In spiritual and religious traditions around the world, we see a proliferation of names and personalities of God. This has engendered much confusion for people who talk about monotheism versus polytheism. When one looks deeper into the question, however, it becomes clear that in most cases, these are not competing “Gods” to determine which one should be dominant, as we saw in the wars recounted in the Old Testament, or even in the later history of Christianity as Christians tried (and are still trying in many instances) to convert people to their religion, or else, destroy them, to achieve the victory of their God over all the “heathen” Gods.

The Hindu tradition provides a good example of the interaction and relationship between the various Gods and it becomes clear in that tradition that there is one Supreme of which there are numerous aspects or partial manifestations or expressions of specific powers, who are then called Gods. The Kena Upanishad refers to Agni, Vayu and Indra, but later the names of Shiva, Krishna and the Divine Mother become more prominent. Sri Aurobindo briefly describes these aspects of the Supreme and the powers with which they are identified.

We can extrapolate similarly to the incarnations or forms of God that appear throughout the world and through time. These great powers and presences are all aspects of the One, similar to the idea of the Holy Trinity in Christianity. As humanity evolves and progresses, different aspects and powers become prominent as they take on the needs of the Time-Spirit in the evolutionary process. We thus can identify times and places where one form or another takes precedence, without thereby overthrowing the overarching reality of the Oneness of the Supreme.

Sri Aurobindo writes: “Brahma, Vishnu, Shiva are only three Powers and Personalities of the One Cosmic Godhead. … Shiva is the Lord of Tapas. The power is the power of Tapas. Krishna as a godhead is the Lord of Ananda, Love and Bhakti; as an incarnation, he manifests the union of wisdom (Jnana) and works and leads the earth-evolution through this towards union with the Divine by Ananda, Love and Bhakti. … The Devi is the Divine Shakti — the Consciousness and Power of the Divine, the Mother and Energy of the worlds. All powers are hers. Sometimes the Devi-power may mean the power of the universal World-Force; but this is only one side of the Shakti.” Sri Aurobindo, Integral Yoga: Sri Aurobindo’s Teaching and Method of Practice, Chapter 4 The Divine, the Gods and the Divine Force, The Gods pp. 82-85

Author's Bio: 

Santosh has been studying Sri Aurobindo's writings since 1971 and has a daily blog at He is author of 16 books and is editor-in-chief at Lotus Press. He is president of Institute for Wholistic Education, a non-profit focused on integrating spirituality into daily life.