Saturday, July 10, 2010

Does the Word "God" Scare You?

I know that's kind of a strange title - Does the word God scare you? Perhaps another way of saying this might be, "Are you adverse to the word 'God'?" But in either case (or even several other possible ways of phrasing it), the question I would pose is, "WHY?"

Is it what that word represents? Does it relate to your own 'religious' upbringing, where God was a stern and judgmental old man? Or, is it unscientific to think of a personal God? Is it that God somehow seems like a childish concept, a myth, something make-believe? Or is it, perhaps, something more egoic? For instance, if there IS a Supreme God, a Divinity, a Creator, does that somehow belittle your image of yourself?

Oh sure, we recognize and are willing to pay lip service to the idea that we are all God, that we are all One; we are all equal; we are none of us higher or lower than anyone else. We understand that intellectually, and that goes well with our general philosophy of life, which now, most people dub as "Spiritual, but not religious." But it still kind of leaves a lot unexplained. If there is ONLY this singularity of the One, everything is God view, then how did it all manifest? Is this universe real or illusion? Is it a dream? Are you creating this dream? From what? Based on what? Is it a sponteous arising from ???

I can't answer these questions for you, but perhaps I can shed some light on a few things that havre occurred to me and that may mean nothing to you.

Now, I grew up in a completely non-religious family. No thought or word was given to religion or spirituality at all. The ONLY reference I remember at all to either of my parents speaking of Godf was once, driving along the beach and my father saying something like, "How could anyone look at this beauty and NOT believe in God." That was it. I was baptized at my Norwegian Grandparents' wishes, not that they were all that religious either. And yet, in spite of that, at an early age (say 8 or 10) I defintely began wondering about where all this came from and began to inquire into the nature of God or a creator or ???

Of course, in junior high and high school, there was the brief sort of "gang christianity" thing. You know, all your friends started getting into Jesus, so you did too. But it was pretty short lived and superficial. I do remember praying and asking, "If you are Supreme, great; but if not, please guide me to That which is."

Over the next few years, I got into studying all kinds of 'metaphysical' things, meditating, joining various movements, and ultimately becoming a Hindu Monk and Priest in India. But even that was given up after some 15 years as I began to seriously inquire into Who I am? In doing that, I recognized I had to let go of my 'belief' in God in order to recognize Truth. Now here's the rub. Giving up a belief doesn't mean it isn't true!!! It only means that you're not looking at that right now. You have to let go of the assumptions about the one to get to the truth of the other. Now it may very well come back in the end to that original belief, but now it is discovered from a whole new light. (excuse the possible pun)

Let me give you an interesting example. Interest in Buddhism has exploded exponentially over the last few years, while the interest in Hinduism (which was quite big a couple of decades back) has virtually faded into the background. Check any bookstore...whole sections on Buddhism and perhaps a shelf or two on Hinduism (depending on the bookstore). Why is that. Is it that Buddism doesn't believe in God? Or is it that people are looking for a spirituality that doesn't require them to believe in God? In reality, God is a moot point in Buddhism. It's not what it was about. It was about the obvious truth that there IS suffering; that suffering was caused by desire; that desire was avoidable, and the method was the 8-fold path. God didn't have anything to do with it. Now that's fine. It is a science of suffering. It's like studying medicine. You don't really need to believe (or not believe) in God to study medicine - although from time to time it may come up.

We've also seen this gigantic interest in Advaita or non-dualism, which originally is one of the schools of Hinduism known as Vedanta. This particular school is actually Kevala Advaita Vedanta and was promoted by Shri Shankaracharya some 1200 years ago. Shankaracharya himself was a very devotional saint who wrote hundreds of verses in praise of the various aspects of God. However, the philosophy states that all is One - utilizing a number of aphorisms from the Upanishads... aham brahmasmi (I am Brahman, the Absolute); tat tvam asi (You are That); Brahma Satyam Jagan Mithyam (The Absolute is Real, the World False), etc.

The Non-duality which we have expressed mostly now in the west is really more accurately calledf 'Neo-Advaita' or the new-non-duality, and like western yoga to the original Hindu Yoga, is only a shadow of it's original teachings - primarily based on personal experience rather than philosophical intellectual understanding and direct recognition of Truth. It leaves out, for the most part, any reference to God, other than the continuous exclamation by proponents that "We are all God." While this is not UNtrue, it is only a part of the picture (ironically). What many people don't quite get is this. Advaita was not a question of whether there was or was not a God. This philosophy came from a culture where the idea of God was taken for granted. Of course there is a God. That's not the question. The question is (or was) are we one with or separate from God? What most people in the west DON'T recognize is that non-dual vedanta is only one of 4 or 5 major schools of Vedantic thought, most of which tend to be at least partially more dualistic. Interesting that in the 'scientific', narcissistic, individually aggrandizing west, that we should choose the form which has the most room for the denial of a personal God. Is it perhaps because the recognition of the possibility of an Original God, a Supreme Godhead, would suggest or require some type of humility, some sense of surrender to, or devotion for that God which might somehow stifle our self-absorbed 'buzz'??? Would we then have to CONSIDER the possibility of letting go of some of our self-absorption, our total service to our own ego, to our own comforts, to our own desires, and consider how does this larger God fit into the Big Picture?

So again, I ask, "Does the word God scare you?"

How about another approach - a little different. Are you perhaps afraid of what OTHERS will think of you if you mention God? This is another very big possibility for many. In our scientific, post modern culture, God is some archaic remnant of past, ignorant generations. Let me give an analogy. Although it is perfectly normal now, when I was a child, nearly all women were mothers and 'home-makers'. Then the 'feminist' movement came along, and it became nearly shameful for a woman NOT to have a job or career outside the home. Women who wanted to simply be mothers and home-makers were even shunned to some degree. I even remember walking down the street in downtown Seattle one day and realizing I no longer ever saw women (other than very old women) in skirts or dresses. It was as if all of a sudden, all women were required to wear pants, whereas prior to that you rarely saw women in pants. ( I know this is partly due to styles which come and go, but his was different.) Of course as time went by, it no longer became unacceptable to be a mother only, and many women re-asserted their right to stay at home if they wanted. (And of course, there was the option for dads to stay at home as well.)

So, in this culture, where God tends to be seen as the archaic remnant of a negative, patriarchical, destructive culture, why not choose philosophies which denied God's existence, or at the very least ignores it. And by claiming a belief in, or allegiance to God, you are essentially saying that "I am a completely backwards and ignorant, non-thinking, acceptor of a childish myth!"

Anyway, as I am myself VERY guilty of promoting an advaitic-like philosophy for many years, based on my own direct recognition of an Infinite, and Absolute Self, I never denied the possibility of a Personalized Godhead. In fact, by definition, if God is Everything, God must be both personal and impersonal, infinite and finite. And that in our desire to make the Absolute fit OUR ideas of what it should be, rather than truly delving into the depts of it, we may VERY well throw the baby out with the bathwater. And that is a very 'egoic' thing to do.

So once more, "Does the word God scare you?"

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