Hindus grow up on the stories in the epics like the Ramayana and Mahabharata, the numerous Puranas, where heros, heroines, Devas and Devis are extolled as to their exploits and virtues. We fall in love with them. They become our role models. We do not grow up in fear of them, and so visit temples and shrines, and participate in kirtans with affection and devotion. Also, some of us don't actively worship deities at all, for there is no social pressure to do so.
As we get older, we begin to come across deeper sources and aspects of the Dharma such as found in the Bhagavad Gita, the Yoga Vasistha, in the dialogues in the epics and puranas, and more. This changes our attitudes to the Devatas towards becoming not just devotional but also philosophical. The worship aspect changes internally. It looks the same on the outside still, but internally a different process begins to mature.
There is much freedom in how one sees and approaches this process, or indeed leaves it alone.
So what looks like worship to an outsider, especially from an Abrahamic religious point of view where fearing God's wrath is the norm if something is not done, or done, is deﬁnitely not what is going on in the Hindu consciousness. Even the highest of the Devas and Devis are subject to the following from the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad.
“This self was Brahman/limitless in the beginning. It knew itself only as ‘I am limitless.’, and therefore it became all. And whomever among the devas had this enlightenment, also became That. It is the same with the seers, the same with ordinary people. And to this day, if one knows in a like manner the self as ‘I am limitless’, one becomes all. Even the devas cannot prevent this, for one has become their very self. One who worships a deity thinking ‘I am one and it is another’ does not know.”
Articles in future issues of Sutra Journal will present the various Devas and Devis extolled and worshipped in the Hindu Dharma, within the context of the process described above, where how they are seen and approached varies according to the development of the aspirant, as described and prescribed in the voluminous Hindu literature.