So in the history of religions, as people became wiser and wiser, become more and more refined, they came to the conclusion that God is not of that kind – God is not anthropomorphic, that there is certainly a question of worship of God, but you worship God not because you want certain rewards or you want through His instrumentality punishment for your enemies. Not for that reason, but God is to be worshipped because He is himself worship able, He is admirable, He is wonderful. As Mohamed says, to see God and not to fall in love with Him is impossible. He is such a Reality! If you just approach Him, not for any particular benefit or anything of the kind, just to be with Him, is delight. So now here you do not see God as anthropomorphic; but God as He is in Himself, something that is supreme, wonderful, most beneficent, merciful, by His very nature. Even if you do not pray, it is not as if He is going to punish you, even without prayers He will do the best for you, because that is his nature, He is most merciful by His very nature. This is called a more refined concept of God. Therefore in the light of this new monotheistic belief, polytheism has been discarded, or has been conceived as something very inferior. Therefore if you now tell the modern mentality that Vedas have this distinctive feature that it had discovered gods, then many people might tell you that you are talking of something primitive, barbaric, and something that has to be over passed.
But the kind of the discovery that Vedic Rishis had made was not anthropomorphic. They had also discovered not only many `gods', but also `God'. Veda is not polytheistic only, it is also at the same time monotheistic, ekam sad vipra bahudha vadanti, (Rig Veda 1.164.46) "The Reality is only One", but it is spoken of as `many', in `many ways'. Therefore, the concept of many gods is not as if there are several prime ministers in the world, and who are in conflict with each other, and all of them are sovereign, ultimate authorities, but all these gods are cosmic powers of 'One Divine'. This is the discovery of the Veda – that there are many gods – and one does not need to be afraid of maintaining that there is no doubt such a reality of many gods but these gods are all cosmic powers of 'One supreme Reality'. That is why Veda is not rightly called polytheistic, although many people who read it cursorily they might say that it is only polytheistic, barbaric, primitive. But if you read the Veda as a whole, the kind of knowledge of the gods that we have is quite different.
Again, they are not anthropomorphic in the sense that these gods are not `purchasable' by all kinds of `bribes'. If you worship the gods it is again for the glory of the gods, their greatness in themselves, their powers. Again there is another peculiarity of the gods of the Veda which is that each one of them can perform the function of another god. And each god is the supreme God himself. This is the complexity of the idea of the gods in the Veda. There are many gods, all of them are manifestations of one cosmic and supreme and transcendental Reality of one God. Each god can do the functions of another, gods can work together in a collectivity, visve devah; they may work individually, they may work one for the other, and each can stand for the Supreme God Himself. Now, these are the special discoveries of the Vedic search. Such is the kingdom of the gods. It is not an ordinary kind of polytheism.
The Veda goes even beyond, and says that the Divine is not only `One', but He is 'the only One'. It is not as if God is the one Reality, the Ruler of the world – which is another reality –, but even the world itself is 'that' very reality. This is called: `monism', a very peculiar kind of monism. So in the Veda there is `polytheism', `monotheism', even `monism'. And you will find also in the Bhagavad Gita the same; we shall come to it later on. Even the Bhagavad Gita speaks of `many gods'; it speaks of `one God' as the Ruler; it also speaks of the `one Reality alone ' of which All in the world is a manifestation. So there is only one Reality, there is no other at all. This was the discovery of the Vedic Rishis.
Now having made this discovery, they found out that individuals can come into contact with `gods', with `one supreme God', and with `one reality' that is the 'only Reality’. Therefore, the interrelationship between man and gods, and one god and the supreme one single reality, the synthesis of all these is the Vedic synthesis. There is no book in the world which gives you this kind of synthesis. It is a very peculiar and unique synthesis in the Veda. This kind of synthesis has been put into the background in the history of the world. Even the Upanishads which came later on and which, in a certain sense, continue the tradition, even the Gita which continues that tradition to some extent, does not have that richness of the Veda where all these are described in so much of detail. It is again when you come back to the Puranas that something of this `polytheism', and 'monotheism', and `monism' is again to be found. But still, the height at which, the loftiness at which this synthesis was done is not to be found in the Puranas either. The supreme experiences, the highest experiences, the completeness of the experience of `The Reality', has never been surpassed anywhere in the world. Now this again is not a statement to show that therefore this is `the' best, and 'the' highest, and `the' most superior, it is a scientific fact! And it does not say therefore that there is nothing further to be done, or there can be no other formulation, or there cannot be another revelation which is not in the Veda. We speak of the 'loftiness' but not of the depth, subtlety, complexity. The kind of subtlety and synthesis of knowledge that you find in the Upanishads is not in the Veda. Therefore Upanishads have something more to give us which is not in the Veda. Therefore you cannot count the Veda alone and nothing else and say that other things have not much value. This is not true either.