 3) fit to be worshiped or honored; दॆवांशः - partial incarnation of god; दॆवरं - a temple; अधिदॆवः, अतिदेवः - the supreme Lord, an epithet of Shiva, Vishnu; दॆवाधिपः - 1) an epithet of Indra, 2) the supreme god; देवान्नं - the food of the gods, divine food, ambrosia, 2) food that has been first offered to a deity, 3) sacred or dedicated to a deity; दॆवालयः - heaven, a temple; दॆवॆशः - 1) Indra, 2) Siva, 3) Vishnu, 4) Brahma; दॆवर्षिः - a deified saint, divine sage such as अत्रि, भृगु, पुलस्त्य, अंगिरस्, नारद;

2) दिव् (दिव्यंत्यत्र दिव्) - 1) The heaven, 2) The Sky, 3) A Day, 4) Light, brilliance, 4) Fire, glow of fire; दिवस्पति - epithet of Lord Indra; दिवौकस् - 'inhabitant of the heaven', a god; दिवस्पृश -the one who reaches and pervades the sky - the supreme being; दिवन् - the heaven, a day;

3) दॆवः - 1) a god, deity (एको दॆवः केशवॊ व शिवॊ वा); 2) a cloud, the god of rain, an epithet of Indra (द्वादश वर्षाणि देवो न ववर्ष); 3) a divine man, brahmaNa, 4) a king, a ruler, as in मनुष्यदॆव; 5) a title affixed to the names of brahmaNas, as in गॊविंददॆव, पुरुषॊत्तमदॆव; 6) (in dramas) a title of honor used in addressing a king (my lord, your majesty); 7) quick silver, 8) the supreme spirit, 9) a fool, 10) a child, 11) a man following any particular business, 12) a lover, 13) emulation, 14) sport, play; दॆवं - an organ of sense

4) दॆवता - 1) divine dignity or power, divinity; 2) a deity, a god; 3) image of a deity; 4) an organ of sense

So, deva and devata can have many many inferences that fit in according to context and circumstances. And, I have provided the context of the thread elsewhere too: 1) it was in response to Dr. Zakir Naik's talk, 2) It was an outcome of a conversation with a four year old.

I have treated 'deva' and 'dEvata' within the context of these inferences. I cannot get exhaustive but still keep the post small enough, and I can write in English and not Sanskrit. As such these are not intended to be "PERFECT" but then we are limited by a language, and I am limited by my knowledge :)

Now, coming to Dr. Bhargav's objections:

1) 'dEvta' is not God/god of the Abrahamic religion
I am not sure what your understanding of 'God'/'god' is, and how you see these from the angle of the 'Abhrahamic religion's. We need to look at these from perspective of one another, particularly when we are conversing via social media.

The Abhrahamic religions have a 'definition' for God, which is more or less - "the supreme being, one without a second, one who is the source (creator) of everything, one who has neither a beginning nor an end, one who witnesses our thoughts and actions, one who is all competent, just, merciful etc".

At this level, how is it significantly different from the Vedic definition of God? The Lord is described in a number of ways - "paramAtma", "paramEshvara", "AnAdiH", "AdiH", "avyayaH", "puruShaH", "sAkShi", "kshetrajna","sarva kAraNa kAraNam", and Sri Krishna says in Gita "aham sarvasya prabhavaH mattah sarvam pravartate", "aham aadir hi dEvanAm, manuShyANam..." etc etc.

I do agree that these are just few of the 'definitions' and that it is quite impossible to define the divine Lord, but then if we are to work with each other, within the limitations of a common language - English - then we are limited by what the language provides, and what each other can understand. And, ekam sat viprAh bahudA vadanti, and as such the very system - based on which you make the comment - provides the leeway and flexibility to adapt and adopt a 'definition' and comprehension.
"ye yatha mAm prapadyante tAmstativa bhajAmi",
"yOyO yAm yAm tanum bhaktaH",
"dEvAn devo yajo yAnti mad bhakta yAnti mAmapi";

"dEvAn bhAvayatAnEna te dEva bhAvayantu vaH parasparam bhAvayantaH sreyaH paramavApsyata", which can be interpreted in so many ways and different aacharyas have interpreted it differently.

So, we need to acknowledge that there are many interpretations of one word according to one's understanding, comprehension, consciousness etc. How we express depends on the language we use and the association of those words in that language. There are always dilutions in translations but we have work within those limitations. This is also probably why most of the commentaries of the aacharyaas are in Sanskrit, in order to avoid dilution in translation :)

2) "U must be aware of something called non-translatable as introduced by Rajiv Malhotra in his book "Being Different:An Indian challenge to Western Universalism". "
Yes. I myself make this a point in most of my posts - that it is virtually impossible the experience the richness of Sanskrit via English. But, I also acknowledge that we need to work within this limitations at times, as we are doing here.

3) "Your problem is self inflicted due to your acceptance of western frame work as universal frame work and then trying to fit yourself into that"
I would LOVE to read something from you and see what frameworks you employ :) I would love to see you write about how you would talk to a four year old (mine was not imaginary).

4) Get yourself cured for colonial consciousness and you won't have such artificial problems.
Please advise me how to get 'cured' :) Even though I disagree with your judgement, I respect your opinion. I would love to discuss and debate with you further about these :)

5) One God vs many Gods is problem of theology not spirituality
I have never categorized my post as spiritual or theology or philosophy. I just write how I see things; my perspectives. Whether spiritual or theological, in both cases the truth is one, and unchanged. Spiritually speaking, you may claim that there is no 'God', but then neither are you there; spiritually speaking, there is no meaning to all these conversations, but since we are having this let us not get overly philosophical. The spirituality-theology split is only superficial, academic, and artificial.

This is my opinion.

Please enlighten me and I am open to it, but please do not pass judgment; make an argument and we can debate over that :)


  1. I amy be wrong but your writeup shows that you are a firm believer in "sarvadharma sambhava, all religions are same" baloney.

    Read this book and then we will continue from there.

    and this one about Spirituality Vs Theology

    Hindu Spirituality Versus Theology of Monotheism

    1. Dear Mauli, thank you for the comment. Very interesting observation, even though not entirely right. I loved the 'baloney' reference :)

      Quick Summary: NO. I am NOT a firm believer in "all religions are the same", but a strong believer in "sarvadEva namaskaaraH kEshavam pratigacchati", and "ye yatha mAm prapadyante tAmstataiva bhajami" :) I am NOT a firm believe in "all religions are the same" but know that there are some similarities (how enormous the differences are). Hope this explains :)

      Please note the context in which it was written - it was specifically addressed to a previous comment :) Please also note that other 'religions' cannot even comprehend the the concepts I have described there. So, there is no way that all 'religions' are the same.

      And interestingly again, I was just now writing about the 'differences', so you have seen only one side of it :) While I acknowledge the similarities I will also highlight the differences.

      All 'dharma's (many do not consider other 'religions' as 'dharma's, but since you have equated religion with dharma, I will go by your statement in this context; not that I differ with you) may not be same, but there are some aspects that are similar; they are not mutually exclusive.

      I have read the voiceofdharma article, but have not read Rajiv Malhotra's book. But, in the context you have referred it to me, I do not think I need to read it, but I will :)


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