The first question:
Do Hindu mythological gods, like Shiva, Uma and Indra have a real existence on some plane, or are they just symbols as you implied in your talks the last two mornings? And if they are really only symbolic, why do people see visions of them in meditation and what do such visions of gods mean?
Mythology deals with symbols. It is not history; it is not concerned with objective reality. But that does not mean that it is not concerned with reality itself. It is concerned with subjective reality. These gods, these mythological symbols, do not exist outside you, but they have a psychological existence and that psychological existence can be helpful, can be used. So the first thing to be understood is that they are not real persons in the world, but they are real symbols in the psyche of man.
For example, Carl Gustav Jung came very near to discovering the secret of these symbols. He was working on mental patients, disturbed persons. He would tell his patients to go on painting things, whatsoever came to their minds. A person who is schizophrenic, divided, split, will paint certain things and the painting will show a particular pattern. All schizophrenic patients will paint certain things and the pattern will be the same. And when they get over their illness, their disease, they will start painting different things, and that will happen to every patient. Just by seeing their paintings you can say whether the patient is ill or not.
Then Jung became aware that whenever a person who has been suffering with a divided personality again becomes one, undivided, he starts painting something like a mandala – a circle. That circle, that mandala, shows somehow a deep relationship with his own inner circle that has been regained. Now, inside, he has become a circle, joined together. He has become one. Then in his paintings suddenly circles will erupt. So Jung came to conclude that your inner mind can express certain things in a certain state. If the state of mind changes, then your visions will change, your expressions will change.
Hindu mythological gods are certain visions of a certain state of mind. When you come into that state of mind, visions start happening to you. They will have a similarity. All the world over they will have a similarity. There will be minor differences because of culture, education, training, but deep down there will be a similarity.