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The trimurthi 'myth'

Discussion in 'Hinduism DIR' started by Vinayaka, Nov 20, 2020 at 9:42 AM.

  1. Vinayaka

    Vinayaka devotee
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    Many people exploring Hinduism for the first time encounter (fairly quickly) the concept of the Brahma, Vishnu. Shiva trimurthi, and hit statements like Hindus worship these three Gods.

    I'm not sure of the origins of this. It's not in the Vedas, it's not in the Gita, it's not in the Yoga Sutras. It seems like some later addition, and it's fairly misleading. It's not worshiped really anywhere, other than some obscure shrines, here and there. Probably more rare than Brahma shrines.

    Firstly, if there is a big 3, it's Shiva, Vishnu, and Shakti, not Brahma.

    To portray Shiva as only a destroyer is misleading at best, insulting at worst. (to Saivas) To portray Vishnu as only a preserver is misleading at best, insulting at worst. (to Vaishnavas) To portray Brahma as THE creator is just plain false.

    In each of the 3 main sects, the Supreme does all 3 of those functions. It's also not in the Smarta tradition, as the 5 main deities there are Shiva, Vishnu, Surya, Ganesha, and Shakti.

    It is in Britannica encyclopedia (at least used to be) and it's not in the modern version of an encyclopedia, wiki.

    Thoughts: Any ideas on the origin of it? Do you agree it's misleading? Should we be taking active steps to correct it? (as I am here)
     
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  2. JustGeorge

    JustGeorge Active Member

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    It is misleading. I'm not exactly sure what can be done to correct it. And I think part of the reason it sticks around is from authors dabbling on the subject briefly, not understanding it themselves, and presenting it to people who don't have the means to understand its incorrect.

    I've got a Pagan buddy(with Catholic roots) that I am having to repetitively explain to that he's not going to find a lot of Brahma worship. "But he's the creator!" is the response I get. It took a lot for me to present it to him in a way in which he finally believed me! The idea of a trinity is so ingrained in the Western mind...

    A lot of the books I see that are targeting non-Hindu Westerners place way too much emphasis on these three being grouped together. They also tend to mix up Brahma and Brahman, which is problematic and confusing as well. Devi is seldom mentioned at all. If she is, its usually in generic Goddess worship books, entirely removing her from the Hindu pantheon, and instead placing her with other feminine figures throughout the world.

    I think the best way to correct it would be to have classes available for understanding the stories within Hinduism at a school aged level, like tends to be available for other religions(past and present). That way a person could be exposed to Shiva, Vishnu, or any other in a complete and complex way. (Hopefully taught by a person who understands the subject.) But as long as all that is available for someone(who is usually well meaning) who wants a general understanding is incorrect or poorly emphasized material, I don't see the problem going away.
     
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  3. Vinayaka

    Vinayaka devotee
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    Yup. I also have my suspicions that it's origins, or at least the continuation is largely because of the Christian Trinity concept, and writing from that paradigm, rather than from outside that paradigm.

    Good on you for correcting the guy. Yes it will be challenging. I mean, Brittanica has quite the reputation.
     
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  4. JustGeorge

    JustGeorge Active Member

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    Absolutely.

    I have to admit as well that I haven't rubbed elbows with as many Christians as Pagans or the general nonreligious, and there is issue in those communities as well(having once considered myself Pagan) of wanting to equate Hinduism with their own religions(much as a Christian wants to have something to relate to their trinity) or understanding of mythology that they picked up in school.

    The idea of the Triple Goddess is very popular in Paganism right now, and I think this further pushes the idea of a trinity being in all faiths. I have also run into folks a few times wanting to equate a Hindu deity with a Greek one, as if they could be the same beings with different names. One of my sons used to wear a Krishna pendant to his preschool, and I remember a teacher asking me what "he was the God 'of'". I was confused for a moment, and tried to tell her a bit about Krishna, but her repeating, "but what is he the god of", and I understood then that she was expecting a Greek like equivalent, such as 'God of love/war/storms/etc'.

    Do you think there's any hope for addressing issues such as Brittanica?
     
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  5. Vinayaka

    Vinayaka devotee
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    It seems to me that Britannica itself has improved, although somebody pointed out to me that they still have a separate entry on the trimurthi itself, sadly. Where I searched was just under the Hinduism entry.

    The availability of information on the internet helps, but the real problem, in my view, is the reliance on written information, instead of the reality of the ground. Go to a temple, go to a temple, go to a temple. Join a Gita study group. Get out there. I can imagine someone going to a temple and asking, "Where is the trimurthi shrine?" and having the priest, or host just go 'What?" For our faith in particular, the reliance on written information will get you a ton of false information, because a lot of it is wrong, or there just is a lot of it, coming from so many different sampradayas and schools. We can NEVER underestimate our vastness. The population of India is 1.3 billion. The population of Europe, in it's entirety is 700 million, about half. To view India as something like Italy or Spain in its identity is preposterous. So too with Hinduism. We may well be vaster than all of the other world religions combined.
     
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  6. Viraja

    Viraja Jaya Jagannatha!

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    Namaste Vinayaka ji,

    Just want to share an observation. I think the Mummoorthi idea predates Christianity. Because there are tales of Asuras subduing the devas and in almost every single version of them, the devas recourse to the "Thrimoorthis" for remedy. Also, in tales like that of Anasooya, there are recounts for the Trimurthis to have appeared before her to test her.

    But that said, actually, during Vedic times, the Thrimoorthi concept seems not too famous, for deities such as "Mithra Varuna", "Agni", "Aryamaan" and such are spoken of in Rig Veda.

    But sometime later, the Thrimoorthi concept may have flourished for Dattatreya, the powerful god is considered to have 'amsha' of the Trimurthys. Even Triprayar Rama is considered to be a flavor of all 3 gods.
     
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  7. Vinayaka

    Vinayaka devotee
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    Thank you. Yes, I wouldn't be surprised it its origin is in the Puranas. Has to be from somewhere after all. But the point being made is how its somehow been propelled to the forefront when explaining Hinduism.

    Good to read your words.
     
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  8. Vinayaka

    Vinayaka devotee
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    Here's an example, from a western secular site:

    "Some of the most prominent deities include:
    • Brahma: the god responsible for the creation of the world and all living things
    • Vishnu: the god that preserves and protects the universe
    • Shiva: the god that destroys the universe in order to recreate it
    • Devi: the goddess that fights to restore dharma
    • Krishna: the god of compassion, tenderness and love
    • Lakshmi: the goddess of wealth and purity
    • Saraswati: the goddess of learning"
    Really? It lowers everyone's Supreme God to 'just another God, of many'. Brahma is prominent in living Hinduism. Siva, Vishnu, Devi, and Krishna, are all the Supreme God in their respective sects. Ganesha isn't even on the list, and He's got more shrines than all the rest.

    Little wonder people who read about Hinduism, don't see what they read about when they delve into it in practice.
     
  9. JustGeorge

    JustGeorge Active Member

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    On a flip side, have you found any resources that explain Hinduism to others that are useful and accurate?

    I love Himalayan Academy's 'What Is Hinduism', though its too lengthy for someone who is just looking for basics. (My father comes to mind here.)
     
  10. Vinayaka

    Vinayaka devotee
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    Hinduism for Dummies, maybe. I don't know. For Saivism, Himalayan Academy's Path to Siva is a very condensed version of their Master Course Trilogy course. (I'm biased.) I've encountered a few that are fine, but I can't remember them all just now. One western lady has a video series that's good.

    It's so tricky, because Hinduism is just so vast. In order to do any sect or sampradaya justice, you have to just look at that particular sect. I'd be happy if some of the myths were eliminated, and always recommend for beginners or curiosity seekers to hit the ground walking, not reading. I recently read of a person's stay in India, and how his misconceptions were so crazy compared to the reality of 'on the ground'. A nice testimony for sure.
     
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  11. Aupmanyav

    Aupmanyav Be your own guru

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    Brahma creates the universe at the order of the real three major deities in Puranic Hinduism, i.e., Vishnu, Shiva or the Mother Goddess Durga. This will be the belief of Vaishnavas, Shaivas and Shaktas. And he is not the only creator. In Vedas, it could be Prajapati, Vastospati, Brahmanaspati, etc. Please note I have not researched on the subject and may not be 100% correct.

    Worship of Prajapati was stopped some 4,000 years ago (his leaning towards Rohini, accused of incest, Rudra piercing his head with an arrow, Orion). If any one wants that I repeat the interesting story I will do that. When the Ayans came to India, Brahma / Prajapati was a competitor to indigenous Gods. Shiva and Krishna put the Vedic Gods in their places with Daksha Yajna and lifting of Govardhana. Again nobody worshiped Brahma, except at a few places.

    What you say about Devi is 100% correct. She is a vibrant living deity all over India from Kashmir (Sharada, the village which had a university and is now in Pakistan, the place which gave doctorate (so to say) to Adi Sankaracharya) to Kanya Kumari, From Kamakhya in Assam to Vaniyar Devi in Lothal, Gujarat. Do not let the names deceive you. Whatever be the name, it is Devi - Mata, mother.

    [​IMG] Sharada village, Pakistan occupied Kashmir. I think a beautiful place for a university.
    "Between the 6th and 12th centuries CE, it was among the most prominent temple universities in the Indian subcontinent." - Wikipedia

    That is a wonderful idea, Just George. Let us start here in RF (Of Course, Hinduism Forum) a topic on "The Hindu Deities" and their myriad / confusing stories. They are going to remain confusing even when we explain them. A few things have to be taken as they are. :D
     
    #11 Aupmanyav, Nov 22, 2020 at 8:19 AM
    Last edited: Nov 22, 2020 at 8:58 AM
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  12. JustGeorge

    JustGeorge Active Member

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    Could you, please?


    I think this is why I like the stories so well; you must listen and appreciate it for what it is, rather than trying to stuff it into your own little box(at least its been this way for me).
     
  13. Meerkat

    Meerkat Well-Known Member

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    If it's any consolation, I have only been vaguely aware of these in my exploration of Hinduism. ;)
     
  14. Vinayaka

    Vinayaka devotee
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    Thanks. I think I hear of it when an older non-Hindu person writes something about it, probably from some memory of something they read.
     
  15. Meerkat

    Meerkat Well-Known Member

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    There are lots of misconceptions about Buddhism too. Some people even think it's a school of Hinduism. :p
     
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