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Philosophers down through the centuries have been wrestling with the problem of Unity and Diversity. Very often we think that this problem was only an issue for the  early Greek  philosophers but not Eastern Philosophers particulars coming from Hinduism. The Greek  philosophers search for unity in diversity is well summarized in words of  Dr. Ravi Zacharias in his book “Can Man Live Without God”
In 585 B.C., a man named Thales correctly predicted a solar eclipse. It was Thales' love for ordered knowledge that gave birth to philosophy, but Thales fervently sought the answer to another question. He knew the world was made of an infinite variety of things — plants, animals, clouds. What, he wondered, was the one basic element that pulled it all together? Thales thought that element must be water, but his students went on to expand the underlying reality to four elements—earth, air, water, and fire. Since then the quest for the philosopher has been to find unity in diversity.

This very search has made inroads into our cultures. For example, the word quintessence literally means "the fifth essence." Every American coin reads E Pluribus Unum—out of the many, one. Out of our diversity, unity. And the very word university means to find unity in diversity.

How did diversity come about, and how do we locate or identify the unity .

This problem of unity and diversity or problem of One and Many has also been one of the struggles with Indian philosophers which has led to the formulation of various schools of thought. Indian philosopher Sankaracharya, following the upanishads, asserts that the sole cause of the universe is the One brahman that is really nirguNa. The problem with asserting One brahman that is without parts, changeless and eternal, as the only cause of the universe is this - the universe is normally perceived to be full of many separate parts which change all the time, and has little that is eternal in it. How is it that the changeless and non-relational brahman produces the variegated universe?

Post Shankara Philosopher Mandana says regarding Unity and Diversity :

  1. Either we should say like Mimamsaka Samsargavadins that both unity and diversity are separately real ;
  2. Or We should say like Bhartrprapancha and the Jaina Anekantavadins that reality is both unity and diversity ;
  3. Or we should say like the Buddhish (Svantantra-vijnanavadin) Atyantikabhedavadins that only diversity is real and that unity is an appearance;
  4. Or we should say like the Vedantin Abhedavadins that only unity is real and that diversity is an appearance. 3

 Mandana supports the fourth view which advocates that unity alone is real while diversity is only an appearance. In this quest for the search of Unity and Diversity, Many schools of thought  have denied the diversity which has resulted in the emergence of Monistic and Pantheistic School of philosophy. While those who tried to bring diversity has resulted into the formulation of Duality School,   Qualified Non-duality School, Samkhya School etc.   Furthermore in answering the critics of Hinduism that it is polytheistic, they have suggested that God is One but has many forms. So all the gods and goddesses are different aspect of same ultimate one God, thus have tried to assimilate the Many into One or diversity into Unity.  When Many are assimilated into One instead of Keeping One and Many in equality, the One is elevated at  higher level  than Many, which leads into development of Hierarchy. That’s why there is hierarchy in the gods and goddesses in Hinduism. Some are considered more powerful and some are considered less powerful which results into development of such metaphysical concept of ultimate reality which becomes the basis for human society and that hierarchy which is  within the metaphysical reality  is reflected in the life of society which has resulted into the development of  Caste system in  Hinduism.  On the other hand Monistic schools have completely  eliminated all diversity as unreal. They have stressed only unity at the expense of diversity, which has removed all the distinction between creator and creation and I /You. If such distinction do not exist then the problem is there is no need for Vedas or any scripture to tell about advaita,  as there is no real I and You. And  how does such system incorporate the whole idea of avatars or God becoming Man or whole idea of Guruism. If such ideas are embraced than  it follows, God in Enlightenment is teaching God in ignorance about about to how to get enlightenment. With regards to avatars God is becoming man to save the righteous  who are also God and destroy the Unrighteous who again are God. But if all distinction are not existent then the distinction between dharma and adharma or righteous and sinners also evaporates, then what’s the need of avatars ? So the problem of unity and diversity remains unresolved.  So where do we find the answer ? The only answers to the quest of Greek philosophers and Indian philosophers is found in the doctrine of Trinity

  1. In Trinity both Unity and Diversity are stressed Equally Important. Neither Unity is greater nor is diversity greater. Therefore the society following this metaphysical concept has developed the idea of equality among human beings while   hierarchy and caste system has no place into it.
  1. Hinduism is longing for one ultimate absolute which is unfortunately  Impersonal Brahman  and also relationship between diverse gods and goddesses. This longing is adequately met in Trinity as there is unity of essences and diversity of persons who are in perfect interpersonal relationships.
  1. Gujarati philosopher Gunvant Shah says that the western emphasis on Individuality and Eastern Emphasis on Community is synthesized in the Family 4. We agree that family should demonstrate both individuality and community, but due to sin and resultant rupture in relationships it has not been able to produce perfect relationship. That is very much demonstrated in many of the family based television programs and serials and by also by observing the Indian family and society. This quest for bringing together Individuality and community is perfectly modeled in Trinity and as humanity is created in the image of trinity where both individuality and community as been perfectly exhibited, longs to find retention of both these aspects i.e individual and community, is satisfied in Trinity.
  1. The Triune God is ultimately Moral and so becomes basis for Morality. Morality in bible is defined in terms of relationships rather than asceticism and is exhibited perfectly by virtue of love which is found in Trinity. Hence the distinction between good and bad is real, therefore God becoming Man to resolve the problem of Righteousness and unrighteousness among human beings sound meaningful and logical.
  1. Many have tried to compare Trinity with Hindu trimurti or triads Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva . Here again there are lots of irreconcilable differences.
  1. According to Monistic schools the Hindu trinity is part of larger Pantheistic Impersonal Reality which is at higher level than these triads and as a such are not ultimate. Whereas the Christian trinity is the ultimate reality. There is no other higher reality than trinity.
  1. The each god of Hindu triad has a eternal consortium i.e. Brahma and saraswati,

Vishnu and Laxmi and Shiva and shakti which ends up in formulation of 6 unity rather than Trinity. No such concept of eternal consortium of each person of trinity is found in Christian Trinity.

  1. There certainly was not the present concept of a Trimurti present until the later development and popularity of Vishnu and Shiva. There is essentially no worship or cult of Brahma (the first god of the Trimurti), and many Hindus do not worship either Vishnu or Shiva. This is all to say that the concept of the Trimurti is a non-essential and descriptive observation about Hinduism, not a doctrine of the very nature of God Himself. In contrast to this, the Trinity is a very essential teaching of the very nature of God Himself.

Let me conclude once again by quoting Dr. Ravi Zacharias. “We are looking for unity in diversity. I suggest that there is only one explanation for unity in diversity, and that is in the doctrine of the trinity, where right from the beginning, there was unity, diversity, community in the trinity, and that’s the principle you and I need to adhere to.”5


1 Can man live without God
3 page no. 300 – A critical survey of Indian philosophy – by Dr. Chandradhar Sharma
4 In an article of Gujarat Samachar,
5 Can man live without God

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