Many are the names of God
Two persons were hotly disputing as to the colour of a chameleon One said, The chameleon on that palmtree is of a beautiful red colour The other, contradicting him, said, You are mistaken, the chameleon is not red, but blue Not being able to settle the matter by arguments, both went to the person who always lived under that tree and had watched the chameleon in all its phases of colour On
Two persons were hotly disputing as to the colour of a chameleon. One said, 'The chameleon on that palm-tree is of a beautiful red colour.' The other, contradicting him, said, 'You are mistaken, the chameleon is not red, but blue.' Not being able to settle the matter by arguments, both went to the person who always lived under that tree and had watched the chameleon in all its phases of colour. One of them said, 'Sir, is not the chameleon on that tree of a red colour?' The person replied, 'Yes, sir.'
The other disputant said, 'What do you say? How is it? It is not red, it is blue.' That person again humbly replied, 'Yes, sir.' The person knew that the chameleon is an animal that constantly changes its colour; thus it was that he said 'yes' to both these conflicting statements. The Sat-kit-ânanda likewise has various forms. The devotee who has seen God in one aspect only, knows Him in that aspect alone. But he who has seen Him in His manifold aspects, is alone in a position to say, 'All these forms are of one God, for God is multiform.' He has forms and has no forms, and many are His forms which no one knows.
Many are the names of God, and infinite the forms that lead us to know Him. In whatsoever name or form you desire to call Him, in that very form and name you will see Him. Four blind men went to see an elephant. One touched the leg of the elephant, and said, 'The elephant is like a pillar.' The second touched the trunk, and said, The elephant is like a thick stick or club.' The third touched the belly, and said, 'The elephant is like a big jar.' The fourth touched the ears, and said, 'The elephant is like a winnowing basket.'
Thus they began to dispute amongst themselves as to the figure of the elephant. A passer-by seeing them thus quarrelling, said, 'What is it that you are disputing about?' They told him everything, and asked him to arbitrate. That man said, 'None of you has seen the elephant. The elephant is not like a pillar, its legs are like pillars. It is not like a big water-vessel, its belly is like a water-vessel.
It is not like a winnowing basket, its ears are like winnowing baskets. It is not like a thick stick or club, but its proboscis is like that. The elephant is the combination of all these.' In the same manner those quarrel who have seen one aspect only of the Deity. As the same sugar is made into various figures of birds and beasts, so one sweet Mother Divine is worshipped in various climes and ages under various names and forms. Different creeds are but different paths to reach the Almighty.
As with one gold various ornaments are made, having different forms and names, so one God is worshipped in different countries and ages, and has different forms and names. Though He may be worshipped variously, some loving to call him Father, others Mother, &c., yet it is one God that is being worshipped in all these various relations and modes.
If the God of every religion is the same, why is it then that the God is painted differently by different religionists? God is one, but His aspects are different: as one master of the house is father to one, brother to another, and husband to a third, and is called by these different names by those different persons, so one God is described and called in various ways according to the particular aspect in which He appears to His particular worshipper.
Sri Ramakrishna Paramahansa