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Man's Aspiration for God
by Swami Krishnananda

(Taken from Divine Life 1971)

The idea of God in man's mind is mostly a jocular picture of his imagination which he conjures up in himself for his convenience and emotional satisfaction. This concept of God is entirely in his hands and he can handle it in any way he likes. He may even bundle it up and consign it to the limbo if the time for it is not opportune. With many people, even those who are very sincere and honest in their attempts, the position which God occupies in their lives is so weak that He can be deposed at the slightest provocation from outside. The love of God which people speak of is, more often than not, a kind of hobby for leisure hours of the day, an after-dinner talk, when one has nothing more serious to do. And we expect such a poor God to come to our aid in moments of dire need!

Such is our God and such is our religion! The engineer's God is a gigantic machine, and the workman's perfection is the best that he can humanly make with the tools available on earth. The child's God, the businessman's God, the blacksmith's or goldsmith's God, the frog's God or a buffalo's God are all strange types of apotheosis which their own instincts or minds can project into the world of space and time. And even the best of men cannot escape this necessity to delimit his God to the workings of his mind.

There is, thus, no wonder that religion today has become a kind of fancy and even a mockery in the eyes of many. The resort to religion is akin to a Sunday outing from one's office duties or a holiday which one enjoys after the tedium of one's profession. The reality is the profession, not the holiday. And our God is only a convenient mechanism to lever up our imagination of the fullest satisfactions of sense and ego that we would be in a position to conceive at present. We say the world is sinking, society is rotting and the hearts of men are being torn into shreds of an unknown fear of some dread spectre whose whereabouts we have not yet been able to trace properly.

The God who can save man cannot be a creation of man. What we think in our minds is what our imagination has been able to produce, and God cannot be regarded as a product; for, all that is produced is subject to wear and tear in the passage of time and is doomed to come to an end one day. That which is thus destined to be ruined some time cannot save us from danger. He who is to protect us has to be stronger than we are and should contain energies and capacities which far surpass the resources of man. God should be prior to man, if God is to be the saviour of man. If this is going to be the truth about the matter, man cannot think God, for, to think Him would be to reduce Him to the position of a product of his thought, a 'something' which comes after and not before Him, an effect rather than a cause, inferior rather than superior to the status of man who asks for protective aid from it. The concept of God is therefore involved in a fallacy of putting the cart before the horse, a ridiculous procedure of any enterprise of any worth in it. To think God would mean a transposition of oneself anterior to God and man becomes the father of God instead of God being the Father of man.

The situation is indeed frightening and startling. Our usual gods of the daily business of our life, the gods of the marketplace and the shops of religion, are not going to redeem us from this impasse and psychological  muddle. We are so much accustomed to make a machine of religious practice that to us today religion is only a matter of some daily routine of getting up at some time in the morning and going to bed at a prescribed hour, of bowing our heads in some way, fasts and vigils, feasts and ceremonies, pilgrimages and offerings before shrines, a holiness that is put up again on holidays from the realities of life. Well, here the cat is out of the bag! Religious observance is a holiday affair, not the stark truth of one's profession, business or 'duty' in life. This is exactly the reason why religious men have been unhappy men mostly, and temple-goers are not always the examples of a really holy life. Religion born of fear can have little scope to rescue falling man. Dread or suspicion is not natural, even as a mechanistic routine is lifeless.

Also, there is a strange expectation that our God should do to us whatever we want Him to do. This is the very purpose of our daily adorations and prayers. Our longings and hatreds should be made to fructify at the earliest opportunity, nay, just now. If this could be achieved, God is really great, and He does exist. Else, we entertain doubts in regard to Him and might even deny His  existence.  He  does  not exist, because we do not see our passions materialising even with prayers to Him towards this end. 'God is dead,' was the headline of a feature that is said to have appeared recently in an American literary circle. One could not have done better. He should die even if he happens to be there, by chance. Bury him alive, and let not even his ashes be available to anyone.

Can human egoism go further? When the devil dances to the tune of the maddening liquor of sensuousness, the gods flee from their heavens and the rule of lust, greed and ego has its sway over the quarters of the world. Man can kill the god whom he has made,—this is quite as it should be. For, he is only one of the many inhabitants of the world, as man himself is. Our gods are in temples, churches and mosques; in scriptures, routines and celebrations; in words, symbols and images. But He is never in our hearts. Hence we can destroy Him if we like. The prejudice of the scientific trend of thinking, which always wishes to probe into reality through calculations, experiments and observations with the senses, and which threatens to exhaust all available means of human knowledge, permitting no other avenue of approach as valid or reasonable, has gone away with the notion that God is one of the objects of scientific investigation and we can see God as we see an electron, or better still, as we see our bank balance or a cow grazing in the field.

The folly of science is that, it is wedded to the habit of forgetting itself in the process of the investigation of truth. Science has seen many dying or perhaps dead gods, but it has not seen the living God. The eyes of man have not been able to behold life; they have only seen corpses. The religious man, the social worker, the politician, the businessman, the scientist, the teacher, the student, the parent, the child, man and woman,— all alike are seen to be griping with a restlessness and displeasure which seems to be the beginning as well as the end of one's life. It starts with a cry and ends with a sob. No one has lived happily. There has always been a deep dissatisfaction at the end that one's hopes have gone to the dust and one's ambitions have turned to ashes. Man dies without achieving anything substantially. The ignorance of childhood, the blindnesss of adolescence, the vanity of youth, and the disconsolate grief of old age do all lead finally in the dark night of death. The potentates that trod this earth with the thud of their pride of power have been pounded to powder. None will be spared, king or beggar. Everything has to go, and go after a humiliating adventure of the sheer boast which loudly announces that the nose is up, though the body has fallen prostrate in utter defeat at the icy hand of that fierce master of all creation,—Death.

But where does one go? And, why? None has answered these questions, and none can. For, the question demands that the answer be given by each one for oneself and not in terms of what is extraneous to one's concern. A proxy cannot plead the case of the being of man, for being precludes any association with non-being. To look through the microscope and make the observation, it is first of all necessary to ascertain if the one that looks and observes is in order. But what is the test? And who is to make the test? Self-test is never heard of, for, here the process of testing is stultified by the absence of an object before it. If one cannot behold one-self and observe if one is all right oneself, God, too, cannot be seen or observed, for, the term 'God' merely signifies a meaning which is identical with what we term the 'Selfhood' of things. Though a thing can be seen, its selfhood cannot be seen, because what is called the self is opposed to the activity of seeing in space and in time.

Hence, God is spaceless and timeless. The Self cannot die, for, to conceive of death, there should be a selfhood behind that conception. The state of transition, change or destruction is what is 'known'. The knower of it cannot, therefore, die. If the knower of death is also to die, there could be no such thing as death. God, thus, is immortal.

To learn to know or realise God would, then, be to undergo the training necessary to know anything at all in its reality, for, nothing can be more real than the 'selfhood' of a thing. This would be the true education of man, since no other system of study would give us a greater meaning of life. In fact, every other system of education should be regarded as a mere play with unrealities, for, these themes do not touch the self of any thing or object, while they are busy with the forms and shapes it takes in space and time. The world we live in is one of general mortality everywhere, because all that we know, including our own bodies, is a form in space and time, and, thus, bereft of 'selfhood', which is neither a thing nor an object in the space-time manifold. God-realisation would become, thus, the only goal of all beings. Instead of doubting the existence of God, we have really to doubt if anything else exists at all.

If God is the Self of all things, the Supreme Self (Paramatman), why do we not see him? Merely because He is the Self. The Self is not meant to be seen, for, the Self is the Seer. Who is to see the Seer, asks the sage Yajnavalkya, in the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad. Since the Self is the knower, the Self cannot be known. God cannot be seen with the eyes or contacted through any other sense organ. Not only this; the Self is the thinker and understander, and hence the Self cannot be thought or understood. God is beyond mind and understanding.

Then, what on earth does one mean by realisation of God? Here we come to the crux of the whole matter, a difficult task before us, something which we have not heard of and cannot easily appreciate with the intellect. When we ask for God, we really want to see God as God and not as something else. To see God as God would be to see Him as the Self of all things, for, that is His real nature. But to ask for a God who can be seen with the eyes of flesh would be to ask for a thing of the world, of which we have already plenty. What, then, are we asking for? God, as He is. Well, then, it is to see the Self. Who can see the Self? Because, the Self is the seer!

While the Seer sees not anything else, he really sees, says sage Yajnavalkya. And he sees in a very special way, and not as we see things here. He sees by non-objectification or non-externalisation, for, the Self ceases to be what it is the moment it is externalised. In fact, the externalised form of the Self is this world of objects, which we see with the sense-organs. To know God, who is Supreme Self, the non-Self character in our knowledge of things has to be abandoned and the Selfhood in it retained in consciousness. This is the way of sense-control (Pratyahara) and retention of consciousness in its Selfhood (Dharana) as  well as a perpetuation of this state of consciousness-retention (Dhyana). The Self, here, returns to its original state of Supreme Being or Godhood, which is the universal reality of all things (Samadhi).

“No one can behold Krishna, who has not controlled his senses,” says Sanjaya to Dhritarashtra, in the Udyoga-Parva of the Mahabharata. To see Truth is to participate in its character which is non-objectivity and non-externality, for, Truth is That which is, and what is cannot be an object to itself. This is all the difficulty in the effort at the realisation of God,— it is impossible to come anywhere near Him unless one is prepared to sacrifice all that the senses and the mind hold as real, good and beautiful. For, what is truth, goodness and beauty to the senses and externalised mind is the form and the shape that the universal Self has taken in the externalisation of space-time. It is tantamount to veritable death, to try to realise God. It is forbidding to anyone who takes this world as of any value. A unification of all perceptions and concepts in a Selfhood which knows no exterior to itself, which is inclusive of all forms and shapes, which lies not outside or inside but which is the very being and self of anything and everything, is the art of Yoga, the way to God. Man does not seem as yet to be prepared for this ordeal of fire.

But there is no other way (Na anyah pantha vidyate). This is the fate and fortune of man that he has to weep before he rejoices in the bliss of Godhead. His very individuality and personality gets disintegrated in the sorrow of his separation from all things he held up to this time as dear and near. Yes; this disintegration of form is the precondition of that integration of soul in the Universal Person (Vaishvanara), who, in his relentless majesty, soars beyond the piteous cry of earthly love and delight and the crushing pain of mortal power and the shell of the world's learning. Glorious and splendid is that supernal State of God, who is thy very being and self, here and now. But, Yoga is the path that leads to Him. Tapas is the way. And it is the mustering in of the powers of sense and mind away from viewing and assessing what is outside, for the sake of being inundated in the flood of That which is everywhere as the truth and selfhood of all things. Nothing should be more clear, and nothing a greater need.