Hindu Trinity

Jaldhar H. Vyas jaldhar at BRAINCELLS.COM
Thu Apr 27 00:20:40 CDT 2000

On Wed, 26 Apr 2000, Vivek Anand Ganesan wrote:

> Hello :
>   I kindly request clarification regarding a matter that
> has been bothering me for a while.  It is the notion of the
> "Hindu Trinity" which I have briefly outlined below.
>   According to this notion, Brahman becomes variegated
> according to gunas ( thus becoming saguna ) and manifests
> as
> the three gods -- Brahma, VishNu and Shiva.  These gunas
> also bestow a "function" or "role" for these gods, namely,
> creation, conservation and destruction respectively.
>  i.e.    Brahman
>            |
>            | ( becomes manifest with gunas due to maya )
>            |
>   -----------------------
>   |        |            |
>   |        |            |
>   |        |            |
> Brahma    VishNu      Shiva
> Guna      Guna        Guna
> -----     ----        ----
> Rajas     Sattva      Tamas
> Duty      Duty        Duty
> ----      ----        ----
> creation  conservation  destruction

A computer science joke:  A book on software engineering I saw once by an
Indian author was dedicated to the Trimurti the Lords of development,
maintainance, and refactoring. :-)

> 1) Does this not contradict Advaita?

No there is a parinama or transformation from Brahman to the lower
forms.  Samkhya has a similiar theory of gunas but in that darshana, they
are the constituents of Prakrti and Purush is completely distinct.  That
is dualistic and against Advaita.

> 2) Does this concept have any affirmation
within the >    SmArtha/Advaita tradition?

It is mentioned in some works.  But strictly speaking that is all to do
with vyavahara and not important in the  Advaita view.

> 3) Why is Brahma not worshipped as widely as Shiva and
>    VishNu? I am familiar with the mythological story as to
>    why this is so.  But, I have not been able to find any
>    documentary evidence based on theology or philosophy.
>    I have been to a Brahma temple in Pushkar, Rajasthan.
>    And, I have not heard of any other temple.  So, I am
>    really curious as to why Brahma has been marginalized?

In Gujarat, Brahma is widely worshiped as Vishvakarma by the artisan
castes such as Blacksmiths, Carpenters, Potters etc.  In fact Prajapati is
a common surname amongst Kumbhars or potters.

As to why there is no "Brahmaism" like Vaishnavism or Shaivism, my guess
it has to to do with the close identification of Brahma/Prajapati with the
Vedic ritual.  As the theories of Purva Mimamsa became further developed
the importance of worshipping a God became secondary to the actual
performance of ritual itself.

> 4) Last but not the least,
> Is this a "neo-hindu" concept
>    ( the notion and emphasis on "trinity" specifically )?
>    Did it emerge during the last 200 years so as to find
>    some common ground with Christina "trinity" ( atleast
>    they could claim to have one word in common )?

The concept is a real part of our traditions but the importance has been
exaggerated by those who know more about foreign faiths than their
own.  In our sampradaya it is the Deva Panchayata (Shiva, Vishnu, Shakti,
Ganesh, and Surya Bhagawans) which are more important.

Jaldhar H. Vyas <jaldhar at braincells.com>

bhava shankara deshikame sharaNam

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