History of Vedanta monotheism - Printable Version

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History of Vedanta monotheism - HareKrishna - 11-30-2010

1.Early indian monotheism

The monotheist ideeas are present in hindu culture from vedic times,but just like in China,they usually dont transform in a specific religion and even then it seems that they have a limited following among the population.

In China monotheism of Heaven worship(Tian or Shang Ti) was surpased by principle of Tao,a more impersonal aproach of the absolute.The heaven worship monotheism become just an addition to a larger imperial cult .

The iranian culture also developed the monotheism of zoroastrism.Knowing the strong similarity of avestic teaching whit the vedic ones,we wonder why hindus didnt become

as monotheist as their avestic brothers.

The answer maybe the strong influence of middle east culture over the iranian neibhourhood.

Only in the middle east monotheism become a specific ,exclusivist doctrine,probably influenced by the absolute monarchy that rule that land,where egyptian pharaoh or babilonian king demand total obedience.

We see in early vedic and upanishadic teachings the ocasional raising of one god or anaother to the status of allpowerfullness or allknowiness,but we dont have evidence for a specific separate monotheistic cult except(as far as i know) for the cult of the god Vasudeva.

Evidence for this cult are dated between 2 and 4 century BC but is not clear if Vasudeva is the same as the later Krishna(why should later change the usuall name in another name?)or the cult of vasudeva was absorbed in the cult of Krishna(Vasudeva becoming just the father of krishna),or here was different cults althoghder.

However ,this cult seem to dissapear from the records during the time when Mimamsa school become the predominand school in India.

2.Vedanta monotheism

Monotheism start to have a large following when Vedanta become the main indian school.

Shankara treaty on Vedanta,in he 8 century, is considered to be the aproximate date when Vedanta start to have a more large following ,overpassing Mimamsa.

Starting whit Ramanuja(11 century) we have have the cristalisation of Vedanta monotheism.

We see the development of a number of religions based on vedanta,that regard one god or another as being the supreme personal god ,even more,as the only one worty to be worshiped,while all other gods are seen as lesser gods,only expansions of the supreme god.

Lets see now the principal monotheist religions of India:

From shaiva branch:

Shaiva Siddhanta: monistic theism (950-1300 AD).In Meykandar's pluralistic realism (ca 1200), God, souls and world are beginningless and eternally coexistent. Shiva is

efficient but not material cause.

Siddha Siddhanta: Expounded by Rishi Gorakshanatha (ca 950), this monistic theism is known as bhedabheda.

Lingayatism: Made popular by Basavanna (1105–1167), this version of qualified nondualism, Shakti Vishishtadvaita, accepts both difference and nondifference between soul and God,

like rays are to the sun. Shiva and the cosmic force are one, yet Shiva is beyond His creation, which is real, not illusory.

Shiva Advaita: This monistic theism, formulated by Srikantha (ca 1050), is called Shiva Vishishtadvaita. The soul does not ultimately become perfectly one with Brahman, but

shares with the Supreme all excellent qualities.

Ganapati branch :replace Shiva whit Ganesh as the supreme god.

Vaishnava brach:

Lakshmi-sampradaya-Philosophy: Vishishtadvaita ("qualified Non-dualism"), espoused by Ramanujacharya

Brahma sampradaya-philosophies: Dvaita ("dualism"), espoused by Madhvacharya, and Achintya Bheda Abheda espoused by Gaudiya Vaishnavism.

Rudra sampradaya-Philosophy: Shuddhadvaita ("pure nondualism"), espoused by Vishnuswami and Vallabhacharya.

Kumara-sampradaya-Philosophy: Dvaitadvaita ("duality in unity"), espoused by Nimbarka.

Ramanadi vaishnava branch:replace Vishnu whit Rama asa the supreme god.

Swaminarayan vaishnava branch replace Krishna whit Narayana as main God.

As we can see there is a surprising similarity betwin teological developments among shaiva and vaishnava during Vedanta period.There is a mirroring in time and ideas.

Unlike the precedent period of hinduism now wee see that only the main god is considered worthy to worship,while the other gods are lesser gods or emanations of the main god.

In shaiva monotheism is Shiva alone ,in Ramanadi vaishnava Rama alone is worthy to worship,in Gaudya vaishnava Krishna alone,in Swamionarayana,Krishna Narayana alone is good for

worship(though Shiva is accepted in ritual as being part of Narayana).

We have 5 main monotheist religions in shaivism and another 6 monotheistic religions in vaishnava,all born as separate religions from about 1000 years ago.Not to count smaller sects.All thanks to Vedanta philosophy.