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Modern Smarthas often claim all deities are equal and that worshipping any deity grants liberation. However, we find in the Bhagavad Gita that Krishna makes a fine distinction between Him and the other deities:

Being robbed of their wisdom by innumerable desires [and] being controlled by their own nature, per- sons take refuge in other deities by following one or the other religious regulations. (Bhagavad Gita 7.20)

But that fruit of those men of poor intellect is finite. Those, who perform sacrifices, aiming at the gods, go to gods and My devotees go to Me. (Bhagavad Gita 7.23)

All the worlds from the realm of Brahma down are subject to return, O Arjuna but after attaining Me, O Son of Kunti, there is no rebirth. (Bhagavad Gita 8.16)

So how can it be said that all deities are equal? Assuming multiple deities i.e. Vishnu, Shiva and Devi, to be equal seems fine to me but all deities being equal seems (no offense but) quite far-fetched to me. How can possibly Indra be on the same status as Vishnu?

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    when a deity is worshiped as God, then you are worshiping God thru the deity. All deities are therefore equal. If you are worshiping a deity as a deity, then they are simply devas, and are not equal nor are they God. – Swami Vishwananda Sep 4 '18 at 6:47
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    differentiating them is act of human limited mind. However this all universe has come from one. It means everything we can see or not see is Brahman. We came from one and we all will be dissolved in one. So where is the difference ? – TheLittleNaruto Sep 4 '18 at 6:53
  • Akashat Patitam Toyam Yatha Gacchathi Sagaram, Sarva Deva Namaskaram Prathi Gacchathi Keshavam. – ram Oct 3 '18 at 18:12
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    It depends on your definition of 'equal'. Are your hands equal to your feet ? Are your eyes equal to your ears ? Is your body equal to your atma ? Each deity (limb or sense-organ) has a duty to perform, and all duties are required for world (body) to function. But even if all deities stop working (body dies), Atma (Bhagavan Paramatma Vishnu) lives on. Body cannot live without Atma. – ram Oct 3 '18 at 18:21
  • In taratamya as propounded by madhvacharya Vishnu is the highest Lakshmi is second, third is brahma, vayu, 4th Garuda, sehsaa and Rudra. .similarly it goes on on.. if you consider one are wrongly to other or every one is the same.. its like all chinese look like same, let call every person in china as china instead of different name. (this is essence of Advita) this will further cause confusion with answer – Prasanna R Apr 19 at 10:27
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Rigveda 10.12.6 states:

durmantvatra amritasya nAma (1), salakshmA yad vishurupA bhavAti (2) ||

Hard to seize by the mind in this world is the name of the immortal (1), because he puts on features and becomes divergent forms (2).

So, the one God has become of varied forms. Therefore why it is hard to believe that every deities are but manifestation of the same God and so why to differentiate?

Similarly Rigveda 10.114.5 states:

The wise seers describe the one existence (ekam santam) in various words (bahudha vachobhih).

And, Rigveda 10.164.46 states:

ekam sad viprA bahudhA vadanti agnim yamam mAtrishvAnam Ahuh ||

The sages describe the one existence (ekam sat) in many ways. It is called as Agini, Yama, MatrishvAn.

So, when the Veda itself says that one same existence has been described with various names for the ease and benefit of the devotees where is the problem?

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    The following quote from Wikipedia refers to >Jeaneane D Fowler (2002), Perspectives of Reality: An Introduction to the Philosophy of Hinduism, Sussex University Press, ISBN 978-1898723936, pages 38-45> "While the older hymns of the Rigveda reflect sacrifical ritual typical of polytheism, its younger parts, specifically mandalas 1 and 10, have been noted as containing monistic or monotheistic speculation." The quote shows the importance to differentiate between the different books of Rigveda. Your quotes from book 10 emphasize the monotheistic tendencies. – Jo Wehler Sep 5 '18 at 19:13
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    I already stated in my question that I can accept multiple deities (Vishnu, Shiva and Devi) as equal but not all. Nowhere in the RigVedic verses you quoted says all deities are equal. It might be saying multiple deities as equal but not all. – Surya Kanta Bose Chowdhury Feb 25 at 19:04
  • @SuryaKantaBoseChowdhury are the Vedas to be believed in or the wild ideas of you? The Vedas are saying that Agni, Yama and Matarisvan are ALL forms of that Supreme Reality while you think that Vishnu, Shiva and Shakti are as best the three permissible forms!! Please let me know how your acceptance or nonacceptance matters here!!! – user17294 Apr 19 at 11:22
  • In the Vishishtadvaita school of thought, all names of other Devatas can be also the names of Narayana. That doesn't mean all Devas are equal in Vishishtadvaita. @commonman – Surya Kanta Bose Chowdhury Apr 19 at 12:55
  • @commonman That depends on what sect you belong to. If you're Ramanandi or Swaminarayan, then you can accept that equality. But if you're Sri Vaishnava, it's strictly Lakshmi and Narayana. Although Swaminarayan Vaishnavas believe all deities as equal. But Ramanandis don't have any equality beyond Shiva and Devi. – Surya Kanta Bose Chowdhury Apr 19 at 13:00
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True, that worship of any deity leads --ultimately-- to liberation, because Bhagavad Gita also states that all worship offered to deities, are as good as worship to the supreme, though in not-perfect way:

BG 9.23 - O son of Kunti, Even those who being devoted to other deities and endowed with faith, worship [them], they also worship Me alone, following the imperfect(अविधिपूर्वकम्) method.
BG 9.24 - I am the only consumer as also the lord of all sacrifices; but they do not know Me in reality. Therefore they fall (return).

Hence, steadfast worship (no deviation) to any single deity/aspect will lead to that deity after the death. That is not liberation. Now, that deity will lead to its superior deity, which is also not liberation. Continuing like that, all the final deities lead to the ultimate abode of the supreme One, viz liberation.
It's like a chain of mergers before the final dissolution.

Gita's chapter-10 is dedicated to various deities/aspects of the supreme God. Since the real formless nature is not worshippable, Shri Krishna suggests to worship such formful deity, as per one's own nature.

  • I disagree. Shiva has said he is the Brahman in the Shiva purana. Many others like Adi Shakti, Ganesh, Agni and Indra claim to be the brahman self. Imo it is just a claim in accordance with that book. – Wikash_ Feb 27 at 5:32
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IMHO worship of a deity is usually a means to self identify with the deity, i.e. the set of attributes that the deity represents, with the purpose of directed self development towards liberation. For example, if you wish to cultivate the attributes of strength (bala), wisdom (buddhi), and knowledge (vidya), you may choose to follow a path of worship to Anjaneya (Hanuman), who represents said attributes. In order to do this, you would emulate the behavior attributed to the deity in mythological and scriptural accounts, such as celibacy, regular exercise, managed diet and an attitude that is both heroic as well as servile to a good cause. The behavior you follow constitutes the worship and the results accrued assist you in nearing your goal of liberation, by altering your behavior. Once you have achieved a level of self identification with the deity, you can be said to be accomplished (or siddha) by degrees. The accomplishments are tools towards liberation, not liberation in themselves. That said, some people are able to attain mastery of an extraordinary degree, nearing perfection and that level of mastery allows them access to the experience of liberation. In that regard any deity is as good as another, because if you succeed in self identifying fully with anything other than yourself, you've already achieved liberation from self.

Some of the information contained in this post requires additional references. Please edit to add citations to reliable sources that support the assertions made here. Unsourced material may be disputed or deleted.

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    Personal opinions are not considered here. Yoh need to cite some sources while answering the questions. – Paṇḍyā Apr 19 at 1:30
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IMO it is not astonishing that different authors from different times, belonging to different religious groups, and supporting different interests make different and even contradicting statements about Hindu deities. One can expect such situation. Rather the opposite situation would be remarkable: If all authors would agree about the pantheon of Hindu deities.

According to the author of the Bhagavad Gita (BG) Krişhna proclaims: I am the highest deity. At the time of the BG, the classical Hinduism considers Krişhna an avatar of Vişņu. The BG is a cornerstone of Vaișņavism because it ascribes all power and might to their favorite deity Vişņu = Krişhna.

The Vedas are from the Vedic period of Hinduism which is much earlier and is shaped by quite a different social and religious structure. Here we have a series of different deities, most of them embodying some natural force or object. There are no devotees of special distinguished deities. Instead, according to the necessity of the sponsor the Brahmins perform a sacrifice to that god who is considered responsible.

The classical Hinduism has invented the Epics, the Puranas and the core writings of the different philosophical schools. In general, the Puranas are focused on one of the deities, mostly Vişņu or Śiva. The deity honored by a given Purana is elevated as the highest deity, and the other deities are reduced in rank.

Since about the 9th and 10th century CE, many smārtas have aligned themselves with Śaṅkara’s Advaita Vedānta theology, at the same time showing a tendency to elevate Śiva over the other four deities [Devi, Ganeśa, Sūrya, Vişņu], in so far as they equate him with the Advaitin‘s absolute brahman. (W. J. Johnson: Oxford Dictionary of Hinduism. Oxford University Press 2009)

The authors of Hindu literature, notably of śruti and smŗti, express different opinions concerning their deities because they do not draw from the same single source. And that’s not astonishing: Religion is a parallel world in relation to our normal world. A parallel world created by human beings. And in that parallel world the rules that apply are different, contradictions are common.

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