Learn to see God in everything
A two-part discussion of God's relationship to mankind and to the Earth, and God's existence in the present.
Part 1: God is within and without
There is nothing higher than Truth, Truth alone triumphs. All scriptures are based on It. Truth is the fundamental principle of Dharma — righteousness — for when we look at it scientifically we find that there is no principle in this world that does not have its basis in Truth.
Many people still do not understand their position in the world. We still think and believe that as human beings we occupy a superior position to other beings, and as a result of that supposed superior position we feel we have the right to exploit, to slaughter, to kill. The Rishis — Wise Ones — and Munis — Silent Ones — also developed power but along with this power They developed knowledge and wisdom. So power was balanced and did not drive them mad; it did not make them brutish. On the contrary, the Rishis and Munis used power to help with scientific development for the use of man. We find their influence from the ancient to the present time in the minds of people all over the world. For example, today a large section of the world community is following the path of yoga and meditation and has become vegetarian. It shows that the thinking people of this time are looking for something that can help them in this world of chaos.
A professor at a London University used to advise his atheist students to study the Upanishads and other Hindu scriptures. After studying these, they became convinced of the existence of God, because the Rishis and Munis have discussed the subject in detail. They did not just accept things but developed philosophies and looked deeply into the mysteries of man and this world and — very logically — came to certain conclusions. The thinking people of the world cannot ignore their discovery of the Truth.
That Which is God is perfect, and from that perfect God came this world which is also perfect. If we minus perfection, it still leaves perfection. So, through a scientific or arithmetic approach we find out that God exists and is perfect, and that the world we live in is perfect as well. But our problem is that because of our ignorance we cannot realize the inherent perfection of this world; through ignorance we see only imperfection all the time. In ancient times, the Rishis and Munis delved deep into the mysteries of life and — after they realized the Truth — passed the attained knowledge on to us: that we are the Sons of Immortality, that within everything is God and within God is everything. He who is endowed with that spirit of yoga, that vision of Oneness, sees the same everywhere.
The Rishis and Munis were so advanced that They were able to see within this world, within everything, God transcendent dwelling immanently in the whole of creation, in everything. Therefore, we worship the tulsi plant, the cow, Hanuman who has a monkey-head, Ganesh who has an elephant-head, the holy river Ganges, the earth, the hills, and so on. We have to learn to see goodness in everything, we have got to learn to see divinity in everything because if there was nothing perfect within us, logically we could not improve ourselves. We would have remained just as we were born, but because the Perfect is within us we can improve ourselves. And there is no height to which we cannot improve. Consciously we are aware of this. We are aware that there is still so much potential within us, that we can achieve so many things. Because within us we know that there is perfection, and so we can also rise to the realization of perfection.
The Rishis and Munis — Who were very advanced human beings, Divine Souls — thought that if we look at the world and try to see the good, the perfection, in everyone, our attitude will be different: we will have respect for everything and everyone; we will look at life as sacred. If we can see God within all, we would not slaughter, we would not have wars, we would not have destruction. But we are ignorant of the existence of Divinity in everything; we think that everything is evil. As a result of that, the ignorance gets deeper and deeper into our minds and where there is ignorance there is suffering, because ignorance is the cause of our suffering. Knowledge is that which gets rid of our suffering — where there is knowledge there is happiness, harmony and peace. Where there is ignorance there is conflict, distrust, suspicion, fear, and so on.
The objective of worship is to get rid of this ignorance so that the light of knowledge will be kindled in our hearts. When that happens, we shall experience peace and happiness, but until then we cannot have that vision of Divinity. Worship is trying to see God within all and everything. If we see that God is in trees, in rivers and in the earth, we will show reverence to them and we will not destroy the trees, nor will we pollute the rivers and the earth. With the growth of science, the scientists realize that such an attitude towards life is, today, very much needed when man wants to save himself from self-destruction. As a result of technological development with its vast methods of destruction, with man’s aggressive, greedy nature, the alternative to self-destruction is to see Divinity, to see sacredness, in everything.
Our world is polluted, the wastes are dumped in the sea. There is talk about the damaged ozone-layer, about so many problems. They are the result of man’s greed, man’s negligence and his exploiting, brutal nature. Man has not been able to see God in anything. With the development of material science, there was not a corresponding religious or moral development. As a result of that imbalance, our life is now threatened. So, we have got to learn to see God in all. The Bhagavad Gita and other scriptures taught us that if we cannot see God near to us, how can we see God far away from us? God is everywhere, within and without everything, not far away in the sky. He is all-pervasive, all-existent. God is within us. And if we can see that we will bow to our mother and father, to our teachers, to our saints. We will revere and worship them like God. In other beliefs one cannot bow before anything; it is considered a sacrilege. As a result one slaughters animals and even kills human beings.
Our world will be heaven if...
During interfaith conferences the question always arises: "Are men supposed to eat meat?" Meat was not meant to be consumed by man because human beings do not have fangs to tear meat as do animals like lions and tigers. Meat is not our natural food. Meat is not healthy. What we eat is not really food but poison. As a result, our world is becoming increasingly polluted. This is quite different from what the Rishis and Munis prescribed: the ingredients that are offered in a yajna — a fire sacrifice — have some anti-pollution properties; when we burn them they purify the air and the smoke goes up and forms into clouds, the clouds form into rain and the rain nourishes the earth; plants grow from that, and animals as well as human beings eat them. So every living creature benefits from the fire ritual. It brings peace to the whole world and the whole world gains from it.
We can see that the Rishis and Munis from that ancient time were wise. They developed a way of life and if we follow its pattern, the world we live in — our world — will be heaven. They gave us Dharma and if we follow the path of Dharma, our mind will become purified. When our mind becomes clear and our nature balanced, we shall be able to have peace of mind. Until then we cannot find peace no matter how many treaties we sign.
Worship helps to clear the mind when it is done in a concentrated, meditative state of mind, not when our mind is somewhere else. If the mind is restless and flickering all the time, we cannot even sleep properly. The biggest problem of today’s world is stress: the mind is working too fast. That is why people are turning to meditation because they know the value of it. Only through meditation does the mind become peaceful.
Not belief but practice
Our ancient Rishis and Munis realized the value of silence, of quietude, like Lord Shiva Who sits quietly and peacefully in meditation. In the temple, we may pour oblations over His statue, but we may not know what we are doing, which means that we are ignorant, and ignorance prevents us from seeing God. But if we practise religion properly, we are going to get the results here and now, not after we die. We do not have only to believe in something, we have to practise it. Lord Krishna said that practising this Dharma does not create contrary results, neither does it take much effort, that a little practice will save us from great fear. If we practise with the right spirit, the right attitude, the right understanding, we will get happiness in doing it and out of doing it. But if we do not practise it, or do not do it in the right spirit, we will not achieve anything.
The objective of practice is realization. We must gain something from what we do and if we do it correctly we will gain at every stage. We will find that it becomes part and parcel of our being, of our life, because it is going to bring peace and happiness; it is going to make us see things differently; it is going to change our whole attitude towards life.
Part 2: God is in the present
We can have a refrigerator full of delicious food, but what is the good of it when our digestive system is bad? Without Dharma — righteousness — everything is like poison; with Dharma everything becomes nectar.
How can self-restraint — like fasting for example — contribute to harmony within ourselves, our homes, our society, our country, our world? This question relates to the basic problem of man. Each of us wants to be happy. Unfortunately, in spite of all our efforts, we face frustration at every moment. The whole objective of whatever we are doing in this life — like social work, meditation, devotion, studying, fasting — is to make us wiser: to develop our knowledge, understanding and wisdom.
Our mind is tainted by conditioning influences — of the senses, ie of what we see, hear, touch and taste. Basically, these impressions — which enter us through the senses — form our character. When we try to concentrate, the images of what we have seen, heard, and so on will come into our mind again. Ultimately, we need to empty ourselves of this negativity that we have accumulated in many lives, including this life.
When we make a habit into a bad habit, it starts to create us. We create the habit first and the habit takes hold of us and starts to create us. Like smoking one cigarette or drinking one glass of alcohol a day to start with and, ultimately, we cannot stop smoking or drinking — it has become a bad habit. There are many other habits; our whole life is a bunch of habits and we do not know it; we do not ask ourselves in what direction they take us because we are unaware and so they become part and parcel of our life. And even if, for example, we perform rituals of worship regularly, we still may go in the same direction, keeping the same habits. But spiritual practice has to do with breaking away from those habits, to become more and more ourselves and not to be slaves to our passions and instincts. The objective of every action is to be naturally ourselves and we can only be like that if we know what we are doing.
In the Bhagavad Gita, Lord Krishna tells us that a person who simply tries to practise self-control is better than a person who performs all the rituals. Without control over our senses, our instincts and passions, there is no spiritual life because we are a slave to our bad habits, unable to break away from them. Self-control means to get rid of all bad habits. The more we have control over ourselves, the more we are able to assert ourselves rather than becoming a slave of our senses.
To control means to assert our willpower, our inner strength, as with fasting. Fasting is a process of purifying our nature from negativity which enters through the senses. Fasting is not just abstinence from food; it is restraint in speech, what we listen to, look at, and so on, because only when we see or hear the right type of things will we receive good impressions and vibrations and our negativity will dissolve. It means that we do not look at everything but only to that which brings peace to us, because the images of what we see, hear and taste enter our mind, our nature, and remain there in a seed-form; when we close our eyes, they will come into our mind’s vision. That is why we have, for example, a beautiful altar; when we look at it, it brings us peace. But if we look at vulgar things, it brings ugliness. Similarly with what we hear. If we listen, for example, to good bhajans — songs glorifying God — the mind is nourished, but if we listen to inharmonious and loud music, its vibration also enters us. So, one brings peace and happiness and the other brings disturbance and restlessness to the mind.
The path of peace
Fasting and other restraints go together. If we observe them, our usual mental instability will make place for an inner willpower and stability, and then even people who are addicted to, for example, smoking and drinking will be able to get rid of these habits. But if we lack that inner will, we will run in different directions, thinking that they are going to make us happy but, ultimately, they will only give frustration. If we follow the path of moderation, we can hardly go wrong. Through Self-culture — of fasting and other restraints — we culture and purify our nature. As a result of that we will have peace, happiness and a sense of freedom. We do not really know what peace or happiness actually is. According to the scriptures we cannot have happiness if we do not have peace. So, the pursuit of the path of peace — of inner serenity and a balanced mind — is very important.
Turning to God
If we want to get India on the radio, we start to tune our radio very slowly and when we hear a sound similar to India, we become more concentrated, our whole mind is absorbed in what we are doing and then, suddenly, we have tuned into the ‘All India Radio’. Our mind is like that. We have got to learn to tune our mind. The ‘All India Radio’ was on all the time, but we could not pick it up unless the station was actually tuned in. Similarly, God is there all the time but we cannot realize this because the mind is not tuned. To tune it, two things are very important: self-restraint and a mantra.
A mantra is the most important prayer we have; it is like the knob that we are using to tune the mind. When we inwardly slowly repeat, for example, ‘Om Namah Shivaya’ while we, at the same time, listen to its sound for about 30 minutes, the mind will undergo a change, a transformation. Because the mind cannot accommodate more than one thing at a time, negative things do not get a chance to enter it. When that happens, we begin to realize peace and steadiness of mind.
Any time we see or hear something that disturbs our mind, or when we have a problem in our life, we repeat our mantra. That is self-restraint. If we do that all the time we will find that peace will develop within us, because the mind will start to become calm, quiet and peaceful. If we have a cup of poison and we are constantly pouring pure water in the cup, there comes a time when there will be no more poison in the cup, only pure water. Similarly with us, if we allow only good thoughts to come into our mind all the time, ultimately negative thoughts will disappear from our nature and only pure thoughts will be there. When our nature is pure, God will be near to us and we will have the vision of God; we will feel that God is there with us always, and then we cannot have fear any longer.
So we should try to practise in this spirit and realize God. Realization comes when we can think about God ceaselessly. The more we can think about God, the nearer God will be with us. Let us, therefore, create good habits — for they are going to take us to God — like eating sattvic food, food that is healthy for us, and refrain from alcohol and smoking. Start the day with meditation so that we get peace of mind, otherwise our whole day is disturbed and this affects others also. When we perform our daily duties peacefully and cheerfully, people who come in contact with us will also experience that peace and cheerfulness. Meditation before going to bed will help us to sleep soundly and our whole being will become regenerated by the Divine vibrations and when we get up in the morning, we rise fresh.
All the time
When we do not take the time for such good habits, when we forget about God, problems come into our life. So, we have to take the time, not once a month or once a year but all the time. If we do not think about Him, it is as if He does not exist. Through the worship of cows, trees and rivers, Godliness develops in our heart; everywhere we look we will see the Lord. And if we repeat our mantra wherever we go and wherever we turn, we will be reminded of the Lord, we will always think about Him. Then our mind will be filled with God-consciousness. Then we can experience God. Generally, our mind is moving like a pendulum all the time, either in the future or in time past but never in the present. The present, this very moment, is the most precious time of our life, this life. If we take care of the present, the other parts will take care of themselves. Through self-restraint and meditation we will find that the mind gradually begins to adjust, to settle, which makes it steadier and more and more focused in the present. Only when the mind is in the present will we be able to get God-realization. Because God exists in the present, not in the past nor in the future. Om Tat Sat Hari Om
* The Bhagavad Gita, or ‘Song of God’, one of the sacred Hindu texts, recounts the dialogue between Krishna, an incarnation of Vishnu, and Arjuna, His disciple.