Oh, My God!
By R. Ramakrishnan.
There are many notions about God. God is a puzzle to some and is a mystery to some others. For the modern day so-called intellectuals, the present day Charvakas, God does not exist or is redundant. For many others, even in modern times, God is somebody who grants them their prayers. For them God is a Belief instilled in them by the religious organisations or institutions they or their parents are associated with. Their understanding about God varies depending on the processes they have gone through in getting this belief instilled in them. Thus God is different things to different people. To each of them God is involved in one way or the other as a strong influence in their day-to-day lives. As there are many notions about God, there are many debates about God.
One such debate is whether God is just or unjust, whether He is fair or unfair. Such a question arises because God is seen as a Person, who, like the king ruling over his kingdom, rules over the entire Universe. So it is expected that He will always be just and fair. But when looking at some of the things which happen under His kingship, people are inclined to doubt this, because such events blatantly brand Him as unjust and unfair.
Conventional religions have created, fostered and nourished the above image of God as a Ruler, a Person administering justice, rewarding the good and punishing the bad. Some religions confer many attributes to God to make Him a Supreme Person, probably a Male as denoted by the pronoun, ‘He’. The moment we have visualised Him as a Supreme Person, we cannot avoid questioning the rationale behind His actions, because He is expected to be as logical as human beings think themselves to be. We tend to stand in judgement over God, put Him in the dock and ask Him, “What you have done – Is it fair, is it just?” God can only be silent and smile, if He can, implying “it is your problem, not mine. I never claimed to be just or unjust, fair or unfair. It is you, men, who have ascribed these qualities and roles to me. I am not bound by your rules!”
Another debate is about God’s Grace. The commonly held view is that God is a Supreme Power that creates, sustains and dissolves the Creation. To sustain oneself is a natural instinct among all living beings. It is the human being, however, acknowledging God as the sustainer, who prays for God’s Grace to sustain oneself. The craving for sustenance can take one of many forms. It may be a desire to be cured of one’s dreadful disease or to be saved from death. It may be the need to achieve something or the other in life – wealth, power, status, family and so on. Even when putting forth the efforts to achieve them, the fear of failure seizes the individual and therefore the supplication to the Supreme Person in the form of prayers. Human life is ever in dread of what can happen tomorrow, what can happen the next moment, that any disaster can strike him down any moment . So the prayer to the Supreme Power seems to be a logical response in such a situation of helplessness. The intensity of the prayer is directly proportional to the intensity of fear or insecurity. The appeal to the Grace of God, in the form of one kind of prayer or the other, seems to be the only way to tide over the turmoil of life. When the prayer is answered favourably, we say it is by “God’s Grace” What if our prayers are not answered favourably? Has God’s Grace ceased to be?
Are God and Grace two separate things? Can Grace be separated from God. It is like saying “Sun’s light”. Can the light be separated from the sun? What is Sun other than the dazzling light, a ball of fire? If there is no light, will the Sun be there? Is Grace God’s possession? If Grace were to be something other than God for it to be possessed by God, then what is Supreme – Grace or God?
Can anything happen without the grace of God? Even if our prayers are not answered favourably, it is still God’s Grace. Even a murderer who commits a murder, does so by the Grace of God. He might have prayed for the success of his mission as sincerely as any other person. This may sound ridiculous and seem to absolve the murderer of his crime. Yet, it is the Truth. Is it not said that not even a blade of grass can sway without His will?.
God’s Grace is ever present. In its Presence, everything in Creation is triggered to act according to its Nature. Just as in the presence of electricity the bulb glows, fan rotates, motor whirrs, airconditioner cools. Without electricity all these gadgets are inert. Without God’s Grace everything is dead. Nothing exists. The sheer existence is proof of God, the Grace.
God’s Grace ever operates in this world through the Law of karma. Stated simply, the law is that if one does the right action, there will be reward and if one does the wrong action, there will be punishment. It is a law that reflects the compassion and justice of God. Human laws can be violated escaping the punishments. But God’s law cannot be compromised with. Not even God would attempt to compromise it lest he be accused of being partial to some and not to others. So, even when things go against our prayers, it is still God’s Grace. In Mahabharata, Kunti prays to God to give her sufferings periodically, so that she may never forget God. The sufferings and unfavourable situations in our lives are also due to the Grace of God, because they shake us from our sleepwalking through life and initiate us into a process of pursuit of Truth.
This seemingly puts an end to the debate as to whether God is just or not , fair or not, whether His Grace is occasional or constant. But the question remains, “What or Who is God?”. Is He the Ruler, the Creator? God is both and, at the same time, beyond both. God is the Source from which the Creation is evolved, by which it is sustained and unto which it dissolves. That means that God is not a Person with a limited form. God is not Masculine or Feminine or Neuter. If the infinite Space in this Creation has come from God, then God must be infinite, because something finite cannot be the source of something which is Infinite. The Infinite Source is given the name, God, Who is formless. Yet, people have given God names and forms, so that their minds can relate to that Formless, Nameless God. All names and forms are God’s because all the things perceived in Creation have come out of God. As a matter of fact, there is nothing in this Creation which is other than God, separate from God. A product can never be different from it source. A golden ornament is still gold, whatever its design and pattern. A mud point is still mud, whatever its shape and colour. By the same rule, nothing in this Creation is anything other than God.
Wow! So that is what God is! Just about the time the mind seems to have resolved the puzzle or the mystery that God seemed to be, the story is given a twist, like the last chapter of a detective novel. There is whisper in the ears, “That God is You”. “What?”, the mind asks, shocked by what it just heard. “Yes, that is the Truth. That God is You. tat tavam asi, whispers the Voice.
“It cannot be”, the mind cries out, in sheer disbelief and wonder. “Simple”, says the Voice. “If you, as a human being, have come out of the Source from which the entire Creation has evolved, how can you be different from the Source? Can a golden ornament be different from gold? Can a mud pot be different from mud? The ornament is a superimposition on the gold. The pot is a superimposition on the mud. Likewise, you, as a human being, is a superimposition on the Source, God. But, you are verily the God. You are God, in essence. God is the ‘I’ in you. That is what Lord Krishna, the incarnation of God, has himself declared: aham atma gudakesa sarva bhutasiya sthtitha. I (the God) am the atma, the Self, the ‘I’ residing in the heart of all beings. Just as gold is inseparable from the ornament, just as mud is inseparable from the pot, You are inseparable from God – You are God.
If that be the case what is the meaning of prayers? Prayer is the surrender of individuality to the Self. Prayer is the expression of the individual’s gratitude to the Self. Prayer is the revelry of the individual in the Self.
I am That! Aham Brahmaasmi .What this means is that I am free from birth and death. I am Unborn, Changeless. I am Eternal, Ever-Existent Existence, Self-effulgent. I am not the doer of any action; so no action binds me. I am not an enjoyer of any experience; so nothing affects me. Nothing binds me. I have no limitations. I am Limitless. I am unlimited. There is nothing other than me. Mattaparataram naaanyathkinchitasti I am One, without a second I am ever free. I am formless, infinite. I am Pure Consciousness. I lack nothing. I am the indivisible Whole. I am Bliss.
Oh, My God!
(Mr. R. Ramakrishnan is a longtime student of Swamiji. He was the Editor of Self-Knowledge magazine used to be published by Samvit Sagar Trust.)