By Promod Puri
Churches, temples, mosques, or Gurdwaras may not be much congregated these days due to the Coronavirus epidemic worldwide. This emptiness at the places of prayers is either due to imposed restrictions or people just avoiding venues of large gatherings.
The business of religion, like any other business, is down. But this business is exceptional. In principle, besides being a medium to seek His grace and express gratitude, religion should reveal the path to discern and realize the nature of the Creator.
During the time places of worship have their doors locked, people still believe in some kind of divine intervention while expecting a cure from science for the Covid-19.
The big question is, where is God in the holy cities from Varanasi to the Vatican?
The divinity of God is on the spot with the near shutdown of houses of gods.
Where is God, the Savior, in this period of a severe crisis of global viral pandemic facing humanity!
The believability of His or Her existence, based on ritualistic and conceptual physical presence, is rightfully questioned. Is God avoiding His responsibility by fleeing from the scene?
The rationality of this sentiment rests on the irrationality of believing in senseless miraculous powers and superstitious convictions. These beliefs and customs are embedded in almost all religious orders and amply propounded in the business of religion.
People seek proof of God, but the sample of evidence they are following is the one they evolved. They want to see the physical existence of God residing in a physical dwelling.
It is in this regard, the rationality and understanding of God need a comprehensive review.
Merely believing that God exists is a ritual.
It is a practice based on our mindset image of His embodiment up there and everywhere. When we form a picture of Him, then God gets personified. In this dominant perspective, most people believe in His existence. This devotion does not lead to His real study. The buzzword does not establish a logical understanding of Him or Her. Instead, the image and ritual-based god without keen awareness is a constituted and established norm.
The formal acceptance of God only signifies His residential existence.
But God does not exist only. Instead, He is a functional institution through which His actuality can be better assessed. In His practical perception, God’s presence is more meaningful, offering rational and pragmatic awareness of Him.
The personified God is worshipped as the centralized controlling authority influencing every moment of our lives. Moreover, the symbolic undertaking of God creates the fear factor that He is a punishing Being if not believed in His existence. This fear is one reason for His adoration and ceremonial development.
The idolization and ceremonial culture motivate the buildup of rituals and customs, which restrict God’s correct image and discernment. His personification causes existential traditions.
But God is not a ritual.
Contrary to our psychic conviction, rituality is not imperative to religiosity.
One can experience His eternal spirit through principled and righteous living, but not in His ritualistic perseverance. Morality does not descend just by believing in His existential image, but it does by knowing Him.
The pathway to His residency through the maze of rituals, customs, and traditions is a wrong route where atheists get lost and disillusioned. The disappointment is perhaps their dominant logic to reject His existence altogether.
Those who are atheists are not born atheists. And those who believe in God are not inborn believers either. It is the ritual of the belief that He exists along with many other ingenerated customs and traditions which constitute the conviction and inference of His existence. Many of the rituals which are meaningless, vague, and disconnected are the basis of His non-existence for atheists.
However, for believers, existentialism does not institute the syllabus to study God that involves both rational and empirical approaches as far as human faculty can go. It is spiritual navigation to access and sense the reality of His vast world. It is here the dynamics of God resides that can be realized rather than instinctively or impulsively confirming that He exists.
In this age, when there is an explosion of knowledge, and people seek rationality in any given thought, critical thinking and evidence-based reasoning make the right approach to revisit our mindset image of God.
At the same time, we must admit to the fact that the human mind has a limitation in seeking truth beyond empirical evidence and rational ideations.
BINARY ASPECT OF GOD
To reassess our mindset conception of God and to comprehend His existence, two perspectives can be acknowledged and studied. This binary aspect of God can offer reasonable cause, message, and the totality of His Being in this universe and beyond. The combination of these two approaches has the potential to logically revealing His existence and realization.
In this call, one approach is of the astronomical nature of His universal and celestial existence beyond our observable scientific capabilities. The other one is about His spiritual presence. The latter includes our relationship with plants, animals, and the environment. In simple words, one aspect of God is a Noun, and the other one is the Verb.
God is a Noun, and that means He is an Entity which can be discerned through His creations in this universe and rest of the macrocosm as far as our scientific advancements can take us, and our intellective imaginations can envision.
God’s true nature is beyond His relationship with humans, plants, or animals. He is equally involved with all His creations, including stones, rocks, dust, water, air, light, and other seen and unseen, known and unknown objects.
It is from this perspective that an overview of His astronomical creations is supportive in the study of God. That involves both the celestial world and in the tiniest of atoms,
In a recent article in the academic online publication, The Conversation, Prof. Emily Thomas of Durham University, reveals that our “universe contains at least two trillion galaxies,” and that “the observable universe, the part of it we can see, is around 93 billion light-years across. The whole universe is at least 250 times as large as the observable universe”. Further, he says, “our planet is 150m kilometers away from the sun. Earth’s nearest stars, the Alpha Centauri system, are four light-years away (that’s around 40 trillion kilometers). Our galaxy, the Milky Way, contains anywhere from 100 to 400 billion stars. The observable universe contains around 300 sextillion stars.”
These astronomical numbers in billions and trillions, supported by scientific configurations, merely suggest the unlimited vastness of God’s kingdom containing everything real and imaginable beyond stars, galaxies, and universes.
As we move down from the expanse of the celestial scene of His creations to the smallest sub-atomic field, we find the infrastructure, nature, and behavior of elementary particles that are the building blocks of the universe. Quantum theory deals with the contents and environment in this realm.
The question is: how we can perceive God’s existence in the spatial worlds as well as in the tiniest of atoms. Prof. Thomas admits in his article “the divine is, after all, mysterious.”
While the human quest is exploring His mysteries, the ontology of His existence needs to be expanded on rational-based knowledge and astute imagination rather than as a cliché of His presence along with the tagged fear factor, miracles, and ceremonial gratitude.
His known or unknown, visible, or non-visible creations in this universe and the celestial worlds, are not enough in our knowledge-based search to accept His existence as an Entity. There is more than what we see, observe, perceive, and discern both through empiricism and rationalism.
Behind the physical reality, there also is the psychic, metaphysical, and spiritual truth of His creations that completes His ontological profile.
The study we are undertaking gets us a comprehensive understanding of God as an Entity beyond the Noun creations of human beings, plants and animals, rivers and mountains, rocks, stones and dust, air and water, and everything else.
We are exploring God that may lead us to new frontiers, new explanations, and new definitions besides the astronomic, astrophysics, and quantum probes confirming the complexities of His creations, which are unlimited.
In this evolutionary study, the scientifically acclaimed Big Bang theory needs to revisit to ascertain what happened before, and seconds after this explosive phenomenon. What caused that explosion, and who caused it to happen. Was there any numinous force managing the cause and the after-cause when things settled down to their respective shapes and positions.
Besides investigating the Big Bang theory, the role of philosophy and metaphysics is vital in this learning to add and review our understanding of God, which, after all, is man’s most significant asset since His realization.
When all the available sciences and faculties, not just astronomy, astrophysics, cosmology, philosophy, and metaphysics, are put together, the Entity of God emerges through the challenging and scientific environment as an explicit Reality. In the fusion of metaphysical and scientific thought, we can discern the true nature of His Being for creditable acceptance.
In the faculty of divine learning, the knowledge explored and gained establishes the existence of God more in tune with the logical behavior of the educated and informed contemporary society. Here the God’s status changes from His personified image to a comprehended believability as a functional Head conducting the affairs of His universes.
We human beings believe those are the only living creatures who breathe, move, have some sound, can think, and express feelings. The rest, rocks, stones, air, water, etc., we assume, are inanimate objects. And the space we and all the contents of the universe occupy, without which everything would appear clustered together, is not recognized as an entity.
Scientifically speaking, everything which exists, including “dead” objects are alive if we go into their microscopic depths. In the breakdown of the atom, its sub-parts are always in moving mode. The Superstring Theory of Quantum Reality reveals that at the sub-atomic levels, matter exists in small strings. In simple words, everything at its final microscopic grade is built with tiny vibrating strands like in a musical instrument of the violin.
These strings have repeated oscillatory patterns of vibration. Each model presents the string its mass and force, and that confers it the appearance of a particle. And when the components of a particle are vibrant and produce sound, “dead” objects are not dead, but alive.
What is that energy which keeps the sub-atomic particles moving, the earth and many other planets spinning, and keep everything alive in one form or the other? Known physicist Stephen Hawkins says: “If we find the answer to that, it would be the ultimate triumph of human reason – for then we would know the mind of God.”
The answers we seek in the “science of God,” as Hawkins puts it, can reveal as well as change our whole concept and perception of God that can be more acceptable in our questioning society.
GOD IS ACTION, AND ACTION IS GOD
And once we start getting more answers, we can realize that the concept of God moves from His residential existence to a more logical and practical setting. Besides, this is where our second approach of God as a Verb appears. This access is the functional concept of Him in every moment of our lives.
When we say God is a Verb, our numinous gear shifts mentally and physically into action, initiated and inspired by Noun God. Here the existence of God can be realized not through sciences and philosophies but only through moral actions.
Being a Verb and a Noun is a two-faced concept when God becomes action, and action becomes God. The famous statue of dancing Nataraj installed at the Centre for Research in Particle Physics, CERN (European Council for Nuclear Research), in Geneva, signifies the transcendental unifying entity of the dancer and the dance, or the Performer and the Performance.
In action lies the vibe of God. His feel, His recognition are the results of activities that we undertake. In this environment, our mindset actuality of God changes from image-based to action-based.
In the action-based reality of God, the keyword is righteousness. And the latter is the place which transforms itself into the existence of His Being. In this context, He is not a physical entity, but He is there in the ambiance of the righteous performance of the act.
Here we are renouncing the residency of God from rituals and customs, and the structural places guarded, controlled, and managed by the priest class since antiquity. Instead, His existence is created by our pious and meditative actions where He resides.
And once we explore and practice God, meaning righteousness, in our logical thoughts and actions, the experience syncs well with the contemporary society seeking rationality and common sense while rejecting baseless and irrational rituals, miracles, and fears.
In this prudent direction, our karmas play a crucial role in creating an environment where God is involved in His guiding role. We are seeking the Karma-based God through our righteous or spiritual thoughts and deeds. And when we are in that environment, we are like the Nataraj dancer where Karma is God, and God is Karma.
Karma is a straightforward philosophy. It basically means action, deed, or work. It is an act of doing something. But it is not fate. The latter is the product of Karma. Consciousness and karma together find a meaningful relationship in realizing the concept of God in His action-based reality.
In our ongoing study about the existence of God in rational and practical environments, including all of His visible and invisible, known and known creations across all the universes, as well as our righteous thoughts, imaginations, and actions, the very realization of His presence is a prayer in itself. And this the invocation and worship of God that can find ready acceptance in the contemporary logic-based civic society we live in.
As far as Coronavirus or Covid-19 is concerned and expecting God to get involved for a miracle cure, it is just a fanatic expectation of the believers and a taunting statement of non-believers that He or She is physical up there in the sky.
Man has been searching for millennia about God. Has not reached any conclusion. Man is free to accept him, reject him or stay neutral. For all the three, there is no apparent reward and punishment from his side. Every life is subject to birth and death, also pain and pleasure.
It will not be out of place to say that whatever is there, good or bad, is the creation of God. Even ‘nothingness’ is his creation. Corona Virus or COVID-19 is the name given by man. Nobody knows it’s real name except God. For God, it seems, birth, death, pleasure and pandemic are the same phenomenon. He created everything and left it to the perception of the creation.
Lengthy, but interesting. Only one doubt arises. Why do you say ritual in a negative sense – as in something of a hindrance? How do you define ritual? Do you mean mere mechanical action without knowing the meaning or so you encompass the true meaning of ritual as in a divine drama enacted by man and then add a negative sense to it!?!
In this essay, the mention of ritual sounds in negative-sense to emphasize the point that God is perceived in a personified image. I have elaborated on this point. Otherwise, the concept and existence of rituals in religion have significant value. The pathways to divinity are infused with words of morality and ethics, principles and noble deeds. Rituals facilitate the walk.
Rituals give symbolic and distinguished shape and complexion to religion. That is how each religion gets a distinct appearance and appeal. In fact, rituals provide an architecture to a religion.
Rituals institute ceremonial values otherwise religions could be bland and flavorless. The portrayal of religion is shaped by its ritualistic conventions. These dedicated practices furnish an identity, a sense of belonging and social unity, vitality, vigor, action, and liveliness to a faith.