57. Why to Worship An Indifferent God?
Notes: I have translated the Bhagavadgita twice. The first one was a loose translation. The second one was a word to word translation with a detailed commentary. The commentary is however different from what you will find here. In this section I will share with you my thoughts about the knowledge, philosophy and wisdom of the Bhagavadgita as I understand it from my perspective. Jayaram V
Synopsis: Why worship an indifferent and disinterested God with devotion if he is equal to all and favors none?
Logically speaking, if God is omnipresent and exists in all, he must be participating in all conflicts and communications from both sides or from all sides. Residing alike in both good and evil people as their essential Self, he must be supporting all to succeed in their own ways. In that case, one may wonder what justification there can be to worship such an impartial and indifferent God, who permits all to act according to their respective dharmas (essential nature)
An evil person is not devoid of a soul or Self. He may be enveloped in a cloud of grossest impurities, but he too possesses a soul as everyone else. According to Hinduism, the Self does not participate in worldly activities. Whether it exists in a pious person or an evil one, he remains in the background as a passive witness and takes no sides. Thus, the Self is not a party to our desire-ridden actions.
However, Isvara, the lord of the universe, does not remain a mere passive witness. As the Puranas and the Vedas affirm, he does respond to the events in his creation according to their severity, but with detachment and equanimity, showing no hostility or friendliness. The same is emphasized in the Bhagavadgita. According to the scripture, God is the upholder of Dharma. Although, by nature he is disinterested and indifferent and has no goals or aims, for the sake of the order and regularity of the worlds he performs his duties with indifference. As the creator, upholder and destroyer of the worlds and beings, he nonchalantly ensures that everything is moving in its sphere, and creation is progressing as ordained.
As part of such duties, he may often engage in conflicts with forces that intend to spread chaos and disturb the worlds. However, it does not mean that he is averse to evil doers or generous to pious people. To believe that God takes side in any human conflict and helps one side at the expense of the other is delusion. The scripture clearly affirms that God does not take sides in any conflict. Even when he is engaged in a war with evil, he does so with sameness and equanimity and without anger or aggression. His focus is Dharma, and he engages in actions only for its sake.
Sometimes, aggression or anger may manifest in God, as in case of Shiva or Rudra. However, in such situations, it is usually Nature which is associated with his manifested form, which is responsible for that outpouring. It is not specific to a person or event but manifests whenever certain conditions exist. Even in that disturbed state, his essence remains unchanged, for he is the Supreme Purusha, who is eternal, immutable, fixed and indestructible. His essential Self, which is supreme consciousness, does not undergo any change, amidst the modifications of Nature in his Being or the universal body. This is affirmed in the Bhagavadgita, in the verse (8.29), which states that God is equal to all beings (sama aham sarva bhuteshu). None is hateful to him, or none is dear (na me dvesti na me priya). Attraction and aversion arise from desires and attachments, from which God is completely free.
Does it mean that there is no way to invoke a positive response in God? If he is indifferent and equal to all, what is the use of rituals, invocations, mantras or worship? If he engages in conflicts with evil doers as the Puranas suggest, does it mean that a negative attention is better than no attention at all?
The scripture provides the answer also. There is surely one method by which one can invoke God and attract his attention, and even his help or intervention. It is by devotion. It is mentioned in the same verse which quoted before. It states that whoever worships God with devotion, they will exist in him and he in them. Thus, here is a straight path to God, which is through the heart. The heart to heart connection with him is the most effective path to attain liberation. The relationship which arises from that is also superior to all other types relationships, for devotion can sanctify even the worst of evils. It can cleanse the impurities and remove all the barriers between God and his devotees.
Devotion and love possess the power to move God, who is otherwise indifferent and disinterested or immovable and stone like. They are more powerful than all the mantras and sacrifices which are mentioned in the Vedas for they are ineffective without them.
Does this mean that God plays favorites with those who appeal to his emotions with their devotion? Certainly not. God has no favorites. Here also, he acts equally according to the laws (Dharma) he established. In this case, he laid down a sacred rule, which applies to all, and according to which with devotion anyone and everyone can reach him with the same degree of assurance and success. Anyone can follow it and obtain the same results. It applies not only to pious people but also to evil ones, who change their wicked ways and become God’s devotees.
The same is affirmed in the next verse (8.30), which states that if evil people (sudurachara) have shunned their evil ways and worship God with undistracted devotion, they shall be considered good people (sadhus) who possess right disposition. The power of devotion is such. By devotion, anyone can transform himself and redeem himself from the gravest of sins. With devotion alone, an evil person can quickly become a pious soul (dharmatma) and attain everlasting peace. According to the scripture the devotees of God never perish. Whether born high or low, good or bad, those who take refuge in him and worship him with devotion become rescued from the cycle of births.
It is being done in deference to Dharma, without any partiality or favoritism. All are treated equally according to their faith and devotion, irrespective of their background, class, caste or position. No one is hated or loved as a special case, but everyone is given an equal opportunity to escape from the cycle of births and deaths by their own faith, resolve, effort and devotion. As a part of his obligatory duties, God may obstruct evil doers. In that also, he remains equal and deals with them according to their deeds.
Conclusion: God gives an equal opportunity to everyone to love him or hate him under a set of universal laws and suffer from the consequences accordingly. He takes care of those who surrender to him with faith and devotion, and leaves the rest to take care of themselves by their own effort and according to their deeds.
Suggestions for Further Reading
- The Wisdom of the Bhagavadgita, Main Page
- The Wisdom of the Upanishads, Main Page
- The Bhagavad-Gita Essays and Translations
- An Introduction To The Bhagavad-Gita And Its Three Secrets
- Why to Study the Bhagavadgita Parts 1 to 4
- The Abbreviated Bhagavadgita
- The Problem of Maya Or Illusion and How To Deal With It
- The Problem of Maya Or Illusion and How To Deal With It
- The Bhagavadgita, Philosophy and Concepts
- The Many Gods and Goddesses of Hinduism
- Divine Qualities Of A True Worshipper Of God
- The Bhagavadgita on Karma, the Law of Actions
- Maya, The Grand Illusion Or The Delusion Of The Mind
- Aspects, Emanations, Incarnations and Forms of God Vishnu
- Dvaita or Advaita What is the Truth?
- Symbolism in the Bhagavadgita
- The Truth About Karma
- Meaning and Definition of Bhagavan
- Brahman the Supreme Universal Lord of All
- What is Bhakti or Devotion?
- Bhakti Marg, the Path of Devotion
- History and information about Mathura and Vrindavan Temples
- True Devotion and Qualities of a True Devotee
- Essays On Sorrow And Its Spiritual Significance
- The Yoga of Knowledge or the Samkhya Yoga, Verses and Commentary by Jayaram V
- Essays On Dharma
- Esoteric Mystic Hinduism
- Introduction to Hinduism
- Hindu Way of Life
- Essays On Karma
- Hindu Rites and Rituals
- The Origin of The Sanskrit Language
- Symbolism in Hinduism
- Essays on The Upanishads
- Concepts of Hinduism
- Essays on Atman
- Hindu Festivals
- Spiritual Practice
- Right Living
- Yoga of Sorrow
- Mental Health
- Concepts of Buddhism
- General Essays
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