All theistic religious traditions talk about God, but not all of them invoke the same image of God. Some religious traditions portray God as an angry universal supremo who sentences to eternal damnation in the fires of hell all those who don’t devote themselves to him – exclusively. Such notions may have a limited contextual utility; they may create in people a fear of God’s wrath and thereby impel them to obey his commands for basic morality.
However, when such notions are portrayed as not contextual but universal, then they alienate thoughtful people both emotionally and intellectually. Emotionally, sensitive people are repulsed by the narrow-mindedness and vengefulness of a God out to punish everyone for no crime other than the refusal to believe in one particular interpretation of one particular dogma that claims to be the full and final revelation of God. Intellectually, they are appalled by the crudeness in lumping all nonbelievers into one wholesale category of hell-bound without any consideration of individual cultural conditioning or spiritual evolution.
The Bhagavad-gita starts by revealing (1.14) a refreshingly different conception of God: Krishna in the role of a charioteer of Arjuna, who represents humanity. In the Gita, Krishna is not sitting on a high moral cloud passing judgment on humanity, but is accepting the role of an assistant of humanity. He is persuading humanity to choose a prudent moral course by outlining logically and philosophically the choices available to us, and their inbuilt and inevitable consequences.
Arjuna’s unsentimental and unfearing questions and Krishna’s logical and philosophical answers reveal a God who respects human intelligence. The Gita reveals a sophisticated multi-level system of deepening wisdom and heightening worship that Krishna creates and sustains so as to provide all humans with a slot, even if gradual, on the progressive spiritual expressway. Far from damning nonbelievers forever, Krishna strives forever to redeem them. Overlooking the hatred for him that pervades their heart, he as the Supersoul resides in that same heart waiting round-the-clock for an opportunity to break the ice of their disbelief.
Such a god is Krishna. Learning to love him is life’s most rewarding experience.
“On the other side, both Lord Krishna and Arjuna, stationed on a great chariot drawn by white horses, sounded their transcendental conchshells.” (Bhagavad-gita, 1.14)
Aug 06, 2022
Brahmatirtha das Director, Bhaktivedanta Institute for Higher Studies