Man and animals are exactly the same (forget Man being smartly dressed) except Man is supposedly committed to dharma that differentiates the two-legged one from the 4-legged one.
Ahara nidra bhaya maithunam cha
Samanam etat pashubhir naranam |
Dharmo hi tesham adhiko vishesho
Dharmena hinah pashubhih samanah||
(Food, sleep, fear and mating are common to animals and humans. ONLY dharma or righteous conduct sets the two apart. Without dharma humans are animals)
I have heard a Muslim mocking at Hinduism saying “You people have so many gods. Even sky, air, water, tree all are gods. For us there is only one god.” Obviously he was ignorant in assuming Hinduism as a polytheistic religion which on the surface seems to be so. What is actual position?
Upanishads say of God: “Ekam evadvitiyam” or “He is One without a second.”
Ultimately all religions say the same: There is ONE GOD and yet quarrels over Him erupt leaving blood all over. Is killing a way to pump more blood in brain so that GOD can be seen?
Yajurveda, whose followers are the largest, says, “There is no image of Him and He is bodyless and pure.” And, “Lead us to the good path and remove the sin that makes us stray and wander.”
Christianity or Islam talk of salvation as a means of personal communion with God which will endure forever. Actually coming out of the ignorance of God is salvation. The ultimate or the Absolute reality is totally different beyond our understanding.
Even Hindus while talking about Brahman veer to the other extreme of praying to innumerable gods. Yama is one of them though he is not a pleasing personality coming at a time when you are enjoying your illgotten wealth in some scenic island abroad to drag you away with extreme force.
Concept of Yama is what makes Hindus believe in idolistic gods. As children we were told of Markandaya who was son of Mrikandu a great rishi. His wife Marudvati had no children and both prayed to Lord Shiva and He appeared asking, “Do you want 100 foolish sons with long life or one very intelligent but living for only 16 years?”
The rishi promptly said, “Give me one intelligent son.”
Markandeya was born and he was a great Shiv bhakt. He prayed at a Shiva temple day and night. When Yama came he saw him praying and told to get ready. But the boy immediately flung himself forward embracing the idol of Lord Shiva which angered Yama as he must have felt like our municipality chaps coming on demolition drive but being stopped by the local MLA.
“Oh, you won’t come is it?” said Yama and threw the noose pulling both the boy and the linga. Shiva burst forth kicking Yama for wasn’t he killing the God himself?! Shiva blessed the boy “You will remain at 16 forever!” Some Hindus still believe Markandeya is living somewhere.
One good thing or weakness about Lord Shiva is he gives boon quickly unlike Vishnu who can be accessed only after ages of rigorous tapas. So clever rakshas always did tapas, for as less as 11 years, accessing boons from Shiva who gives without thinking even if it means it can harm Him. This is what Bhasmasur did after boon was granted and wanted to place his hand on Shiva’s head and Shiva running and chased ultimately Vishna coming as Mohini (beautiful woman) to save Him.
While Shiva was running to escape Bhasmasur suddenly saw Mohini and froze in her beauty. He wanted to marry her and Mohini was ready provided he does what she says. He agrees and Mohini asks him to place his hand on his head and turns him into ashes.
However eternal life narrative such as Markandeya may seem clashing with the Upanishads which talks of only Brahman the infinite coming out from infinite (Purnamadah Purnamidam….) Understanding of Brahman removes illusion that saves the soul from births and deaths. This is why devotion to god is not seen as a way towards liberation as it fuels ignorance. And that is why Great Saints like Ramana Maharishi (who passed away in 1954) kept away from talking about gods when he knew the ultimate reality was something else.
For an average Hindu liberation through tapas or acquiring metaphysical knowledge (jnana) is impossible and bhakti is easy route. He worships Vishnu or his avatars Rama and Krishna; Shiva and the goddess Shakti (Kali or Durga). This has something to do with Ramanuja & Madhava bringing their school of thought arguing against Advaita of Adi Shankara. Advaita rejects theism or duality and insists on One Reality Brahman while Ramanuja & Madhava argued against Brahman calling it an unclassified concept beyond grasping. They said liberation can be only by grace of Lord Vishnu.
Obviously it is foolish to think one can see God with human eyes when we even can’t see a molecule let alone an atom. Even Lord Krishna had to give special or divine eyes for Arjuna to see His Vishwaroopa. Arjuna is wonderstruck and shocked at the extraordinary sight and pleads for his normal eyes to be given back and become a normal human being.
Upanishad is right: Na samdrse tisthati rupam asya, na caksusa pasyati kas canainam (His form can never be seen; no one sees Him with the eye). Yet Man is ready to fight and kill and main all for nothing.