By Dr. Tim Ong, MBBS
In walking the spiritual path, my concept and understanding of God has evolved so much that it is now impossible for me to hold on to my earlier concept of God as was taught to me by society.
My initial understanding of God was spoon-fed to me by just about everyone I had come into contact with, and I had readily accepted their concept of God because I was too young to fully understand God on my own.
God was viewed as someone or something that is omnipotent and omnipresent. God is all loving and all compassionate. These qualities of God I could easily understand. However, this same all compassionate God appeared to possess human qualities as well since this God often gets upset and angry with humanity for its failure to follow God's laws and inflicts punishments on those who broke the laws. I found it difficult to reconcile an all compassionate God with one who also punishes the fallibility of men. Men's imperfections must also come from God, so where is the logic in punishing them for God's own failure. Yet an all powerful God cannot fail. An all loving God would have loved his own creations the way they are, unconditionally.
Often, God is described as a he as if to imply that God has a gender and that he is male. Many have also claimed to have special access to God, implying that God gives more to some and therefore less to others. Certain institutions have even claimed that you can only understand God through them. Any other path is therefore the wrong path. I could not see how an all loving and all compassionate God can love some more than others and bestow special privileges to some and not all. Why limit your love when you are limitless?
As I learned more about spirituality and personally walked the spiritual path, that earlier concept of God has drastically changed. I now believe that God as taught by most of the major religious institutions on the whole fell short of the perfection that all these same religions claimed God to be. The error, I felt, was that all these institutions have humanized God - giving God our own human fallibility - and in so doing bring God down to our own level. This way of perceiving and understanding God did a great injustice not only to God but also to humanity for it prevents men from truly understanding God.
As I learned to understand myself and the universe, I began to understand also that all these indoctrinations had led to the creation of a world that is totally confused about God. Through these confusions, some have taken the opportunity to use the name of God to use men for their own selfish gains. For instance, there are some institutions today that use fear to keep their flocks in order. Others use false promises of rewards in the afterlife, purportedly for doing God's will, to bait the foolish to do their bidding. In fact, many atrocities and cruelties have been done in the name of God.
Therefore, it is no wonder that the younger generations are quite disillusioned by the word God. Here is how I have come to understand God...
- God is impersonal. God is not a person. God does not have a gender. In fact the word God itself has so often been abused that it is sometimes better to not use the word God to express God. That is why Lao Tzu, the author of Tao De Ching, coined a new word - Tao. In the Tao De Ching, there is a passage that says:
"Something there is without shape yet complete, born before Heaven and Earth. I know not its name, and for lack of a name, I called it Tao."
Tao is therefore described as a formless something that no words can fully and completely describe. It is real, yet it cannot be perceived by any of our five physical senses. It was already in existence before the physical universe (Heaven and Earth) was formed. I would additionally say, even before time and space.
Tao is the source of everything, both formed and formless. It is the source of both spirit and matter. It is omnipresent - is in everyone and everything. It is therefore infinite and eternal.
- Tao is all loving. In other words, it loves unconditionally all things and beings. Tao does not favor one thing over another, nor one person over another. Tao is impartial. There is no favoritism. There is no chosen one because everyone is a chosen one. This reminds me of the animated movie "The Incredibles" where Syndrome said he was going to sell his super power gadgets to everyone, and "when everyone is a super (hero), no one is super. Only through this impartiality can there be unconditional love for all.
- Tao is all compassionate. Many people appear to think that an all compassionate God is one that intervenes in our lives and affairs to help reduce sufferings and pain. Thus, when things go wrong in our lives and our prayers are not answered, we start to question God and God's compassion. I am here to tell you that this understanding of God is inaccurate. In fact, it is downright wrong.
An all compassionate Tao is not one that intervenes in our lives. On the contrary, it is one that does not intervene in our lives. It is one that gives us total freedom to build, create and sculpt our lives the way we want it to be. It gives us free will.
It is compassionate because it not only gives us freedom to create our lives but also the tool to create it with - our mind. With our mind, we are as powerful as the Creator. Our mind is creative and it is from the mind that everyone else comes about.
With this powerfully creative mind tool comes great responsibilities. We are fully responsible for all our creations - the good, the bad and the ugly. It is reflected and manifested via the Law of Attraction, where good begets good and bad begets bad. It is here that we must fully understand the spiritual law that was taught by the ancients - "As within, so without."
This spiritual law says that our outer experience is a reflection of our inner state of mind. It is a mirror image of the total content of our mind, both conscious and unconscious. Since the unconscious portion makes up the bigger portion of our mind, it is therefore important for us to cultivate awareness or mindfulness in order to know the content of our unconscious mind. Only in this way can we truly change the content and therefore change our lives.
With free will also comes the responsibility of not encroaching on someone else's free will. In other words, you cannot impose your will on another because in doing so you have taken away his or her free will. This concept of free will is very important to understand and to practice in relationships. The majority of relationships break down because of our encroachment on someone else's free will. Instead of respecting the other person's free will - even the freedom to make mistakes - we try to control or coerce him or her to bend to our will, our expectations and desires.
- Tao is omnipotent. It is all powerful because it is a creative source of all things living and non-living. It is the spring of life. It is here that we can see the beauty of God's unconditional love and compassionate.
Despite its omnipotent, it does not impose anything on us. Instead, it gives us the total freedom to create our lives as we will it, with the caveat that we are fully responsible for all our creations - every single thought! We are responsible for those unconscious thoughts as well as the conscious ones. In short, we create our own heaven and our own hell.
In reality, every person or event is devoid of any value except the value we impose on it. It is this emptiness of real value that makes it possible for two persons to experience the same event differently. The difference in experience comes about because of the different perceptions in each person. The famous simile that explains this phenomenon is the simile of the blind men and the elephants.
In this simile, no one saw the whole. Each experience part of the whole and perceives that to be the whole. Since perception also depends on perspective, it is also possible for two persons to perceive the same things and yet have different experience because each interprets the perception from different perspectives.
- The Eternal Tao is unchanging. In the supra mundane level, Tao itself in unchanging. It is creative, yet does not get stained. It remains pristine and clear. It is this quality that is often described in spiritual books as the true nature of God or Buddha nature.
Yet everything it creates changes in time. In this physical universe, only change is constant. Change is a necessary part of life. Without change, life is not possible. Without change, we cannot grow from a new born to an old person. Without change, trees cannot grow. Without change, there will be no varieties. So the beauty of life lies in this unpredictable and uncontrollable change.
Yet the paradox of life is that we constantly strive to control change. We crave for some form of predictability and stability in our lives. We exert control over people and things to try to bring about this predictability and sense of stability. We do this out of fear, which itself arises out of our ignorance in understanding and knowing things as they really are. Through this ignorance, we see ourselves as separate from the source and without the power over our own lives. This delusion dis-empowers us from the creative and powerful self determining beings that we truly are. We are truly God-like but alas, we know not that we are as God.
The way to re-claim our God-like nature is to cultivate our mind, removing all wrong beliefs and concepts from our mind - wrong beliefs and concepts that serve to limit our abilities and our lives. We are in a prison of our own construction and must destroy this prison on our own, in order to become the master of our own destiny.
Nourish your Spirit with Stillness
Nourish your Mind with Knowledge
Nourish your Heart with Unconditional Love
Nourish your Body with Living Food
Nourish your Relationships with Thoughtfulness