"The Hindu believe in one God, conceived as the universal soul or Paramatma, the absolute and eternal, beyond the categories of thought and expression, and embracing the entire universe. The text - there is only One, the learned speak of it in many ways.
Though the Paramatma is impersonal or without qualities in itself in relation to the world expressed in terms of the relative, it is personal and man's mind conceives it as having qualities and form. This leads to the doctrine of Ishta Devata, or God, as conceived according to one's preference, as father, mother, guru, lover or even friend.
The One Supreme thus assumes for the devotee the qualities and form in which he likes to worship. Many who worship the Supreme as Krishna think of him as a playful child, others as the great guru. In the same way, God is conceived by others as the Divine Mother. It is this doctrine of Ishta Devata, the freedom given to every one to worship God with the attributes of his own choice, never however forgetting that the Supreme has no qualities, that has led to the misconception that Hinduism is polytheistic.
In a sense, it is true that there can be as many forms of Godhead in Hinduism as there are believers, for each one can conceive God only as the limitations of his own mind permit him."
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