Are the Hindu Deities Only Symbols, or “Divine Realities”?


Are Shiva, Kali etc. only symbolic forms?

There are so many stories in puranas and other scriptures related to them.

Yoganandaji did say that the story related to adam and eve is symbolic as snakes don't talk but what about Ramayana?

So many animals talked in Ramayana.All that is allegorical but does that mean that Hanuman and others did not talk?

—mk, India


Dear MK,

Swami Kriyananda addresses your question in his book, The Hindu Way of Awakening: “Hindu mythology has personified the three aspects of Cosmic Vibration as Brahma, Vishnu, and Shiva.

So real have these ‘persons’ become in popular fancy that it would be a mistake to describe them as mere myths. For devotion has given them objective reality.

“Myths are made real by the power of human thought. To the extent that they bring truths to a focus in our minds, they become channels for those truths and help us to attune ourselves to them.

Swami Sri Yukteswar put it clearly in Autobiography of a Yogi…’In order to please His beloved devotee, the Lord takes any desired form…. The individuality with which the Creator has endowed each of His creatures makes every conceivable and inconceivable demand on the Lord’s versatility.’

“The devout Hindu looks upon his gods and goddesses as divine realities, not as mere symbols of cosmic forces.

“The modern mind, on the contrary, dismisses all anthropomorphic images of God as ‘superstitions’ and incompatible with the ‘enlightened’ knowledge of science.

According to the ancient teachings of Sanatan Dharma, however, both these concepts are valid and not mutually exclusive.”