Advaita Vision

Advaita for the 21st Century

Belief in God
Ramesh Krishnamurthy

flower picture

The following was posted to the Advaitin Egroup on 29th Aug 2005.

[Following a talk given by Swami Chinmayananda, a modern, young American in the audience openly claimed that he did not believe in God. Swamiji welcomed the comment and responded with the question: "Now come, WHAT KIND of GOD is it, that you don't believe in?"]

This is the answer to all those who believe that there is "no God".

To say that "God" does or does not exist, one first needs to define "God". This is a general principle - to decide whether or not "chairs" exist, one would first need to define "chairs".

When prodded like this, most "rationalists" would define "God" as "one who sits above the skies and dispenses justice" or as some sort of "guardian angel", and then they would exclaim, "of course, such a God does not exist". In effect, what they are saying is that it is futile to "pray" for anything as there is nobody who would listen to those prayers and grant any benefits. Modern education tends to build up the intellect, which then revolts against a conception of a God who rules the world according to his will, who responds to prayers, etc.

However, such a definition of God is a case of scratching the surface, and our Hindu(Vedic) & Buddhist schools go much deeper than that, to the extent that the above definition would be regarded as false or incomplete. Ultimately however, the word "God" is a matter of definition. A very general definition would be "the truth that needs to be realized" and a fundamental aspect of that truth is the loss of the ego, which leads to a cessation of all desires. When I mentioned this to a "rationalist" friend of mine, he agreed. But then he bounced back on the futility of prayer. In effect, he was opposing Bhakti. I told him that Bhakti Yoga is not meant to obtain any gifts like wealth, etc, but is a means to kill the ego. Likewise, all the other yoga-s are meant to kill the ego. While individual schools may differ on the nature of the truth, the killing of the ego and the cessation of desires is, in one way or the other, common to all our Vedic & Buddhist schools. In this light, it is rather meaningless to say "I don’t believe in God". What is the God that you don’t believe in? Fundamentally, God is not a matter of belief at all. One may or may not believe in a particular conception of God, but ultimately, it is the truth to be realized.

On deeper examination, the "rationalist" objection to Bhakti is precisely because it hurts the ego, and it does so right upfront!! The other Yoga-s are a bit less straight-forward in this matter.

Return to list of topics in Discourses by Teachers and Writers .
See the list sorted by Topic.
See the list sorted by Author.

Page last updated: 10-Jul-2012