God is such an interesting label for the Great Mystery.
God, a word derived from ancient English, synonymous with the word good.
All throughout the ages, other words have been used to describe the divine but every attempt to finish the sentence “God is…” has put human limitations on the indescribable.
We cannot possibly define that which lies beyond our senses, thoughts, and emotions with a single label.
The Hindu swamis teach that their gods and goddesses are merely reflections of Brahman, the One without a Second.
The Sufis describe Allah—literally translated as The God—with a multitude of different adjectives in their prayers, each signifying an important aspect of the divine.
The Buddhist tradition simply refuses to speculate about God.
But we humans are philosophers at heart. We must speculate. Where did we come from? Where are we going? What is our purpose? These questions are at the center of every religion.
Answer to Every Why Question
In one way or another, we could say that God is the answer to every single why question that human beings have failed to answer throughout the ages and still have not answered despite technological advances.
Why does the sun shine? we ask.
Because it is a planet of molten lava that produces warmth through volcanic action, the scientist answers.
Yet, even if he thinks otherwise, he is not answering a why question but rather a how question. He has explained how the sun shines, not why it shines.
Looking closely, we see that the scientist’s dilemma represents the truth about every why question. We can answer how questions all the way back to the Big Bang, but we cannot answer a single why question.
We can answer how a baby is born but not why; how the stars align but not why; how coffee is made but not why there exists such a thing as coffee.
God (if we are to use that word) is the why. The Alpha and the Omega. The beginning and the end. We could use every word from every language to describe God, yet we would still fail.
“God is More Than That”
The prophets, who have contemplated God for long enough, have marveled at the sheer majesty of what they have discovered, and yet all of them would admit that they have seen but a fragment.
In the Bhagavad Gita, Arjuna recoils when God tries to reveal his entire majesty.The same happens in the Bible.
Ibn Ata Allah, a 13th Century Sufi scholar, said:
“Whatever you think God is, know he is more than that.”
Even if we try to limit God to the mystical concepts such as Oneness and Goodness (found in every religion) we still enter the realm of spiritual poverty.
Albert Einstein worded it this way:
“My religion consists of a humble admiration of the illimitable superior spirit who reveals himself in the slight details we are able to perceive with our frail and feeble mind.”
Yes, the human mind is feeble, too feeble to comprehend the totality of God.
We are like a flea on a dog’s body, thinking that the dog is the entire universe.
We are like fish longing to know the ocean. The ocean is the habitat. It flows through the fish and they flow through it. Yet, fish can never observe the ocean.
We are thirsty fish, swimming in the ocean of God.
Beyond Words and Forms
And so, because we cannot know the entirety of God, we latch onto aspects that we can relate to. A heart gives us an insight into a human body, yet the heart, however important, is not the entire body.
In our efforts, we connect to the heart of God. But let us never reduce God to a mere heart.
We, feeble humans, must allow ourselves to wrestle with thoughts of this magnitude if we want to know God, but we must never be limited by language, tradition or definitions.
Whatever we think, God is more than that!
Author & Interfaith Minister
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