A Personal God?

It's truly a miraculous experience, watching a child grow from infant to baby to child - struggling to crawl, move on all fours, sit, stand, walk and speak to the mother. The instructions wired into the brain have to be decoded and practiced repetitively by the infant before it learns all the tricks to balance itself, stand, walk and speak. The nurturing mother watches, encouraging her child, but every step of the learning process in the mind has to be taken by the child itself.

A similar process is in operation when we learn to walk on the spiritual path. An urge to seek the mysterious spirit arises in the mind that then has to unlearn the old urges and directives of the ego, and learn new ways to see, hear and experience. The Universal Mother, with great love and affection, watches patiently - confident that her child would overcome the initial hurdles as it did the physical ones as an infant and triumphantly come to her ultimately. For, she has already provided the needed equipment and knowledge for this new experience. 

We have to have faith in this belief. Reincarnating over many births, benefiting from past experiences, like the child tripping, falling and finally learning to stand and walk and take great strides upon this earth, we too will be ultimately successful in attaining to the goal of Sat-Chit-Ananda that is pure Bliss.

Einstein who said he experienced the mystifying forces in Nature, stated also that he did not believe in a personal God. But the God that he had in mind was the anthropomorphic God created by man, in the image of man, for the worldly benefit of man - a God that ruled like a disciplinarian, granting favors to those who conformed and punishing the rebels; that was the fictional God of the religions preached by the Priests, in collusion with the earth's Rulers. 

The Upanishads however speak only of a Brahman, (in the neuter as tat - IT), that is omnipresent - filling every atom of the Universe and living in every moment of time, past-present-& future. Conceptualizing this huge, timeless & dimensionless presence in a Rama or a Krishna helps the mind of the seeker in the same manner as a stroller helps the child to walk without faltering and falling. Identifying totally with a personal God of one's choice in this manner, one advances spiritually by leaps and bounds. The personal God then becomes the Universal Presence, which is experienced in the silence of the mind and the Bliss in the heart. Sri Ramakrishna Paramahamsa experienced this Blissful presence of the Universal Mother in the idol of Kali that he worshipped.

Hinduism is a strange amalgam of a core theory and accompanying practices, rituals and superstitions. Understanding its core truth is akin to reaching the kernel of a coconut - remove and throw away the tight, adhering coverings of fiber, break the hard shell, pour away the water and reach the pure white delicious kernel. Is it any wonder that those who do not practice it with faith, sincerity, steadfastness, devotion and detachment see the outer coverings and are turned away?

Einstein did not believe in a personal God as he also considered that organized religion and its rituals were not effective in ensuring the practice of what they preached about morality and ethics. He summed up this ineffectiveness, and his disappointment,  in forceful terms thus:

"When considering the actual living conditions of present day civilized humanity from the standpoint of even the most elementary religious commands, one is bound to experience a feeling of deep and painful disappointment at what one sees. For, while religion prescribes brotherly love in the relations among the individuals and groups, the actual spectacle more resembles a battlefield than an orchestra. Everywhere, in economic as well as in political life, the guiding principle is one of ruthless striving for success at the expense of one's fellow men. This competitive spirit prevails even in school and, destroying all feelings of human fraternity and cooperation, conceives of achievement not as derived from the love for productive and thoughtful work, but as springing from personal ambition and fear of rejection." 

The Vedantic portion of Hinduism lays emphasis on a personal, moral, ethical code of conduct. It however goes further to analyze the root cause of humanityís suffering and concludes that the powerful, over-riding ego nurtured in societal materialistic values is to blame. This analysis, which is contained in the Upanishads, leads to many recommendations for getting complete control of the mind and developing contact with Universal Consciousness. Perhaps, had Einstein been familiar with the Upanishads, he might have conceded the validity of Upanishadic statements - which do not refer to a Personal God but name Brahman (in the neuter) as the source that exists every where, in all things and beings -- like the concept of energy. 

This Upanishadic concept of the Universe is not religion but pure philosophy. Hence, realizing the practical needs of the 99% of humanity, Hinduismís ancestors created Gods, mythologies, rules, regulations and rituals -- all of which served a temporary, intermediate purpose like a ladder. An advanced practitioner like an ascetic (sanyasi) has to step out of it and climb further on his own in order to realize the Truth. 

Hinduism thus provides a 2-tier system: an elementary stage in which you believe in a personal Deity of your choice and follow rules for personal ethics and morality, and an advanced stage when one is ready to leave behind ego-dictated pursuits for material goals and is ready for the higher goal of realizing Sat-Chit-Ananda, with the assistance of a Guru.  The Guru of Hinduism is merely a guide and an adviser, not a priest like the priest in a church with authority to control and guide his flock in accordance with a set of rules prescribed in a book. He is a realized saintly person who has understood and practiced the Upanishadic statements relating to the nature of Reality and therefore is able to give his disciple (sishya) guidance in the travel along the spiritual path which has been described in the Upanishad as being like the razorís edge, difficult to tread and beset with obstacles: 

Kathopanishad:

UtthishTatha, jAgrata, prApya varAn nibodhata
Kshurasya dhArA nishitA duratyatA,
durgam pathastat kavayo vadanti.

Arise, awake, receive guidance from the best preceptors
For the path is like a razorís edge - dark, beset with obstacles,
difficult to tread Ė thus the learned and the experienced say.