“My quest for the god” – The title isn’t grammatically incorrect – I specifically made it the way it is. I put in the word “the” there, and de-emphasised the word “god”. Since all religions claim monopoly on the god – not a god, therefore the term the is more appropriate.
But today I want to discuss my personal god, not a generic god, nor someone else’s god. And given the plurality of gods, and the fact that existence of god has not been scientifically proven yet, at this time, the term “god” represents a common noun, not a proper noun. Hence I removed the capital G. If the capital G is necessitated because I must show my respect for the god – well the respect is a matter of personal relationship between me and my god. Respect is not defined by, or as, a capital letter. Capital letter represents a human definition of “respect” – and I would hope that my god is beyond requiring an outward, consensual sign of respect from me. In fact I will say that my god is beyond needing my respect for him. Any respect that I offer, is for my benefit. My god doesn’t care about such human practices. So I don’t honestly care about making a big deal about “respecting god” the way others do. My respect is internalised. I don’t need to offer outwardly proof.
I believe in god. I do. Not in the way religious people do, but as a universal creative force, something that created, creates and sustains us. If being religious entails being aligned to supporting the sustenance of the universe, I think in that sense I am more religious than anyone else I personally know, or have known, even though I may not outwardly appear to be dogmatically religious. So we have a question here – what constitutes religiosity? And can religiosity be universally defined, or is the definition personal as well, in the way the definition of god is personal.
I’m not sure what the god would looks or feels like, but then, this writing is precisely in service of such a quest – an attempt to sort out the entangled web of confusion that often overpowers me as various god images descend into my consciousness during the depth of my meditations.
At various points during my meditative states, I see fleeting images of gods. Miraculously, these images are almost always of Hindu gods. The gods of my ancestors. There have been a few others sporadically, but prominent among them has been Shiva.
I am from Kashmir, and I recently found out that Kashmir had a line of Shaivite descendants. So my collective conscience must be replete with Shaivism. Shiva makes sense. Shiva empowers me. The power of Shiva is formidable. It brings forth tears to my eyes to think that I am be protected by Shiva. Shiva then is seems to be an outward projection of my need to be protected. It seems like a psychic solution of that need. Despite the kick ass bravado, somewhere down there, I must be afraid of being alone. Somewhere deep down inside my charade of invincibility crumbles and I know myself as insecure, vulnerable. Somewhere deep down, I am terrified of having to bear the burden of responsibility for my existence all alone. And hence I put up psychic defenses to survive that existential terror. I conjure up an invisible powerful friend that creates in me an illusion of safety.
Shiva may actually be a god in some shape and form somewhere out there. I don’t deny his existence at all. What I am saying is that the entity inside of me, that comes to me during my meditations, is a structured psychic response to my need for comfort and power. With Shiva, I feel powerful, and certain. My confidence is based on predictive validity. Without Shiva, I become acutely aware of my nothingness, my powerlessness, of the existential uncertainty and chaos. Shiva is the father who I assume protects me.
Does the god exist in the form of Shiva? Is Shiva really the God. Is there more to the God than Shiva? These questions are beyond the realm of my discussion. What exists out there, I don’t know. I don’t want to make someone else’s truth as mine. I don’t like to parrot the scriptures without personal experiences of their teachings. What exists within is all I can safely discuss as I have personally experienced it.
If the internal Shiva a psychic image, then it follows that the inner Shiva is also a manifestation of Maya? The power of Shiva may be indisputably existent, but the form is a manifestation of Maya – a veil of name/form (naam roop) is thrown upon the true character of the God, which now appears to me as Shiva. I am sure some scripture somewhere explains this logic and reasoning as well, and those may be more detailed, more philosophical, or more explanatory – but that is not my truth, it has not been experienced by me. Personal experience – or as Buddha puts it – swayam ki anubhuti – is always more superior, and authentic, to reciting something from rote.
If the form is a manifestation of Maya, then the name/form of Shiva does not – cannot – fully capture the divine. Manifestations are limited in their abilities, the limitations being imposed by the limitations of human existence. We can see only a fraction of the universe, we can hear only a fraction of the universe…and so on. . .and so the universe that we see and know and feel is not the true representation of the universe out there. Is this the hologram we live in? Is this universe as solid as it appears to me, or is it just a probability, Schrodinger’s wave that collapses unless someone is watching? My universe appears solid, 3 dimensional. What it actually is, is beyond my experiences.
So the Shiva of my dreams, visions and manifestations is a HUMAN aspect of god. A 3 dimensional aspect of the god. Or, we can say that it is a simplified aspect that presents itself to me, to keep me going – in the same way I would present a toy gun to a child, to make him feel powerful.
Did I just disrespect Shiva? No – not at all. I removed the veil of illusion from the physical manifestation of Shiva that I am asked to worship. The Shiva of my dreams/visions. My experiences of the universe, of oneness, of oblivion, of nothingness are also experiences of Shiva. But either the image of Shiva in my psyche doesn’t represent those experiences, or those experiences are somehow dissociated with the image of Shiva in my psyche – which is the fault of our religious upbringing. The image of a stilted personification is extremely limited.
I always had problems with Bhakti Yoga. I just did not know what my problems were. This is it. How can something personified as a human create an experience of the divine? How can one believe without an experience? How long must faith without experience go on, and how blindly can we continue for how long? People do. More power to them. I can’t. I have a fully functional brain.
This problem of limitation arises because we ascribe certain un-god-like qualities to our gods. Our scriptures declare the god to be all-gracious, all-kind, all-blissful, all-loving, almighty. These are our needs, our expectations, our desires. We look for these qualities because with all the sufferings we go thru, and in ways that we struggle thru life, we would like to be under the umbrella of someone kind, blissful, loving, and powerful.
But – and its a very powerful but – these words are human constructs, they are products of our language, which again is a human achievement. The words are meaningless in the language of the universe. For example, what does kindness and love mean in context of the big bang? In the context of galactic infrastructure? In the context of formation of a star, or a black-hole? Do you see where I am going with that? To limit a god to earthly requirements, and limit him by bestowing on him human virtues, is ridiculous. We humans are an anomaly, not the norm.
The only entity that bestows grace, kindness, bliss, love and power on us, is ourselves. We are most in need of mercy, grace and love, and only we can grant ourselves mercy, grace and love. If an external god could bestow these, there would not be so many devoid of god’s grace, mercy and love in the world. Or perhaps god’s grace passes thru the Karmic filters. Perhaps that limits the grace. But a benevolent, kind, loving god would bestow grace and forgiveness on everyone, regardless – no? Anyway, regardless of god’s grace, we ourselves have the power to be merciful, graceful, and loving towards ourselves – and such virtues do NOT have to pass thru the filters of karma. So in that sense, we are more powerful in some ways than god.
This is where I grapple with the construct of power. Perhaps god is powerful. Or perhaps his powers are limited. The power of god doesn’t seem to be random – for he seems to follows laws.
Scriptures state that god is powerful because he has the power of maya below him. This seems to be untrue. The power of Maya is not below him, he does not control Maya. The power of Maya is within us. And to the extent that Maya can be controlled, it is conrolled by us. Maya lives within humans – the limitations of human capabilities represents Maya. My inability to see the quantum world, and my inability to see the infrared, and ultra violate spectrum of light, or my inability to see beyond a certain distances, or my inability to experience the 11 ( or 100) dimensions of the universe represents Maya. My need to have names for shapes represents Maya. My inability to see how we are all connected, or to understand the mysteries of the universe, represents Maya. Maya is not out there. Maya is a consequence of the lack of our human infrastructure, limitations of the contraptions given to our bodies. Maya is thus within us. Or shall we say Maya is an attribute of our humanity, just like spin is an attribute of an elementary particle.
Maya is personal because the measure of our ignorance is personal. Those that are more enlightened, have overpowered Maya to a certain extent, science attempts to unveils Maya. Those that live a more worldly materialistic life, are strongly gripped by Maya. A child’s imagination encompasses Maya. But Maya overpowers each one of us to some extent at least. Being human, is being in the grip of Maya. Humanity cannot extinguish Maya. It represents a limitation on humanity, Maya is a metaphor for and a symptom of our human-ness. To be human, is to live in a maya-jaal (web of deceit).
God is also labelled as omnipresent. This adjective depends on how god is defined. If god is defined as the consciousness that binds us and flows thru every elementary particle that forms the basic building black of this creation – whether animate or inanimate – then god is omnipresent. If god is defined as an observer, observed, or as a creator, created, and creation – then god is a obviously in every particle, and therefore omnipresent. But does such an omnipresent god have the ability to break the laws of creation? In other words – is he really all powerful? I would think not. Such a god’s powers would be limited in the same way the powers of a President are limited. Any change would be passed thru a string of parliamentary boards – a will to exercise authority would have to pass thru the rigors of the rules of creation – or chaos would result.
On questions of gender – is god a male or a female? This is again a redundant question. Most of the creation is inanimate, and genderless. Gender is a human construct. It is not a thing that exists in nature. Certain elements of the creation have a certain way of reproducing themselves. They use genital organs. Other elements of creation are enabled with asexual reproduction. Still other elements have other ways of reproducing themselves – like atoms for example – which allows electrons in its outer rings to be “gifted” or “stolen” from other atoms. It is a different method of reproduction than the semen exchange. But it is a exchange nevertheless that leads to “reproduction”. We humans just perceive such reproduction differently, and conceptualize and label it differently.
Since everything we have is in the image of god, a universal god wouldn’t really be gendered if such an entity has the ability to bring forth sexual, asexual and atomic reproductions as well. The genders are subsumed in the “it-ness” of god. The god is beyond gender.
The god-property I most value, and that which seems realistic, are the the nirakar, which means formless God. This is the true property of the god. A god that morphs into all shapes and forms – kinda like plastercine. The shapes and forms are projections of my psyche. The shapes are based on my needs, my requirements. The shapes are thus inside of me.
The property of nirgun – virtueless is a strange one. All virtues of the universe are subsumed, because the term virtue is a human construct as well. What virtue can one ascribe to Pluto? Or to Andromeda, or to a Black Hole, or to an electron ? Or perhaps we can construct millions of virtues for each of these. But all such virtues would be constructed, they are contextual, they are a consequence of evolution of language. They are a product of Maya. In of itself, the term virtue is an oxymoron, it has no meaning.
Can we then agree that when one loses language, one loses Maya ? Can we establish the supremacy of experience over thought, over intellect? Can we agree that intellect creates Maya, or can we say that intellect demolishes Maya? Perhaps both statements are true. Too much of intellect creates delusions. Too little leaves us ignorant.
The problem with this – and such philosophical debates is that they don’t really go anywhere. They’re just represent a diahorrea of words, and constipation of ideas. The debates themselves are endless.
So – how about we use drop all arguments, and counter arguments, and just say the god simply “is”. Period. The simplest definition of god then becomes this : the god is my experience of myself.
The argument arises – which myself? Is god the experience of myself when I was 5 or when I was 20, or when Am now 55? Well, we can go a step forward and say that the definition of god is my experience of myself in the here and now. In this moment.
This definition makes god multifaceted, limitless, and full of potential and potentialities as the scriptures espouse. What the scriptures espouse, I can never understand until I experience it. Hence such a definition allows me to experience the god in his/her/it’s fullest. And it allows my experience of the god to improve with my ability to experience. It allows endless unfoldings that align with my own growth. And since I change every minute, my experience of god is never static. Since I am a reflection, and the reflected, and the reflector, I can figuratively see myself in every which way like in a 3 way mirror, in a 3 dimensional manner – which is all I am capable of seeing anyway. The rest is beyond me.
Since that which lies beyond my experience of myself, cannot be experienced by me, therefore my experience of god that is beyond my personal experience is not possible, and therefore irrelevant. It is mere speculation. It will be a child like imagination. If there is something that exists beyond me, it represents the unknowable, something I will never understand, and thus should not concern myself with. If I can just understand that which is given to me, that is enough.
I don’t think I answered all the questions that I started with. Perhaps there are no answers. Or perhaps the answers are a few million years or a few million miles, or a few million dimensions away from humanity.
If everything about everything is known, would that make god redundant or would it establish the need for god or would it establish the existence of god? I don’t know. But I know that the next time I see an image of Shiva arising in my meditations, I can understand this image better than I did before today, because i will be linking it to my personal experience of myself in that moment – which is also the experience of fullness of god.
My argument can extend to any god or deity like Jesus, Prophet Mohammad etc. In the end, there is no truth, except for the experience of here and now. Hence it is best that we follow this absolute truth – and see things as they are, at that moment, not as we want them to be in some other time and place.
With metta to all.