The start to questions
In the defence campuses where I was brought up, there wasn't much in terms of catecism classes. Sunday mass used to be in a classroom of the Air Force School. My first holy communion(recieving the body of christ /eucharist ) was when I turned nine and I did have a few catecism classes uptill the first holy communion. The sisters who taught us took a little exam to judge our understanding and preparation for the communion. I still remember very vividly how happy I felt at having won an atlas for standing 5th in the catechism class exam. I remember that it was better than the little dishes that those with better ranks had won. And I also remember that even they felt so. But, I do not remember much of what had been taught in the classes! Not that I forgot, but rather, I had mugged up for the exam and hadnt attached as much importance to the content of the catecism classes. For me the highlight of my short education in christian belief was 'the atlas'.
But one beautiful thing that came along with that gift was a little Bible for all of the children. I loved it because it was mine. I used to read it every night before going to bed and kept it under my pillow to feel safe and to keep away nightmares. It was since then that I developed a tender relationship with God. It was a time when I talked to God as a father figure. Every night before going to bed, I would sit up and share everything about the day with God. That was a wonderful time, a time when I had no doubts about God. I was at peace and I was happy. So happy, that I looked forward to being alone. I was happiest in my own company, contemplating on all things and sometimes even putting down some new understanding in a concise form in a diary. Something like a two line thought ‘of’ the day.
Every Christian may have a similar story to tell about how he got into a relationship with God. It could be the parent who initiated the child into the relationship. It could be the church. It could be the Bible. I am of the opinion that a child never really doubts that there is a God as long as all adults around him are believers. God is introduced to us by adults (very rarely by the child's own 'wonder' about the world around him!) like our parents and we accept God because we trust our parents. Doubts are sown later on as a result of the confusion created during the period of our institutional education, when we get introduced to and make place for the ‘contradictory teachings’. Ironically therefore, the first doubts (which are initially repressed by the child) are the result of the trust we place in our educators and thereby feel compelled to believe that they are teaching about truth rather than maybe theories!
Due to the culture of blind faith in everything taught, a child may fail to differentiate between theory and truth. I believed in Darwin’s theory of evolution. Why? Though it seemed to contradict the Bible’s version of Genesis, I believed I have to accept that, which has so called scientific evidence. But there is of course another reason. It is that I did not like the story of Adam and Eve! How could a ‘girl’ like that story! But just because Adam and Eve were to me suddenly fictional characters, it did not mean to me at the same time that God does not exist. Because after all what does it matter if Thomas Alva Edison made the bulb in his first attempt or 500th or 5000th attempt. In any case it was Thomas Alva Edison who made it. In the same way what does it matter if man was made in a day or evolved slowly. The creator is still God. As all the Holy Scriptures say, ‘one day of God is like a thousand years for man’. It’s obvious then that the truth could just be a matter of whose calendar we are referring to. That is how the logic went in my mind.
But then if one aspect of the scriptures could be wrong, what about the rest of the scripture? Looking back I feel that either I was not mature enough to think that way at that time or I was just repressing my confusion. Either way, I can say that I never consciously doubted the rest of the scripture for a long time. In short I did not have any serious doubts about the existence of God except may be a repressed worry that it was wrong to even think as untrue a story given in the Bible. I was later to find out that even the Hindu scripture namely the Bhavishyapurana says the same story of Genesis and even list similar names of the descendents of Adam and Eve! I am awed by the similarity (whatever be the reason behind it- which could be due to a link between the Vedic and Hebrew scriptures which is inturn ascribed by scholars to a link between the Aryan and Hebrew civilizations. Also, Parsee scriptures are said to have refered to six stages of creation, rather than six days!). I also learnt that the catholic faith today does not require one to take the Biblical word literally. The church takes on the responsibility of viewing the words in context and interprets the words as per today’s level of understandings of spiritual truths. But anyway I am at a stage where I do not wish to analyze the truth about Genesis. Surprisingly maybe, but today I am not at all curious to know the truth about the beginning of life. I believe that it is because the answers to all other questions that have been crucial to me have been sufficient to take away worry about any such minor questions.
I have spoken of myself but I do think that the children of today develop a scientific attitude quite early and thereby their doubts about the existence of God may be boldly expressed as, ‘I just can’t believe what I don’t see’. Their stance is understandable. After all the earth has been seen from outer space by astronauts and microbes have been seen by scientists. The electron microscope is an aid to students to see for themselves the microscopic world. But who has seen God? God cannot be seen or shown through any medium and yet the call to believe?
I would just like to bring to the notice of such little Thomases, who, I am hoping will read this book, a small but relevant point. Matter can be seen even if it is too small to see or too big to comprehend. It is made possible with the aid of instruments like microscope and space vehicles. But just look at the possibility that there might be something that is not matter and which therefore cannot be seen even with an aid. Could man ever imagine that there could be organisms that could not be seen with the naked eyes? And so it would be better not to discredit the possibility of non matter which cannot be seen at all by any means. Having accepted the possibility one has to accept it as unwise to fuss about seeing such a non matter. The only way to see the non matter is with the aid of reasoning. That involves accepting the words of trustable sources, for example the scriptures that are written by people with special abilities like being able to tune in to the cosmic vibrations. This tuning of the mind can be understood as we understand the tuning of the radio to a particular frequency. Here it is also important to understand that scriptural words can have meanings that are deeper than the words (as per catholic understanding)and they can be symbolic or metaphorical expressions too. For example the book of Genesis of the Bible can be a figurative account of God’s relationship with his creation and Exodus(Bible) may be an allegory for the freedom from bondage to the world.
The other way to reason is using inference, like inferring that there must have been a fire by the sight of smoke. The complexity and beauty of creations can lead us to infer that there has to be an intelligent creator behind it. A third method is to compare, like using examples from day to day life to understand the incomprehensible. For example, those who have not seen the Bison can recognize it when they see one if they are told that it is similar to a Buffalo. Man can understand better what he can see for himself and therefore God has provided us with similee in many things of the world to help us understand Him. We can understand the presence which cannot be seen by comparing with what can be seen. For example when I learn from some trusted source that human body is in the Image of the Cosmic Body, I can imagine the Cosmic Body in terms of my understanding of the human body(body especially in terms of the spinal centres or chakras which are seven in number corresponding to the seven lokas/worlds). A fourth source of knowledge is sight which includes the sight of intuition. It includes all perception be it through the five senses or something else like a sixth sense or what can be called the inner eye. These four methods are suggested and used by Sage Gautama in his ‘Nyaya Sutras’ to understand the fundamental truths and the order in which these four aids or proofs (pramaan)are given in Patanjalyogpradeep is - sight(pratyaksha pramaan), inference(anuman pramaan), similee or comparision(upman pramaan), trusted sources(aagam or shabd (word)pramaan). I firmly believe that the order in which these four proofs are given are also important and signify that no proof is above the proof of once own sight and once own intuition!. This would imply that if there are many scriptures in the world and they are contradicting each other we have to rely on our inner eye to see the truth.
Sage Gautama has used these four ways of reasoning to understand and define the nature of various aspects like the spirit,the body, senses etc. I have mentioned these four aids because as I look back at the answers to my questions, I can see that in these answers there has been an unconscious acceptance of the reliability of the above mentioned method used by Sage Gautama. I hope my readers will be able to spot the reasoning incorporated in the answers. So, onwards with the first question and my personal quencher for it…..
Is there really a God?
As I have implied, the start to questions, in my case, occurred in school, but doubts about existence of God, if any, were repressed at the time. While writing this book I had not initially intended to include this question in the book, but after writing the answers to the other questions, I felt that there might be many Thomases who would want an answer to this basic question before proceeding any further. For me personally, the answer to ‘who is God’ answered simultaneously the question of ‘is there really a God’. Those who feel the same way can skip this part and proceed to the second chapter. And yet it just might prove useful to go through this part too.
As I look back at this question of whether ‘a God’ exists, I feel that there were some other questions in my mind in my childhood which had prevented this particular question from becoming the prime question in my search for answers. These other questions that worried me in my younger days are questions that may have occurred to all at one or the other stage of life. These questions cannot really be resolved without some concept of God!
There has been a time when I wondered- who ‘I’ am and where was the consciousness that I call ‘me’ before I woke up to this body that I call ‘mine’. I could never ever believe that my consciousness did not exist before I existed as this body. And what about this body that I call my own? I did not make it! I do not even know all its intricacies, let alone having seen them or even got the whole thing working. And yet I have the audacity to call this complicated machinery as mine! As I look back at these questions that were there deep in my heart from quite a long time, I know what had prevented me from doubting the very existence of God. It is not that I had ever tried to answer these questions. These were questions that just arose spontaneously in my mind and each time they would send a chill through my spine which made me shut my mind to them. Today with a better understanding I look back at those troubling questions, and know that they were merely some pointers to the presence of cosmic intelligence. The intelligence that engineered the complex machinery called the body. The intelligence that created the wonder called the eye, even remembering to put eyelid and eyelashes to protect it. The intelligence that even had a sense of beauty, and put the nose below the eyes and not above it, the head over the shoulder and not on the knee! How does the heart beat even though I never deliberately did anything to keep it working at all times? How is it that I am always breathing?
Biologists have a perfect explanation to how we breathe or how the heart beats and we all know the explanation as we have mugged that up in school. But do we ever realize how scientific information(in fact even religious information) served on a platter without first allowing the young minds to wonder, sometimes kills the miracle out of everything in our world? The magnetic field of the Earth provides a protective covering without which the Earth would have been just another Mars with no water or life on it! The Earth goes round the Sun at a perfectly right distance for life to be possible. These are facts, but these are also such miracles!! Doesn’t it seem that too many conditions have been satisfied to make life possible on Earth? Shouldn’t we spend some time just sitting awestruck by the miracle called the universe and the miracle called life, rather than memorizing everything as some mundane facts? Can all the factors necessary for life, being fulfilled by our planet Earth, be just coincidence?
If every such marvel of nature is wrought out of mere coincidences, then surely these coincidences are very intriguing and even intelligent! The complex machines called animals and plants must then be ‘miraculous’ flukes! Had I not been taught that the radio, the television, the computer, all that I use and call mine, are actually the products of man’s intelligence, I would have assumed that these are also the result of natures flukes that are sold like other nature products for example fruits and vegetables!
Man claimed the bulb, the fan as his creation and so I believed that it is so. Cosmic intelligence does not need a body with which to create anything that it wills to, and that is why its works are so much more awesome than man’s. The intelligence probably works differently by being within all it creates or even by being everything it creates! Just because man’s powers work with the help of a body that I can see, should I discredit cosmic intelligence because I do not see it though I see its works that are much more complex and miraculous than any work of man? Should I say that all this just happened by chance just because there is ‘no body’ to come up and claim the work as its own?
All I see when I look around pay testimony to the intelligence that we may choose to call cosmic intelligence, God or whatever other name. Even the intelligent and creative man who is a creation of this intelligence is a testimony to the utter brilliance of this power. This intelligence I believe, then definitely has to extend to being the consciousness of each individual, the consciousness that lost its memory (of its identity) while entering the body, something like how the sperm loses its tail while entering the ovum.
Therefore I believe today that the intelligence extends to being my consciousness too and yet the intelligence has to be above me, below me and all around me as something vaster and thereby greater. Otherwise of course my consciousness should have reminded me of everything related to the creation or even sustenance of all that I see or everything that the books tell me as existing out there in the universe! It is quite relevant here to be reminded of holy people like Buddha and Swami Vivekananda, who having attained the realization of their true nature, claimed to remember everything that happened to their consciousness before their current birth (memory of past lives).
I am therefore unable to discredit the presence of intelligence. To me, intelligence is evident in all that has been created through it and as everything sustained by it. Intelligence is there, ever present, ever seeing and all powerful and all knowing, and intelligence is present even as the ‘parts of its complete self’, that deliberately forgot their identity for whatever reason. Intelligence is also the real life, a consciousness that just lives for ever and ever and ever. In that context, life on earth could really be, as sages say, ‘just an entertainment of the cosmic intelligence’ which gives an illusion of termination of life, making the reality of an unending life less boring! Jokes apart, I do believe that there cannot be but God!!It is difficult to separate the answer to ‘Is there a God?’ from ‘Who is God?’ and so I have unintentionally dealt with the latter question here. There are a lot of ways in which we can attempt at describing and understanding God, but I want to deal with that question separately.
To come back to the original question of “Is there a God?’, it would be helpful to note that God or cosmic consciousness is no more treated as just an idea by the followers of science. This is because even scientists have perceived, on the basis of cause and effect principle, that there has to be a cosmic consciousness. Only the presence of cosmic consciousness could explain certain linked events occurring at different and distant parts of the universe that pointed to connectedness within the whole cosmos.
Moreover the theory of intelligent design supports the existence of cosmic intelligence and is based on the fact that evolutionary theory could not explain the complexity within a cell especially the complexity of arrangement responsible for the information in the DNA molecule. Neither life nor information has been shown to spontaneously arise from matter or energy. Intelligent design theorists have also demonstrated that at molecular level living things are full of examples which show that they could not have developed from numerous, successive, slight modifications. For example clotting of blood occurs only when all the 20 different proteins required for it, work together in sequence. This is an irreducible complex system. And it supports the presence of intelligence behind it as only intelligence can account for presence of complex systems that did not arise from modifications to simple systems.
In presenting this theory though, I have not intended to support any particular theory as the truth and the other as false. For me as I said, even evolution does not edge out the involvement of the creator. Why? It’s because even mans inventions have evolved but still he is called its creator. The idea for the aero plane has evolved from the ideas contributed by a score of other experimental flying machines. Does the fact that the modern plane has evolved from other flying machines make man any less the creator of the plane? Who would say that the modern plane is a result of numerous successive slight modifications and so there is no question of intelligence behind it.Also, today as a mother of a child, I am awed by the perfect human being that is manufactured within the womb. When I look at my child I just cannot believe that she was made within me! The mother carries the baby for nine months in the womb and is yet not aware of how the baby is moulded so perfectly within her. The mother does not make the child, then how is the child made? ‘Genetics’ to me is an irrelevant answer to the essence of the question. Recently I watched a discovery show which showed off the latest robot built by the Japanese. I was intrigued, no, not by the genius of man, but by the genius of the intelligence that created man. The show voiced my own feelings when it said that the robot cannot do all that a one year old could do with perfect ease! Sure enough, what all was done laboriously (like turning, bending, kicking a ball) by man made robots were things that a one year old can do without a thought.
Finally I would like to conclude with a statement of Voltaire. He was willing to be called a fool if it be that the complexities of the universe did not suggest the presence of intelligence behind it!
‘If a watch proves the existence of a watchmaker but the universe does not prove the existence of a great Architect, then I consent to be called a fool.’ -Voltaire