Question: I have a question which is very basic, but very important too. This question was put to me by a B. Tech student, a humble one with a pious and ISKCON devotee family background. She accepts the Bhagavad Gita, Krishna and his message, the Vedas and the scientific views of our scriptures about the Creation, basic Hindu principles and all.
She asked “What is the need of GOD? Of what ‘use’ HE is to us in this age of Modern Technology? Is it not enough to be a good, understanding and techno-savy, work-focused and true human being? Why we should put our limited time into HIS worship / seva and what benefit this seva is going to give us?” She wanted a ‘logical’ answer and insisted that since joys and sorrows are a part of life for everybody, what difference will it ‘practically’ make if we do devotional service and how do we know and measure the outcome of our efforts of Bhakti to HIM.
Honestly I could not answer her, please help me.
Answer by Romapada Swami: We need God in our lived because His existence is Reality, as opposed to illusion. He is factually the source of everything in this world, including the intelligence behind all the technological discoveries. Whether one accepts Him or not, it does not help to attempt to put God out of existence or just ignore Him, simply on the grounds that we don’t understand Him and His energies. Truth can be know by searching by proper means. God can be personally known and experienced by each one of us if we take the time to do so by bona fide methods. Illusion is the default position, and with it all sorts of illusory experiences.
Modern technology may have given us temporary comforts and happiness; however, if we look at the impact of this materialistic advancement, we see rapid degradation of quality of life and all aspects of human culture. The world may be at the tips of our fingers because of technology, but, can technology provide permanent and satisfying answers to the most vexing problems of life – namely birth, death, old age and suffering from diseases? The honest answer is no. Moreover, modern technologies are based on scientific theories that are imperfect, myopic and ever-changing – how can one lead a stable and happy life on such a shaky foundation?
This nice girl was asking if it is enough to be good and a true human?
Please consider: Who is to define what is good and true life? This is a question asked by moralists and philosophers over the ages and none of them have come a common ground of acceptance. What is good for you may not be the same for someone else. And, how can you expect peace in the world if everyone lives as per their understanding of good and truth? The standards for what is considered as “leading a good life” is totally subjective without an absolute point of reference. This can be well appreciated by reflecting on the alarming moral decrepitude of present society despite their clamor for universal peace and goodwill. Without keeping God in the center, it is not possible to live a truly moral, ethical, “good” life.
Human life is very short, but we have the unique capacity to inquire and understand the deeper meaning of life. In fact, there is a great need to do so. An intelligent person naturally asks these questions, “Where did I come from? where am I going? what is the meaning of all the orderliness in nature? Who has designed it that way? Why is there suffering, when nobody wants suffering?” and so on.
A child may believe that a remote-controlled toy car is running by itself, and may accept this as fact, and may have no need to inquire further, but it is not so for a thoughtful adult. So it is important that we use our valuable human form, time and energy to understand God and to engage in His devotional service.
Engaging in devotional service to God is not just something nice to do, but it is something that is essential and natural for our very existence. You cannot separate devotional attitude from the soul just like you cannot separate sweetness from sugar. So, the question is not why should I engage in devotional service, but why am I not engaging in it right now?
Devotional service to God, who is transcendental and all-pure, has the full potency to destroy all material suffering, anxieties and worries etc. And furthermore, it awakens transcendental knowledge, divine qualities of the soul (such as tolerance, forgiveness, non-violence, freedom from pride and false ego, detachment etc.) and the intrinsic ability of the soul to transcend material existence (like a lotus in water – you are in it but not affected by it!). These are practical measures of the efficacy of devotional service that is properly executed under the guidance of a bonafide teacher.
Yes, her understanding is right – joy and sorrow are part of life in this world. Actually, Krishna says that in the Bhagavad-gita 2.14:
matra-sparsas tu kaunteya / sitosna-sukha-duhkha-dah
agamapayino ‘nityas / tams titiksasva bharata
“O son of Kunti, the nonpermanent appearance of happiness and distress, and their disappearance in due course, are like the appearance and disappearance of winter and summer seasons. They arise from sense perception, O scion of Bharata, and one must learn to tolerate them without being disturbed.”
However, the point is one doesn’t have to simply accept this compromised condition of mixed or impure happiness i.e. happiness interrupted by suffering; one can transcend this material duality and experience unalloyed happiness, which is our birthright – devotional service offers that invaluable gift. Why should anyone settle for something less?
The philosophy of Bhagavad-gita and the Srimad Bhagavatam is simultaneously devotional as well as philosophically sound. It is very scientific, systematic, consistent and simultaneously very touching to the heart and brings out the finest qualities of a human being. As Krishna promises in Bhagavad-gita, simply by hearing His teachings with an open mind, and by practicing this yoga in full consciousness of Him, one can factually come to know and understand God in full, free from any doubt.