The Divine Reality is the base and Dharma is the axis and the fulcrum on which creation moves. Through this movement the One fulfils Himself in the manifestation. Creation in this view is neither an accident nor a means to punish us. It is rather a progressive manifestation of the One Infinite Reality that is the Origin and Source of all things. In the process of creation this One Reality assumes three poises or statuses. The Transcendent Beyond creation that exists before creation and will exist even if the entire creation were dissolved. It is the Eternal and the Infinite Reality. Next this Reality brings out of Itself as a kind of objectivisation the many systems of worlds and their respective Space and Time continuum weaving the interrelation of Cause and Effect, Law and Freedom and all the polarities and dualities and the multiplicity comes into play. Finally this Reality enters into each individual element and unit of creation to keep the balance and prevent the play from becoming too chaotic, tying each individual unit with the All in a single Unity. The operations of Dharma too is threefold. The Transcendent Divine Reality is the base and foundation of the Dharma. In the cosmos, Dharma operates by organising the Cosmic Law whose guardians are the so many cosmic powers, each with its domain and influence. These cosmic powers form a hierarchy of the gods and goddesses at the apex of which are the four main Cosmic Powers that have emerged from the four main aspects of the One Sachchidananda, – Sat or Existence, Chit or Consciousness, Tapas or Force, Ananda or Bliss. Indian spiritual Thought has given them names in Sanskrit that denote the functions. These are Brahma, Vishnu, Shiva and Krishna. Corresponding to these are the four original feminine powers, goddesses or Devi. The names vary with tradition and time but the fourfold aspect remains. Subsequently each main Cosmic Power brings out several others each with a more specific function until the powers enter into the smallest details of creation. The Sanatan Dharma recognises these cosmic powers or Deities. Deva and Devi are like so many cosmic managers each with its own field and function. It is this deep and detailed knowledge of the cosmic powers and their working that led to the development of this once mighty civilization that flourished along the banks of river Saraswati, Ganga and other major rivers of India. The religions that have done away with the gods lost this knowledge thereby creating an unbridgeable gulf between God and the World. Modern Science is a secular effort to rediscover these lost secrets but through a long winding, labourious path fraught with many dangers. These dangers arise because these cosmic powers in their movement further and further from the origin begin to act with a certain independence that eventually ends up veiling the Origin. They feel cut off and separate and start creating universes that are apparently opposed to the Original Law of Truth. We may say that this was the inevitable consequence of creation moving further and further from the Origin. Surely this must have been foreseen and allowed since eventually it would make the manifestation more and more perfect through the challenge and the opposition to the Law of Truth. These forces opposing the Law, agents of disorder, disintegration, chaos and confusion are the Asuras, the Titans or forces of Darkness and Falsehood. The actual manifestation on the physical plane is the final result result, an outcome of the conflict between the Devas and the Asuras that is working itself out behind the veil of the physical universe. The physical universe is, in the Indian thought one of the many universes or worlds that exist above (prior to it) and below. These worlds are peopled with typal beings that we see described in Indian scriptures. Whether we believe in them or not these worlds and their beings and forces have a great bearing on the cosmic workings. Not only that they intervene in our everyday lives moving our steps to sync with or in opposition to the Law of Truth. Accordingly we face the consequences by entering one curve of learning or another. Sri Aurobindo describes this in several places.
‘God and Titan, Deva and Asura, are indeed close kin in their differences; nor could either have been spared in the evolution. Yet do they inhabit opposite poles of a common existence and common nature. The one descends from the light and the infinity, satisfied, to the play; the other ascends from the obscurity and the vagueness, angry, to the struggle. All the acts of the God derive from the universal and tend to the universal. He was born out of a victorious harmony. His qualities join pure and gracious hands and link themselves together naturally and with delight as in the pastoral round of Brindavan, divine Krishna dominating and holding together its perfect circles. To evolve in the sense of the God is to grow in intuition, in light, in joy, in love, in happy mastery; to serve by rule and to rule by service; to be able to be bold and swift and even violent without hurt or wickedness and mild and kindly and even self-indulgent without laxity or vice or weakness; to make a bright and happy whole in oneself and, by sympathy, with mankind and all creatures. And in the end it is to evolve a large impersonal personality and to heighten sympathy into constant experience of world-oneness. For such are the Gods, conscious always of their universality and therefore divine.
Certainly, power is included. To be the divine man is to be self-ruler and world-ruler; but in another than the external sense. This is a rule that depends upon a secret sympathy and oneness which knows the law of another’s being and of the world’s being and helps or, if need be, compels it to realise its own greatest possibilities, but by a divine and essentially an inner compulsion. It is to take all qualities, energies, joys, sorrows, thoughts, knowledge, hopes, aims of the world around us into ourselves and return them enriched and transmuted in a sublime commerce and exploitation. Such an empire asks for no vulgar ostentation or golden trappings. The gods work oftenest veiled by light or by the storm-drift; they do not disdain to live among men even in the garb of the herdsman or the artisan; they do not shrink from the cross and the crown of thorns either in their inner evolution or their outward fortunes. For they know that the ego must be crucified and how shall men consent to this if God and the gods have not shown them the way? To take all that is essential in the human being and uplift it to its most absolute term so that it may become an element of light, joy, power for oneself and others, this is divinity. This, too, should be the drift of supermanhood.
But the Titan will have nothing of all this; it is too great and subtle for his comprehension. His instincts call for a visible, tangible mastery and a sensational domination. How shall he feel sure of his empire unless he can feel something writhing helpless under his heel,—if in agony, so much the better? What is exploitation to him, unless it diminishes the exploited? To be able to coerce, exact, slay, overtly, irresistibly,—it is this that fills him with the sense of glory and dominion. For he is the son of division and the strong flowering of the Ego. To feel the comparative limitation of others is necessary to him that he may imagine himself immeasurable; for he has not the real, self-existent sense of infinity which no outward circumstance can abrogate. Contrast, division, negation of the wills and lives of others are essential to his self-development and self-assertion. The Titan would unify by devouring, not by harmonising; he must conquer and trample what is not himself either out of existence or into subservience so that his own image may stand out stamped upon all things and dominating all his environment.’ [CWSA 13].
What about the number of Gods? Yagnavalkya answers this in the most enigmatic way. He says that there may be 33 millions or three hundred or 3 or even one and a half. If we understand that the Gods are cosmic powers or cosmic Managers, there would be three main, Trimurti. These original three multiply on each and every plane assuming many forms and entering into countless processes. The fourth Godhead, Ananda, multiplies innumerably through the human soul. But the first Truth is of One without a Second. And yet since the One is everywhere one can reach Him through any unit or integer of creation if there is sufficient aspiration.