Thursday, June 3, 2010

Why are there so many different opinions about the nature of God?

Brahmo Devotee: "Sir, why are there so many different opinions about the nature of God? Some say that God has form, while others say that He is formless. Again, those who speak of God with form tell us about His different forms. Why all this controversy?"

Sri Ramakrishna: "A devotee thinks of God as he sees Him. In reality there is no confusion about God. God explains all this to the devotee if the devotee only realizes Him somehow. You haven't set your foot in that direction. How can you expect to know all about God?

"Listen to a story. Once a man entered a wood and saw a chameleon on a tree. He came back and told another man that he had seen a creature of a beautiful red colour on a certain tree. The second man replied: 'When I went into the wood, I also saw that animal. But why do you call it red? It is green.' Another man who was present contradicted them both and insisted that it was yellow. Presently others arrived and contended that it was grey, violet, blue, and so forth and so on. At last they started quarrelling among themselves. To settle the dispute they all went to the tree. They saw a man sitting under it. On being asked, he replied: 'Yes, I live under this tree and I know the animal very well. All your descriptions are true. Sometimes it appears red, sometimes yellow, and at other times blue, violet, grey, and so forth. It is a chameleon. And sometimes it has no colour at all. Now it has a colour, and now it has none.'

"In like manner, one who constantly thinks of God can know His real nature; he alone knows that God reveals Himself to seekers in various forms and aspects. God has attributes; then again He has none. Only the man who lives under the tree knows that the chameleon can appear in various colours, and he knows, further, that the animal at times has no colour at all. It is the others who suffer from the agony of futile argument.

"Kabir used to say, The formless Absolute is my Father, and God with form is my Mother.'

"God reveals Himself in the form which His devotee loves most. His love for the devotee knows no bounds. It is written in the Purana that God assumed the form of Rama for His heroic devotee, Hanuman.

"The forms and aspects of God disappear when one discriminates in accordance with the Vedanta philosophy. The ultimate conclusion of such discrimination is that Brahman alone is real and this world of names and forms illusory. It is possible for a man to see the forms of God, or to think of Him as a Person, only so long as he is conscious that he is a devotee. From the standpoint of discrimination this 'ego of a devotee' keeps him a little away from God.

"Do you know why images of Krishna or Kali are three and a half cubits high? Because of distance. Again, on account of distance the sun appears to be small. But if you go near it you will find the sun so big that you won't be able to comprehend it. Why have images of Krishna and Kali a dark-blue colour? That too is on account of distance, like the water of a lake, which appears green, blue, or black from a distance. Go near, take the water in the palm of your hand, and you will find that it has no colour. The sky also appears blue from a distance. Go near and you will see that it has no colour at all.

"Therefore I say that in the light of Vedantic reasoning Brahman has no attributes. The real nature of Brahman cannot be described. But so long as your individuality is real, the world also is real, and equally real are the different forms of God and the feeling that God is a Person.

"Yours is the path of bhakti. That is very good; it is an easy path. Who can fully know the infinite God? and what need is there of knowing the infinite? Having attained this rare human birth, my supreme need is to develop love for the Lotus Feet of God.

"If a jug of water is enough to remove my thirst, why should I measure the quantity of water in a lake? I become drunk on even half a bottle of wine - what is the use of my calculating the quantity of liquor in the tavern? What need is there of knowing the Infinite?

"The various states of mind of the Brahmajnani are described in the Vedas. The path of knowledge is extremely difficult. One cannot obtain jnana if one has the least trace of worldliness and the slightest attachment to 'woman and gold'*. This is not the path for the Kaliyuga.

Source: Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna


* 'Women and Gold' is the direct word-to-word translation of 'Kamini and kanchan'.

(Kindly note that Sri Ramakrishna used to talk in parables so that any lay person can understand.

According to shastras, when one attribute is given, it covers all other attributes of similar nature.

e.g. draw back (withdraw) the vision, shut down the eyes and then meditate.(Vivek Chudamani)

This includes all 5 senses and not just eyes. So by withdrawing all the senses from the sense objects one can easily concentrate on the mantra.

So draw back the vision, shut down the eyes and then meditate.)

It can also be translated as 'Lust and Greed' or 'Lust and Money'


'Women' should be taken as lust. Lust is a kind of desire (vasana).

'Kamini' = 'women' = 'lust' means all the dis-satisfied desires 'vasanas' and not just lust and definitely NOT JUST women (even though attraction to opposite sex is a natural desire in all)

Lust = any Desire = Kamini

Greediness / Money:

Gold symbolizes money. Money is needed to fulfill your desires. So earning money is itself a desire.

Greediness should include all the emotions like anger, irritation, non-tolerance, violence, etc. So one should not be greedy to earn money.

Greediness = any emotion = bhava

It is rightly said that when desires and emotions drop, meditation begins.


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