When Wise Men Speak, Wise Men Listen
Chapter 3 – Does God Exist?
This short chapter “Does God Exist?” by Śrīla Narasiṅgha Mahārāja, answers a fundamental question, ‘How do we know that God exists?’
Question: I have a friend who says that you cannot know whether God exists because you cannot see Him. Therefore, he says that it is wrong to base ones life upon a guess. He also asks why religious people quote the scriptures – aren’t they able to think for themselves?
Answer: Devotees quote the scriptures because the scriptures are the recorded examples of those highly advanced souls and great thinkers who have gone before us in the search to know the Absolute Truth. What they have recorded in their notes, in their doctoral dissertations – that is known as scripture. The experience of what is good and what is to be avoided on the path leading to God consciousness is recorded in the scripture. The words of the scripture are like so many lighthouses showing us the way through the fog or darkness of material conception.
Persons with a dull brain cannot understand scripture. Only those with buddhi, or purified intelligence, can understand the scripture. Is it not intelligent to take advantage of knowledge that is already recorded in authorized books? In a court of law, a lawyer will cite previous cases in the legal annals. Are we to assume that the lawyer has no capacity to think on his own simply because he quotes law books? The doctor also may be found to consult so many medical texts when attempting to cure a patient of a particular disease. Should we then assume that the doctor has no ability to diagnose the patient on his own?
Experience shows us that a good doctor and a good lawyer have volumes of related books for their reference. So why should it be any different in the search for God? If relevant textbooks are available, should one not take advantage of such books? The scriptures are written on the basis of personal experiences of those who have had some success in the world of consciousness, God consciousness. The scriptures say, “This has been discovered. Go there are see for yourself.”
A man of scriptural knowledge is indeed a free thinker, a self-thinker. The ability to think for one’s self is in fact a qualification to become God conscious. A dull brain cannot achieve God consciousness. What is a dull brain? One who thinks he is the material body consisting of material elements, has a dull brain. Such persons cannot think for themselves because they do not know what the self is. Under the guidance of scripture one becomes self-aware. Then one’s real thinking begins. Only then can one think for one’s self.
A person in material consciousness is never a self-thinker, because such persons are always under the mental and physical impressions of the material body, which is false. Only one who has understood the difference between matter and spirit can be a self-thinker. Such persons always take the scripture in close alliance with their practices. It is therefore not a sign of weakness that one quotes the scriptures. Rather, it is a sign of spiritual advancement.
Someone may say that we must prove that God exists. They will say, “Show me God, I want to see Him.” But we will say, “Because you cannot see God does not prove that He does not exist.” Should a blind man say that the sun does not exist simply because he cannot see it? The blind man cannot see the sun but his blindness does not disqualify the existence of the sun.
The argument may be put that the blind man cannot see the sun, but he can feel the soothing warmth of the rays of the sun. So we must be able to have some tangible experience of the existence of God before we accept Him fully. That is not unreasonable. Although the material eye has no capacity to see the transcendental form of God, we can nonetheless feel that He exists. Feeling is a higher and more reliable sense than sight. But that feeling is not skin deep, like the perception of the sun’s rays; it is heart deep. With the feelings of one’s heart one can confirm that God exists. God is on the deepest side of our existence. In the deepest plane of our consciousness, in the core of our heart, His existence can be felt. Indeed it is a profoundly personal experience, not something for the sightseers of the mundane world. We will exclaim, “Show me God!” and He will come and simply dance before our eyes? It is not like that. Many things are required if we want to see God.
It is not unreasonable. First qualify yourself. “First deserve, then desire.” Is there any valuable thing in this world that you can have simply upon demand? Simply saying, “I want to be rich!” Do you become rich? No – many things are required before that. Simply saying, “I want to be a doctor!” Do you become a doctor immediately? No. Then why should one think that the demand to see God should be met immediately? First, deserve, then desire.
An atheist has no proof that God does not exist, so is it not risky to base one’s life on something that is just a guess? The position of the theist is always more positive than that of the atheist. Let us consider for a moment. There are two men. One is a theist and the other an atheist. Each lives out his life according to his creed, and in the end both men have to die. Let us say for the sake of argument that when the theist dies there is no God. Then what does it matter? He believed in God, but in the end there was no God. So what does it matter? Death comes and life is over, finished, the end. No loss, no gain, it’s simply over.
On the other hand, the atheist dies and he was wrong. There is a God! Then what? What does he do now? It’s too late. He again takes birth in the material world and suffers and enjoys according to the deeds of his past life. So to be an atheist is quite a risky proposition. The position of a theist is always safer and more desirable than that of an atheist.
The devotees of Krishna are not muktivadis, those who want liberation from material sufferings. Nor are the devotees of Krishna jnanis, who want to know God through empirical knowledge, calculation, and speculation. Nor are the devotees of Krishna among the karmis and Sahajiyas, the sensualists, who want to experience God with their material senses, like the eye. The devotees of Krishna are bhaktas. They simply want to love God, and the reciprocation of their love for Him is indeed the greatest confirmation of His existence.