A rational and spiritual approach to the existence of God. In this three part serial the reasons for the disbelief in God and its solutions are presented
Part - 1
Does God Exist?
It is a million dollar question raised since ages. Of course, the question has been answered time and time again. However, there are always doubts raised about the existence of God. Perhaps it would be appropriate to examine the reasons for such doubts so that the problem can be tackled at the very roots.
Causes for Doubts about God's Existence
The first and foremost cause for such doubts is man's ego. It prevents a person from accepting an authority above oneself, because it would tantamount to playing second fiddle to God, surrendering to God, etc. The inflated ego simply does not permit one to accept God as a divine, superior power.
Abraham Lincoln had echoed the same feeling when he declared: "We have been recipients of the choicest bounties of Heaven... but we have forgotten God... we have vainly imagined that all these blessings were produced by some superior wisdom and virtue of our own. We have become too proud to pray to God that made us... I set apart 30th April, 1863, as a day of national humiliation, fasting and prayer."
Secondly, with the advances in science and technology, people have been more skeptical about their fundamental beliefs in God. They tend to pose such questions: "We cannot see God so how can we accept Him? God cannot be proved through experiment in a laboratory, so how can we accept His existence?" People tend to seek rational grounds for God's existence, forgetting that there are many things in the world, which are beyond reason. It is aptly remarked by someone that a mind all logic is like a knife all blade. It makes the hand bleed that uses it. Hence, such doubts never leave the minds of rational demagogues.
Thirdly, the cause for atheism is the fanatic attitude of some religions. In their fanaticism, they tend to denounce other religions, thus hurting the pious feelings of the followers of such religion. Man looks to religion as the uniting force of humanity but such fanatics, who constantly strike a discordant note, precipitate disbelief in God among the more sensitive people.
Fourthly, association with impostors is also another cause for the loss of faith in God. In the name of religion, they bank on man's inherent fear of God and try to exploit the credulous people to serve their selfish ends. However, when these innocent people come to know of the impostors' misdoing, they tend to lose faith in God. They simply cannot reconcile "cheating" under the banner of religion. The adverse effect of such impostor's misdoing is that the followers then develop disbelief in the words of even true saints and sages, who are the true upholders of religion and belief in God.
Fifthly, atheism develops in one who constantly reads literature that tends to denounce the existence of eternal God.
Sixthly, the base nature of man like carnal passion, anger, greed, egoism, and jealousy also prevents one from accepting the authority of even God realized persons. Hence, doubts about the existence of God always linger on in their minds.
Finally, even great scholars of religious texts fail to understand the true glory of God because they ascribe human failings even to God, just as they themselves have such shortcomings. Having examined the causes for atheism, let us examine the basic qualifications required to develop faith in God.
How Can We Develop Faith in God?
Just as a person seeking for a job as a Manager should have the necessary qualifications and experience, there are certain basic attributes which must be developed in us if we are to develop faith in God. They are as follows:
1. If one can understand the glory of God then faith in God will automatically emerge in an atheist. (Vachanamrut Gadhada II-16).
2. We can be convinced of the existence of God through inference. We can see flames, smoke and clouds rising up in the sky, but we cannot see the wind that causes the rise. But we can certainly infer the existence of wind from the phenomenon. Similarly, God can be inferred from his works.
3. We can be certain of God's existence provided we tread on the path of God realization. Yogi Krishna Prem, a Vaishnav saint, once explained to his friend: "The Grand Trunk Road leads to Delhi. How do you know? Tread on it and you will know." Thus mere theorizing does not help us very much in developing faith in God; one has to practice the various disciplines.
Patient perseverance is another requisite to realize God. K. M. Munshi, the founder President of Bhartiya Vidya Bhavan, once wrote: "I took 16 years to gain a degree, and yet another 12 years to be a good lawyer. But in matters of religion, I wanted immediate results." Certainly, you cannot get mangoes tomorrow from a mango seed sown today. It takes time. But once one has that vision, it is, as E. Schroedinger, a Nobel Laureate in Physics, said: "We know when God is experienced that this is an event as real as an immediate sense perception or as one's own personality."
Once a guru was approached by a disciple. The disciple asked the guru, "Have you seen God?" The guru replied, "Yes, I have seen God." The disciple became impatient and said, " Then show me God." The guru asked him to stay back and promised that he would show God to him. After a few days, the inmates of the ashram happened to go to a nearby lake for a bath. The guru also accompanied them. The inquisitive disciple was also with them. They all plunged in the lake for a bath. After a while, the guru went near the disciple, caught hold of his head by his hair, and pressed hard on him so that the disciple was fully plunged in water. He held him tight under water. The disciple in desperation struggled hard to surface above the water. But the guru seemed to be bent on pressing him under water. The disciple struggled frantically and, at long last, succeeded in releasing the grip of the guru. He was almost drowned. When he surfaced above water, he began to gasp for air. In a couple of minutes he came round and charged the guru for trying to kill him by drowning him. The guru coolly pretended not to heed the complaint. On the contrary, he asked the disciple, "What were you doing under water." The disciple in a fit of anger, retorted, "Good heavens! You seem to be least bothered about my life. Didn't you see how frantically I had to struggle to loosen your grip on my head? How can you be so cruel?" The guru again asked him, "But why did you struggle so frantically to loosen my grip?" The disciple retorted, "Why not? It was a matter of life and death for me. Had I not struggled so hard, I would have died." The guru then told the disciple, "Just as you struggled so hard to save your life, have you undertaken an equally frantic struggle to see God? If you do so, then God will certainly reveal Himself to you."
The story underlines the fact that instant results in matters of God are not to be sought. Perseverance in our endeavor to attain God is a pre-requisite.
Also we must realize that there are some things which lie beyond the ken of intellect. Bertrand Russell in his book "What I Believe" confesses that, "In the near future when the volume of evidence will increase quantitatively, we shall have to revise our opinion and come in line with the findings of religion which are so often branded as trash." Even Pascal has said, "The heart has reasons of its own, which the head can never understand." Jean - Jacques Rousseau, the 18th century French philosopher, opines, "Above the logic of the head is the feeling of the heart." The Holy Bible says, "Blessed are the pure in heart for they shall see God." Bergson has rightly attracted our attention to the possibilities of intuition as a conveyor of direct knowledge. When the heart is thoroughly purified, one develops a sixth sense, viz. intuition of a purified heart, through which comes the experience of super sensuous realities that lie beyond the ken of intellect. The Taittiriya Upanishad has underlined the principle thus: "Yato vaacho nivartante apraapya manasaa saha." That is, "The mind and speech can not approach God and return to their empiric state."
In the Bhagvad Gita when Shri Krishna manifested before Arjun in all his resplendence, Arjun just could not bear to look at him. Only when his senses were divinized by God that he could behold the vision of Lord Krishna.
During the 1977 foreign tour of His Divine Holiness Pramukh Swami Maharaj, a press reporter in his interview of Swamishri asked: "Why can't we see God?" Pat came the reply from Swamishri, "We do see Him but just can't believe Him to be God."
Lord Swaminarayan has explained the same in Vachanamrut 51 of Gadhada section I: "It is like a diamond cutting a diamond. God inspires within the knowledge of His own Self. He can therefore be realized only by the knowledge inspired by Him and not through the 'indriyas' (senses) and 'antahkaranas' (mind, intellect, etc.) which are evolved out of maya."
Thus God transcends our understanding, but through His grace, we can be divinized to know Him.
The next point which goes a long way to develop our faith in God is faith in the scriptures and the God - communion sadhus.
"The scriptures are the source of prevalence of 'Dharma' (religion). One who has not read scriptures, even unknowingly conforms to the rules laid down in the scriptures and acts accordingly with his mother, sister, wife, daughter, etc. These relations and its definitions have been born out of the scriptures and one holds them to be true and behaves with one's relations according to the code of behavior so laid down. The scriptures are therefore the great and only authority. But one who does not respect these scriptures and acts according to his own conception is a heretic. And one who takes the authority of the scriptures, has a strong foundation for the path of God realization," says Lord Swaminarayan in Vachanamrut 13 of Sarangpur Section.
In Vachanamrut 68 of Gadhada section-I, the Lord has said that, "Skepticism develops when one reads scriptures which deny God. The company of believers in such scriptures is also sure to turn one into an atheist... However, if one desires to drive out such sceptic influence from one's mind, one should read Holy Scriptures like the Shrimad Bhagwat, etc."
He goes on to say further in Vachanamrut 27 of Gadhada Section-III, "The saint in whom the vital redemptive attributes (nishkam, nirlobh, nisswad, nissneh, and nirman) are displayed is said to have established rapport with God. Therefore, his words should be taken as the ultimate truth, and the knowledge of God that he infuses in the disciples is the ultimate knowledge and the eternal truth."
His Divine Holiness Yogiji Maharaj was often found talking to the idol of God. Once an inquisitive aspirant asked, "Swamibapa, we can hear you talking to the idol of God. But, does God ever respond to your talks?" Swamishri said, "Of course, he invariably talks to me." The aspirant asked further, "Why is it that we can never hear that voice?" Swamishri replied, "Well, it is like connecting a telephone call to someone. At my end you can hear my part of conversation but can you, by standing nearby, hear what the party at the other end of the line is saying?" Thus through the association with such a saint, who is in direct rapport with God, one can realize God.
Finally, one should keep away from the vilifying influence of the nastikas, for they deny the authority of God and the scriptures. One should pray to God to protect one from such influence (Vachanamrut Gadhada Sec. I-48).
Effects Point Towards the Cause
Just as, when one sees a sword weighing two hundred kilos, one can imagine the greatness of the warrior who can fight with such a sword; similarly, one can visualize God's greatness through His works.
Often we wonder: Who is the sculptor that gave such vivid shapes to the various living creatures? Who is the music maestro who taught the birds their love-song to beckon their mates? Who is that chemist who put juice in the fruits and fragrance in the flowers? Who is the artist who painted the designs of the leaves of the various trees, and put color into the lovely butterflies? Who is the engineer who designed a cow's stomach such that grass is transformed into milk? Who is the manufacturer who made wood out of carbon dioxide and water? Indeed such miracles must have a Miracle-maker taking care of them.
Besides, there are infinite galaxies in the cosmos. Yet they do not meet with accidents. The sun also never fails to rise regularly every day. No barriers blockade the overflow of water from an ocean, yet, it never transgresses its boundaries! No doubt, there must be a controller to regularize all such activities!
Thus we can infer from such observations that a creator-cum-controller is a must and that is God!
Scientific Arguments and Illustrations for the Existence of God
There are various rational arguments posed to deny the existence of God. Some of them are dealt with and explained as follows:
(1) Some people argue, "How do I believe in God when I cannot see Him?" Sri Ramkrishna Paramhansa explains by giving an example, "Thou seest many stars in the sky but findest them not when the sun rises, can thou say that there are no stars, then, in the heaven of day? So, O man, because thou behold not the Almighty in the days of thy ignorance say not there is no God." If a mirror is covered by a layer of dust, I cannot see my image in it. But the moment the dust is wiped off, the image is there. The mirror and the face are the same but the dust obstructed visibility. Similarly, the dust of maya (ignorance) obstructs our view of the Lord."
Since I cannot see your brain, am I to assume you don't have one? More and more powerful instruments are needed to unravel the mysteries of physical sciences. That being so, is it not scientific to accept that mysteries of the Divine can be understood only by sharper and sharper spiritual perceptions?
To cite another example, none of us has seen electricity, however, when the switch is turned on and the lights blaze forth we say there is an electric current in the line. Thus, though we do not see electricity, we infer its existence through its working. The same is the case with God whose working bespeaks His existence.
(2) Yet some people argue, "Can you prove the existence of God with certainty as done in laboratory experiments by science?"
But the skeptics forget that there are many things in science which have no proof yet they are accepted as true. For example, nobody has ever obtained the square root of minus one (i.e., ( \/ -1). But, science has decided to call it 'i' (-1= i) and proceeds on to apply it. Without the said proof, there are so many applications of 'i' in the theory of Analytical Functions which lead to fruitful results. Hence, absence of any experimental proof cannot be a criterion for the non-existence of anything.
Again, Planck gave the 3rd Law of Thermodynamics that, "Entropy of a perfect crystal at absolute zero (temperature) is zero." There is no proof for it as none has yet been able to reach absolute zero temperature. However, it has many practical applications.
Thus absence of experimental proof is no criterion for the denial of anything, least of all God !