What is God's management style?

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    Ciprian Begu

    In many religions, various allegories are given to illustrate the type of relationship God has with the souls in the material world, in the idea that the souls here are by definition “rebellious”, “lost”, “materialistic”, etc and they need to be somehow “managed with care”. For instance, in Christianity there is the parable of the Prodigal Son, where God is the Father and the soul is the son who leaves home against his father’s wish and then gets into all kinds of trouble in the big, wild world. The father keeps a hidden relationship with the son by stealthily supplying him with resources (through his servants). So, God’s servants offer the son a job, while the son thinks he’s obtained it “on his own” etc. Anyway, the son goes through a lot of suffering, and finally returns home where the father receives him with open arms. So, in this concept, God is concerned with the soul in the material world and helps him while remaining hidden.
    Is this close to God in Vedic philosophy? If not, what would be some illustrations, parables or allegories that would show how God manages the relationship with the rebellious soul in Vedic philosophy?

    Ashish Dalela

    My answer is likely going to be subjective, and possibly controversial.

    As Krishna says in the BG, paritranaya sadhunam vinashaya ca duskratam, He appears to kill the miscreants and save the devotees. He never says that He appears to save the miscreants. There are however rare examples of devotees who out of their kindness try to save the miscreants. The general rule is that the miscreant suffers, learns, and then possibly reforms.

    The main exception to this rule is Lord Chaitanya. In this age of Kali-yuga, everybody is a miscreant. If He started killing everyone, nobody would be left to rescue. So, He appears as a devotee and sets the example that devotees try to save even the miscreants.

    The answer to your question is that it depends on the bhava of the form of the Lord. Some forms are munificent and others are not. Narasimhadeva for example is a form that strikes fear even in the hearts of the demigods and He is kind only to pure devotees like Prahalada. Other forms like Lord Ramachandra are kind to devotees like Vibhishana and harsh to demons like Ravana. Even Lord Chaitanya is not always kind; He is known to have rejected some devotees.

    But the elephant in the room is not God but His energy or Maya. The job of Maya is to delude the living entity and make it think that God is unnecessary. So, even if devotees and God may try to retrieve the soul, there is a strong force of Maya that keeps the soul bound in delusion. We could say that the ultimate purpose of Maya is compassion, but it is not presented as such. Maya presents so many allurements that message of the devotees and God is often ignored.

    Even the most serious devotees are tricked and tested by Maya. So, in one sense, God is eager to take the soul back. But in another sense, He is not in a hurry to do so. You could say that God’s management style is like that of a teacher. The teacher is eager to teach the sincere student. But the sincere teacher is not eager to pass the lazy student who is not studying. In fact, a good teacher will make attempts to teach sincerely, but then follow it up with a hard test. “No child left behind” in terms of teaching. But, “most children left behind” in terms of the test.

    If we knew how hard the test is, then most people would be discouraged to even learn. Therefore, for the novice, God’s compassion is emphasized, while hardship is deemphasized.

    Ciprian Begu

    This is a great answer. This send my mind me to your blog article on the Vedic unconscious, where you say that the original emotion that sends souls in the material world is envy of God, which then leads to fear and then to desire. There, you describe Lord Shiva as Pasupati (Master of the Animal) and Maya as His consort which both deludes and instigates the soul into desire. I guess, in Christianity, this would be the equivalent of “being tempted by the Devil”. At first glance, this is very perplexing, but, as you say in that article:

    Superficially, it appears that by baiting, material nature is actually instigating the soul to get up and fight. At a closer look, however, we can see that material nature is only reminding the soul that it is very small and it has to surrender. Material nature is therefore also a spiritual energy—but it is spirituality meant for the envious.

    Sitalatma Das

    There’s also BG 16.19:
    tān ahaṁ dviṣataḥ krūrān
    saṁsāreṣu narādhamān
    kṣipāmy ajasram aśubhān
    āsurīṣv eva yoniṣu
    tān — those; aham — I; dviṣataḥ — envious; krūrān — mischievous; saṁsāreṣu — into the ocean of material existence; nara-adhamān — the lowest of mankind; kṣipāmi — I put; ajasram — forever; aśubhān — inauspicious; āsurīṣu — demoniac; eva — certainly; yoniṣu — into the wombs.
    Those who are envious and mischievous, who are the lowest among men, I perpetually cast into the ocean of material existence, into various demoniac species of life.
    kṣipāmy ajasram – “I put forever”
    And then there’s Maharaja Parikshit’s big question in SB 7.1.1 that kicked off a long list of examples stretching over two cantos:
    King Parīkṣit inquired: My dear brāhmaṇa, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Viṣṇu, being everyone’s well-wisher, is equal and extremely dear to everyone. How, then, did He become partial like a common man for the sake of Indra and thus kill Indra’s enemies? How can a person equal to everyone be partial to some and inimical toward others?
    And let’s not forget story of Gopa Kumar from Brihat Bhagavatamrita.
    “Prodigal son” metaphor doesn’t contradict these versions, especially if “hidden help” means personalities like Siva or lower demigods.
    At the same time, for many Hindus Siva is God and they don’t know any better, it’s their highest concept of the absolute. Krishna is personally indifferent to their endeavors and He delegates dealing with them to Siva, or even to Vishnu, while in Abrahamic religions God is one and he personally manages everything and everyone.
    I think the arrangement is like a president who might be very cordial and warm person but getting his audience requires dealing with a million of aides and secretaries. President wants prosperity for everyone, but through the agency of the government, and experience will vary. Abrahamics have lost “government” from their model and so end up dreaming of Santa Claus personally visiting every child in the world or some other direct God-people relationship.
    Vedic worship of Vishnu is like that (when it’s exclusive, not as part of pancapasana), and it’s very very rare, but Gaudiya vaishnavism takes it even further – to the dasadasanudasa relationship – servant of the servant of the servant, which culminates in “manjari bhava”.

    Ashish Dalela

    God does visit every individual as the Paramatma in the heart. But again, He is as much contributing to the remembering as to forgetfulness. So, even if God is with everyone all the time, the onus is back to the individual on how to tap into the guidance provided by God. It appears from the statements from BG that the Paramatma gives guidance even to the evildoers.

    Ciprian Begu

    Is it fair to say that, in the ultimate analysis — however He does it — God and as our Father and Mother (pitāham asya jagato mātā dhātā pitāmahaḥ), does what is best and necessary for the soul, even though it might not seem that way from our perspective?

    Ashish Dalela

    There are five types of rasa and relationship to God — santa (admirer), dasya (servant), sakhya (friend), vatsalya (paternal/maternal), and madhurya (conjugal). In none of these relationships, the soul is the child while God is the father or mother. The soul is always treated as an adult rather than a child. God can become the child, but the soul is always an adult.

    Then why do we say that we are the ‘children’ of God? The answer is that the soul is a child just like ‘red’ is the child of ‘color’, and ‘square’ is a child of ‘shape’. In computer programming, there is the notion of ‘parent class’ and ‘child class’. For example, ‘shape’ is a parent class and ‘square’ is a child class. This child is a part of the whole. For example, ‘shape’ includes all the different types of shapes such as ‘square’, ‘circle’, ‘triangle’, etc. The soul is similarly a child and a part.

    Parenthood generally means that the parent is responsible for the child because the child is ignorant. By that token, the child has no freedom because the parent controls the child. Such type of parent-child relationship doesn’t exist between God and soul. The soul is free, and God doesn’t take the responsibility for the child, nor does He force the child to do anything.

    In short, we have been created as children because we are parts. But we have been given freedom so we are adults. As adults, we can misuse the freedom and God is not the parent in this case. But if we surrender to God, then God is the controller, and hence He takes responsibility. In terms of rasa and relationship, God is never the parent; He can however be the child.

    The correct way to approach this question is not to say that we are children of God but that we are servants of God. The master takes care of the servant if the servant is faithful. If the servant is unfaithful, the master will kick the servant out. From a relationship perspective, the soul is a servant. But God takes care of the servant just like a parent takes care of children.

    God is also an indulgent parent in the sense that He gives you ideas and inspiration even if they are about how to fight God. But by giving that inspiration He doesn’t become responsible for it. God can inspire the soul to do evil if the soul wants to be evil. So, God doesn’t necessarily do what is best for you. He helps you do what you want to do, keeping you always responsible.

    The idea that because God is the Father so He will take care of me regardless of whatever I do is false. We are eternal beings. In this eternity you should have grown up into an adult.

    Danakeli Dasi

    “My answer is likely going to be subjective, and possibly controversial.”
    Not at all! Your answer is straight Gaudiya Vaishnava theology. Krishna in Goloka is not engaged w/ or concerned about the happenings w/in the material realm. Maha-Vishnu (& the Supersoul) are His expansions for providing for, maintaining, & keeping a tally on the conditioned souls.
    Krishna’s absorbed only in love & play. He is never distracted by managerial concerns, worry about others, etc. His bhakti-shakti (Radharani) is responsible for distributing mercy & feeling compassion, for She wishes to expand the number of servants in Goloka for Krishna’s expanded pleasure. Caitanya Mahaprabhu as Radha & Krishna combined is the primary agent of compassion—compassion not for material sufferings but for the spiritual bankruptcy of people. Thus He distributes Krishna-prema.
    Devotees coming in Caitanya’s line, due to experiencing the pangs of material life themselves (since they take a material body), can feel empathy (not merely compassion) for others’ material sufferings. These devotees are in angst over others’ sufferings, knowing that it’s due to spiritual ignorance. When Caitanya sees that these devotees are desperate to rescue souls, He reciprocates not w/ the souls’ suffering but w/ the devotees’ “sufferings” (as para-dukha-dukhi).
    Thus it is the pure devotees whom traverse this world as representatives of Caitanya Mahaprabhu who are the agents of mercy. Abrahamic religions demote God to the level of para-dukha-dukhi, but that is the position of His devotees instead. Thus in this sense, the pure devotee is more important than God.

    Sitalatma Das

    The OP was about God in Vedic philosophy, but I think we should keep in mind that “God” means many different things. Krishna is not God, strictly speaking – He does not relate to anyone as God, that’s Vishnu’s job, or even Siva’s. Even Paramatma isn’t God in the Abrahamic sense because He mainly bears witness and facilitates whatever it is the soul wants to do.
    Sometimes we say that even when Paramatma plunges the soul into the depths of hell He does so out of compassion and with the ultimate goal in mind, but it’s not how God is viewed in Abrahamic religions either, considering that hell is eternal there.
    When a mature devotee sees someone suffering severe karmic reactions he rejoices because he sees it as the soul getting himself qualified for approaching God again, because until suffering is completed there’d be no question of progress. Therefore vaishnavas do not care much for material suffering, as mother Danakeli explained above. Most people want to alleviate material suffering so that they can resume enjoyment and a devotee would never approve of that, it rather pains him when the souls make plans for happy living without service to God.
    I guess what I wanted to say again is that there are forms of Absolute that behave like God in Abrahamic religions and there are forms that do not. Krishna doesn’t. Vishnu/Narayana does. Paramatma is kind of on the fence. But it can turn at any moment because:
    ye yatha mam prapadyante
    tams tathaiva bhajamy aham
    mama vartmanuvartante
    manusyah partha sarvasah
    As all surrender unto Me, I reward them accordingly. Everyone follows My path in all respects…
    This understanding is missing among Abrahamics. For them God is a fixed entity who doesn’t change His behavior, philosophically speaking.
    Instead of Paramatma one can get see the form of Syamasundara – if his eyes are tinged with the salve of love.

    Sitalatma Das

    A quote from Cosmic Theogeny:
    “However, God is not a kind parent in the sense that if you decide to play a particular type of game, you cannot then bend, change, disobey, or fault the rules themselves.”
    It was in a bit different context but it still applies. There are rules of bhakti, jnana, astanga yoga etc. and God doesn’t bend them. In Abrahamic version he kinda does. Doesn’t He also display partiality in that Bible story?
    Vedic God, otoh, has to manage both a house owner praying for safety and a thief praying that house owner left some door unlocked, and He can’t take sides. So He is not a “kind parent”.
    At the same time He goes out of His way to personally manage lives of His devotees.

    Ashish Dalela

    Yes, there are many paths, and all the paths are created by Krishna. Therefore, He also says that everyone follows the path I have created. But each path has a different outcome. He has created all these paths and given the choice to pick any path. Once the soul picks a particular path, He is not going to push someone into a particular path, unless that person wants to be pushed and is asking for help. When the soul asks for help, in whatever path of his choosing, Krishna will help him doesn’t matter what the path is. He is a kind parent in the sense that He will help in whatever path you want to choose. But He is not a kind parent if we expect Him to push us into a path against our desire. A worldly parent does that pushing but God isn’t that kind of parent.

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