I am feeling a bit on the agnostic side these days. I love the idea of God and his grace and all that, but I feel as if, despite the lovely memories, the warm comfort of a life of faith, I must finally make it official that Santa Claus really does not exist. There is no harm in continuing celebrating Christmas, and even cheerfully hanging the stocking over the fireplace, but the truth is that I now know that the gift placed under my tree does not come from an immortal father ridding a sleigh in the sky. It comes from my wishing him to be. All that sense of self and confidence in my life has come from this sense of him being there at all times. But he isn't there without my hard work. And I am tired. I don't want to make up God, I want him to be. Why, for a change, can't I be surprised? Why must I work so hard, always, to come up with a mere match to my tired, narrow self needs?
I am really sorry that you are having these particular doubts. I will admit that it is a bit of a hiccup on the road to felicity. Personally, since I have been in India I have felt nothing but my faith increase. I think that whatever happens to me now I am prepared because I see everything in terms of God's will. And if I have to go back to Canada, or stay here, I can take it in my stride. I can live with anything that gets thrown at me, from destitution and infamy to wealth and fame.
Faith is not necessarily something that can be communicated by words, but this Santa Claus thing is just a total misunderstanding. It comes from that very kanishtha or even pre-kanishtha stage where you are stilling seeing God as a, well, Santa Claus. God really has nothing to do with that. It is not hoping for something and that God will fulfill it; it is seeing how God is the only explanation for what is, and how living in a way oriented to God is the only response to that understanding.
Recently, a letter from Einstein has been discovered in which he says that belief in God is childish. And, by crikey, belief in God has indeed shown itself to be childish over the centuries, I do admit it. But just as St. Paul says, in one of the most potent passages in the entire Bible, that when you cease being a child, you put away the things of a child, and that includes the faith of a child. So this means looking beyond the pie-in-the-sky fantasy world aspect of Krishna lila and start looking at it from a different perspective. St. Paul goes on to talk about faith, hope and charity, by which he means love. And he is certainly on the right track there.
As a matter of fact, faith, hope and charity might be seen as categories corresponding to sat, chit and ananda in the way that I have been explaining them. Faith means simply accepting the fact of existence. Existence itself is the minimum definition of God. Can you explain existence? Does the Big Bang theory help anyone understand how existence came to be? Of course, it just is. But that is the minimum definition of God. He just is. The people who say that God cannot exist because there is no proof are simply using a definition that is too narrow. Existence itself is God. Now what was your problem with faith? Let us proceed on from there.
From there you go to hope, the sign of consciousness. Hope is the result of awareness of relationship to the cosmos, your place in it and the signs that you, despite your apparent temporality, are eternal like it. The miraculous awareness of the miraculous fact of existence would not only enrich one’s faith, but one’s sense of hope, also, “that I am a child of eternity, I am meant for so much more than this.”
This is why I often talk about the symbolism of the Divine Couple and its relation to the love of this world. We know that the loves of this world are fleeting and temporary, however intense and tempestuous, overwhelming loving being in love. But then it is more than that. It is about entering His world and seeing everything in the light of that. That requires sadhana. You cannot do it without sadhana. And sadhana is a constant, relentless effort, success or failure. Because there is no greater commitment in life than that of understanding and loving God, in view of the fact that God is what encompasses everything. That is why you cannot say there is no God.
You may say that the Absolute Truth takes a different form from Krishna, but there is some underlying logic and purpose to the totality of things and our place within it. And that purpose is RELATIONAL; it is our relation to that underlying essence that animates us and everything else.
Radha and Krishna are a myth. OK. That does not mean anything. They are an expression of something universal. This is exactly what I was saying to someone the other day. Radha and Krishna are in every atom, and if you can't see them there, well too bad for you. You can not only see them, but you can feel them, and love them, and interact with them. It is not another physical universe where they exist, but in your own private universe.
You may try to populate your private universe by facsimiles of what exist around you--family, friends, service to the poor and oppressed, political action, there are endless possibilities, each with their own satisfactions. But what makes Radha and Krishna the Supreme Personality of Godhead is their fundamental, essential character. They personify the love that is what we are all seeking to receive and want to give. They take us out of our individual limitations, birth, old age, disease and death, and lift us to transcendence. They take us out of our mundane pettiness and take us into the realm of the numinous, the sacred.
This is where we really want to be. Everyone likes wonder, chamatkarita, rasa. We all like to be amazed by wonderful achievements of men and women. Here is the endless source of wonder, the fountainhead of love that is at the basis of all creation. From love it was produced, out of love it survives, and into love it will merge in the end. And if you are imbued with that love, through good fortune, you become an agent of this world's survival, in whatever your particular calling happens to be.
But the point in bhakti is that we are neither looking for sense gratification or liberation. We are looking for service, however Krishna may engage us. And sometimes that requires us taking the initiative and acting without waiting for drops of blood dripping from a statue of the Virgin Mary or some other sign. It means taking that famous leap of faith and acting because the fact of God's existence makes doing otherwise impossible. This is the difference between immature and mature religion. Don't worry about the hard work. In this endeavor, there is no loss or diminution.