India has a rich tradition of worshipping a Personal God. In the Vedic tradition, God was seen in the Natural Forces – Sun, Wind, Water, and so on. Then came the Upanishads and the idea of God as an impersonal force – unseen, omnipresent, almighty, incomprehensible by man, ground of existence, absolute essence, etc., emerged. The famous term ‘Neti, Neti’ – ‘Not this, not this…’ came into vogue in looking for God. Finally, starting with Shankaracharya, the idea of worshipping a personalized God, gained root. Even the Buddhists converted Buddha into a personal God. Jesus Christ too, became a personal God.
In the Bible and the Quran, God is described as a personal creator, who talks with and instructs his prophets. Personal relationships with God may be described in the same way as human relationships, such as, a Father in Christianity, a Lover in Sufism, and a Mother in Hinduism. The Bhakti tradition of India created a Master-servant relationship between Man and God. Saint Francis of Assisi even saw Man as an instrument of God. Organized religion, later on branched out as commercial religion and the market for Personal God related merchandise boomed – talismans, idols, pictures, and so on.
What does a young person do with God in the modern world? Organized religion has greatly lost its appeal to the urbane, rationale and scientific person. The idea of an Abstract God remains vague and therefore, is not very useful in practical terms. So, how about understanding God as intelligence inside and outside of the human body? Everything is orderly inside the human body – the blood pressure, the heartbeats, the temperature, the digestive system, respiration… Everything is working most intelligently and for good. Outside also, an exact amount of oxygen in the atmosphere, days and nights, seasons… all is good and fully functional in the most ordered way.
Personal worship then becomes an alignment with this intelligence and not going against it. This means following the signals of your body, keeping it clean, free of toxins and nourishing it with nutrients, exercise and rest, staying connected to Nature, feeling the fresh air, staring at the stars, basking in mild sunshine, and floating in a water body, if possible. And most importantly, listening to your inner consciousness – the drives, intuitions, hunches – and taking note of the dreams that bring important messages every night from the depths of your inner world and in sync with the unknown, trying to make itself known to you for your own good.
In every major religion, Free Will is seen as a gift of God to Man, and it is this that distinguishes him as superior to every other living creature. In the Bhagavad Gita, Shri Krishna, after preaching to Arjuna about the three paths to reach him – the knowledge way, the action way, and the devotion way, gave him the choice to pick any one of them or leave all three – yatheccha si tatha kuru (Bhagavad Gita 18.63). In the Holy Bible, the predicament of human life is free will. “I don’t do the good I want to do; instead, I do the evil that I do not want to do (Romans 7.19). Dr APJ Abdul Kalam (1931-2015) used to tell me, “Free will is given to Man so that he willingly surrender it to God’s will.” Joseph Campbell (1904–1987) puts it so beautifully, “The goal of life is to match your heartbeat to the beat of the Universe.”
So, instead of signing off the concept of God as old-fashioned, fossil, dogma or making it a hollow ritual confined to ceremonies, understand it as an inseparable part of your being, real, palpable, operating upon you from inside and the outside, every instant, as Supreme Intelligence. An agitated mind is indeed noise, and emotions like greed, anger and lust, are like viruses hijacking your CPU that is connected to the evolutionary operating system Cloud – God.