Non-Dualist/Monistic, Monotheism and the Polytheism

Non-Dualist/Monistic, Monotheism and the Polytheism

*Rabinder Kumar Koul

Veryoften limitations of our language bind us and cannot let us see beyondthese limitations. The Judeo-Christian-Islamic traditions are alsobound by these inner constructs. They can only classify the world’sspiritual traditions in to Monotheistic and polytheistictraditions. These are the blinders put on to them by their tradition,and dictate the nature of their discourse with the rest of the world’straditions which may not fall neatly in to these categories. Very oftenthe language and its categories bind us with the kind of questions wecan ask and the kind of answers we can look for. These limitation of alanguage are inherent, and very often we do not even suspect thealternatives. This is at least one of the rationales because of whichthe survival of the diversity of the world’s traditions and languagesare important, since these alternatives offer us another ways of seeingthe reality.

Comingback to our question, I would like to communicate that thisclassification (at least in the form it is understood) is not broadenough to encompass the non-Judeo-Christian-Islamic traditions. Thisclassification is thrust on the Judeo-Christian-Islamic traditionsbecause they posit two separate classes of realities. First one ofthese two realities is called “God”, and the other realities are everything else, that is and is different from “God”. In general, Godcreates these from no-where and can vanquish these in to non-existence,i.e. the “God” becomes the efficient cause and not the material causeof the reality around us. In these traditions there is no connectionbetween the nature of the God and the nature of the other realities.Thus the other created realities are assigned with the notions ofimpurity as these do not inhere in the nature of the “God”. Thus thereare inanimate things, animate things and humans all considered ofdifferent nature from each other. Thus, Judeo-Christian reality is ofmany kinds and all distinct. There is God, then there are angles, thenthere are Men, women, then beasts and then in-animate things. All ofthese are distinct from each other and are fundamentally different inJudeo-Christian-Islamic worldviews. Such a model of the reality iscalled the Polyistic model of the reality. God is justone category of reality in their worldview (even though highest) but inexistence are many different kinds of realities, completely dis-jointedfrom each other in a fundamental way. In other words, theJudeo-Christian-Islamic view of the reality is a collection of distinctand un-connected realities, which are fundamentally different inCharacter from each other. Looking from this perspective, their realityview is Polyistic worldview. Note that these traditions have no basisof substantiating their first category of reality they call God/Allahetc. This has its consequence, since the highest reality can not beexperienced. Which renders these traditions purely faith basedtraditions in a more fundamental way than any other tradition whereexperience is in principal possible. Therefore, the system is not only Polyistic but also, only a faith. I.e. Ask no questions and I will tell you no lies.

On the other hand, the scientific worldview as propounded by the modernPhysics is Monistic worldview. Based on the experimental observationsand the internal consistency arguments, it claims that there exists onefundamental reality (principal) from which both the space-time andmatter along with their dynamics arises. This eventual reality(principal), call it Grand-unified-Quantum-Gravitational reality, iswhat is hinted at by the modern Physics. Even though this ultimatedescription is not with us currently, but we have a large portion of italready at hand. The success of the modern physics is testimony tothat. Thus modern physics emphasizes that the ultimate reality is onefrom which all else comes forth and that all else is fundamentally tiedto this underlying existent through dynamics with some symmetrybreaking/phase transition processes. The diversity of the states ofmater and the geometry of the space-time arises out of this principalby some symmetry breaking principals inherently contained in thetheory. This Scientific view of reality is Monistic fundamentally atvariance from the Judeo-Christian Islamic worldview. Notice thismonistic view can not be called Monotheistic. Even though an consciousobserver plays a fundamental part in the outcomes of an experiments ofthis theory, there is no explicit explanation or incorporation of themain characteristic of observer, namely its consciousness/awarenessaspect in to the theory. However Monistic world view rules in thisparadigm.

The way scientific view point can not be captured by the monotheisticclassification, the Indian traditions too, cannot be captured by theclassification in to the Monotheistic and polytheistic categories. Theclassification in to Monotheistic/polytheistic categories ignores thereality as a whole and is focused only on the category called God(Which is considered purely an issue of faith). Indian traditions onthe other hand considers all existent reality as a whole, no aspect ofwhich can be ignored, and has a strong emphasis on the experientialcomponent. Thus the monotheistic and the polytheistic classificationcan not capture the Indian notion of existent/“Sat (reality)”

Indian traditions also provide a classification scheme which isdifferent but broad enough to capture all views of reality, be itJudeo-Christian-Islamic, Indian, or Modern Scientific traditions. Thisreality classification scheme is given as
  • Non-Dualistic Reality: It posits that there are less than two realities. It has two possibilities as given below.
    • No-Reality (Nihilistic view as in Buddhist)
    • MonisticView (There is only one reality and every thing else arises from it.The Monistic reality can be Monotheistic (as in Abheda-Shiva traditionof Kashmir or Yogavashista, but Monotheistic reality may not bemonistic as in Semitic traditions)
  • Dualistic Reality: There are at least two distinct realities
  • Polyistic Reality: There are many distinct realities

Indian Vedic, Agamic/Tantric, Budhist, Jaina and Sikh traditions are all fall in to one of these as shown below.

Non-Dual Tradition
No-reality Exists Budhism
One reality Exists Advaitic Traditions / Modern Scientific view


Dualistic traditions Nyaya/Yoga/VaishishkA/Dvaita Shiva, Vaishnava Traditions/ Sikhism
Polyistic Tradition Sankhya/ Judeo-Christian-Islam

Expedia.comEventhough Advaitic traditions posit only one kind of reality, there ismore than one variety of Advaita. The difference is in the details. Theconsciousness (chita) plays a central role in the Advaitic traditionsof India and every thing else eventually is shown either to be evolutesfrom it or only an appearance. Hence it also incorporates the aspect ofConsciousness which Modern physics does not address even though itplays a central role as an observer. This aspect is on-going work inPhysics (see Shadows of Mind by Roger Penrose, The conscious Universeby Menas Kafatos & Robert Nadeau; Aware Universe by Amit Goswami;The Quantum self by Danah Zohar; and many other consciousness relatedconferences..). In Advaitic traditions too, in my perspective a modernunderstanding of the evolutes of the TatvAs have to be betterunderstood. That is a different story.

Connectionto Polytheism: Let me address this from the non-dualistic point ofview. In Abheda-Siva, the ultimate reality becomes all different namesand forms. The multifarious realities are supposed to be reflection(prati-bhimba) of the Siva in to the Mirror which is also Siva. Thus tothe extant rest is a reflection, the rest is lower category ofexistence, but to the extent the extent the source and the reflector isconsciousness, it is non-different from the highest. Thus, all form areequally sanctified and sacred and worthy of worship. Here in lay thetrue roots of Polytheism. Notice, even here when one worships no aspectof the existence is ignored. The Polytheism arises directly from thedeep experience of the monistic tradition. Monotheistic tradition ofJudeo-Christian-Islamic variety falls far short of this and iscompletely oblivious towards the nature of all other existent reality.In fact, it is in direct contradiction of the messages from the modernphysics since it considers all different existents as de-separate.

On the other hand, if that non-dual reality posits reality asappearance only as in Advaita, then the foundation of this appearanceof the form is the one ultimate reality in that form. In this case oneis always worshiping that ultimate principal in the given form.

Therefore the attempts to show that Hinduism is Monotheistic in thesense of Semitic traditions are misplaced, for its roots lay far deeperand deal with the reality as a whole. For Monistic traditions maycontain (but not necessarily) the monotheistic aspect but in realitytranscends it. The attempt to show otherwise is indicative ofmis-understanding of Hindu traditions.

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