I am currently reading Swami Prabhavananda The Spiritual Heritage of India (1962) and find it very clear and informative (better than e.g. Heinrich Zimmer's Philosophies of India so far). Early on it explains that

the gods of the Hindu, or devas as he calls them, must always be sharply distinguished from God. God is the one supreme being, the uncreated, while the gods, through supernatural, belong (together with many other orders of supernatural beings) among the creatures.


perhaps the highest conception of the gods with concrete names is Hiranyagarbha: Before the universe appeared, there first appeared Hiranyagarbha. He, being manifest, became the one lord of the manifested universe. Out of himself came the invisible world, out of himself came the sky and the earth.

Now with that a large notion of gods (specifically including ones that existed before the universe existed) Hinduism could perhaps argue that Christianity's deity is just another god, but not God (tad ekam). It could then perhaps argue that many of Christianity's myths and symbols fit inside its own umbrella like many others do. (In doing so, it would choose to ignore Christianity's particular "myth" of monotheism.)

Have serious branches of Indian philosophy (i.e. Hinduism's "theology") ever argued in this way, or is Hinduism perhaps not interested in establishing such hegemony over foreign religions?


1 Answer 1


Swami Vivekananda has said that the difference between the Hindu religion and other religions, including the Christian religion, is that the Hindu religion is founded upon the impersonal and eternal spiritual principles found in the Vedas and is not founded upon one personality, as other religions are. The universal principles of the Vedas can be applied to all religions. The Christian scriptures are much the same as the Hindu puranas; stories of personalities and myths. They are useful as they teach morality and rules.

From an Advaitic standpoint, Shankara says that the creation stories are "likely stories", as from the aspect of Brahman, there was no creation. One creation story is as good as another. Prabhavananda has a good translation of the Nasadiya hymn (the hymn of creation) from the Rig Veda in his book you are currently reading. btw, monotheism is an aspect of many sects of Hinduism. All streams lead to the ocean. What God truly is cannot be comprehended by the human intellect.

As you may be aware, John's gospel starts out with "In the beginning was the Word..." an analysis of Hindu scripture has the universe starting out as a vibration, or sound, or word, from Brahman.

Hiranyagarbha, or Brahma, most closely maps to God the Father. Heinrich Zimmer's other book Myths and Symbols in Indian Art and Civilization edited by Joseph Campbell is a good read.

  • Can you please add the book and chapter reference of Swami Vivekananda and Shankaraharya as stated in the above answer? It will be very useful for me.
    – zaxebo1
    Commented Feb 26, 2018 at 4:32
  • Vivekananda refers a few times to this in his Complete Works. One reference is V3, pp118-120. Available here (Volume 3, heading - Lectures from Colombo to Almora, lecture - Vedantism): advaitaashrama.org/cw/content.php. Remember the difference between Sruti (eternal, given directly by God) and Smriti (written by men). Commented Feb 28, 2018 at 9:20
  • Can't find the exact quote of Sankaracharya. However, you can get the gist of it from the following; 1st Shankaracharya's commentary on verse I. ii. 1 of the Aitareya Upanishad, and 2nd Gaudapada's Karika, II.18-31 and III.15. Commented Feb 28, 2018 at 9:27
  • @zaxebo1 see the 2 comments above Commented Feb 28, 2018 at 9:28

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