Tuesday, February 12, 2013

SPIRITUALITY 3 – MY FAVOURITE GOD – RESPONSES TO OBSERVATIONS


SPIRITUALITY 3 – MY FAVOURITE GOD – RESPONSES TO OBSERVATIONS

I am happy that my previous posting ‘My Favourite God’ has evoked some interesting observations and I thought it would require a separate posting by itself to give my responses. The summary of the observations is as below:

1)Does it still matter if it is false hope? Does objective truth not matter at all?

2. Ignorance can be confused with courage; more knowledge in almost all cases leads to more worries (which is what God was essentially telling us in the Bible, it seems to me). Does that mean we give up trying to know stuff and 'embrace the mystery' of the universe?
3. something that cannot be defined or within the comprehension of the human mind - Yet(if, by this, you mean the universe in general, for which I presume I could say God is a stand-in)!



4) Even if I were ever to accept that there is a God, the idea that He/She/It is fundamentally unknowable seems a tad defeatist about humanity in general and contrary to the principle of a benevolent God. Surely, a compassionate God who condescends enough to bother with human affairs would also make it so that He is easily comprehensible with a minimum of effort.

I have tried to respond as per my own understanding of life, not that I am writing this as a disclaimer but because I sincerely believe that everyone has his own view of life and a code of ethics he follows to ensure a comfortable conduct of his life.

First let us tackle the question of false hope. Hope is hope, it cannot be false or true. This question can only arise only after the event you were hoping for happens. So we can never be judgemental where ‘Hope” is concerned, for once the event happens hope vanishes.

Nowhere is it said that ignorance can be confused with courage. Knowledge is without boundaries. It has always been the quest of the human to know more and more in the ‘Hope’ that he will understand the mysteries of life. He has discovered through the centuries, through thousands of years, that there is still more to discover. Whatever knowledge he gains there will always be more to be gained. I do not think that we can ever envisage the end of knowledge. If it so happens then that will be the end of the world and that is what I believe. That is why I have given the analogy of infinity. For me God is infinity and so incomprehensible in that sense.

I have stated above that man’s quest has always been to know more and more about the mysteries of the universe. The question I am faced with at this juncture is why should man at all be interested in unravelling the mysteries of the world in which he is living. He could have simply lived like other animals – hunted for food and procreated as a natural impulse. It was when he felt threatened by the furies of nature that he devised means of shielding himself from the elements and that was when he started to think of better and better ways of protecting himself. And that’s where the key word lies ‘protecting’. That is his fear of extermination. I may sound dramatic but the truth is every human being is filled with the anxiety of non existence whether he outwardly shows this or not. There comes a time when he sits down and contemplates on the futility of his existence and this happens when he is faced with a crisis – the loss of a loved one or stricken by a life threatening disease. This anxiety is recognised in the entire journey of western philosophy from Socrates to Sartre. Like you said that there is nothing wrong with labelling oneself, I agree with that and the fact that it will give rise to a discourse between groups. This is required because contrarian views are necessary for arriving at some understanding of the problem on hand. I said that I do not believe in attaching a label to myself because God for me is a subjective experience and very personal.

I believe that all religions offer ‘hope’ in the form of God. That is not bad at all for that is what has bound the social fabric through the centuries. You will agree that every individual is unique in the sense that they differ in their realisation of the potential within them, in our parlance some are more intelligent than others, so your statement that ‘more knowledge leads to more worries in almost all cases’ will be applicable to the lesser fortunate among us, let them be happy in a God that gives them hope. If we try telling them that ‘life is absurd’ and there is no such thing as God what will happen to them? That’s where religion comes in to play. Even the existentialists who believe this do give a hope by saying that we should live an authentic life. You and I will understand this as leaving something behind to make our life meaningful and authentic. Even this viewpoint, that though there is nothing beyond death, still there is an inherent wish to eternalise oneself.

That is where I talked about the Gita, because apart from trying to make us understand that the Supreme Being or Brahman, which we label as God is an all encompassing concept, it provides a code of ethics and a way to live an authentic life and it gives hope through the concept of Karma. Whether you believe in God or not, whether you believe in Karma or not, man’s quest has been to eternalise himself. It is only because of this urge that he creates, he discovers.

The day I discover God I shall cease to exist in this external world for I will not have anything more to understand. May be that’s what happened to the Buddha and all the other saints chronicled in the course of the history of man. Not that they stopped interacting with the world around them but set about helping others to cope with the miseries of existence in a better way. They showed the way to salvation – by this I mean a freedom from the bondage that each individual is bound by. I find no dichotomy in this and the view of the existentialists notably Sartre who says “Man is condemned to be free; because once thrown into the world, he is responsible for everything he does”. I believe that the Buddha says something similar. For Sartre “Existence precedes essence – that is man first of all exists, encounters himself, surges up in the world and defines himself afterwards”. I believe the Gita also shows the way to define ourselves.

Compassionate, benevolent or a condescending God are all labels we have given. As I understand God is as compassionate, or malevolent as we ourselves are. That is because he is within ourselves and we cannot stop believing ourselves.

3 comments:

Varsha said...

Very well explained leaving no doubts in the mind.
I agree, most people need the name of God, as it gives rise to hope. Hope is what makes all of us move on from one day to another.
Yet what happens in the name of God is what makes me feel disturbed.
All the rituals, the dogma, the superstitions, the fundamentalism, the false hopes given and money exchanged for the same, fooling all the people all the time, makes me feel distressed.

Anonymous said...

I especially like the concluding statement. Beg to differ slightly. Just as the child in the womb is without any accumulation of karma (that is what we would like to believe, even though, by the beliefs it is being born to work out the karma accumulated from previous births), God is everything that is pure and infinite. Self realization is just removing the cobwebs of Maya and dig deeper into that pure self.
On Varsha's comments, there is no cause to be disturbed, they ae just accumulating their karma and those of the other Jiva's in the world. The sum total should net out at some point, and that time, the world as we know it will cease to exist.
Vasanthi

Rao said...

"...all religions offer ‘hope’ in the form of God. That is not bad at all for that is what has bound the social fabric through the centuries." - Yes, it did, for the lack of anything better. By the same logic, we could say Ayurveda worked in curing diseases for centuries too; but this is not an argument against its near ineffectiveness in the present world, in comparison to Allopathy. In the past, we have had religions to 'explain' (not really anyway!) the unexplainable, but now, when we have science explaining so much more in a mere 4-5 centuries, so what need do we have for them anymore?

And when I say 'false hope' I mean that it is a hope that is unlikely to help in a tangible way. Would you prefer that a person suffering from disease rest their hope in God and prayer? We know that this does not help, which is why we consult a doctor first and not a deity, when we are sick. Is it not right that I wish my fellows do the same too, that they choose an option that is most likely to help them? (And if you say, it's not necessarily a choice between one and the other, that a person can consult a doctor and pray, well, where do we draw the line then? I am not trying to make the Slippery slope argument here; all I am saying is, at what point do we say, 'X belief is okay' or 'Y belief is detrimental to a person or society'? The only consistent way to approach this is using the scientific method: Is there evidence to justify belief X or Y? If yes, we take the belief as fact, and if not, we take it as falsehood for all practical purposes.) Ultimately, we all have to strive for a more rational world because reason and logic (as embodied in science) are the only principles that have succeeded in explaining how the world works and therefore helped in bettering the human condition. Religion on the other hand, personal or otherwise, is an antithesis to scientific thought by its very nature, and consequently detrimental to humanity.

And lastly, I agree in general with your contention that we label God. (Although I would go further and say that we create God!) But I think your definition of God, as someone within all of us, renders the whole concept of a deity so inconsequential as to make both of our positions indistinguishable for all practical purposes. I will accept your definition and say, what need do we have of a concept of God then, when all we need is respect and love for fellow humans!