Question: I am taking your view very seriously. It is plausible and searching, but so far I find such a God less attractive than the soul-making God I defend.
Answer: There are two ways to know or understand God. One is from our view, the other is God’s own view about Himself. They both can
Answer: There are two ways to know or understand God. One is from our view, the other is God’s own view about Himself. They both can match, but possibilities are dim because of the limitation of our mind. After all, we think according to our past and present experiences. However, we hardly have any experience of God.
I will give an example to explain God’s view about Himself. There is boy who is sleeping. He has a nightmare where he thinks that a tiger is chasing him. In his dream he is running and asking for help. So while sleeping he is audibly shouting for help. His mother, who is nearby, hears this and understands that the son has a scary dream. She wants to help. The boy may hope in his dream that his mother gets a gun and shoots the tiger. That is definitely help, but not permanent. The tiger can come back in the dream. So the intelligent solution is to wake up the boy. That solves the problem from its very root.
Our situation is similar. This world is like a dream and the spiritual kingdom of God is the place of awakening. Suffering in the material world is like a nightmare. God is not interested in shooting the tiger. He wants us to be awakened, enlightened, become perfected beings. So He personally comes as an avatara, and also sends his messenger to wake us up. Thus, suffering in the world has a purpose. It is a wake-up call. Therefore, all great people like Buddha, Patanjali, and Krishna have proclaimed that the world is a place of suffering and we should aim to become enlightened.
But we are ignorant and we want God to remove our suffering (shooting the tiger) and let us remain in the material world (continue dreaming). God, being in perfect knowledge, and truly our well-wisher, does not agree to this proposal.
So He appears cruel from our perspective. If He is playful and wants us to wake up (become perfect) to join His play, He appears callous and unattractive to us. But He is not, if we try to understand from His point of view.
Question: It seems to me we are not far apart. I affirm almost everything you say in the last six lines. It squares with what Christians call “the free will defense,” designed to make sense of our suffering on earth. I have long thought this defense makes good sense. But when you write that Krishna “is playful and He wants you to wake up (become perfect) to join His play,” I demur. I understand what you mean by “His play” on earth, but what does it mean in Vaikuntha? How does He play with us in Vaikuntha? What does He actually do? Does the Srimad Bhagavatam make this clear? Does it give examples? I’ve read all your commentary in Sri Bhagavat Sandarbha and can’t find the answer.
Answer: This is the subject matter of Krishna Sandarbha. There are two words for action in Sanskrit, karma and lila. What people do in this world is called karma. It brings some reaction because they do it to achieve something. Lila is an action manifest out of love or bliss. It is not to gain anything but because one is already perfect. Just as imperfect people act to achieve something, perfected people act just out of happiness. This is what God wants everyone to do. For this He has given us choice or will. But will without knowledge is useless, so He also gives us knowledge in the form of scripture.
Question: As you know, long-faced Christianity does not speak anywhere of God as playful. Heaven for the Christian is not a place where one goes to play. It is supposed to be a blissful place, yes, but not a playful place. Christian philosophers have long spoken of the “beatific vision” of God as the main source of heavenly joy, with the “communion of saints” in second place. For Christians, the love of God and of each other in heaven is all that’s necessary for perpetual bliss.
Answer: Bliss is of two types, inactive and active. The first comes just from vision. The second comes through exchange of love. I use the word play for the second one. Christian saints/philosophers may speak of the first one. The second one is much superior to the first one.
Question: I think the Christian vision is seriously deficient. I am drawn to the idea of Vaikuntha (or the Christian heaven) as a place where play, service, and even challenging work divide the devotees’ time. But play alone, as I understand the meaning of play, would become tiresome. But do I understand play in the same way you understand it, or Jiva Gosvami understands it? I suspect not. And I would like to.
Answer: Yes, our understanding of play is different. Play includes challenges, problems, even fighting and politics, all types of emotions, such as anger and sadness. But all is bliss. There is no scope of boredom or weariness in it. To know that, one needs to transcend the material mind.
The spiritual path is very important to understand. Why is it said to have a guru and surrender to a guru? If you don’t surrender, you are only going to hang on to your own mind and material lens. That’s what you have, you can’t get rid of it. It’s not possible. You have to surrender your mind, body, and speech to guru. You have to have this faith that if he is saying something and it doesn’t match my understanding, then I am going to give up my understanding.
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