Friday, February 23, 2007
Who is God?
I shall use the synonym Ishwara to indicate God.
In advaita Ishwara ultimately is the One, non-dual entity.
From a jiva's standpoint we can understand Him at two levels.
One level is as Bhagawan, as Prabhu, the Lord and Master of all
beings, as the bestower of the fruits of ones actions – karmaphaladata.
This level of understanding is indeed common to all dualisitic faiths
and philosophies and has its own degree of paramount importance in
ensuring the growth of the individual and ripening his ego for the
Another level of understanding Ishwara is as the substratum or truth
about Everything and Everyone and that includes me, meaning He is the
none other than the Truth about me, or I the Self am non-different
from Him – he is Akshara Purusha, or Parabrahman or Paramatman, or
Atman or Brahman – all synonyms.
Let us use the dream analogy to try and understand this.
I weave a vast world in my dream. This dream is created out of myself
and takes place in myself and ultimately resolves into myself. I am
the efficient cause of this dream. I am also the material cause for
this dream. Every river, mountain, planet, star, animate and inanimate
objects in this dream all are Me, the substratum alone. Yet while
these are in Me, I am unrelated to them. Thousands of these dream
universes can arise in me and can resolve unto me, millions of big
bangs can come and go, yet I the Creator/Sustainer/Destroyer am
Now for an individual in the dream, I am the Lord of the Dreamworld.
If I had control over the activities in the dreamworld, then I am the
only recourse for anyone in the dream. I am the only One who can save
them and the entire world's activities are governed by laws
orchestrated by Me alone.
How do I the uninvolved One create as it were this dreamworld. By a
power that is both intrinsic and nonseparate from me – this power is
Maya. Maya is not a "separate" thing and hence does not enjoy
independent existence. You cannot distill Maya out of me and try to
see how I am without Maya or how Maya is without Me. On the other hand
Maya is not nonexistent as long as the dream enjoys its existence
either in an expressed or potential latent form.
What gives each individual in the dream a sense of separateness from
the whole, and an inability to perceive a nondistinction between
himself and the world that this dream individual perceives? It is
ignorance about himself. What to the individual is ignorance or avidya
is none other than the same principle responsible for the dream itself
which is Maya. The former pertains to the poor helpless individual in
the dream, the latter pertains to the "Creator" of that dreamworld, Me.
Now if the entire concept of the dream, the Creation is removed, then
what exists is Me alone.
This is a helpful way to understand Ishwara.
Ishwara is a mayavi in the sense of being a wielder of Maya –
understand again though that this Maya is not a "separate" thing that
He wields like a sceptre.
The world that we seemingly cognize and have to deal with is mithya –
not in the sense of an illusion, but in the sense of not having a
substantive reality other than its material cause which is Ishwara.
What is mithya is our seeing it as different with such surety and with
no second thought whatsoever in assuming its validity. This is the
power of Maya.
This world is not a haphazard mutant entity. It is sheer intelligence
in and through.
You take any phenomenon in this world and what you find is infinite
layers of intelligence.
An infinitelsmally small cell has such complexly intricate
intelligence interwoven into every facet of its structure and function
that if every scientist in the world were to spend every living moment
trying to analyze it with every ounce of effort time and resources for
the next hundred years they would still be where we are today – an
infinite distance away from understanding it. That is the beauty or
marvel of infinity – or Divinity – it is always "ten fingers yonder"
Now, one has to account for this order. This is the basis for the
famous watchmaker analogy. A Design implies a Designer. If you asked
me how did a watch get built and I tell you pieces of glass and metal
just got built by itself and started ticking along with meticulous
precision, you will (hopefully) wish me luck with my future therapy
And yet when it comes to the most amazing design spectacle ever, some
people still have a hard time coming to terms with accepting an
Having said that to assign this status to a "person" only, be it
Krishna or Shiva or Vishnu, and giving a separate status to everything
other than this personality is also immature.
The example Vedanta uses is that of a spider – urnannabhih – just a
spider creates a web and is both the efficient and material cause for
Why is this important? Once we expand our understanding to this, then
everything in Creation becomes sacrosanct. A flower is now not "just"
a flower – it is saakshaat Ishwara – hence it is in our tradition that
a flower as Prasad is first applied to the eyes before the lady will
put it in the hair – it signifies that this flower is as sacred to me
as my own eyes.
Acknowledging Ishwara in the manner in each and every facet of
Creation one appreciates that nothing – neither here nor yonder – is
separate from Him. "Ishawasya idam sarvam" And in this acknowledgement
is sown the seeds of surrender – because if nothing is separate from
Him, then I am certainly not separate from Him. In fact the only thing
that separates me from Him is my own notion of separateness, which is
none other than that 600 pound gorilla, my Ego or I-sense. This is
what I need to transcend by acquiring the right knowledge about myself
– and in this Ishwara and his Order which again is Ishwara alone will
come to my rescue. "The LORD is my rock, and my fortress, and my
deliverer; my God, my strength, in whom I will trust; my buckler, and
the horn of my salvation, and my high tower."
In His own words - "Manmanaa bhava madbhakto madyaajee maam namaskuru;
Maamevaishyasi satyam te pratijaane priyo'si me" Always think of Me
and become My devotee. Worship Me and offer your homage unto Me. Thus
you will come to Me without fail. I promise you this because you are
My very dear friend.