Many Faces of God

Every state and province in our country has a unique and different cuisine, dance styles, dressing styles and they celebrate festivals in their own unique way too. Today you can see so many dishes from Gujarat laid out before you. Nowhere else in the world will you find so much diversity. I still remember that a few years back when we had an event called Annabrahma in Gujarat, an amazing 5800 dishes were prepared for the celebration. Food from every corner of the country was prepared and presented there – ranging from the Kattha Baingan and Dum Aloo. Dishes from Kashmir to a multitude of dishes from the state of Tripura, and the many varieties of Payasam from Kerala. You can find such an amazing diversity only in India. Just see! From one side we have all the savouries and towards the other end we have all the sweet preparations.
I remember an incident from the time I was visiting Lahore in Pakistan. There was a huge meeting arranged in the Lahore University at that time and many young students had attended the meeting.
The Vice Chancellor of the University told me, “Gurudev, we have never had such a huge crowd for one event in the history of this institution. There is huge excitement to listen to you”.
People had gathered and seated in two or three halls together, such was the crowd. One young student asked me, “Gurudev, in Pakistan we believe in only one God that is Allah. But in India, people believe in so many gods and goddesses. How is this possible?” I replied, “See, from the same wheat flour you make Karachi Halwa (a sweet preparation), a Samosa (savoury snack), Naan (baked flatbread), and Parantha (stuffed flatbread) and even noodles. But ultimately it is the one same flour, isn’t it? Then why do you make so many varieties of dishes from it? In the same way in India we also believe that God is one, just that He arrives or presents Himself in a variety of forms and dresses. That’s all. God does not always dress up like a grand warrior all the time. Every time He dresses in a different attire. But still, God is one”.
Hearing this, the boy replied, “Gurudev, I have never heard such a simple and profound explanation”.
I said “See, you adore and address Allah by 99 sacred names, isn’t it? In India we have 108 names for the Divine, just a little more, that’s it”.
Religion exists to unite people and bring them together, not to divide them and keep them apart. We all are one. The youth really liked this understanding.
Just see, God has created so many different kinds of vegetables. He did not just make only one kind of vegetable isn’t it? God did not only create the eggplant and have everyone only eat eggplant. God created potatoes, tomatoes, okra (ladyfinger), eggplant, etc., and a huge variety of vegetables. In the same way, He also created people of different kinds. So we should bring everyone together and celebrate. This is the essence of Lord Krishna’s message when He said “Dear one! See Me in everyone, and see everyone as Me”.

The Underlying Unity Of The Creation

Who is God? God is Satchitananda. ‘Sat’ means the Truth, the ultimate reality without a second.‘Chit’ means the blissful Consciousness that is alive and complete with intelligence. It is not dead, inert or passive in any way. Consciousness is that which is constant, eternal and ever present. Consciousness is alive, it has intelligence and it alone has the ability to know and comprehend. ‘Ananda’ means that it is blissful.
We say, ‘Satyam Shivam Sundaram’. It means that like Lord Shiva, the Consciousness is benevolent and blissful, it is the Ultimate Truth, and the pinnacle of all beauty. It is peaceful and without a second, it alone is. That is Shiva.
It is only in India that beauty has been associated with God. In no other culture or tradition in the World has God been addressed as beautiful, or the source of all beauty. But in India, the Lord of all beauty and majesty is Lord Shiva, who is also titled as Sundaresa. Beauty is a quality, a sign of Lord Shiva. This is why this whole World is so beautiful. Wherever you see or find something beautiful, there is a deep and subtle energy that rises within you from your very core – and that is the Shiva Tattva. That is the Truth. There was a saint from Kashmir called Lakshman Ju Ji. I came to hear a story about his Guru. Once it so happened that a little girl dressed beautifully with ornaments and flowers came and sat before him. Lakshman Ju’s Guru, who was quite old and elderly, saw the girl and kept looking at the girl for two or three minutes. After that, he rose from his seat and went inside his room. There he went into deep meditation. After some time when he came out, he said “That little girl exuded so much beauty that I went into deep Samadhi upon seeing such beauty”.
Why do people adorn and decorate the idols of Devi Radha and Lord Krishna so beautifully? It is done so that by beholding such unequalled beauty, deep Truth and the Shiva Tattva gets kindled from within us. That is why temples are decorated so beautifully. If you visit the Meenakshi Temple in Madurai, you will see that they decorate the temple so beautifully. Even the idol of the Goddess is decorated so beautifully, that just by looking at the beauty of the Mother Divine one cannot help but adore the beauty and also feel so meditative. By seeing such images deep waves of beauty arise from within us, and they kindle and awaken the Truth, and the Shiva Tattva within us. That is why Adi Shankaracharya Ji composed the Soundarya Lahiri along with the Shivananda Lahiri. We have never concealed beauty. We have always nurtured, adored and celebrated beauty. If you take any Stotra from our scriptures, you will see that God’s qualities and His beauty are sung about together. There is a hymn in Sanskrit –
Shuklam Brahmavichara Sara Parmamadyam Jagadvyapineem
Veena Pustaka Dharineem-abhayadam Jadyandhakaraapaham.
Haste Sphatikamalikam Vidadhateem Padmasane Samsthitam
Vande Tam Parmeshvareem Bhagwateem Buddhipradam Sharadam.
(Hymn of Adoration to Goddess Saraswati)
Dedicated to Goddess Saraswati, the hymn says, “She is seated with a majestic Veena in Her hands; Your thoughts are the thoughts of purity of the Brahman, yet O Divine mother! You are seated adorned with beautiful flowers of all colours”.
While composing these verses and hymns, one would contemplate and imagine all kinds of beauty associated with the Divine. If someone saw the fully blossomed lotus, they would exclaim “Oh, how beautiful is this lotus!” But nowadays if someone were to make that same statement about a lotus flower, people would misinterpret it, thinking of the person’s political associations (here referring to the Lotus being the electoral symbol of a political party in India). So there is a slight danger of such harmless statements too being seen in a political light.
The blossoming of a lotus is compared to the full blossoming of one’s Consciousness. The Mother Divine is called as Kamalatmika meaning that the Mother Divine is fully blossomed like a lotus flower in bloom. She is also the secret and the cause behind the full bloom of the lotus flower. She is also called as Kamaladharini – meaning that the Mother Divine holds a fully blossomed lotus flower in one of her hands. In this way we connect every aspect of beauty with the Divine. This has always been the tradition in India. Why? It is because beauty is always understood as an aspect of Divinity.
God is addressed as Satchidananda.
A scientist may say, “I do not believe in beauty, etc.”, that is alright. But would one not accept the fact that God is Satchitananda? The poet says that using these six colours or qualities: Satya, Shiva, Sundara, Sat, Chitda, Ananda – God has created these uncountable creatures and coloured this Creation. And you are the very reflection of these divine qualities. God Himself is the canvas or the backdrop, and He also encompasses all the colours from which has come this Creation of countless sceneries and wonders.
The deeper meaning here is that you should do away with an intellect that discriminates or divides on the basis of this multitude and diversity; and instead understand that everything in Creation is actually made of One thing only. Whether it appears red or blue, or of any colour and attributes, the entire Creation is made up of One all-powerful Consciousness. When you embed this profound truth in your heart, then you become established in Yoga and see the underlying unity of everything.
The poet also says that usually we get stuck in people’s opinions and what they think of us, or our mind gets entangled in petty politics happening before us. Our mind gets trapped with the conflicts and problems around us. But it is not real, actually.
How can you think or know what someone is thinking of you? But you think “This person thinks so-and-so about me; that person thinks like this about me”, etc.
We create such false impressions in our mind, and we keep nurturing our cravings and aversions. What will happen if we drop all the cravings and aversions and think of beauty and divine qualities in our mind? All these distortions drop off and dissolve by themselves and we get established in Yoga.
Maharishi Patanjali said, “Yoga chitta-vritti nirodhah”, meaning that Yoga is to silence the distortions of the Mind. One moves from the scenery to the Seer when we see that this entire Creation is a play of Consciousness and everything is made up of that One Consciousness only. The diversity of colours and scenery is only because of this One Consciousness.