7.6 The Concept of God – Isvara

This sub-module is based on the teachings of Swami Dayananda.
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In this sub-module we’ll take a look at the concept of God as is normally understood. We’ll see why this conventional understanding needs to change.

We’ll also provide a logical reasoning as to why creation cannot be separate from God. We’ll understand the various orders in creation, and how it relates to God. We’ll learn how a proper understanding of God can end our helplessness and suffering.

The Concept of God

The Concept of God has to Undergo a Change

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The concept of the omniscient, infallible God includes looking upon him as source of blessing and punishment, and who is to be kept appeased through rites and rituals.

God as the source of both punishment and blessing is a primitive concept. It was adequate for people leading a simple life, who did not have the complexity of modern society.

This concept is inadequate and wrong. Our understanding of God has to be right in order to provide us with sanity and a sense of security.

We need to understand clearly the meaning of infallible. The common understanding is that God is infallible as long as he grants all our wishes and prayers. The moment our wish is denied, God’s infallibility is questioned.

Infallibility does not mean God should grant all our wishes. This concept has to change.

The concept of God seated in heaven is a prevalent belief. This concept throws a number of issues such as if God created heaven, where was God before the creation of heaven and so on.

The whole edifice of theology falls apart if we look into these questions. This concept is completely non-believable.

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Vedanta says God is Non-Separate from Creation

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Vedanta calls the entire Universe as Jagat. The word Jagat has a special meaning, jayate gacchati iti jagat, it is born and it is gone, a continuous cycle of born, gone, born, gone.

Anything bound by time, which is the entire Universe, is subject to change. If it is so, then you cannot say God was there somewhere “before” the creation.

If there is a creator for the Universe, it has to be looked into.

If such a creator exists, definitely he cannot be inside the jagat. If he cannot be inside, he has to be outside his creation. Words such as “inside” and “outside” denote space, and space itself lies within creation.

Since God cannot be inside or outside space, it effectively means space itself is God. Space is not different from or separate from God. We need to examine the old concept of God being separate from his creation.

If space is not separate from God, then how did the Universe come about? If we say that it is nature, and that nature created the world, then is nature intelligent and sentient to create or is it insentient, inanimate?

You cannot say that insentient nature created the world because the world is intelligently put together.

The World is Intelligently Put Together

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Here is an example which Swami Dayananda often uses to explain that the world is intelligently put together.

Suppose it is said that there is a valley in Switzerland where clocks and watches spring up from the ground. Will you believe it? You cannot.

However if someone insists it is nature and it’s created by nature, you will counter by saying that a clock or a watch is intelligently put together with many different parts. There is a dial, hour hand, minute hand, mechanical parts and much more.

Each part has a specific purpose that reflects the underlying knowledge and know how. Since it is intelligently assembled, it is a creation, created for a specific purpose by a human being.

Similarly a spider’s web, a honeycomb, a toy or a computer microchip, whether a simple crude production or technologically intensive, each is a product of an intelligent being. They reveal the skill and capacity of the intelligent being.

It implies both knowledge of what is produced and the skill to produce it. We find that all things here are intelligently put together, be it a leaf, a plant or a solar system.

It implies all-knowledge. The all-knowledge must also include all-skill because we see the product here.

Our human body is also an amazing piece of engineering and is obviously put together with great intelligence. It is a walking, talking, living, breathing work of art, which is alive and intelligently created.

Once we know that something is intelligently put together then it is available for our understanding. What is created with knowledge can be studied and analysed.

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In this extraordinary set-up called the Jagat, there is no particular person involved. It is an intelligent creation.

Creation implies a creator because of the knowledge involved. Knowledge in turn implies an intelligent being since knowledge cannot rest in an inert entity.

It has to rest in a conscious being, a being with the knowledge of not just a few things, but knowledge of everything including all possibilities within the Jagat.

Knowledge of everything means both known and unknown, what is visible and what is potential, is all-knowledge. We call this all-knowledge being as Isvara. We can also use the word “God” without the mindset of a God located above or somewhere else.

The all-knowledge Isvara or God has no specific location or gender. If we understand that God has no gender then we can invoke God as he or she. In Vedic culture, God is both he and she.

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An Inquiry into the Material for Creation

If there is a creation, and there is a maker, then the question of the material also arises. With what material did Isvara create the world?

Some theologies insist that God created the world out of nothing. This concept is against experience and reason, and is non-believable.

Inquiring into the material for Jagat with the help of scripture we understand that the material is from Isvara itself. The material is not separate from the intelligent cause. God is both the intelligent and material cause.

The World is Non-Separate from Isvara

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If Isvara is both the intelligent and material cause, what is the relationship between the world (Jagat) and the material (Isvara)?

Can the world be away from the material? Can a product be away from its material? Can a shirt be independent of its material, cotton?

Can you imagine a shirt without a material? You cannot. You cannot think of anything in the world without its material. The product and the material are inseparable.

Be it gold and chain or clay and pot; where the product is, there is the material. Where the effect is, there is the cause. If God is both the maker and the material, then where the Jagat is, there the cause, God is.

You can now understand that space, time, galaxies, solar systems, sun, stars, planets, everything is God. It is not a question of belief, it’s something to be understood.

Our scriptures do not say that there is no god, nor does it say there is one God, it says all that is here is God. This is not a concept, but a vision that has to be assimilated through understanding. It is a vision that opens up avenues for us to resolve our problems.

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The World is a Manifestation not a Creation

In Vedanta, Isvara is called Sarva-Vyapin, one who is all pervasive. Once we have the vision that God is both the maker and material cause, we can then understand the meaning of the word Sarva-Vyapin.

All pervasive does not mean there are two different factors, a Jagat on one hand, which in turn is pervaded by Isvara. It means all that is here is a manifest form of Isvara.

The word “creation” is a misnomer. If we accept the word creation, then the question of the creator, his location, the purpose and so on have to be inquired into. Such a situation does not arise when we see the world as a manifestation of Isvara.

Dream Model to Understand Oneness of Maker and Material

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If it’s difficult for you to assimilate the fact that the maker and material are one then the sleep and dream model can be used to understand this concept.

In sleep you lose your individuality. You have no idea of space, time or the world. You are there, but without thought of yourself. In Sanskrit the condition during sleep is called Avyakrta, undifferentiated.

The Chandogya Upanishad cites an example for this undifferentiated state. If you break the seed of a tree, you do not find anything inside. There is no trace of the tree within the seed, neither trunk, roots, fruit or the leaves. Yet the seed contains the entire tree in an undifferentiated form.

Given the right conditions, the seed grows into a tree. The potential that lies within the seed gets manifested as a tree.

There is a similar situation in deep sleep. There is no differentiation; rich, poor, healthy, blind, famous and the not so famous are all alike in deep sleep. You can say that a person is in an undifferentiated state in deep sleep.

You wake up from deep sleep, not completely but half awake, and experience the dream state. You see a world similar to the waking world, with similar objects, persons and situations.

You are the maker and material for the dream; the intelligent as well as the material cause.

An important fact to note is that you have knowledge of all that is in your dream. You cannot create an object unknown to you. Every object that you see in your dream has been taken from your memory because it is your projection.

Even if you see a man with horns, it’s a combination of objects known to you. You are the intelligence for the dream. No other example can help you understand the fact of maker and the material being identical as clearly as the dream example.

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Manifest-Unmanifest Cycle

Like an object that collapses into its material, there is a cosmic collapse called Pralaya. The word “collapse” is used because nothing is really destroyed. It is resolution. Jagat resolves into its causal form, like a destroyed pot resolves into clay.

From the causal state, Isvara manifests in this form. Isvara alone, who is all-knowledge, manifests in the form of space, time and so on.

To understand the total manifestation as Isvara, and nothing is outside Isvara, the scriptures employ a model of five subtle and gross elements – space, air, fire, water and earth. You have to understand it as a model. The intention of the scriptures is not to prove any creation or process. It just wants you to understand all that is here is Isvara.

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Isvara as Various Orders in the Creation

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Suppose a physics professor teaches that E=mc2, and the student sitting in the classroom cannot say “Professor, I have total faith in you. I need not understand the equation. I believe it.”

An equation is not a matter of belief, it is a matter for understanding. Similarly, when we say that Jagat is Isvara, it is a matter for assimilation, for understanding, not a matter for belief.

Isvara as Physical Order

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Total knowledge implies knowledge of the physical world too. Physics in the knowledge of Isvara manifesting in the form of the physical world.

When one studies physics, one is looking into the mind of Isvara, one is connected to Isvara.

Jagat is a manifestation of knowledge, which is why it is available for knowledge, available for equations. Everything is nothing but equations that are to be understood.

The equation that this Jagat is non-separate from Isvara is also a matter to be understood.

Jagat is a physical manifestation of Isvara’s knowledge, just like the dream world is a manifestation of our knowledge.

Isvara is nothing but all-knowledge manifest in the form of physical order called the physical Universe.

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Isvara as Biological Order

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It is not just the physical universe that forms an order. Besides the inert objects there are also life forms.

All the life forms on this planet and elsewhere together form another order called the biological order. Whether unicellular or multicellular all forms are but biological order.

Even trees and plants are studied under the same subject matter, biology. When one studies biology, one is studying Isvara.

So Isvara is manifest not only in the form of physical order, but also in the form of biological order.

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Isvara as Physiological Order

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In every living organism there is Prana, which is the source of energy for all activities. From a single ant onwards, every creature that exists in the Universe has Prana.

We call the functions of Prana, including what governs health and ill health, the physiological order. There is a physiological order covering every plant and tree that photosynthesises and prepares food for us. This is called plant physiology.

Prana exists in every living organism and the physiological order is a manifestation of Isvara. Study of physiology is a study of Isvara.

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Isvara as Psychological Order

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There is also a psychological order. All animals have their own psychology. Each member of a species behaves in the same manner, more or less.

Human beings have their own psychology. We are anxious, prone to fear, anger and so on. All these are not without causes.

There are reasons for getting angry, and for other emotions. Psychology helps us in knowing the reasons.

The psychological order also implies memory. Without memory there is no psychology. All responses are memory based.

This is the psychological order. Every human being is within this order and everybody’s behaviour is within this order.

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Isvara as Cognitive Order

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There is a cognitive science to understand psychology, the unconscious, and reasons for my behaviour in any given situation. The cognitive order governs what is error and what is knowledge, what can be and what cannot be, what is logical and illogical, what is rational and irrational and so on.

Being a self-conscious person, I cannot be content to known just those things that are necessary to fulfil my simple physiological and biological urges, safety, survival and other similar needs. I need to use my thinking process, to discriminate, to choose.

Discrimination or Viveka is the most significant faculty endowed to human beings. It is the faculty that helps me change cognitively. Every discipline of knowledge is entirely cognitive. Memory is also a part of this cognitive order.

This is the cognitive order and it is Isvara.

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It is One Total Order

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All that is here is covered by these orders. As individuals we are simple conscious beings within these orders.

There is no distance between one order and the other. When there is a physical order there is a biological order too, as all the components of biology are particles.

There is no distance between biology, anatomy, physiology and psychology. It is all one order. One has to understand Isvara as the one who is manifest in the form of one total order.

If that is so, then how far are you from Isvara?

Are you away from the physical order? No.

Are you away from the biological order? No.

Are you away from the physiological order? No.

Are you away from the psychological order? No.

Are you away from the cognitive order? No.

You’re always within Isvara.

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Isvara as Dharmic Order

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Since as humans we have free will, it is essential to know cognitively very early in life, what is appropriate and what is not, in any given situation.

The propriety of my responses is determined by the order that is Isvara, since everything manifest is Isvara.

Since everything is Isvara, our intellect is also no exception. We can recognize the presence of Isvara in our intellect in the form of our knowledge of right and wrong.

It is what people call as conscience or inner voice. The sense of right and wrong is commonly sensed. It is a collective sense and hence universal; it is Isvara.

I know I should not get hurt. Every living organism, mosquitoes, bacteria and viruses, knows that it has to survive; that it should not get hurt.

It is clear that nobody wants to be hurt, cheated, caused pain and so on. Also everybody wants people around them to be kind, giving, compassionate, sympathetic, an endless list of positive qualities.

Everyone knows exactly what is right and wrong, and this knowledge is universal. The universal right and wrong is what we call Dharma and Adharma.

We commonly sense it. It is not tangible, but we sense it, like the force of gravity. We sense it because it exists, and it is Isvara.

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Dharma and Karma

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On one side of the order is Dharma, the other is Karma. If you go against the law of Dharma, then it rubs you. To rub against the law is to get rubbed in the process; that is the law.

Isvara is both Dharma and Karma. He is manifest as the law of Dharma and Karma. If you rub against the law of your own free will then it has consequences.

Any action born of free will will produce a result. When we help someone there is a sense of satisfaction. We feel good because we are in touch with Dharma that is Isvara.

Adharma is also Isvara. If that is so, why do we not feel good when we do Adharma?

We commit Adharma because of inner pressure from our likes and dislikes (Raga and Dvesa). You can be pressurised only if your ego is very much present there, which means there is more of you and less of Isvara.

Every time you cut corners, when you compromise with your value system, you are under emotional pressure. It makes you compromise values you are well aware of. The resultant hurt, guilt and regret makes you suffer.

When we conform to Dharma, there is a visible satisfaction since there is no pressure. The joy we feel is called Drsta-Phala, seen or visible result. In addition to this visible result, the Dharmic action creates an invisible, unseen result called Adrsta-Phala.

This unseen result is called Punya (also known as Good Karma). Though Punya is a matter of belief, it has some logic to it.

This Punya will manifest in a future situation as a favourable or pleasant experience.

If you indulge in Adharma (non-Dharmic action) then the unseen result is Papa (also known as Bad Karma). Papa will lead to an unpleasant experience in future.

This is the law of Karma, and it is also Isvara. Where there is Dharma, there is Karma.

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Om is a symbol for Isvara

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Om symbolOm is a word, and therefore, it is a sound symbol for Isvara. Though it can be written, it is not a form symbol, popularly written as ॐ. Unfortunately these days when Om is stated, we only remember the symbol not what Om stands for.

A flag is just a piece of cloth. Yet, we see that on the flag of a country, the constitution of the country, what the country stands for, is deliberately superimposed, loaded. Deliberate superimposition on something else makes it a symbol for what is superimposed.

Therefore, the flag symbolizes the country and respect shown to the flag is the respect shown to that country. Defence force personnel follow a strict protocol in the flag hoisting ceremony.

Similarly, on the word Om, there is a deliberate superimposition of Isvara and therefore it becomes a word symbol. The names that we give to people are also sound symbols, standing for the person. So,Om is a sound symbol, which is loaded with meaning.

Phonetically, “A” is the basic sound that is produced by human being anywhere in the world, when he tries to make a sound by opening the mouth. In most languages “A” is also the first letter of the alphabet. When a sound is produced by closing the mouth, what comes out is the sound “M”.

In between, when there is a rounding off of the mouth, the sound “U” is produced. Since everything is the Lord, all names in all languages and in all dialects are the names of the Lord, and the names are nothing but the Lord.

Now, what can be the best name for the Lord, a name that would include everything?

All objects are but names and all names are words. Words, being made of letters, are nothing but letters, and letters are sounds. Since sounds are produced by opening and closing the mouth, all sounds are phonetically between “A” and “M”.

The Lord being everything, his name should include every name. The letter “U” is inserted in between to indicate all sounds in between. Thus, Om that is made of the letters “A”, “U”, and “M” includes, phonetically all sounds and therefore, all letters and all words of all languages and dialects.

Therefore, it becomes a word which indicates all objects. In this way, Om becomes the name of Isvara, the Lord.

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You Relax in the Awareness of Isvara

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All that you are aware of is Isvara. It means you can relax. In the awareness of Isvara, you relax. You can trust the order because the order is infallible.

We do not say that God is infallible, we say that the infallible order is God. The difference is to be understood.

Isvara is in the form of order. That order is infallible, which is why it is called order. You can conform to and make use of the laws with that knowledge. You can get into a proper slot in a given scheme of things without rubbing anything.

So as an adult you now have absolute trust because of the understanding that Isvara is manifest in the form of an order that is infallible.

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Vision of Isvara is the Solution to Human Helplessness

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As children we had total trust in our parents, and this trust gave us a sense of security from our problems. For a child his parents are omniscient, omnipotent and almighty, otherwise the child cannot have complete trust.

As we grow up and become more independent we begin to discover that our parents are fallible, and we start to lose the total trust we had in our parents.

With this loss of trust there is now no one to protect us from our problems and we become helpless.

We have to get back the trust and also the capacity to trust. And the knowledge that we have of Isvara is going to help us see how we can relax in the trust of Isvara.

The understanding that Isvara is manifest in the form of this Jagat will help us discover an altar where we can resolve our helplessness and relax.

Isvara is to be understood. This world is an intelligent assembly serving a definite purpose and therefore it is a creation. The maker of a given thing must have the knowledge of that thing. Creator of everything must be omniscient.

Since heaven is also a part of creation, heaven could not have been there before the creation. So where was God before the creation of heaven?

Is God located in space or space is a part of the creation?

If space is part of creation, space cannot be separate from its material cause. The Lord is the material cause for this universe. So what is space? Space is Lord. Time is also the Lord.

The sun, the moon, the planets, the stars, all of these are the Lord. Your physical body, which is made up of five elements, is again the Lord. The breath is Lord, sense organs are the Lord, the mind is the Lord, the consciousness behind them all is also Lord.

You don’t require particular altar to invoke Lord. You can invoke him anywhere because what is that which is not the Lord. The whole order is the Lord.

THERE IS ONLY GOD and If someone invokes Him as Rama or Krishna that is fine.

If someone invokes him as Allah, that is fine and if someone invokes him as Jesus that is also fine. Only when god is understood does this fact becomes obvious.

If someone cannot accept the fact of people invoking God in different names and forms, it is their problem. We have no problems Because we don’t have many Gods, we don’t even have one God, WE HAVE ONLY GOD. We only invoke him in various names and forms.

If God is different from you, He doesn’t include you which means that God is mighty, but not almighty.

Swami Dayananda

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1. The concept of God as we normally understand it has to change. We need to “understand” rather than just “believe” why God is infallible.
2. The Universe, Jagat, is an intelligent creation. Creation implies a creator with the knowledge to create. This all-knowledge being is called Isvara.
3. Isvara is both the intelligent and material cause of creation, just as you are the intelligent and material cause of your dream.
4. Isvara is the physical, biological, physiological , psychological and cognitive orders in creation. As individuals we are all within these orders. We’re always within Isvara.
5. Isvara is both Dharma and Karma. When you follow Dharma, you acquire Punya (good Karma). And when you break Dharma, you acquire Papa (bad Karma). Punya leads to a pleasant experience in future, and Papa leads to an unpleasant experience in future.
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