Tuesday, February 14, 2017

963. Our 33 Crore Gods....!

If you have watched the Sanskrit film “Adi Shankaracharya” made by Kannada director G.V. Iyer on Sri Sri Sankara, you will be familiar with a sloka which is repeatedly played in the background. This sloka made a very strong imprint in my mind when I heard it. I remember this being recited time and again in the movie right from the starting scene where Sri Sri Sankara's father passes on to the time where Sri Sri Sankara is shown walking off into Eternity.

“Akashat patitam toyam yatha gacchati sagaram
sarva deva namaskarah Keshavam pratigacchati” 

An absolutely beautiful comparison between the drops of water which fall as rain and make their way again into the mighty ocean and the prayers offered to the different deities we adore eventually making their way to the One and Only Kesava.

This is a sloka makes a very strong case for universal brotherhood. No matter which deity a seeker adores or which path he takes, everyone eventually end up at the same One and Only entity. The simple meaning of the sloka is that just as the rivers discard their individual names to merge with the sea, so do the wise ones discard their egos to merge with the One and Only Kesava. 
Hinduism has many deities to adore. 33 crore is the number of deities that we constantly hear when any discussion regarding the deities in Hinduism is mentioned.  The irony is that most of us are unaware of Hindu religion and the symbolism of the numerous deities we adore. The 33 crore number collectively represents the One and Only Entity. There are deities with different names, forms, activities, attributes and powers owing to differences of function. A person who understands Vedas know that all animate and inanimate which are visible and those yet to appear are nothing but the manifestation of that One and Only Entity.

Brihadaranyaka Upanishad records the conversation between Sage Yajnavalkya and Shakalya held at the court of King Janaka. Shakalya wants to know the number of deities. Initially Sage Yagnavalkya answers three thousand and three in total. When the question is repeatedly asked again and again by Shakalya. Sage Yagnavalkya says, thirty three. When the question is again repeated he says, Six. Finally, after several repetitions he says ONE.

The intention behind the conversation recorded in that Upanishad is to say that there is One and Only One Entity, which appears in diverse forms. All other forms are merely different cosmic functions which enable the seeker to reap the fruit of his karma. There is a need for an agency to give us this body; there is a need of another agency to monitor our actions and one more agency to determine the fruit of our actions. Likewise there are many agencies which assist us to reach our final destination and each agency has a head and this head is reporting to that One and Only Entity which the composer of that sloka is mentioned as KESAVA.

Sri Sri Sankara explains it very well by saying it is the One and Only Entity which appears as many, by Sagocha (Contraction) and Vikasa (Expansion).
So when we mention about 33 crore deities in our Hindu religion, it consists of the person mentioning it and the one listening to it plus all living and non-living things. 

In fact, if Sage Yagnavalkya were to be asked today about the number of deities, then he would be counting it in billions or trillions.

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