Hinduism: The One and the Many


1.    The idea of “Hinduism”

a.    Hindus = 80% of India’s 1 billion; 15% of the world’s population; emerging world power (economically and militarily); 815k US, 850k UK, 1033k S.Africa

b.    “Hinduism” = religion of the Hindus.  So named by early incomers (esp. Persians and Turks) – Indus valley & beyond, “people of” (initially no religious meaning), later “religion of” the people of the subcontinent

2.    How do we look at Hinduism?

a.    Overwhelmingly visual; vast diversity of images. Multitude of aspects (arms, objects, number of gods, perspectives)

b.    How to grasp underlying unity in this diversity?

3.    The One and the Many

a.    The Hindu world is “radically polytheistic”  Differs from traditions of the West this way.

b.    Western monotheism: one God, book, Son, church

c.    Hindu traditions stress diversity of all creation/ultimate unity at the same time

                                     i.     many ways to the ultimate; many viewpoints

d.    The One and the Many: Hindu monism


4.    Notions of ultimate reality/divinity

a.    Monotheism: doctrine that there is one God

b.    Polytheism: doctrine that there are many gods

c.    Pantheism: doctrine that all that all beings are divine or that God is in everything. (early Upanisads)

d.    Monism: doctrines that teach that only one being exists (later Vedantic philosophy of Shankara)



1.    “Hinduism”

2.    Polytheism

3.    Pantheism

4.    Monotheism

5.    Monism