Is God Really Present In Everyone?
Sathya Sai Baba
Loving Sai Ram and greetings from Prashanti Nilayam.
People often write to us and ask: “How can you say God is present in all? Surely God is NOT present in a murderer. If He were, then how come the man committed murder? There is something wrong somewhere in the assertion that God is present everywhere.” Today, we would like to offer some thoughts on this question.
The question posed is one that is frequently asked. Interestingly, the answer was given – tersely though – as far back as five thousand years ago, by Lord Krishna Himself. Krishna did not elaborate. Swami too has spoken about the Omnipresence of God, but unlike Krishna He has commented extensively on aspects of the Divinity latent in man and how it can be made to manifest. Unfortunately, few pay any attention to these great expositions of profound truth, which is one of the reasons why this question of God being present in evil men comes up again, and again.
Let us go back to the Bhagavad Gita. When Krishna first tells Arjuna that God is present in all, Arjuna is not quite able to understand and wants further explanation. That Krishna offers in the eighth chapter, using three key words – Adi Bhoutika, Adi Daivika, and Adhyatmika. In simple terms, these three words refer to the presence of God within each one of us at three levels, the gross, the subtle and the causal. Perhaps these words sound mysterious but don’t worry we shall try and explain what precisely they mean.
Let us start with the presence of God within us at the gross level. What does this mean? Simply this: Our bodies are all made up of atoms and the power of God is unquestionably present in every single atom. By the way, please do take a minute off to appreciate that the atoms in the body are not there “permanently”. Atoms are all the time coming in and atoms are all the time going out. Let us say we walk bare feet; as we do so, millions of cells get removed from the foot due to friction, and in that process out go billions of atoms. When we breathe in, atoms get in, and when we breathe out, atoms go out. Similarly, atoms go in when we eat and atoms go out with sweat, excreta, etc. In short, there is a constant and dynamic traffic of atoms in every living body.
OK, accepted but what has all this got to do with the presence of God within? Simply this: We all know that there is power within the atom. This power is enormous, especially if we look within the nucleus of the atom. How do we know? Via Hiroshima and Nagasaki. You know something? These cities were each destroyed by the release of the energy contained in just about five grams or so of matter – yes just five grams or so of fissile material, Uranium in the case of Hiroshima and Plutonium in the case of Nagasaki . Imagine that! Apply the famous formula E = mc2 to five grams of atoms and you can enough energy to wipe out a big city. Supposing this formula is applied to say seventy kg, which is the weight of a moderately-built person. You get an energy equivalent of 70 x 200 or 14,000 Hiroshima bombs! In other words, if all the atoms in the body of a person weighing 70 kg were to be converted into energy according to Einstein’s famous formula, it would mean a release of energy equivalent to that of 14,000 Hiroshima bombs! Mercifully, it is not easy to release such energy, and we have to be thankful to God for packing it all very safely inside, but let us remember after this calculation how much of mass-energy each one of us packs in! Whether we like it or not, whether we believe in God or not, this mass energy is present in not only every living being but also in every inanimate being. Just to amuse yourself, try and figure out the mass energy of the earth! It would be astronomical; and yet we routinely dig this earth, tear it apart to build skyscrapers and what have you. It is lucky for us that the earth bears it all patiently and does not release even a tiny fraction of the energy packed within it. That is God’s Grace!
We hope we have been able to convey the important truth that God is present at the gross level in all of us as the energy of the atoms that make up the body. Even the body of the murderer is made up of the same atoms as are present in the bodies of saints. Thus, at the gross level at least, the presence of God in all, including a murderer cannot be questioned. In fact, the murderer may weigh more than a saint, in which case his latent atomic energy would be more!
All the above is an amplification of the word Adi Bhoutika, used by Krishna to describe the presence of God within us, at the so-called gross level. He is immanent and therefore not easily recognised, but that does not mean He is absent. Let us now move on to the next level, that is the subtle. As already mentioned, Krishna uses the word Adi Daivika to describe the presence of God at this level. Now what exactly does this word mean?
Consider any living person. What do we mean by saying a person is alive? If a doctor is examining a patient who is on the deathbed and is about to die, he watches carefully for vital signs, sometimes simply by feeling the pulse, sometimes using the stethoscope and sometimes using more complex electronic monitors. Whatever the method, he looks for signatures of life such as breathing, blood circulation, etc. Now the ancients of India said that life is sustained by some vital forces that control breathing, circulation, response of the nervous system, etc. They then argued that these vital forces or Praanas as they called them, are all controlled by certain deities. What Krishna told Arjuna was that it was not really deities who were managing the vital forces within but He, the Lord. Remember the Gita sloka that begins with the word Aham Vaishvaanaro Bhutva…, that we chant before meals? Through that sloka, Krishna asserts that He is the vital force presiding over the process of digestion. In fact, He is the vital force that controls blood circulation, nerve conduction, respiration and what have you, a fact that is echoed again and again in various ways in the Vedas. Now you will surely agree that these vital forces operate even in a murderer; if they did not, he would be dead. So, whether we like it or not, we have to concede that God is present even in a murderer at the so-called subtle level. That makes it two of three. What about the third level? That is what we shall consider next, and it would turn out that it is at this level that one does see a difference between a murderer and a saint.
Krishna tells Arjuna:
“My dear fellow, besides the gross and the subtle levels, I am also present as the spiritual force in the Heart of every person. Whether you like it or not, every person has not only a physical heart but also a spiritual Heart. The spiritual Heart is where I reside, and I do so in every person. I make Myself present in everyone so that whenever anyone wants Me, I am available immediately. Remember Draupadhi? When she called out to Me by crying, ‘Oh God the Resident of my Heart, why don’t You help me?’ I responded instantly. So this is the first point you have to understand. I am present in all, without any exception, including in a murderer. Now comes the question: ‘In that case, why do people commit murder? How can they do so, when God is within? And why does not the God within prevent the murder?’ Well, you see, just because I am inside, it does not mean that people always listen to what I have to say. Sometimes, they simply lock Me up inside and do not allow Me to manifest Myself. I don’t push Myself or throw My weight around. I just say, ‘I am here and you can take My help anytime you want. If you want Me, then I am ready to help.’ I am sure you have noted that right now I am helping you because you asked Me for it. But if a person does not want to use My services, then I am happy to sit inside and just watch. I have given every person the option to call for Me or to ignore Me. If the person calls, I respond; if there is no call, I do not. I just take it easy and watch as a witness, that’s all!”
We agree that Krishna does not quite put it this way in the Gita, but if you read Swami’s Discourses carefully, you would discover that this is effectively what God tells man. So what does it all boil down to? Simply this: God is present within us even at the spiritual level but unless we allow that spiritual force to manifest, our actions would be tainted and even evil. Let us put it this way: God is present at three levels, with each level having a switch. The switch for level 1 is put on by God Himself and we do not have any role to play. The same is true for level 2; when we are born, God puts on the switch. As for level 3, God has left the job of putting on the switch to us. The switch is there in everyone including a murderer; however, the murderer does not put it on, while the saint does; that is what makes the difference between a murderer and a saint.
Incidentally, this also makes it easy for us to understand how a notorious criminal named Ratnakaara became Saint Valmiki and wrote the Ramayana. Initially the third and crucial switch was off but when Ratnakaara met the seven sages and heard their advice, he flicked the third switch to the ON position. That is how he became a saint. Barely five hundred years ago, the same thing happened to a stingy miser and pawnbroker named Narayana Shetty. But one day due to some powerful incidents, he put on the switch; overnight he became Saint Purandaradasa, who, incidentally, is also the founder of Carnatic system of Indian classical music.
So the bottom line is this: God is present at three levels as explained above. The switch that makes Him present at level 1 and level 2 are put on by God Himself. However, the switch for level 3 is not put on by God. He leaves that job to man. If man flicks that switch, then God manifests in that person via qualities like love, compassion, forbearance etc. If man does not bother to put on that switch, then God does not certainly manifest in the actions of the concerned person. In other words, God is present but only partially shall we say? In short, we cannot simply say that God is not present in a murderer.
Let us leave the murderer and for a minute consider a person who is very corrupt. If we accept the argument that God is not present in a murderer, then we can jolly well ask: “Is God present in a corrupt politician? Is He present in a crooked businessman,” and so on. If we started doing that, then pretty soon we would have to rule out the presence of God in practically all of us! Fortunately, that is not the way it is. God is the resident of all Hearts but His manifestation is a different matter. The purer a person is the greater is His manifestation through virtues, goodness of action etc.
Now some might ask: “Why on earth did God do this? Why could He not have flicked the third switch also?” Well, we cannot answer that question! God is the One who created this Universe and living beings, and He alone can answer that question. But this much we can say: Life is a game. Every game, be it baseball, cricket, golf, or soccer or whatever, has its own rules, and when one plays the game, one must follow the rules. If there is a violation, it is declared a foul, and in soccer, one gets yellow and red cards! In the same way, we have to play the game of life according to God’s rule and we have no choice!
Perhaps you are not happy about that, but we hope that you would at least agree that God is present even in a murderer, though He may not manifest in terms of virtues and humanness.
Jai Sai Ram.
With Love and Regards,
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