Is the universe pre-determined? This question is often raised. But there is no satisfactory reply. Spinoza, the philosopher of Europe, says that if the universe is pre-determined then God has no role to play in it. Which is why there is need for freedom. Dr S Radhakrishnan says that freedom and necessity lie intertwined in nature without this element of freedom, the cosmic process will appear to be a puppet play, says St. Augustine. DEAR Reader, is there a God? No, if we mean by God a “superhuman being” (Oxford dictionary) or if we mean by it a God with a form. But there is an intelligence in the universe, which seems to guide it. We may call it God or by any other name.
Did God create the universe? No. The universe was always there. If we admit that God created the universe, we would raise questions that we can never answer. That is why we say that God and the universe are coeval. Shelly, the poet, says: “The by-pothesis of a pervading spirit co-eternal with the universe remains unshaken.” This is the position taken by Kapila, author of Sankhya system of philosophy.
If God has no form, then what is God like? To this question, Einstein has an answer. He says: “My religion consists of a humble admiration of the illimitable supreme spirit, Who reveals Himself in the slightest detail we are able to perceive with our frail and feeble minds. That deeply emotional conviction of the presence of a supreme reasoning power, which is revealed in the incomprehensible universe forms my idea of God.” We are all familiar with this “reasoning power”.
I am quite happy with Einstein’s concept of God. Do I need a form of this “reasoning power”? Hardly. In any case, any attempt at representation of God is as futile as the effort to picture an electron. The electron is inconceivable.
As God has no form, is it right to set up idols? Yes. Why? Because it is only through symbols of the formless that we can think of God. Symbols are used in all religions. For example, Light. Light is a symbol of God in all religions.
This is not the only argument on the question of form. Vivekananda asks: Who is it that has taken all the forms that exist in the universe? Obviously God.
The fact is: It is inconceivable to think of God in the abstract, says Vivekananda. He writes: “We all believe God to be without form or shape, but as we begin to think of him, he acquires form and name.” This is true for the vast majority of mankind, including Muslims. They cannot think of God in the abstract. Only a few can do so. Which is why gods have come to have forms. Forms help men concentrate their thought on the form. This also explains why Shankara provided an Ishwara in his doctrine of Advaita. In short, at the heart of every symbolic representation lies that which is beyond form. It is equally true that one sees God according to one’s nature. And the nature of a man depends on how the three gunas-satvic, rajasic and tamasic-are combined in a man. As the nature of men differ from one to another, they can have a God of their own, says Vivekananda. Interestingly Gandhi agrees with it.
Hindus suggest three paths to salvation. They are bhakti, karma and jnana. Of these bhakti is rather selfish, for it seeks the salvation of the individual only. Ramakrishna is the finest example of a bhakta. In karma, one does service to mankind. The best examples are Mahatma Gandhi and Vivekananda. And finally we have jnana, which seeks salvation through knowledge of God. The Jnani spreads enlightenment among men. The best example of the jnani is Sri Aurobindo.
Is the universe pre-determined? This question is often raised. But there is no satisfactory reply. Spinoza, the philosopher of Europe, says that if the universe is pre-determined then God has no role to play in it. Which is why there is need for freedom. Dr S Radhakrishnan says that freedom and necessity lie intertwined in nature without this element of freedom, the cosmic process will appear to be a puppet play, says St. Augustine.
The concept of God never went beyond anthropomorphism among the Semitic faiths. To them God without form was inconceivable. They say that God made man in his own image. What does this mean? It means that God looks like man. The concept of a universal God, a God of all mankind, was never thought of by the Semitic faiths.