“Devotees solely engaged in the devotional service of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Narayana, never fear any condition of life. For them the heavenly planets, liberation and the hellish planets are all the same, for such devotees are interested only in the service of the Lord.” (Shrimad Bhagavatam, 6.17.28)
न कुतश्चन बिभ्यति
na kutaścana bibhyati
“I often hear His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada warn against mental speculation. Basically, don’t do it. It will sometimes be lumped in with the four regulative principles: no meat eating, no gambling, no intoxication, and no illicit sex.
“But are we not supposed to use our brain? I thought this wasn’t supposed to be based on blind faith, like the other traditions. Bhakti is for the most intelligent. Athato brahma-jijnasa. Now is the time for inquiring into the spiritual nature, Brahman.
“Inquiry implies mental deliberation, which is rooted in intelligence. Why should I not speculate? Why should I not conceive of ideas, travel further in such directions, and see for myself if the thought is valid or not? Or is there something I am missing here?”
The flaw with mental speculation particularly manifests in the area of understanding God. The idea is to get the proper idea from someone else. Because of the four basic defects of the human being, we cannot reach the proper conclusion on our own.
Imperfect senses, the tendency to cheat, committing mistakes, and being easily illusioned combine to create a host of false impressions and incorrect conclusions. Take the most important information from a trusted source, instead.
A wise person sees a potential flaw. If human beings have defects, then how can we trust another flawed person to give us information on the Almighty? The response is while a person may not be perfect, if they are in line with a tradition of information transfer that originates with the one perfect person, then there is no defect to the information.
Mental speculation leads to misconceptions. The ideas can deviate significantly from the true concept of the Supreme Lord, and from there a person is less likely to be drawn towards the imperishable path.
1. That He is old
The gray-haired, bearded man in the sky. We speculate that God is old since He would have had to been around at the beginning of the creation. We have an idea of what an old person looks like today. Their skin is wrinkled. They may not be able to walk with the same dexterity as they used to.
If they still have any hair left, it has turned white. They speak slowly and sometimes have difficulty recalling events from the past. As God would have to be the oldest person, He must bear a resemblance.
2. That He is angry
The old man is watching from above. He is like that curmudgeon, always complaining about things. He has plenty of source material. Just turn on the nightly news. Chaos. Tumult. Destruction. Despair. Sadness. Heartache.
All occurring in God’s kingdom, so of course He would be angry. The people messed up this great experiment called life on earth. They have plenty of food to eat and more than enough land to roam. Yet they fight each other to the death, quarrelling over trivial issues.
3. That He is vengeful
As He is all-powerful, God can do tremendous damage with His anger. He can retaliate in the most significant way. Look out, world. Watch your back. Locusts. Famine. Hurricanes. Tornadoes. The old man is ready to put a hurt on.
4. That He condemns for eternity
This is one of the main appeals of joining organized religion. An insurance policy against eternal damnation. Would you want to take the chance and be condemned to hell, forever? When all you have to do is show up at a house of worship once a week, pledge allegiance to an established institution, and everything will be fine.
The authorized information, passed down from parampara, dispels these misconceptions borne of mental speculation. The Supreme Lord is the kindest person you would ever meet. He is never old and tired. Quite the contrary, the Sanskrit description is nava-yauvanam. His transcendental body is ever fresh and new; like someone who has just entered the teenage years.
He lies down quietly in rest in the Vaikuntha world. He has no reason to pay strict attention to the happenings of the temporary world. Whether someone is up or down makes no difference to Him. It makes no difference to the participants, also, but they do not know better.
There is no reason for revenge, since the system of karma accounts for action and proper consequence. Everyone will get what is due them eventually; either in this life or a future one. There will be life after death, as the spirit soul is eternal.
न जायते म्रियते वा कदाचिन्
नायं भूत्वा भविता वा न भूयः
अजो नित्यः शाश्वतो ऽयं पुराणो
न हन्यते हन्यमाने शरीरे
na jāyate mriyate vā kadācin
nāyaṁ bhūtvā bhavitā vā na bhūyaḥ
ajo nityaḥ śāśvato ‘yaṁ purāṇo
na hanyate hanyamāne śarīre
“For the soul there is never birth nor death. Nor, having once been, does he ever cease to be. He is unborn, eternal, ever-existing, undying and primeval. He is not slain when the body is slain.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 2.20)
There is no such thing as eternal damnation precisely because God is always with us. This is through the expansion known as Supersoul. The neutral, all-pervading witness. He does not interfere with decisions, but He witnesses everything. He must give prior sanction for any result to manifest.
गुणैः कर्माणि सर्वशः
कर्ताहम् इति मन्यते
guṇaiḥ karmāṇi sarvaśaḥ
kartāham iti manyate
“The bewildered spirit soul, under the influence of the three modes of material nature, thinks himself to be the doer of activities, which are in actuality carried out by nature.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 3.27)
Knowing how God really is, it becomes much easier to understand where genuine religion fits into the picture, why I should follow the path of dharma, how it will benefit me and my fellow man, and how I am never forever shut out from the mercy of the Almighty, who displays endless compassion, karuna.
That God angry and mean,
Disappointed from above seen.
Old, gray and tired,
Revenge for what transpired.
From speculation wrong impression,
Proper only from disciplic succession.
That Krishna always in pleasure to be,
In heaven and hell best friend is He.