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The Vedic deities are referred to as Devatas . Whatsoever and whosoever possesses useful and brilliant qualities is called a Devata. Devatas are also known as the essence of events and objects, and Adhi Devatas, as the adjunctional energies which help the essential forces. Active forces are Gods and passive forces are the Goddesses.
Devatas, their competence
Devatas are the gods (and also the rishis) who according to the Vedic seers are a shade above human beings and whose distinctive general characteristics are to be gathered from what is known from the embodiment etc., mentioned in the mantra recited to invoke them and from the corroborative portions of the Vedas, which means from direct revelation and inference. Like human beings they too can aspire to gain the highest knowledge as did Indra who lived with Prajapati (the creator of gods – Aitareya Upanishad) under the vow of Brahmacharya, (Chandogya Upanishad VIII.xi.3) and Bhrigu who sought it from his father, Varuna (Taittiriya Upanishad III.i). But competence for the performance of rites is denied to the gods and the rishis since they have no gods or rishis to sacrifice to or perform to (Jaimini Sutra VI.i.6-7). Badarayana thinks that the scriptures sanction the competence even of those divine beings and others who exist above men (Brahma Sutra I.iii.26). The scriptures sanction the competence of human beings for religious deeds but with regard to the knowledge of Brahman they do not restrict it to human beings alone, gods are also qualified to gain this knowledge. Shatpatha Brahmana (III.vii.iii.10) states - vidvamso hi devah that the learned and the enlightened people are the Devas or Devatas (gods). Gayatri saved the Gayas which are the organs of speech etc., presided over by devatas; it has twenty four letters meant to be sung which include the Sun and the three Vyahrtis, Bhuh of Rk-mantras, Bhuvah of the Yajur mantras and Svah of Sama mantras as the quintessences of the world and the gods.
There are many Vedic gods. Vidagdha Sakalya had asked Yajnavalkya – “How many gods are there?” and was told there were as many as are indicated in the Nivid ( a group of slokas giving the number of gods) of the Vishwadevas i.e. three hundred and three, three thousand and three which were the manifestations of thirty three gods (listed by Satpatha Brahmana as eight Vasus, eleven Rudras, twelve Adityas, Indra and Prajapati) which are included in the six multiple forms of Hiranyagarbha Himself who is one and alone whose body the earth is , whose sight is fire, whose mind is light, and who is the final resort of all human souls (Brihadaranyaka Upanishad III.ix.1-10) but who by mystic yogic power creates many bodies for himself and moves over earth through them all (immanence and transcendence of Brahman). Thus, the gods can be corporeal, they can divide themselves to have multifarious invisible bodies to be associated simultaneously with as many sacrifices, they are not over-powered by death, and they are to be meditated on - O venerable sir, instruct me about the God on whom you meditate (Chandogya Upanishad IV.ii.2). Start is to be made with meditation and conclusion with knowledge as in sa ya evam vidvan adityam brahma iti upasita - "worship the sun-god (Surya) as Brahman" (Chandogya Upanishad III.xix.4).
Vedanta is a theological system having many positive religious elements that are Vayavaharika or the ordinary, which may be Vaidika or Laukika; Jiva or the individual self; Prana or the vital force; Karma or the ritual practice; Upasana or the meditational practice, cosmological accounts of journeys after death and the multitude of devatas or gods. But in the religious dimension of Vedanta, the devatas are of only secondary importance because having been created by the atman or Brahman their knowledge is imperfect, even though they are not reducible to material realities yet they have a role in establishing and maintaining the intelligibility of lesser beings since they are real, personal beings who interact with human beings and function in relation to the material and the ritual. However, primordial knowledge cannot be attributed to the devatas who do not play a large role in the explanation of the universe. Adi Shankara explains that the Devatas are not different from what they represent even if they are represented differently and invite different treatment.e.g Vayu (which is the adhidaivata or the external samvarga) and Prana (which is the adhyatmika or the more important internal samvarga) which are one in essence (tattvabheda) though distinct in the mode of being (avastha), that they are exemplary conscious beings who know and learn the limits of their pleasures. They can be imaginable and active in rituals – To whichever devata the oblation is made, let him meditate on that devata, saying vasat. (Aitareya Brahmana III.viii.1). The Upanishads transfer human interest from Ishvara i.e. God, to the Atman, natural forces cease to be personified, and there is a distinct shift from the cosmological to the psychological and then to the philosophical arena in search of the Ultimate Reality on whose support depends all existence, and because of whom all this is. This reached it becomes known that there exists no difference between the Self and the Absolute and that whatever falls within the ken of apprehension , equally with what we are, goes to make up the fulness of the Absolute.
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- Purusha Sukta Rig Veda X.90.15
- Swami Gambhirananda. Brahma Sutra Bhasya of Sankaracarya. Kolkata: Advaita Ashrama. p. 207.
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