For many of us, when we think of Religion, the first thing that comes to mind is “God.” The two terms are almost used synonymously. The questions surrounding the concept of God are true human universals: we have always wondered who or what created us, who or what created the Earth and the Heavens, and who or what is the cause of the laws of nature, natural disasters, and so on. It is fascinating that the concept of God has existed throughout history in all major civilizations across the planet Earth in spite of the fact that there might not have been any contact between these civilizations for long periods of time. Thinking about God, then, clearly represents an innate human need and capacity. The description of God, however, has a rich anthropology reflecting the diversity of human beings and their contexts across time and geographies.
One Universal God
“If there is a God, he is infinitely beyond our comprehension, since, having neither parts nor limits, he bears no relation to ourselves. We are therefore incapable of knowing either what he is, or if he is. That being so, who will dare to undertake a resolution of this question? It cannot be us, who bear no relationship to him.”
“My Hindu instinct tells me that all religions are more or less true. All proceed from the same God, but all are imperfect because they have come down to us through imperfect human instrumentality.”
“My highest nature, the imperishable Brahman, gives every creature its existence and lives in every creature as the adhyatma. My action is creation and the bringing forth of creatures.”
“The essence of Vedanta is that there is but one Being and that every soul is that Being in full, not a part of that Being. All the sun is reflected in each dew-drop. Appearing in time, space and causality, this Being is man, as we know him, but behind all appearance is the one Reality. Unselfishness is the denial of the lower or apparent self. We have to free ourselves from this miserable dream that we are these bodies.”
“The pot is a god. The winnowing
Fan is a god. The stone in the
Street is a god. The comb is a
God. The bowstring is also a
God. The bushel is a god and the
Spouted cup is a god.
Gods, gods, there are so many
There’s no place left
For a foot.
There is only
One god. He is our Lord
Of the Meeting Rivers.”
“Brother, where did your two gods come from?
Tell me, who made you mad?
Ram, Allah, Keshav, Karim, Hari, Hazrat—
So many names.
So many ornaments, all one gold,
It has no double nature.
For conversion we make two—
This namaz, that puja,
This Mahadev, that Muhammed,
This Brahma, that Adam,
This a Hindu, that a Turk,
But all belong to earth.
Vedas, Korans, all those books,
Those Mullas and those Brahmins—
So many names, so many names,
But the pots are all one clay.
Kabir says, nobody can find Ram,
Both sides are lost in schisms.
One slaughters goats, one slaughters cows,
They squander their birth in isms.”
“Before we were born we had no feeling; we were one with the universe. This is called ‘mind-only,’ or ‘essence of mind,’ or ‘big mind.’ After we are separated by birth from this oneness, as the water falling from the waterfall is separated from the rocks, then we have feeling. You have difficulty because you have feeling. You attach to the feeling you have without knowing just how this kind of feeling is created. When you do not realize that you are one with the river, or one with the universe, you have fear. Whether it is separated into drops or not, water is water.”
“Heaven and Earth are vast,
and their diversity comes from one source.
Although there are ten thousand forms of life,
they are one in their order.
Human beings are multitudinous,
but they are governed by one ruler.
The ruler is rooted in Virtue and perfected by Heaven.
It is said that long ago
the rulers of everything below Heaven
ruled through actionless action,
through Heavenly Virtue and nothing else.”
“The Primal Oneness is the state in which all things are undivided and undifferentiated. There is no subject and object, no shape and form. In the Primal Emerging, the Primordial Vapor (ch’i) covers heaven and earth. Yin and yang have not divided, and everything lies within the embrace of the Vapor. In the Primal Beginning, yin and yang divide, and their interaction produces limited but identifiable shapes and forms. In the stage of the Primal Substance, things have not only assumed definite shapes and forms but have taken on qualities. They are hard or soft, light or heavy, moving or still.”
“By the Han dynasty, both di and tian were often used. The two terms retained most of their earlier meanings, but they also continued to change and expand in their definitions and uses. Di continued to be a form of divinity, still viewed as an anthropomorphic god. At this time, di should be most often translated as ‘god.’”
“Tian, translated most frequently as Heaven, in the early or classical Confucian tradition, and Tianli, Principle of Heaven in the later or Neo-Confucian tradition. Throughout twenty-ﬁve hundred years of Confucian history, either Tian or Tianli has been the center of Confucian thought.”
“‘Listen, could you please stop using that word ‘God?’ It makes me nervous, I can’t relate to it, and it doesn’t mean anything to me. Ever since I was in college, I’ve felt distant from that word ‘God’ which the foreign priests used.’
‘Sorry. If you don’t like that word, we can change it to another name. We can call him Tomato, or even Onion if you prefer.’”
“Art was a union of the father and mother worlds, of mind and blood. It might start in utter sensuality and lead to total abstraction; then again it might originate in pure concept and end in bleeding flesh[…]In art, in being an artist, Goldmund saw the possibility of reconciling his deepest contradictions, or at least of expressing newly and magnificently the split in his nature.”
“The essence of the notion of God is that all diversities and contradictions in the world achieve a unity in him, that he is—according to a beautiful formulation of Nicolas de Cusa—the coincidentia oppositorum. Out of this idea, that in him all estrangements and all irreconcilables of existence find their unity and equalization, there arises the peace, the security, the all-embracing wealth of feeling that reverberate with the notion of God which we hold.”
“In all theistic religions, whether they are polytheistic or monotheistic, God stands for the highest value, the most desirable good. Hence, the specific meaning of God depends on what is the most desirable good for a person.”
“It’s telling, too, that in religions that teach the existence of some ultimate power or impersonal divinity—the forces of Tao, Brahman, and Buddha-nature, the creator gods of many African tribes and of early American deists—such ideas are almost completely ignored in favor of more personal and practical deities.”
“I thought I had left the question of the existence of a supreme being completely open in my article. It would be perfectly consistent with all we know to say that there was a being who was responsible for the laws of physics. However I think it would be misleading to call such a being ‘God,’ because this term is normally understood to have personal connotation which are not present in the laws of physics.”
“I believe in Spinoza’s God who reveals Himself in the orderly harmony of what exists, not in a God who concerns Himself with fates and actions of human beings.”
“The fact that what you are thinking about is God Himself (for example, when you are praying) does not mean that you can be content with the same babyish ideas which you had when you were a five-year-old. It is, of course, quite true that God will not love you any the less, or have less use for you, if you happen to have been born with a very second-rate brain. He has room for people with very little sense, but He wants every one to use what sense they have.”
“[Believers], argue only in the best way with the People of the Book, except with those of them who act unjustly. Say, ‘We believe in what was revealed to us and in what was revealed to you; our God and your God is one [and the same]; we are devoted to Him.’”
“Your God is the one God: there is no god except Him, the Lord of Mercy, the Giver of Mercy.”
“Every entity regards itself as exalted over another entity. Darkness regards itself as exalted over the deep, because it is above it. Air, as exalted over water, because it is above it. Fire, as exalted over air, because it is above it. The heavens, as exalted over fire, because they are above it. But the Holy One, blessed be He, is truly exalted over them all.”
“‘I am the Lord thy God.’ Because the Holy One appeared to them at the Red Sea as a mighty man waging war, at Sinai as a pedagogue teaching Torah, in the days of Solomon as a young man, and in the days of Daniel as an aged man full of mercy, the Holy One said: Because you see Me in many guises, do not imagine that there are many gods—for I am He who was with you at the Red Sea, I am He who was with you at Sinai, I am the same everywhere. ‘I am the Lord thy God.’”
“Men have addressed their eternal You by many names. When they sang of what they had thus named, they still meant You: the first myths were hymns of praise. Then the names entered into the It-language; men felt impelled more and more to think of and to talk about their eternal You as an It. But all names of God remain hallowed—because they have been used not only to speak of God but also to speak to him. Some would deny any legitimate use of the word God because it has been misused so much. Certainly it is the most burdened of all human words. Precisely for that reason it is the most imperishable and unavoidable.”
“Inasmuch as our God is one God and the Creator of all mankind, He provides for and protects all. We acknowledge Him as a God of kindness, justice and mercy. Why then should we, His children and followers, war and fight, bringing sorrow and grief into the hearts of each other? God is loving and merciful. His intention in religion has ever been the bond of unity and affinity between humankind.”
“Beware of confining yourself to a particular belief and denying all else, for much good would elude you - indeed, the knowledge of reality would elude you. Be in yourself a matter for all forms of belief, for God is too vast and tremendous to be restricted to one belief rather than another.”
“Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one.” (Deuteronomy 6:4)
“Ekam sat vipra bahuda vadanti” (truth is one, but called differently by many).
“There is but one God. True is his name, creative his personality, and immortal his form. He is without fear sans enmity, unborn and self-illumined. By the guru’s grace he is obtained.”
“I believe all religions pursue the same goals, that of cultivating human goodness and bringing happiness to all human beings. Though the means might appear different the ends are the same.”
"As you do not know the path of the wind, or how the body is formed in a mother’s womb, so you cannot understand the work of God, the Maker of all things." (Ecclesiastes 11:5)
“God is not a man with a beard, but that among all sensible things of which man can have an experience on earth, a beautiful and dignified fatherly ruler of infinite splendor is the most fitting metaphor our mind can grasp.”
"The idea of 330 million Hindu deities is a metaphor for the countless forms by which the divine makes itself accessible to the human mind. For Hindus, all of creation is divine. Everything in nature is therefore worthy of worship. There is no discomfort visualizing God in plants, animals, rivers, mountains, rocks and in man-made objects such as pots, pans, pestles and mortars. As a result a divine spectrum now exists within the Hindu pantheon. At one extreme is one rather impersonal God, an abstract spiritual entity, without name or form. At the other extreme are personal gods worshipped by different people, at different times, at different places, for very earthly reasons."
"Know therefore that the Lord your God is God; he is the faithful God, keeping his covenant of love to a thousand generations of those who love him and keep his commandments." (Deuteronomy 7:9)
“The Hindus have represented God in innumerable forms. They all point equally to God, but it is advisable for each devotee to develop an abiding attachment to one of them. Only so can its presence deepen and its power be fully assimilated. For most persons the most effective ishta will be one of God’s incarnations, for the human heart is naturally tuned to loving people.”
"Acknowledge and take to heart this day that the Lord is God in heaven above and on the earth below. There is no other." (Deuteronomy 4:39)
“Neither gods nor sages know my origin, for I am the source from which the gods and sages come. Whoever knows me as the Lord of all creation, without birth or beginning, knows the truth and frees himself from all evil.” (10:2-3)
“Each religious genius spells out the mystery of God according to his own endowment, personal, racial, and historical. The variety of the pictures of god is easily intelligible when we realize that religious experience is psychologically mediated.”