Rituals and Festivals (4) The One God and the Many Gods and Goddesses

It may be however noted that there many other gods and goddesses, minor and major who form part of the Indian pantheon. This complexity is often daunting for minds that seek an oversimplification of existence. At one level it is simple, simplest possible in fact. Indian thought and spiritual experience do not regard the gods and goddesses as final and last truth. They are each a power and aspect of the One Infinite Divine. There is but nought than the One alone, ekamevadwitiyam, One without a second, as the Vedas put it.

But for the purposes of creation which is essentially a manifestation the One becomes two as IshwaraShakti, Deva or the Supreme Godhead and Devi or the Supreme Mother, the eternal Masculine who watches over the creation as its Father who casts the seed in Space and Time and watches it emerge and grow, and the eternal Feminine who conceives the creation feeds it with her own body and soul, gives birth to it, nourishes and nurtures it, helps it grow and even when it allows each element to go and grow through its unique experience She yet keeps a watch over them, responds to every cry and call that rises from this sphere of sorrow out of anguish, seeking redemption from error and pain. Indian mysticism recognised this Presence and Power of the eternal Feminine, the Divine Mother, the Shakti and sought ways and means to enter into contact with the Supreme Goddess, Devi either for worldly goods or for the highest spiritual gain. For nothing can happen in the world play without Her and even the Ishwara cannot grant anything without Her mediation and intervention.

Once known, a whole science, spiritual science began to develop around this possibility which has come down through the generations of yogis as Tantra. These countless gods and goddesses are part of the tantric pantheon and each forms a link in a long and complex chain. Just as in Science we can speak of One ultimate Origin, even one Ultimate Force behind each and every movement of the cosmic play and yet there are a number of forces each with its specific power and function so too there is One Divine origin of all things and yet there are countless forces and beings, not just material but also subtle and supraphysical who are part of the complex workings of the cosmos. It is not either-or, this or that but this and that. The One Truth and the many Gods and Goddesses that operate in creation are part of a single complex chain that the ancient mystics tried to explore and found ways and means to manipulate some of these energies, forces and beings with the help of mantra (power of sound), yantra (geometrical designs) and Pooja (ritualistic worship).

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