Does God Control Your Life?
Question: Does God control our lives? I am rather confused. Can you please give me a genuine and rational answer?
I have written about this before. Please check the link at the end of this essay. Here I will rephrase some of those ideas in a simple manner so that it will be easier to understand.
There are two divergent opinions in Hinduism (and a range of ideas in between) about whether God controls our lives, and if so to what extent, and in what circumstances. One is that God is the Supreme Lord of All. He controls everything and is wholly responsible for our lives and actions. According to this view, nothing happens without his will or against his will. Everything is predetermined. If you want to change your fate, you have to seek God’s intervention through devotion. This is the fatalistic view.
The other school of thought is that God does not control our lives at all. He is a passive witness, who remains in the background as the enjoyer of all. He may be responsible for creation, but within the created worlds, he remains uninvolved. In the mortal world, human beings have the freedom to control their lives with the help of Nature or the lower gods and be the masters of their destinies according to their actions.
These two opinions prevailed even during the time of the Buddha and Mahavira. There was one sect called Ajivikas. The head of the sect, Gosala, was a contemporary of the two. The sect believed in the doctrine of fate (vidhi). According to them human lives were predetermined by fate or divine order (niyati), and there was nothing much anyone could do. Therefore, they asked people to make the best of their lives, living passively and not exerting themselves.
Opposed to them were others who believed in the doctrine of karma. According to them God was either nonexistent or passive. He played no role in human life or in existence. The so-called fate was predetermined and shaped by one’s own actions. Beings (jivas) reaped rewards or punishments according to their actions. Therefore, it was individual and collective karma and sacrifices performed for the sake of gods to nourish them and appease them, which determined the progress and the fate of the world and beings upon earth.
Both views have the support even today. However, neither school is correct. The truth is somewhere in between. At the highest level, God controls the orderly progression of all the worlds and beings, and the entire creation. At the individual levels, he seems to be passive and offers only conditional support in exceptional and deserving cases when they worship him and seek his help. Those who worship gods (devas) and perform sacrifices for them may fulfill their desires, but it will not ensure their liberation. They go to those gods and return again.
Your relationship with God is important
To obtain God’s help, you must have a genuine relationship with him based upon high values. Imagine you have a friend. You do not pay him any attention, do not believe that he is capable, do not have faith in his abilities or skills, and do not take him into confidence at all, besides ignoring him and acting as if he does not exist at all. In that situation, if you have problem or an emergency do you think you can expect any help from him on his own?
If you directly ask him without showing any attitude, perhaps he may help you, or may not respond. However, if you do not bother to ask him at all, thinking that he is not worth approaching, he may not even respond. A similar situation develops when you do not believe in God or when you ignore him or approach him with an egoistic, selfish attitude. Close friends help you when you build trust, opening your heart to them and treating them like yourself. Strangers do not. If you treat God like a stranger, you may not receive much help.
The truth is, according to our scriptures God has no interest or disinterest in the world. He is detached, indifferent, equal to all his creation and aloof from everyone, even though he is engaged in preserving and protecting the worlds for the sake of Dharma. He does not infringe himself upon you if you do not want him to be part of your life or believe that you can take care of your life all by yourself. Since he is a positive force and does not want to disturb anyone, he is always in harmony with you, whether you like him or not, and lets you have your way.
Therefore, if you believe he does not exist, he will not try to prove himself to you. Instead, he will become silent, passive or nonexistent to let you enjoy your vindication and make you feel happy and proud. This is true both at the macrocosmic and microcosmic levels. God is infinite and indescribable. He cannot be reduced into a mental concept without compromising truth. Therefore, whatever notion of God you have is but your reflection, imagination, creation or projection. For the believers, he is, and for the nonbelievers he is not.
When God may help you
If you want God to play an active and definitive role in your life, you must actively seek him, cultivate a strong relationship with him through devotion, faith and spiritual practice, and meet the following conditions.
1. You must be pure and virtuous, so that you are God like.
God responds to you, to the extent you are pure and virtuous. Because of this only Hinduism puts a lot of emphasis upon cultivating purity (sattva) through self-transformation. If you are closer God in purity and qualities, you will have better chances of approaching him and dissolving the wall that separates you from him. The Bhagavadgita enumerates the divine qualities and demonic, and suggests the importance of cultivating divine qualities for the predominance of sattva and union with God.
2. You must have faith in God and in the possibility of receiving his help.
As stated before, if you do not have faith, God will manifest your reality according to your thoughts and desires and lets you have your way. He will strengthen your faith in his nonexistence to make you happy. In the Bhagavadgita it is clearly stated that in whatever form a devotee desires to worship God, with faith, he strengthens that firm faith of his in that direction. Elsewhere, it also states that faith in a person manifests according to his essential nature as determined by his gunas. A person is made up of his faith only. As his faith, so is he, and of the three types of faith namely sattvic, rajasic and tamasic, sattvic faith is the best
3. You must be a devotee of God.
You shall not only have devotion, but it must also be pure and genuine. It is because your devotion is a reflection of yourself and your spiritual purity. Devotion is of different types. At the lowest level there is the selfish, ignorant devotion of the asuric kind. Asuras worship God purely for selfish and egoistic reasons to obtain boons from him for destructive ends. At the highest level, there is the devotion of the seers and sages, or the knowers of Self, who renounce everything and spend their time in the contemplation of God, with their minds fully absorbed in him. The Bhagavadgita repeatedly states that God takes cares of those devotees who exemplify purest devotion, who dedicate themselves to his service and are forever absorbed in his thoughts.
4. You must let God help you.
Asking for God’s help in clear terms is critically important. It is what we learn primarily from the ritual prayers and hymns of the Vedas. You must also give God the highest place in your life and treat him with utmost respect. He should not be used like an accessory, remembered on occasions and forgotten at other times. You must also subdue your ego. If you are full of yourself and do not let anyone become important in your life, how can you expect help from anyone, including God? If you have devotion to wealth or power, you may have them, but not God. To make him an integral and important part of your life, you must let him in and give him the reins of your life. Most importantly, you must unconditionally surrender to him with faith, devotion and humility, renouncing your ego, pride and vanity and allowing him to help you in whatever way he deems fit. To ensure that your prayers reach him, you must persistently ask and convey your wishes or concerns in clear terms, but leave the outcome to him only.
As the transcendental Self, God pervades all and exists in all. Being free from duality and division, he is both the creator and the created. From that perspective, we may consider that he is the controller of all and everything happens by his will. However, from the individual perspective, in the diversity of his creation, he remains in the background, concealed and hidden by his own power of Maya. You cannot see him until you cultivate purity and the highest devotion and until you develop the seer’s vision to see him beyond the duality, delusion and objectivity.
From the unified, transcendental perspective, God is everything and controls everything. He is the supreme Lord (Isvara) with endless manifestations and appearances. He may not particularly control every aspect of your life, except as you, but he does control the progression of the world and its order and regularity.
In case of individuals, he actively interferes in their lives and destinies according to their devotion and faith and to the extent they surrender their will to him. If you seek his help with faith and humility, he may reciprocate according to your karma, faith and devotion. He may take care of your life and your needs if you let him be in control of it and allow him to manifest your destiny according to his will.
Like Arjuna in the Bhagavadgita, you have the freedom to express your fears and worries and seek his help, but you have to let him decide how he wants to respond. If he does not respond, due to your past karma or any other cause, try to become a better devotee and improve your karma, practising virtue, acquiring knowledge, and cultivating detachment, sameness and the predominance of sattva.
Your may also check: God and You in Hinduism
Suggestions for Further Reading
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