Does God Take Birth?
The Vedas say that God does not take birth. The Bhagavadgita says God takes birth. What is the truth? If God takes birth, why does the Vedas say the opposite?
There is no contradiction between the Vedas and the Bhagavadgita. In many ways, the Bhagavadgita is a summary of the Vedas, the Sutras, and the Upanishads. Hence, it is considered one of the most important scriptures of Hinduism. According to both, the living being (jiva) has births and deaths, but the Self, or the Soul, called Atman has no birth and death. It is eternal and indestructible.
Each living being is a combination of soul and materiality. Their association results in the beingness (jivatvam), which has the characteristics of existence (sthithi), activity (chaitanyam), modifications (parinama), consciousness (citta), diversity (anekatvam) and duality (dvandam).
Same is true with the Brahman of the Vedas, or what they call God in English. We call him the Supreme Self (Brahman). He has no birth and deaths, since he is eternal. He is both existence and nonexistence, known and unknown, with qualities and without qualities. When he is awake, he is existence (sat), and nonexistence when he is asleep.
The Upanishads suggest that this Brahman cannot be known entirely, or clearly, because his known aspect is much smaller than his unknown aspect. Therefore, you may know him, but you also do not know him. Since he is complete and absolute, you cannot say he is only good or only light. Since he is the support of all, he is in everything and everywhere. He pervades both good and bad, and light and darkness, but remains untouched. If you want to know about Brahman, please read my book Brahman.
While Brahman has no beginning and no end, his manifestation as Supreme Being, called Isvara or Purusha, has a beginning and an end. Isvara (the source of all svaras or sounds or vibrations) appears as a projection of Brahman in the quality of sattva at the beginning of creation and acts as the Supreme Lord of Creation. He is the Saguna Brahman, or Brahman with qualities and attributes. He has movement, purpose, state, energy, duties, and powers to express his will and manifest the worlds and beings. The material universe is his body. In created worlds, he becomes many and participates in them as the enjoyer and the enjoyed, the God and devotee, and the knower and the known.
His highest manifestations are Hiranyagarbha (cosmic egg or seed), Viraj (cosmos), the Trinity (the three impelling life forces of creation, preservation, and destruction), Time (Kala), heaven, the mid-region, the sun and the moon, constellations, gods, celestial beings, etc. His lower manifestations are the earth, humans, animals, creatures, insects, demons, demonic worlds, etc. All these are part of his beingness, just as the various parts in your body are part of your beingness.
For example in the Vedas, your head is compared to the highest heaven and your feet to the earth. Your sense organs are the deities. Your breathe is Vayu. Your mind is Indra. The warmth in your body is the fire (Agni). Your hands and feet are the gods of commonality (Visvadevas). Your eyes are the sun and the moon. Your embodied soul (jivatma) is the Isvara. You are thus God (Isvara) Himself, in both body and soul, but you may not know it because you are subject to ignorance, duality, and delusion.
The highest truth of Hinduism
The Vedas and the Bhagavadgita in fact tell you that you should live and act as if you are God. You must have faith in your godliness. Only then you will be free from karma. Ignorant Hindus blame gurus who identify themselves with God. Their followers do not understand the real significance of what their gurus say, and instead of worshipping the God in themselves they begin to worship the gurus as gods. In this we cannot blame the gurus. They keep telling the truth through hundreds of speeches, examples, and discourses, but people's ignorance is so thick due to influence of Maya that they do not get the message.
The highest truth of Hinduism is that you should live upon earth as if God lives upon earth. It is the ideal portrayed through the Ramayana and the Mahabharata. When Krishna says in the Bhagavadgita, "Those who worship me come to me," he is not asking you to worship him, but the Self or the Isvara in you. It is the biggest fallacy to which people succumb. When he says, "Those who worship the gods go to them and those who worship me come to me," he is saying that those who worship the gods outside them go to them, but those who worship the God in them will go to Him only.
This is the difference. If you are drawn into yourself and become indifferent to the world of your perceptions you will achieve liberation, but if you are drawn outwardly into the world of objects and even if you worship the gods that you find there who are part of that duality and the delusion, you will remain this worldly and you will remain stuck in the cycle of births and deaths. We do not know how many do really understand this great message of Krishna. It appears not many have understood his teachings. Hence, for ages people have put Krishna in the temples, and remained ignorant of their own divinity and Krishna consciousness. They have done the same with Shirdi Baba, or the countless gurus in whose names they have built the temples.
The real purpose of incarnation, the birth of God
The purpose of any incarnation or emanation of God upon earth is to provide the people with an ideal which they can emulate and follow in their real lives. It is to remind them repeatedly that they are God in human form, and if they uphold the Self in them they will uphold the God in creation. When Krishna says, "Whenever there is a decline of dharma and ascendance of evil, I incarnate," it means there can be an incarnation in your microcosm also.
Its underlying message is when you are lost, confused, and in the great danger of losing yourself, and if you turn to spirituality, the God or Isvara who is in you as your soul will incarnate in your active consciousness and show you the way. If you are worthy of revival and rescue, due to your past karmas, he will awaken and guide you for the rest of your life.
We know that many people experience an epiphany when they are in deep trouble and pray to God. At times people who are in deep trouble somehow awaken to a new reality, a new life, a new beginning, or a new way of thinking. For them, it is almost like a spiritual rebirth. What happens is that they are saved by their own souls from the mire of delusion and difficulties. In your little world, it is equal to the incarnation or manifestation of your soul in the materiality of your body and the consciousness of your mind. It is what we call awakening or realization.
Our scriptures teach us very clearly that as human beings and as embodied souls, who are endowed with intelligence, which illuminates our consciousness and gives us the power of discernment, humans are meant to uphold the order and regularity of the world by taking responsibility for their lives and liberation, and by sharing with God His eternal duties of creation, preservation, and destruction. Human beings are expected to do their part in creating and preserving life upon earth, upholding righteousness, destroying the evil and the imperfections in them, and staying free from passions and evil influences. Instead of doing it, they can also build temples, invoke gods, and perform rituals, without corresponding inner transformation. It will not lead to liberation, but rebirth.
The true meaning and purpose of namaskar
This is not to suggest that people should not build temples, or worship gods. People should go to temples and worship gods as a mark of gratitude, because gods do exist in the real world and serve the world and beings by doing their part. They help you if you pray to them and make them offerings. Besides the gods are nourished by your offerings. Hence, worshipping them is part of your duty. However, when you worship them, you should nor forget your own divineness and your spiritual responsibility.
Probably you may not know this. When you bow down before a deity with your palms joined as a gesture of devotion and respect, your obeisance goes in two directions just as your joined palms point in two directions. One points to the deity in front of you and the other to the deity in your heart. This is the purpose of "namaskar" in Hinduism. Every time you pray to the gods in this manner, you pray to the deity in you and to the deity in front of you. Every time you use it to respect another person, you respect the God (Isvara) in him or her, and the God (Isvara) in you.
Whom you should truly worship
The Vedas affirm very loudly that you should worship the God in you and none else. The Yoga Sutras also affirm the same. It is the true meaning of Isvara paridhana. Let your mind revolve around (paridhana) Isvara constantly until it is fully absorbed in him without any duality or modification. Any practice of yoga, without the Isvara paridhana, or without focus upon the Self, is like a temple without a deity. What can you do in that temple, other than admiring the deities on the temple tower or the paintings on the walls? If you worship your body only through yoga, it will keep you on the periphery of your life, confined to your body consciousness, and never draw you into the heart and center of it where your Isvara shines brightly like the inner Sun. Physical yoga will make you a better and healthy jiva, but not a self-aware divine Shiva, which in reality you are. This is the knowledge (jnana) we learn from the Tantras which use physical means to draw you into the depths of spirituality.
The Soul in you is the Isvara, the Supreme Being. You are the Supreme Being in a human body, and it is your duty (dharma) to live like him upon earth. You are the breathing God. The world is the battlefield. Your body is the chariot. Your mind is Arjuna, and your Soul is Krishna. If you are in harmony with him and if you make him your friend, as Arjuna did, his intelligence will shine in your mind and show you the way. This is the message of the Bhagavadgita. You are a divine person, and your purpose here is to manifest that divineness through your spirituality, service, and duty. You must let your soul truly incarnate in your life and take control of your mind, destiny and your actions. Then your life becomes a song of God (Bhagavadgita) and you become a true Bhagavat (servant and devotee of God). Your heart becomes the heaven (Vaikuntha) where God (Isvara) resides.
The Purusha of the micro and macrocosms
Since humans are minor replicas of Isvara, in the Vedas both are known as Purushas. There is also a chapter in the Bhagavadgita about this Purusha, and his association with Prakriti. Both are described in it as the Kshetrajna and Kshetra. One of the highest manifestations of Isvara is Death also known as Kala, who is mentioned in the Upanishads as the devourer of all. He is the lord of the mortal world. In the Trinity he is personified as Lord Shiva as the destroyer. It is the same Death (Kala) who manifests with universal form before Arjuna in the Bhagavadgita as Kala, and shows him his universal destructive ferocity. The Purusha symbolism, of the Samhitas and the Upanishads of the Vedas, is a strong reminder to all that in their eagerness to perform sacrificial ceremonies and appease the gods they should not forget the God who resides in them and who is the ultimate recipient of all offerings. As the Isa Upanishad declares, they should worship both so that they will go to the highest heaven, instead of the sunless worlds of demonic spheres.
andham tamah pravisanti ye'vidyam upasate; tato bhuya iva te tamo ya u vidyayam ratah.
Those who worship knowledge of sacrifices enter into blinding darkness and into greater darkness enter those who worship knowledge of the Self alone.
I hope you see the connection now. The Supreme Self (Brahman), and the individual Self (Atman) are eternal. The Supreme Being (Isvara), and the individual beings (Jivas) are subject to the modifications of Nature (Prakriti). Hence, they have a beginning and an end. They are active (chaitanyam) as long as Nature is actively associated with the Self (sam+bhutam) and lapse into inactivity (achaitanyam) when Nature becomes disassociated from the Self (a+sam+bhutam) and lapses into inertia. The question the scholars raise is whether the Supreme Self and the Supreme Being are the same or different. The schools of Non-Dualism (Advaita) argue that Brahman alone is true and the Supreme Being is just an illusion or a projection of Brahman and he will disappear at the end of each time cycle. Other schools hold different opinions.
Yes, God takes birth as you and numerous beings in the world. At the same time, He is also eternal, infinite, formless, and indestructible.
Suggestions for Further Reading
- Creation in Hinduism As a Transformative Evolutionary process
- Creation in Hinduism As a Transformative Evolutionary Process
- Devotion and Meditation in Hinduism
- Why is Hinduism Called Sanatana Dharma?
- Wealth and Duty in Hinduism
- Do You Have Any Plans For Your Rebirth or Reincarnation?
- Lessons from the Dance of Kali, the Mother Nature
- Letting your God live in You - The True Essence of the Hindu Way of Life
- Maslow's Hierarchy Of Needs From The Perspective Of Hinduism
- Self-knowledge, Difficulties in Knowing Yourself
- The Construction of Hinduism
- The Meaning and Significance of Heart in Hinduism
- The Origin and Significance of the Epic Mahabharata
- The True Meaning of Prakriti in Hinduism
- Three Myths about Hinduism
- Does God Control Your Life?
- Does God Take Birth?
- क्या तुम ने कभी शान्ति की खोज में निकल पड़े हो?
- मजबूरी से मुक्ति कैसे मिलेगी?
- क्या कोई तुमको देख रहा है?
- Hinduism - Rules for Fasting
- Conditioned Ignorance, The New Social Evil
- Confusion Over Indian History
- The Dharma of Helping Others
- Teaching Faith in Classrooms
- The Problem of Conversion - Make Hinduism a Missionary Religion
- Hinduism and Its Intellectual Appeal
- What is Your Notion of God?
- The Construction of Hinduism
- Are You a Secular Person? Should You Be?
- Battle over Indian History
- Hinduism and Caste System
- Significance of Death in Hinduism
- The Role of Archakas, Temple Priests, in Hinduism