Mythology forms a very important part of any religion. More often it helps the aspirant to understand the philosophic portion of the religion easily. We are going to see India's beautiful spiritual mythology, difficulties in understanding them with Vedanta and mythologies of other religions; about the differences within Hinduism's own sects, their logical conclusions. If the obstacle to believe a mythology in the absence of historical evidence is much felt among even Hindus, what will it present to a Westerner who develops a keen interest in Vedanta. The importance of idol worship in understanding the advaitic philosophy. If a modern aspirant takes Hindu mythology too literally, as many people do, he can be so shocked that he will lose interest in Hinduism's great spiritual tradition before he has investigated it. Or the average Westerner, demanding what he believes to be absolute truth and absolute reality from religion, sees no excuse for worshipping anyone or anything that cannot be verified historically. So he draws back in amazed disbelief when he discovers that there is no good evidence for the historicity of India's favourite divine incarnations, Rama and Krishna, whose imposing stories are told in the mythological epics, the Ramayana and the Mahabharata. He is saddened to read that one of the most competent authorities on Indian philosophy and religion, Sir Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan, actually states that Krishna is a composite of three legendary figures rather than one historical person. He is further taken aback when he encounters India's many gods, some of whom impress him as being very beautiful and some of whom seem very strange to him with their many heads and arms. Some grotesque gods have such deformities that he cannot imagine how a child born with them could hope to survive. Although he thinks that the elephant-headed Ganesha is more humorous than repulsive, he cannot take him seriously. He wonders how this funny little fellow, with an elephant's head on a human body, could manage to function. He abhors the worship of the Sivalingam, a phallic symbol which is meaningless to him. And, finally, he is horrified that these unreal gods and goddess are worshipped and reverently housed in temple shrines. The Westerner with a superficial knowledge of Indian mythology may conclude that it is only folklore, which everyone knows is fictitious, rather than religion, which is the Lord's own truth. He may think that the worship of mythological figures conforms to Webster's definition of superstition as 'an irrational abject attitude of mind toward the supernatural, nature, or God, proceeding from ignorance, unreasoning fear of the unknown or mysterious, morbid scrupulosity, a belief in magic, or chance, or the like. If, however, the inquirer consults scholarly sources, he is sure to find statements suggesting that this point-of-view is too narrow. Expert mythologists are now setting forth the theory that many myths express hidden truths about man's relationship to the cosmos. For instance, Mircea Eliade writes, '...in reciting or listening to a myth, one resumes contact with the sacred and with reality, and in so doing one transcends the profane tradition, the "historical situation". Thus Eliade believes that in reaching reality, one must transcend the historical situation, which some take to be the chief criterian of reality. Heinrich Zimmer, a foremost authority on Hindu mythology, specifically warns that 'it would not do to seek to constrain the Oriental conceptions into the delimiting frames familiar to the West. Their profound strangeness must be permitted to expose to us the unconscious limitations of our own approach to the enigmas of existence and of man. In other words, scholarly research suggests that the problem with Indian Mythology must be in the inquirer rather than in the mythology itself. The respectful study which Indian mythology deserves should probably begin with the Vedas, which are dated approximately between 2500 B.C. and 600 B.C. and which contain the earliest references to the Indian gods and goddesses. Careful analysis of the Vedas makes it clear that, in spite of the proliferation of gods and goddesses, there was no real polytheism in India even in ancient times. Swami Prabhavananda explains: Casual visitors to this ancient land carry with them the impression of an elaborate polytheism. True it is that India has always had many gods---- but in appearance only. In reality she has had but one god, though with prodigal inventiveness she has called him by 'various name'. With reference to the sections of the Vedas called the samhitas, the Swamy writes: The Samhitas are collections of mantras, or hymns, most of which sing the praises of one or another personal god. Sometimes the god is conceived as little more than a magnified man. In one hymn, for example, Indra, the god of rain, has a body clad in golden armour, is very strong, and descends to earth, where he lives and eats with his votaries, fights and overcomes their enemies the demons, and establishes his dominion. Similarly, Varuna, in another hymn is described as a mere nature god, presiding in anthropomorphic form over air and water. But, again, the god----even at times the same god that was just now so much a man----becomes nothing less than the Supreme Being, omniscient, omnipresent, omnipotent----and that within which the visible world is contained. Max Muller, coined the word 'henotheism' for this elevation of one god after another to become the one supreme God who creates and sustains the universe. According to the Vedas, however, even this one god is not the ultimate divine reality. In the words of Swami Satprakashananda: ...the deities mentioned in the Vedas... were neither supernatural beings nor deified forces and phenomena of nature, but different manifestations of Nondual Brahman, 'the One without a second'. Indeed, the prevailing note of the Samhita part is not polytheism, henotheism, or even monotheism, but absolute monism or nondualism. The mythology of the Samhitas embodies the concepts presented in the philosophical portion of the Vedas, the Upanishads. The highest, most comprehensive, truth set forth in the Upanishad is nondual. But Vedantic sages recognise that gradations of philosophical truth are inevitable because Brahman, the absolute, nondual Reality is only partially revealed to the vast majority of us. In Swami Prabhavananda's eloquent words, the experience of Brahman is so 'utterly impersonal, so devoid of anything describable in human terms, as to be suited only to the greatest saints, and to those only in their most strenuous moments.' We see Brahman through a sort of spiritual fog. At first our perception is very vague, but our vision gradually becomes clearer as the fog dissipates. Brahman is always the same; it is our perception that varies. Since this nondual ultimate Reality, of course, admits no other, all that we experience in the apparently finite universe must be Brahman imperfectly understood. We first see Brahman, the all-inclusive rreality, not as spirit but as matter. When our vision clearsa little, we see Brahman as an external personal deity; then, with greater clarity, as the all-pervasive personal God in whom we live, move, and have our being; and finally, we know Brahman as undifferentiated divine existence, consciousness and bliss, We then know that the true Self, the Atman, is one with this absolute spirit, Brahman. Brahman is divine, so we are divine. contd..