You, Me & God

Swami Chinmayananda
"Swamiji, I don't believe in God".
It was a young man, modern, tight pants, tobacco pipe stuck at waist, trim thin moustache. He spoke Emglish with an Americanized drawl, and was evidently one of our university products, with higher education abroad. Sophisticated, to the points of his pointed toes.

Swamiji beamed. "Excellent!" With a broad welcoming smile, nodding his head slowly, Swamiji continued: "That's fine. I like you. You are the man I have been wanting to meet. I like your outspokenness. You are intelligent and you think independently. You have the courage to speak out your conviction, straight from the shoulder, as they say. Now come, WHAT KIND of GOD is it, that you don't believe in?"

The young man, who had made his statement about his non-believing, with a little hesitation, probably at his own audacity at denying GOD before a God-man, was pleasantly surprised at Swamiji's cordial tone and benign smile, and, feeling encouraged, went on:

"This God, who sits above the clouds, and judges men, and dispenses favours and punishments by remote-control, at his own sweet will, don't you think Swamiji, it is all hocus pocus?"

Swamiji laughed. "Shake hands, young man. I am entirely with you. Now, we are two, together. I too, don't believe in THAT KIND OF GOD. But........hmm, did ypu have breakfast before coming?"

"Yes, Swamiji."

"Well, What did you have for breakfast?"

"The usual things, porridge, toast, scrambled eggs, coffee...."

"Eggs. That's nice. Eggs! Now, where did the eggs come from Ram, that's your name isn't it?"

Ram, with his brows raised, feeling that Swamiji was leading up to something, said: " I don't exactly know, probably one of those new poultry farms near Poona".

Swamiji: "I don't mean that. How are eggs made? Do they grow in fields, or are they made in factories?"

"Simple. I think you are trying to pull my legs, but all the same I'll answer you. Hens, of course. Hens lay eggs, you know!" Ram said with an air of flippancy.

Nodding his head, up and down, thoughtfully, Swamiji continued: " I see, I see, so the eggs come from hens. Now where do the hens come from?"

Ram, an intelligent man, could see the trap he was being led into. He started saying: "Of course from.....". Then wide eyed, looked at Swamiji silently.

Swamiji smiled: "So, eggs come from hens, hens come from eggs, which again come from other hens, and so on, ad-infinitum. Can you, Ram, say with any certainty, which was the first cause? Egg or hen? How and why?

Swamiji, now addressing all the devotees present, went on: "You see, God is not just a person or individual, sitting in a palace above the clouds, dispensing favours. It stands to reason that every effect must have had a cause prior to it. The watch that you are wearing did not make itself. Your breakfast did not cook itself. There was a cause, in each case. The cause must have emerged from a previous cause. GOD is now the first cause. The sole cause. The UNCAUSED CAUSE. There was no cause before Him. He is the oldest, the most ancient, He was before TIME. The Sanaatanah, the Puraanah. This `Causation hunting' is the favourite pastime of the evolving human intellect -- trying to trace everything to its ultimate origin. That which is beyond the point at which the intellect gets stalled, is G-O-D. The intellect cannot come to a conclusion as to the ultimate cause as in the age - old example of the hen and the egg. `Thus far -- not farther' is the limitation of the capacity of the human intellect."

Ram was flushed with excitement. He was thrilled. In a faltering voice he asked " There does seem to be something in what you say, Swamiji. Am I to understand that THAT is God?"

"That, which you now speak of as GOD, my boy, the muslim calls Allah; the christian refers to as "My father in Heaven"; the Parsee as Ahura Mazda. These are a few of the different ways in which HE or IT is referred to, but all are referring to the SAME SUPREME PRINCIPLE. The cause behind all causes. The source of all that was, now is, and ever will be. The Vedas refer to it as BRAHMAN, the Absolute, the infinite. THE TRUTH IS ONE. THE WISE SPEAK OF IT VARIOUSLY."

" But, Swamiji, the description does not seem to be complete. Is that all that God is? How can one come to know Him?"

"Now, you are really getting somewhere. I have not `described' God. He cannot be described. To define is Him is to defile Him. What I pointed out only constitutes one way, one manner, of approaching the Truth. It is just one aspect. Now, Your second question asks `How can one come to know Him?'

`Know him!' He cannot be `known' as you know this table or this chair or your wife or your pipe. He is not an object of the intellect. He is the VERY SUBJECT. Have you heard of the great disciple of the Kenopanishad who approached the Master and enquired :"Revered Sir, What is IT, directed by which the mind cognizes objects, the eyes see, the ears hear and so on?' The master cryptically answered :"It is the eye of the eye; the ear of the ear, the mind of the mind'. In fact It is the VERY Subject that enables the eyes to see, the ear to hear etc. It is not an object of the senses or the Mind or the Intellect. Hence, to answer your question, I have to tell you that you cannot make God an object of Knowledge.

An example will elucidate the idea. You are walking along a dark country road at night, occasionally illuminating your path with the aid of a battery torch; you want to know how the torch gives light; you unscrew the torch, you will not be able to see the battery cells, as the bulb will not emit lighty unless powered by the battery of cells. Similarly, the eyes, the ears, the mind and the intellect, all of which get their own power to function from the LIFE PRINCIPLE, cannot understand IT as an object. God is thus conceived of as the life principle, in every one."

The audience sat spell bound listening to Swamiji, exposition of a difficult vedantic truth in easy lucid style.

"Then Swamiji, you say that God or Truth is something abstract, that cannot be seen or heard or touched -- or even thought of. Am I right?"

" You are very much right. In fact, God is all this and much more. The Bhagawad Geeta says: `Weapons cleave It not; fire burns It not; water wets It not; wind dries It not. This self cannot be cut, nor burnt nor wetted nor dried.' It is not material; It is not matter, understand."

"Why did you `Self'?"

"The Supreme, Life Principle, is also the SELF in you, in me and in everybody. It is the innermost core of your personality. The popular misconception is that `man is a body, with a soul'. That it is not correct. The Truth is that `Man is THE SOUL, in a body'. He is eternal. The role of the body is likened to a worn out garment that is discarded by the wearer at his will."

Now, the other members of the audience who had been listening with awe and reverence, took the oppurtunity to clear their doubts.

"Swamiji, if God cannot be seen or thought of, is an abstraction, is there any significance to idol worship?"

"Of course there is a lot. When your dear son is in America, and you cannot see him whenever you want, do you or do you not get solace by looking at his photograph? You do know that the photo IS NOT YOUR SON, but only a piece of paper with various tones of grey, but it reminds you of your beloved boy and his great love for you. So also the idols in temples are to remind the devotees of the ideal, the Supreme. Since the human mind cannot conceive of a formless Supreme, God is conceived of in the form as represented by an idol. To the earnest devotee, the idol appears as a living embodiment of his Lord, and he goes into ecstasy at its sight. It is, however, necessary to remember that the idol is NOT God, but represents God."

" Why is it, Swamiji, that as in Christianity or Islam, a particular day of the week is not earmarked in Hinduism for temple worship?"

At this question, Swamiji drrew himself up, straightened and roared at the top of His voice; " HINDUISM IS NOT A PART TIME RELIGION." He then explained at length that aspiration to associate with divinity cannot be restricted to any particular time." Have you heard of the school boy who said that `the earth is round on Sundays and flat on other days'? So also, a man cannot be made to be divine on Sundays and devilish on all other days. (Maybe, most of us are that way!)

So constant practice, frequent association with the good etc., are needed. The temple visits and worship should elevate the mind of the seeker and help him to keep his mind in a higher plane. He should also take other steps to continue the purification of the mind at all times of the day, at home, in the office, at the market place."

"What is a pure mind, Swamiji?"

"A pure mind is one which is calm, free from agitations. Agitations are caused mainly by our likes and dislikes and desires. Desires spell disaster, fulfilled or frustrated. Mahatma Gnadhi was very fond of the `Sthitha Pragna' portion of the second chapter of the Bhagawad Geeta, in which the causes and consequences of desire are most graphically described.

It is the ladder of fall: "When a man thinks of objects, attachments for them arises; from attachment, desire is born; from desire (unfulfilled) arises anger; from anger comes delusion; from delusion loss of memory, the destruction of discrimination; from destruction of discrimination he perishes."

Swamiji added: " The Lord also points out then the three great entrances to hell are lust, anger and greed."

One in the audience asked: "I have read a good deal Swamiji, I also have convictions. Yet, to put these values in practice is my problem."

Swamiji :"This was exactly Arjuna's problem. The Lord advised him, Recognise your real enemies. They are desire and anger, born of passionate nature, all devouring and sinful'. Knowing your enemies will enable you to destroy them. Knowing your weaknesses, you will make efforts to discard them. Once you locate a dead rat in your wardrobe, that was emitting foul odour, you will promptly pick it up by the tail and throw it as far away as possible."

"Our sastras have laid down a clearcut procedure. The three - fold practice consists of Sravana, Manana and Nidhidhyasana - Hearing is not in one-ear-out-the other, `It is attentive listening to discourses on our great scriptures (including reading them), contemplating on the ideas contained therein, and lastly meditation.

Many people come and tell me that they have gone through the Geeta many times. I tell them `Let the Geeta go through you once atleast. It will do you more good.'

Not just hearing or reading but absorption of the great ideas contained therein, assimilating them, and living those values will alone produce a radiance in the life of an individual. Proper understanding, and correct attitudes are important. For example, we often meet the allegation that Hinduism is an `out-of-the world religion' meant only for the recluse. The spirit of Hinduism is not understood by those who say this. Wealth is not taboo for the seeker, but the constant craving for wealth IS. Property is not prohibited, but one is enjoined to use it in the service of society.

The vedantic concept of renunciation has nothing to do with have or have-not, in a physical sense; it means the attitude of non-attachment. The classical example of our ancient lore is that of Emperor Janaka, living in the luxury of a palace, but still considered such a great saint and sage that great aspirants went to him for guidance.

If you ask me `how to start', my answer is `Just start'. when? Now !

Today is the best day. A better day will not come.

The greatest master who lived and worked for the cause of religion in India, Adi Sankara, has laid down the prescription:

"Bhagawad Geeta and Vishnu Sahasranama are to be chanted; always the form of the Lord of Lakshmi is to be meditated upon. The mind is to be led towards the company of the good. wealth is to be shared with the needy".

Now, many people wait for retirement to take to religion. They will never take to it, because they will have new problems in the way.

"There goes the lunch time bell. All of you please have prasad at the annakshetra before you go."

Hari om! Hari Om!! Hari Om!!!