When I reached intellectual maturity I began to ask this question to myself. What is God and where did the concept of God come from? Has anybody seen God?
For many centuries the idea of God has been part of human history.
It has been difficult to brook disagreement with the theists who have been bristling God with adjectival fury—an impossible incongruity. Discussion ab-out God’s existence has been dawdling for hundreds of years since men began to disregard the Sun as God. Now more profound insights have em-erged.
My disentanglement with God is now complete. I have the courage to extricate myself from a prospective reward of heaven or a punishment in hell. Men have been living too long in the dark with this unknown God who nobody has ever seen or heard him speak.
The concept of a living God is too austere a discipline for the didactic and too vulgar an interpretation for the polemic thinker. The demand of God to pra-ise him for the benefit of humanity has been faxed on the wrong muse for a very long time.
Science and religion both claim about the fundamental workings of the universe. But the existence of God is a probability and a religious experience of God is very private. In seeking evidence for the existence of God in our Gita—a concise Hindu theology with profound philosophies of life, I am simply trying to bring attention to the fact that I am presenting a common and venerable point of view, not advancing a new insightful line of reasoning.
Gita addresses the discord between Krishna and Arjun, allegorically, between the senses and intuition of cosmic order, a unified outlook of “Self” (Atma) and a “Supreme being” (Bhagavan). Now, what is Atma (Soul)? Who is this Bhagavan (Paramatma)?
One of the direct audiences to the discourse (another is Hanuman on top of the chariot) was “San-jay who was watching the War in Hastinapur near Delhi, using Divya Drishti, gifted by Rishi Ved Vya-sa”, 200 hundred miles away in Kurukshetra, Har-yana.
Gita is not an Upanishad ie a Vedic scripture. It is drawn from the Mahabharat War and is classified as Smirity text (Dharma Sastra). It is written as Slo-kas (verses) in the Sanskrit meter (Chhandas) and is often rhymed in poetic form.
Gita is not part of Mahabharat. The date and authorship of Gita is unknown. Many scholars have put the date in the 2nd century CE, and Mahabhart in 3,100 BCE. In the 2nd century, additions were made to the Mahabharat War, which was written by Ved Vyas. “The teachings of the Bhagavad Gita were put to the mouth of Krishna as he was somewhat detached from the fighting.” (AL Balsham).
The nine principal Upanishads are the culmination of Vedic thought, which were outpourings of very ancient people as they saw the wonders of the world (J Nehru). They have little place in this 21st century. Even in the late 20th century, many scholars such as Swami Nilhalanda, Mahatma Gandhi, and Swami Vivekananda regarded the story of Gita as an allegory—a war constantly going on within man, between the tendencies of good and evil. Aurobindo Ghosh viewed Krishna’s significance in the Gita as a symbolic of the divine dealing with humanity.
The old Indian philosophy with its intuitive insight into the divine nature is of little use today when scientific means are seemingly finding the nature of the universe. Sloka is a prayer in praise of God (His existence presumed by the Vedic people) with their celestial powers (imagined). Why does God demand our praise? Doesn’t that make God a self absorbed depot? The Islamic God demands more pra-ise. All Koranic verses (suras) except one, begin with ‘…Allah, the compassionate, the merciful…’ The biblical God likewise demands his praise while Gospels are no longer truths anymore. A Catholic Bishop Ellicott, agreeing with the Catholic Encyclopaedia, observed that early missionaries about the period just after the crucifixion, fabricated gospels full of romantic fables with fantastic and striking details. For Muslims, Quran is the divine words of Allah though non-Muslim are unlikely to share this view.
While the grateful humanity (to God) were complacent and feeling as snug as bug in a rug, two brave men chose to think past the frontiers of the traditional human belief for the unknown and untried. Mahavir and Buddha realised that human beings did not need God to live on earth. But they could not explain life without a soul.
The concept of soul is as baffling as God. In Gita Krishna taught Arjun about the soul. Just as soul acquires a childhood body, a youth body, and an old body during this life, the soul similarly acquires another body after death (2.13). This was of course, the idea of the man who wrote the Gita.
The intuitive thinking is that soul has no definition, is indestructible and has no beginning and end. The Soul is the thing that animates a corpse. It is an intermediary between God and human life. No body has seen a soul. Ancient theologians believed that if the cadaver does not have a lineage (soul) in the metaphysical world of God, then people would stop agonising about life after death. That would make God redundant. So they invented the soul.
Buddhists and Jains believe not only in human soul but animal and plant souls. Muslims believe in a soul but not in incarnation. Most Hindu philosophers believe that the soul consists of two parts: the rational bit linked to human body and irrational bit for the animals and plants. I wonder why? The Vedanta philosophy advocates good moral practice in life to enable the soul to have ultimate release from rebirth and suffering and ultimately merge with the Godhead (Moksha). In Christianity the soul is a bit mixed up in its identity.
The intense belief in one’s religion with a God stimulates the evidence of soul’s presence though it does not prove its existence. In the traditional and historical continuity of the soul we need to find out where in the body soul is situated and where does it come from initially and at what stage of the fertilisation of the foetus does the soul come in. Does the soul get old? Would a mental subnormality affect the soul and become subnormal? Or, did God breathe a subnormal soul into a subnormal body. At what stage of dying and death does the soul leave the corpse? Would a clinically dead patient on a ventilator (life-supporting machine) have the soul in him, waiting for the doctor to switch off the machine at any time to declare him dead?
The important Indian philosophical system is Ve-danta (End of Vedas). This came out of the Upa-nishads. Its author was Badravana. His treatise Brahama sutra in conjunction with Bhagavad gita makes the foundation of Hindu thought as it is today. The great exponent of the Vedanta was Shan-kara (8th century). Even now there is disagreement in the Vedanta philosophy. There are mainly two schools of thought. One is advaita, a monism favoured by Shankara. The other is dvaita, a dualism. In monism there is only the Brahma (Ishwar). The external body and the external world is an illusion (Maya). The Brahama and the Atma (soul) are the same. The individual soul or jiva is a particular manifestation of Brahma. The monistic doctrine denies the existence of the world as a separate entity from God.
In the dvaita philosophy, Atma, Ishwar and the world exist separately but not differently, Jiva and the world are the body of Ishwar. So Brahma is the unification of all these but the individual souls are separate from Ishwar. That was the theory of two Vaishnav, Ramanjua (11th century) and Madhava (13th century), followed by Chaitanya (15th century).
The Vedanta philosophy is about forming one’s opinions while looking for the truth. It is an exercise in searching for the cogency as much as the development of an argument. It is totally lacking in scientific merit. Science gathers evidence, create, criticise and test theories to explain facts, and submitting theories to testing by the facts.
Though the conflict between science and religion remains unsolved, at times of human suffering, natural disasters and pestilence (eg Aids), more and more people look to science than religion. People have reason to be emphatic. Religion is not false, bur simply a primitive science that is now having difficulties in accommodating modern scientific data. Paul Davies, a physicist said “Science is a surer way to God than religion.”
This means, religion is a moral system that is loosely connected on improvable mythologies. It can help people to have a more content and fulfilling life, but it does not save people’s life. On the other hand, science is a method of discovering factual information about the world based on provable facts and experiments. It can save people’s life and help people live more comfortably.
This should be the essence of our prayer to God. Oh God! Let science prosper.
The writer is based in the UK