Sunday, January 19, 2014

330 million Gods? The Vedas refer to not millions of deities but 33 supreme deities.


A popular but unfounded belief has been spread that Hindus have 33 crore gods. It is a misunderstanding of the Vedic concept of the State, and hence a misinterpretation of the word koti. 

33 divinities are mentioned in the Yajur-veda, Atharva-veda, Satapatha-brahmana, and in several other Vedic and later texts. The number thirty-three occurs with reference to divinities in the Parsi scriptures of Avesta as well.The expression trayastrimsa deva is found in the list of classes of gods in Sanskrit Buddhist texts like the Divyavadana and Suvarnaprabhasa-sutra.

The word koti in 'trayastrimsati koti' does not mean the number '33 crore' or '330 million'. Here koti means 'supreme', pre-eminent, excellent, that is, the 33 'supreme' divinities.

The word koti has the same meaning as uchha koti.

It was a problem even in AD 725 when Subhakarasimha and his Chinese colleague I-hsing translated the Mahavairocana-sutra into Chinese. They rendered the compound sapta-koti-buddha as shichi (sapta) kotei (koti) butsu (buddha) in which they did not translate the word koti that transliterated its pronunciation as kotei. The Buddhas were not 'seven crore', but only 'Seven Supreme Buddhas': six predecessors and the historic Buddha. Tibetan masters who translated Sanskrit texts into Tibetan, rendered koti byrnam which means 'class, kind, category'.

In the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad, chapter 3, Yājñavalkya has said that in reality there are only 33 gods and goddesses. Of these 8 are Vasus, 11 Rudras, 12 Adityas, and Indra and Prajapati.

33 koti gods = 8 Vasus + 11 Rudras + 12 Adityas + 2 Heaven and Earth ( 8+ 11 + 12 + 2 = 33).


(The following is a small part of conversation between Śākalya and Sage Yājñavalkya.

There were eight people who put questions to Sage Yājñavalkya at King Janaka's court. Śākalya was the eight. Śākalya dies, in the very audience, due to an incident that took place on account of too much meaningless querying. Why? You will have to go through the whole incident ;) Believe us, its amazing!

It has been documented in Brihadaranyaka Upanishad - Chapter 3.)

Śākalya         : "How many gods are there?"
Yājñavalkya  : "Three hundred and three." Then he says, "Three thousand and three."

Śākalya         : "Is this the answer that you give me to my question, how many gods     are there? Three thousand and three; three hundred and three! Have you no other answer to this question?"
Yājñavalkya  : There are thirty-three gods.

Śākalya         : "All right!" (not satisfied with answer) ...Tell me again properly; how many gods are there?"
Yājñavalkya   : "Six are there."

Śākalya         : "How many gods are there. Tell me again. Think properly."
Yājñavalkya   : "Only three gods are there."

Śākalya         : "How many gods are there? Tell again.
Yājñavalkya   : "Two gods are there."

Śākalya         :  "Tell again; how many gods are there?"
Yājñavalkya   :  "One and a half gods"

(Then he was very much upset) 

Śākalya         :  "What is this you say, one and a half gods. Tell again properly; how many gods are there?"
Yājñavalkya  :  "One god is there,"

Śākalya         : "All these numbers that you have mentioned – three thousand and three, three hundred and  three – what are these gods? Give the names of these gods, the deities."
Yājñavalkya  :   "All these three thousand and all that I mentioned – they are not really gods. They are only   manifestations of the thirty-three. The thirty-three are the principal manifestations, and others are only their glories, radiances, manifestations, magnificences or forces, energies,  powers."

Śākalya         : "But what are these thirty-three?"
Yājñavalkya   : "The thirty-three gods are eight Vasus, eleven Rudras, twelve Ādityas, then Indra and Prajāpati – these make thirty-three gods."

Śākalya         : "What are these Vasus which are eight in number?"
Yājñavalkya   : "Fire is one deity; earth is one deity; air is another; the atmosphere is one deity; the sun is one deity; the heaven is one deity; moon is one deity; the stars are one deity. These constitute eight groups"

Śākalya         : "Why do you call them Vasus?"
Yājñavalkya   : "Everything is deposited as it were in these constituent principles. Therefore, they are called Vasus."

Śākalya         : "Who are the Rudras?"
Yājñavalkya  : "The ten senses and the mind make eleven. These are the Rudras."
Śākalya         : "What are the twelve Ādityas, the suns?"
Yājñavalkya   : "They are twelve forces of the sun, takes away the vitality of people."

Śākalya         : "Who is Indra? Who is Prajāpati?"
Yājñavalkya   : "The rain cloud can be called Indra. Sacrifice can be called Prajāpati."

Śākalya         : "What do you mean by rain cloud?"
Yājñavalkya   : "By rain cloud I do not actually mean the cloud, but the lightning which is the embodiment of energy."

(Note: Ancient scriptures are filled with many astonishing events and stories. At Revival of True India  we are planning to portray them in a very beautiful, interesting and understandable way. Do stay in touch.)


The essence of all scriptures:

Sanskrit     :  "Ekam evadvitiyam"
Translation:  "He is One only without a second."

God is one, but he has many names and forms. Since God is omnipresent, omnipresent and omniscient, should not He be present everywhere and in all the existence?

Just like electricity flowing in our homes - it becomes cool air flowing through the AC, becomes light glowing in the bulbs, becomes heat in the kitchen, becomes music through the speakers, dances as pixels on our computer screen - one energy is blissfully dancing through this creation ; 'The Universal Law' or 'The Cosmic Celebration' whatever one can call.

God is the substratum of this existence. Everything is inside God, because there is no outside at all!

God is one, yet He is many - this is the highest secret, they say, which needs to be experienced and lived as it cannot be understood!


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