Making peace with polymorphism


So India is getting a new prime minister – and he is the leader of BJP, an organization based on Hinduism / Hindutva . Now , what exactly that means gets interpreted differently based on who you ask . But given the overwhelming majority that the party got in parliamentary elections – it looks like vast majority of the population of India is leaning towards a definition along the lines of “one god , many manifestations”.

Concept of god is a complex one – there are religions that explicitly reach there is only one god , and that you are a big time sinner if you don’t agree . The treatment of god in Hinduism is interesting to say the least . The fundamental notion is that there is only one god – but that god could have many forms or manifestations . There are some 33 million gods – or 33 million forms of god – in Hinduism . The followers of these 33 million gods haven’t always agreed on whether it all converges to one central concept of god .

If I understood correctly – a triumvirate of gods (Brahma, Vishnu, Siva for creation , sustaining and destruction of life/world) were at the top of the hierarchy of gods . Entire kingdoms were formed and wiped out in India on the basis of “my god is more powerful than your god ” principle -even though there was a universal umbrella of Hinduism that covered them all .

The interesting thing about polymorphism is that once we step outside the world of religion ( I believe the right word specifically is polytheism) – it is a less contentious topic .

Nature has a lot of examples in animal kingdom – like jaguars which look black and which look spotted . I think the biological way of saying it is “multiple phenotypes within one species that live in the same habitat” . It’s a necessary result of evolution. But the moment we extend evolution to the world of religion – all bets are off . Somehow we can’t seem to take a leap from butterflies and jaguars to our own life .

The other example is programming – specifically object oriented programming . I learned procedural programming before OOP and had to be taken kicking and screaming into the new world . One of the smartest things about OOP is that you can arbitrarily define a base class to suit yourself and derive as many sub classes out of it . Or in terms of interfaces – you can have one interface and many methods . If you think of the concept of god as the base class – it becomes easy to understand that many religions can exist with their own nuances .

In programming, when you don’t like someone else’s definition of class – you can over ride it and define your own class and take it from there . I believe that if we exercise independent thought – we can decide to follow any existing beliefs about god , or create own belief systems . And for those who don’t care for the concept of god – think of some sub classes as ones that take all or partial null values . So atheists , “I am spiritual, but not religious” types et al can all be covered in this approach .

Answers are both within us and around us – whether it is about god or anything us . It’s up to each of us to decide what combination works for us .

OK – I needed to get that out of my system . I feel better already 🙂

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