“Although understanding God is very difficult, it is not difficult when God Himself gives us His own knowledge. Actually that is the only process by which we can understand God. To understand God by our own speculation is not possible, for God is unlimited and we are limited.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Science of Self-Realization, 1c)Download this episode (right click and save)
“As a preacher, it’s my job to bring members to the congregation. ‘Increase the flock,’ as they say. In gauging the efficacy of our work, it’s better if there are more members than not. In addition to bringing new people in, I need to keep the current members actively engaged. If they just come to the sermons and sit there without thinking, they will not find the experience too enjoyable. If they don’t find it enjoyable, they will look for other ways to pass the same time.
“The problem is that people would rather do so many other things. They would rather watch the pregame shows for the football games on Sundays. They would rather spend time with their cat or dog. They would choose to instead enjoy the late-morning start in bed with their significant other. You see, these other things are easy to understand. The owner knows what their pet looks like. They know what their pet likes to eat. The fan knows where to find their favorite game on television. The film buffs know where the local movie theater is and they can see the different actors on the screen. I can’t seem to get the same connection with my members. I’m at a loss as to what to do.”
In this scenario, the root of the problem is quite clear. There is no understanding of God. The line of “worship or go to hell” falls on deaf ears, as it doesn’t make logical sense. Why would someone be compelled to worship? That goes against the nature of love. With the progress in the material age, with industry having a strong dominance over agriculture, the idea of worshiping a higher power to get things also doesn’t hold water. Why worship God when you can study instead? Why worship when you can do good works to see the tangible results?
The issue is resolved through personalism. Not that the idea of a personal God was created as a way to solve the problem of dwindling members in a congregation, the distinguishable features of the Almighty have always been in existence. They are just difficult to accept, let alone notice. If I see someone with brown eyes, I know that they don’t have blue eyes. If I find blue eyes attractive, I will consider the person with brown eyes to be less attractive. From a single distinguishable feature alone I see that there are distinctions, relative superiority and inferiority.
If such features could be assigned to a higher power, they would be similarly limiting. In addition, human beings are fallible. The animals aren’t so smart. Due to a lack of intelligence, some among us don’t even consider them to be life forms. The animals eat, sleep, mate and defend like humans. They are also in a lot of instances much wiser than the infant human being. So all creatures, human and animal alike, which are qualified through attributes, are imperfect. Therefore how can a higher power have distinguishable features?
Fearing this fallibility, when there is a belief in a higher power there is the tendency towards impersonalism. “I am God. I am truth. I am bliss. I can find all of these things inside of myself.” Another tendency is to make God to be anything that suits the whims. “He takes care of me. He wants me to enjoy this one life that I have. We only get one life. This means that I should enjoy it to the full. This is what God wants me to do.”
There is some validity to both of the above viewpoints. There is bliss inside of me. There is truth as well. Also, God can be understood in terms of my experience through life. However, there is always a separate personality. He lives inside of me as the Supersoul, or Paramatma. He lives inside of you in the same feature. We are not God, but we are with Him all the time. Bliss comes from connecting with Him. One of the ways to know Him is through the description of “sach-chid-ananda.” This applies to His vigraha, or body. He is forever blissful and knowledgeable. This means that anyone who decides to connect with Him will find inexhaustible bliss.
If my experience through life focuses on constant enjoyment, I can know that God holds all transcendental pleasure. Therefore He is known as Rama. If my experience focuses on worship of a higher power to get rewards, I can know that God is the Supreme Personality amongst all the divine figures. Thus He is known as Bhagavan. This word means that He holds all opulences, making Him the chief living entity. He is a person like you and me, but He is the topmost. He is the superior person, Purushottama.
I flock towards things that are attractive, and so the Supreme Lord can be known as the most attractive, Krishna. He prefers to enjoy with others, and so the energy which always enjoys with Him is known as Hare. Just by chanting a simple mantra, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare,” I can know so much about God. In hearing further from authorized works like the Bhagavad-gita, Shrimad Bhagavatam, and Ramayana, I can know what He likes, what He prefers to do, where He lives from time to time, and how I can connect with Him no matter where I am. Whether I am at a place of worship or sitting in an empty room, I can have the same connection.
We can’t properly worship God if we don’t have an understanding of Him. Is this not true? Therefore the Lord is kind enough to provide that understanding through His many sacred texts and the saints who live out the teachings of those texts. Complete understanding never is possible for the human being, but even the slightest glimpse of the reality of the spiritual world is enough to keep the attraction to the Supreme Krishna for the remainder of this life and beyond.
Without even a little of God to know,
Into other activities mind to go.
If understanding only of abstraction,
Then limited to be the attraction.
My experiences and world to relate,
To Supreme who in all categories great.
From understanding take to worship proper,
Those connected to Krishna in this life to prosper.