God’s Form

Swami Satyananda Saraswati, Rikhia, 1994

God has two forms, transcendental and immanent. God is beyond everything, beyond time, space and matter, and God is present in all beings. We have to accept both concepts of God, not just the transcendental. God is transcendental, beyond name, form and boundary, but there is another form of God which is immanent. The immanent form is everywhere, in everything. If you serve a tree, you are serving God. If you serve the land, you are serving God. If you purify a river, you are serving God. If you purify the atmosphere, you are serving God. If you help the needy, you are serving God. Then we have the transcendental God also in Hare Rama, Hare Rama. The realisation of God must become a total experience, not a partial one.

In the Bhagavad Gita (11:5–7), while showing Arjuna His universal form, Lord Krishna said: “Behold, O Arjuna, all My forms by the hundreds and thousands, of different sorts, divine and of various colours and shapes. Behold the Adityas, the Vasus, the Rudras, the two Ashvins and also the Maruts; behold many wonders never seen before, O Arjuna. Now behold in my body the whole universe centred in one, including the moving and the unmoving and whatever else you desire to see.”

All living beings in this world are part of God, part of the one form in which God has manifested Himself. The happy ones, the unhappy ones, the trees, the animals are all are a part of Him. If you want to realise God, then try to know not only the transcendental God, but also the God who lives in every living being and also in non-living things. Only then can you know Him fully. Just knowing a part of Him is not enough. You should know Him totally and in all His forms. God is always with you. Nothing is difficult for Him, only He should be convinced that you are totally honest in whatever you are thinking and doing.

God exists in many forms, from the microbe to the towering tree, from the limited mind to the universal mind. God is in the person who needs your help. God is in the animal who needs your protection. People who are dedicated to spiritual life, who think God is their life, must come to serve the forms of God. All the people around you who are suffering, unhappy, naked and floundering in darkness are all different forms of God. You cannot ignore that form of God which is immanent and all pervading. You cannot just go running after the transcendental God.

God has a form but He is formless too. Why can’t a formless entity have form? Clay does not have a form of its own, but whatever form you give it becomes its form. Gold has no form of its own. You can make gold into a bracelet. You give it a form, sakara, and a name, but neither is the form of gold. Just as gold is formless, God is also formless. We may have depicted Him as Rama and Krishna, but it is not incorrect to also say that He is formless, nirakara.

God exists in all forms. You may see God in the form of a serpent, or devi, the goddess, or a hideous sadhu, or Bala Mukunda, the beautiful child Krishna, or Sri Rama with bow in hand. You may see God in any form. You can worship God in whatever form you wish, and that very form will appear before you. As Tulsidas says in Ramacharitamanas, “Everyone visualised in the Lord the reflection of his own emotional disposition.” Nothing that exists in this world is fiction; everything is reality. I speak on the basis of my experience. God is our friend who always works for our well-being. We are the ones who forget Him. Swami Sivananda used to sing this bhajan by Mahatma Binduji.

I have entrusted all the responsibilities of my life to you,
O Lord, now my upliftment or downfall depends on you.
I never remember you, still you never abandon me.
I am mischievous, still you are my benefactor.
The difference between you and me is that
I am Nara and you are Narayana.
I am in the clutches of the world
Which is under your rule.
Trying to sail over the ocean of separation
I am suspended in mid-journey,
Yet I am confident because the rudder is in your hands.

God exists and He remains always with us like a friend. Swami Sivananda used to say, “God is the breath of the breath, prana of the pranas, and the life of lives. God is my reality. This is the only truth in life.”

What should be the goal or purpose of life?

Many people remain insulated due to narrow-mindedness and due to maya, so the electricity does not flow through them. If we remove the insulation, then the power of God will begin flowing through us. Swami Sivananda had a favourite bhajan that he always used to sing.

In earth, water, fire, air and ether is Ram.
In the heart, mind, prana and senses is Ram.
In the breath, blood, nerves and brain is Ram.
In sentiment, thought, word and action is Ram.
Within is Ram, without is Ram
In front is Ram, behind is Ram.
Above is Ram, below is Ram
To the right is Ram, to the left is Ram
Everywhere is Ram.
Ram Ram Ram Ram Ram Ram
Refuge, solace, path, Lord, witness is Ram.
Father, mother, friend, relative, Guru is Ram.
Support, source, centre, ideal, God is Ram.
Creator, preserver, destroyer, redeemer is Ram.
Ram Ram Ram Ram Ram Ram
The ultimate goal of one and all is Ram.
Attainable through shraddha, prem and worship is Ram.
Accessible to devotion and surrender is Ram.
Approachable by prayer, japa and kirtan is Ram.
Hosanna to Ram, glory to Ram, victory to Ram.
Adorations to Ram, salutations to Ram,
Prostrations to Ram.
Om Sri Ram, Jaya Ram, Jaya Jaya Ram.

This song was not only the experience of Swami Sivananda. Every saint has expressed the same sentiment – God is my friend, my breath, my life. When love for God becomes so deep and intense we are able to see God everywhere, just as a lover sees his beloved everywhere. In you, in me, in everybody, the glory of God is visible everywhere. Experiencing that, I also become that. Wherever you look, you see Rama. To experience that is the purpose of life. All other activities like study, service, fulfilling desires, rearing children, keeping accounts, have to be done, but all that is maya.

What is God? How can I communicate with Him? If I am He, how can I realise it? That thought should be constantly in our mind. If we are part of God, how can we experience it? We have forgotten that we are a part of Him. This realisation is the goal of life. Other things are not the real purpose of life because they will all end. This is just a game of the ego in which we are all involved. Everybody has to live in the world. The world is like a pool of mud. You can choose to live like the lotus or like the worm, but at any rate you will have to live in this pool of mud.