Hindus worship one God in many forms. The Vedas explain that there is one God and all there is, is God. He is. both the creator and the creation. He is both the efficient and the material cause – the maker, and the material. For example, in the .case of a clock, the clock-maker… is the intelligent or the efficient cause. The matter from which the various parts are made, is the material cause. But in case of the universe, God is both these causes.
The universe, whatever it is, however it is, is never apart from God, godliness and divinity. The wholeness and completeness that is God is all-pervasive, and since wholeness, completeness and truth can only be one, and if, God is all this, he cannot be many. He has to be one and non-dual. This is what the Vedas, particularly the, upanisads teach us.
It can therefore be said that Hindus do not believe in many gods, or even one God. They believe in the only God. Ask any child in India where God is and he will say, “Everywhere.” This may be just a statement, for it is true that an ordinary person does not see God everywhere. But, they accept that God is everywhere, and that divinity, beauty and harmony are everywhere.
If Hindus believe in one God, then why are there so many devatas?
God is omniscient, omnipotent and omnipresent. He is the creator, the sustainer, the dissolver and the ordainer. Since this means he is everything, any one of his aspects can be worshipped as being predominant. If worshipped predominantly as the creator, we call him Brahma; predominantly as preserver, we call him Visnu; predominantly as destroyer, we call him Rudra.
Now, since the entire universe is the manifestation of God, all natural forces – wind, fire, earth, Sun, Moon etc. – also become manifestations of God. The Vedas worship these forces as devatas, and address them by different names. According to the famous statement “The truth is one, the wise people call it by different names,” all these names, such as Agni, god of fire; Vayu, god of wind etc., are but different manifestations of the one Truth, God.
Just as you can draw my attention by touching any part of my body, one can reach God no matter, which aspect of his -Agni, Vayu, Surya, or the creator, sustainer, dissolver – one worships. The various names and forms are a way of helping devotees relate to one God in their own personal way. It is but the worship of the only God through these different manifestations.
Therefore, Hinduism is not polytheist or pantheist. Hinduism believes that all there is, is God.
Swami Viditatmanand Saraswati