Another Meaning of God

I was recently reading up on Hinduism (something which I know embarrassingly little about) and stumbled upon some great information that now necessitates a slight addition to the Nothing Just Is definition of God.

Given that my understanding of Hinduism was limited to the knowledge that it celebrates many different gods, I was surprised to learn just how much ground it shares with Taoism — a philosophy that tends to shun the typical definitions of gods.

The similarity comes from the Hindu concept of Brahman. To quote Fritjof Capra:

Brahman, the ultimate reality, is understood as the “soul”, or inner essence, of all things. It is infinite and beyond all concepts; it cannot be comprehended by the intellect, nor can it be adequately described in words.

Obviously, this quote bears much similarity to the point that is constantly made in the Tao Te Ching: that the ultimate mysterious reality of existence is unknowable and indescribable.

Keeping this fundamental similarity in mind, we begin to see that Taoism and Hinduism differ mainly in how they choose to deal with this unspeakable infinite. Whereas Taoism takes the direct approach by constantly reminding us that we cannot hope to understand the ultimate reality, Hinduism takes an indirect approach and seeks to convey what cannot be conveyed in words through the use of a complex mythology.

With its many gods and goddesses, Hinduism acknowledges that all these entities are merely different manifestations or ways of relating to the ultimate reality, Brahman. They all have the potential to lead to the same place of understanding, but each one does so in a different way. These gods are not jealous entities vying for superiority, but a variety of vehicles through which one may try to understand something deeper.

In light of this, the aforementioned definition of god has been supplemented with the following addition:


As with the gods of Hinduism, this third definition refers to gods and mythological beings who are acknowledged as being imperfect approximations of some unknowable ultimate reality. In terms of danger, this definition lies somewhere between the first two. Used in a thoughtful way, this view of god or gods can surely be a useful tool for exploring the mysteries of life. There is, however, always a danger of mistaking these useful fictions for reality and falling into the traps of God².


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