Hindu Trinity

I was thinking the other day about truth in non-Christian religions, and I realized something: the hindu concept of god is remarkably similar to the trinity. This may sound strange, as many seem to believe hinduism to be polytheistic or even idolatrous. In the case of some sects this is true; but the orthodox hindu schools believe in a god composed of three persons: Vishnu (think Jesus),Shiva(think God the father in the
OT), and Brahma (think the holy spirit/the father in the NT). I was wondering what everyone’s opinions were on this; whether Ive had some sort of revelation or if I’m just crazy.

Your Brother In Christ,
DeusExMachina

If you refer to the Trimurti in Hinduism , it’s not trinitarian , it’s " one God three forms " i.e. Modalistic,

Anyway Hinduism has multiple denominations, many are polytheistic, some are henotheistic , some modalistic, some Atheistic , but none have any concept of a Trinity.

It really depends on which ‘Hinduism’ you’re checking.

This may sound strange, as many seem to believe hinduism to be polytheistic or even idolatrous. In the case of some sects this is true; but the orthodox hindu schools believe in a god composed of three persons: Vishnu (think Jesus),Shiva(think God the father in the
OT), and Brahma (think the holy spirit/the father in the NT). I was wondering what everyone’s opinions were on this; whether Ive had some sort of revelation or if I’m just crazy.

Your Brother In Christ,
DeusExMachina

Yes, the Trimurti - Brahma the creator, Vishnu the preserver, Shiva the destroyer - is often likened to the Trinity (especially by early modern missionaries who were too keen to find anything that was remotely similar to Christian beliefs), but in reality the concept is really just one of the many different ways or ideas about the divine. (One that didn’t really catch on eventually.) In fact, you might say that there are almost no actual Hindu school today that holds a belief in the Trimurti as such. For example:

Vaishnavites (those who believe in Vishnu as supreme Deity) consider both Brahma and Shiva to be subordinate deities to Vishnu (Brahma for example is often pictured as arising out of a lotus that sprouted from Vishnu’s navel). Shiva is identified as Vishnu’s greatest devotee; he is not independent of Vishnu.

Shaivites (those who consider Shiva the supreme Deity) hold that Brahma and Vishnu are just two forms or functions of Shiva. Shiva in Shaivism is often associated with five actions: creation, preservation, dissolution/destruction, concealing grace, and revealing grace. Brahma (= Shiva as creator), Vishnu (= Shiva in his preserving aspect), and Rudra (Shiva in his destructive aspect) are but three ‘forms’ or aspects of Shiva as doer of those functions.

Shaktism considers Shakti or Devi (the Goddess) as the supreme Godhead: Vishnu, Shiva and all the other gods are basically just her creations/manifestations.

The Smarta tradition considers five or six gods (instead of just three) to be different yet equal manifestations of the single Deity: Vishnu, Shiva, Ganesha, Devi/Shakti and Surya (the sun god). (Another deity, Kartikeya/Murugan, another son of Shiva, is sometimes included as the sitxh.) A devotee can have a personal/favorite/patron god without having to accord the other deities a lesser status: they are all equal.

I’m just talking in general terms here.

(Out of the three, Brahma is the least important deity: he is only one that doesn’t have a school that considers him to be the Supreme Deity.)

I also understand the Trimurti has not much mileage in Hindu circles so to speak. Thanks for the heads up:)

MJ

I should add: ‘Hinduism’ is itself a rather arbitrary term.

It was devised by the British when they colonized India: they saw there people who followed various indigenous religious beliefs and thus were not ‘Christians’ or ‘Muslims’, and needed a term to pigeonhole them to. The problem with the term they eventually settled on - ‘Hinduism’ - is that they applied it to a people who at that point, did not really have any one collective identity, certainly not a unified collective religious identity. (Some Indians - particularly the literate, higher-caste members of society - however found this categorization useful and adopted it - just around the same time nationalist consciousness was growing in India in the 19th century.)

‘Hinduism’ really isn’t a single, coherent system: it’s a blanket term for a geographically defined group of religious beliefs, philosophies and practices that while related in various ways, are distinct from each other. So in a sense, you could consider Vaishnavism or Shaivism or Shrauta (the modern continuation of ancient Indo-Aryan Vedic rituals) or folk traditions (say, the worship of mother goddesses in South Indian rural villages) to be independent ‘religions’ that just happened to share a number of overlapping, culturally-universal concepts or texts.

It’s pretty much almost like (the various denominations of) Christianity times ten.

It may seem so, but they are in fact completely contrary to each other. As Starwarsfan2 has already pointed out, according to (certain versions of) Hinduism, Vishnu, Shiva, and Brahma are three modes or forms of God (which is exactly what trimūrti means, ‘three forms’). This is not similar to the Christian doctrine of the Trinity, which explicitly rejects that the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit are modes or forms of God. That is modalism or Sabellianism (after the 3rd century theologian Sabellius), not trinitarianism.

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