Every human being thinks about God although the intensity and quality of such thoughts may vary. They could be favorable or unfavorable. This is because that’s how humans are made. Quest for God is inherent in them. Those who think of God favorably are called devotees and those who think of Him unfavorably are called demons. Those who claim not to think of God fall under subhuman category.
Considering today’s world situation it is not uncommon for people to question God’s existence. To inquire is intelligence. Human intelligence is higher than that of animals and as such their queries are expected to be of finer quality. An unending quest for God is a symptom of such higher intelligence. Animals’ anxiety is primarily eating, sleeping, defending and mating. Humans go a step further and inquire about their own identity. In fact inquiring about the self, athato brahma jigyasa, is where the actual human life begins.
Materialism cannot satisfy one’s quest for the self not to speak of the quest for God. When we say God, we need to remember that God is one. The two well-known concepts of the modern-day spiritualism, namely, all are gods and no one is god, are born of illusion hence misleading. The word God does not make much sense if it does not point at a single supreme living being. It is the inability of spiritual leaders that does not allow them to understand and establish one God without clashing with different religious disciplines.
The quest for God should not be confined to a narrow-minded definition of God. At the same time, a hodge podge definition of God leads to an increasing bewilderment. If a king or a minister has to have certain qualities, it only makes sense that God has unlimited qualities. This is why, if God can be measured by human intelligence then He is not God.
A sincere quest for God demands going beyond material intelligence. What we perceive in this world using our material senses, including mind, is contaminated by the material modes of nature and cannot allow us to understand God. It needs surrender.
All religious practices tell us to surrender to God. Offering obeisances, folding hands before God, bowing down and being thankful to Him are some gestures indicating surrender. From an egoistic point of view, the word surrender does not sound palatable but from spiritual point of view it is the most important requirement for understanding the absolute truth.
Surrender means surrender to God, and to His pure representative, the spiritual master. This is why Lord Krishna advises sharanam vraja, surrender. Additionally He says mam ekam, meaning to Him alone. Why? Because He knows that He is God Himself and can deliver all living entities from the clutches of material energy. In fact, this mam ekam, is the topmost secret for ending the otherwise unending cycle of birth and death.
sarva-dharman parityajya mam ekam sharanam vraja
aham tvam sarva-papebhyo mokshayisyami ma suchah
Translation: Abandon all varieties of religion and just surrender unto Me. I shall deliver you from all sinful reactions. Do not fear. (BG 18.66)
One very important word in this verse which often gets misinterpreted is the word “mam” or “unto Me”. This word directly refers to Lord Krishna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead Himself as He is the one speaking it. Some philosophers erroneously propose that the “me” refers to oneself. Such interpretations do not hold value as no one needs to surrender to oneself. Besides, this is not the only verse where Lord Krishna has spoken about Himself.
The other thing is, God is great but how great? Even if we know how many billions of universes He creates, maintains and annihilates just by His will, we will not know how great He is. While we cannot know Him fully, we can know more of Him. Our quest for God, which is eternal, cannot be satisfied even by knowing His gigantic creation because creation itself is temporary.
Such temporary manifestations, however, can help us understand our own insignificant position and give us an idea of the greatness of God’s personality. Ultimately one must go beyond the temporary in order to appreciate the ultimate truth. This is where the knowledge of God’s personal attributes becomes essential.
One truly amazing characteristic of God is His compassion. This compassion became fully manifest when He appeared as Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu 538 years ago.
There was a time when I thought Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu was just a saint among many saintly persons born in India. But my quest for God pushed me into studying more about Him and, to my indescribable joy and satisfaction, I, by the mercy of Srila Prabhupada, came to realize that Lord Chaitanya is none other than Lord Krishna Himself and that Lord Krishna is none other than the Supreme Lord Himself, the topmost form of the Absolute Truth!
But the quest for God does not end there. Once we know who is God, we also need to know how to relate to Him as loving spiritual relationship with God is the ultimate goal of life. Out of the five main spiritual mellows, or rasa, namely, santa, dasya, sakhya, vatsalya and madhurya, the madhurya rasa, or serving God in conjugal love, is considered the topmost although all other mellows are also full in themselves. These mellows are purely spiritual and one should not misunderstand them to be worldly relationships as the relationships found in this world are contaminated by the modes of material nature and false ego of the living entities.
The reason Lord Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu is glorified as the most magnanimous form of God is because He freely offers everyone this highest form of loving devotional service. Srila Prabhpada points out that Lord Krishna demands surrender but Lord Chaitanya is so merciful that He does not ask anything. His compassion for the living entities is unfathomable and that is why He came personally to this planet a few hundred years ago and generously distributed love of Godhead.
Referring to the Hare Krishna maha mantra, Lord Chaitanya said, iha hoite sarva siddhi hoibe tomar, that just by chanting the Hare Krishna maha mantra one will achieve all perfections in life. This is His inconceivable mercy. Srila Rupa Gosvami glorified Him with the following two lines when he met him the first time in Prayag.
namo maha-vadanyaya krishna-prema-pradaya te
krishnaya krishna-chaitanya-namne gaura-tvishe namah
Translation: O most munificent incarnation! You are Krishna Himself appearing as Sri Krishna Chaitanya Mahaprabhu. You have assumed the golden color of Srimati Radharani, and You are widely distributing pure love of Krishna. We offer our respectful obeisances unto You. (CC 19.53)
If you also happen to be a person wondering what God is, who He is, how to recognize His incarnations, how to approach Him, and finally how to meet Him in person and be with Him eternally, this, this, this and this articles are absolute minimum reads for you. The author does not claim to have achieved all the stages described in there but he definitely feels confident of reaching there one day. This in itself is a sufficient indication that the process works.
The process is purification of our consciousness. And the best way to do so is follow the instructions of Srila Prabhupada, a pure and empowered representative of Lord Chaitanya. One simply has to chant 16 rounds of the maha mantra- Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna Hare Hare/ Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama Hare Hare, and follow the four regulative principles, namely, no meat eating, no gambling, no intoxication and no illicit sex. Once this is followed, the rest will automatically be set on fast track as your consciousness gets purified. The progress will depend on how seriously you follow this process and the teachings available in his books and spiritual discourses.
Do not get discouraged if you seem to fail in your endeavors. Also, do not overestimate your ability to understand spiritual matters. Spiritual realization is not dependent on mundane intelligence nor can mundane intelligence ensure spiritual perfection. They are two different domains.
God is not bound to reveal Himself to anyone. If He was bound then He wouldn’t be God. He says naham prakasha sarvasya yoga maya samavritah (BG 7.25). Nonetheless He voluntarily accepts to be bound by loving devotional service. Nothing else can reach Him except bhakti, or devotional service. He Himself has said it number of times in Bhagavad Gita and other Vedic scriptures.
In a sense, ending the unending quest for God is both impossible and possible. It is impossible because God is unlimited and it is possible because we are limited. Depending on a person’s relationship with God the intensity can vary. The higher the rasa, the greater the intensity. In any case, one can satisfy one’s quest for God only if he or she accepts the path recommended by God Himself. Surrender. Nothing else will work.
People spend millions of lives in attaining perfection through different yoga systems but at the end, when their hearts are purified they turn to devotional service. Lord Chaitanya has given the rarest of the rare opportunities to the people of Kaliyuga. If we can accept it wholeheartedly, there is no doubt that our quest for God will finally bear fruits and we will be able to blissfully engage in the eternal loving devotional service of the Supreme Lord.