“This supreme science was thus received through the chain of disciplic succession, and the saintly kings understood it in that way. But in course of time the succession was broken, and therefore the science as it is appears to be lost.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 4.2)
इमं राजर्षयो विदुः
स कालेनेह महता
योगो नष्टः परन्तप
imaṁ rājarṣayo viduḥ
sa kāleneha mahatā
yogo naṣṭaḥ parantapa
The Vedic tradition is based on parampara. A succession of relationships, between teacher and disciple. Passing on the information from the most authorized source. No deviations; hopefully. No cheaters within the line. No dangerous curiosity to twist and shape the sacred gift for furthering personal, temporary goals.
If there should happen to be a weak link in the chain, there is no reason to panic. The origin either descends Himself or sends a bona fide representative to restart the process. This was explained to Arjuna on the battlefield of Kurukshetra.
On the other side is mental speculation. The ascending process of knowledge, where you start with nothing and keep adding on through research work; something like building a tower to reach a certain height. Since even one hundred years of existence in the intelligent human form is nothing compared to the infinite time and space related to the universe, this path yields little success in the endeavor to understand the most complex subject matter.
And so it is not surprising that one of the images resulting from mental speculation is the angry God. His location is above, away from the sinners in this mortal realm. Not only is He upset, but based on the facial features He is well-advanced in years.
The rational person has some questions about this image. They are not sold on the equivalence to Divinity, as there appear to be some irreconcilable gaps.
1. If God is an old man, with a long white beard, doesn’t that make Him susceptible to time?
He is supposed to be different from you and me. He is in the heavenly realm for a reason. Juxtaposed to our current state, He is in a superior way of living. One of the defects of our present area is the debilitating influence of time, known as kala in Sanskrit.
The star athlete does not remain the best in their field. Eventually, they have to leave. Someone else takes their place. The reason is the deterioration of the body. The form is constantly changing. From boyhood to youth to adulthood, the individual inside is the same, while everything else transforms to the point of being unrecognizable.
देहिनो ऽस्मिन् यथा देहे
कौमारं यौवनं जरा
धीरस् तत्र न मुह्यति
dehino ‘smin yathā dehe
kaumāraṁ yauvanaṁ jarā
dhīras tatra na muhyati
“As the embodied soul continually passes, in this body, from boyhood to youth to old age, the soul similarly passes into another body at death. The self-realized soul is not bewildered by such a change.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 2.13)
Old age is one indication. It is a warning sign. The end is near. The body is on the verge of ceasing to function entirely. Enough years have passed that a shift to something else is imminent.
If the angry God looking down at us is also old, is that not a major defect? How can the Almighty have this flaw? Why the long beard? Perhaps it is an indication of wisdom, but one of the properties of Divinity is eternal existence. This means that old age should not be a factor. God is not old compared to anything since He has always been around.
2. Isn’t He flawed to a degree, especially if He is upset at what He sees occurring on earth?
It is easy to tell that I am not God. I simply cannot get whatever it is I want at every point in time. There is failure. Humans are vulnerable to error. There are four principal defects, in fact: committing mistakes, imperfect senses, cheating, and being easily illusioned.
Even in the rare cases of a human being achieving the perfection of yoga known as prapti, there is still a before and after. Namely, the yogi had some point in time when they weren’t one. They did not have the prapti-siddhi at birth; they had to acquire it.
God should always be in the superior position. He should never be frustrated in desire. If He is upset at a particular situation, He should have the ability to remedy the situation immediately. Whenever He wants. Wherever He wants to go. To whomever He decides to distribute His causeless mercy.
3. If that were truly the image of God, wouldn’t He be able to remedy the situation without much effort?
If the angry God is upset at my behavior, if He views me in a disapproving manner, He should surely fix the situation immediately. Moreover, He wouldn’t give me only one chance at redemption. Just one life. Just one experience. Surrender and be saved. Forget and be condemned to hell forever. It doesn’t make sense.
Compare with the authorized image of the Divine as Padmanabha. He lies down to rest. Through breathing He creates and destroys the universes. He is not agitated in this slightest, though this is the most important work. He is atmarama, or completely satisfied in the self.
समो ऽहं सर्व-भूतेषु
न मे द्वेष्यो ऽस्ति न प्रियः
ये भजन्ति तु मां भक्त्या
मयि ते तेषु चाप्य् अहम्
samo ‘haṁ sarva-bhūteṣu
na me dveṣyo ‘sti na priyaḥ
ye bhajanti tu māṁ bhaktyā
mayi te teṣu cāpy aham
“I envy no one, nor am I partial to anyone. I am equal to all. But whoever renders service unto Me in devotion is a friend, is in Me, and I am also a friend to him.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 9.29)
At the same time, He is kind enough to accept the service of dear associates like Lakshmi Devi and Lord Brahma. Padmanabha is always beautiful and worshiped in opulence. In His non-different form of Krishna, God is known as nava-yauvanam. This means “always youthful.” God is indeed all-attractive, and through parampara we get the chance to connect with Him and always be in His favor, though He never releases us entirely on our own.
Never entirely to release,
Where connection with Him to cease.
Knowing Him parampara through,
Of body fresh and new.
Never to angry and old compared,
Where disapprovingly stared.
Full of compassion and kindness,
Devotion clearing my blindness.
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