A few years ago, Zakir Naik had ridiculed Ganesha. He apparently told his Muslim audience that it’s very easy to convert Hindus. Muslims only need to point to Ganesha, with his Elephant head, big belly, love for laddus and a mouse as his vehicle and ask them whether this is their God whom they worship. He threw a challenge to prove that Ganapati is God.
Hindus complained that he had insulted their faith, and on my blog someone commented, “We Hindus are pathetic. We just complain about feeling insulted, but we don’t counter him.”
This comment stuck with me, but who was I to counter? I felt it needed to be done by a Hindu representative. But I also felt that neither Gurus, nor Swamis, nor Sanskrit scholars would do it. Hindu representatives generally don’t criticise other religions in spite of the fact that Christian and Islamic clergy not only criticise, but demean Hinduism badly. Zakir Naik is only one example. Do Hindus even know what is preached in the innumerable churches and mosques across India? I know for sure that Hindu gods are called devils by Christian clergy. Yet strangely, Hindus neither explain their faith nor challenge the dogmas of Christianity and Islam, in spite of having a solid philosophical basis for their beliefs, which is lacking in those two dogmatic religions which depend fully on blind belief.
So I sat down to write a reply to Zakir Naik.
Namaste Dr. Zakir Naik,
You challenged to prove that Ganapati is God. I assume you mean by God the Supreme Being that Muslims call Allah. Now what do we know about Allah?
Foremost, Allah is compassionate and merciful, thus starts Al-Fatha, the first Sura of the Quran. Allah also knows what all human beings are doing, but he is separate from them. It is claimed that Allah has communicated his final words to Prophet Mohamed. Those words are in the Quran. Allah declared that Islam alone is true. So, all human beings must follow Islam because other paths are wrong. And they must hurry up, because every human being has only one life.
Those, who do not accept Islam during their lifetime, will be thrown into eternal hellfire where “boiling water will be poured over their heads that not only melts their skin but also the inner parts of their bellies…” (Q22.19-22)
Clearly, here is where Allah’s mercy ends. He does not brook any dissent. And Al-Fatha, which started compassionately, ends with: “Oh Allah, guide us to the Right Way. The Way of those whom You have favoured, not of those who have earned Your wrath…”
This means, Allah is merciful only to his followers who are called Muslims and he is wrathful to those who are not Muslims.
Dr. Zakir Naik, I am confident that I got the concept of ‘God’ in Islam right because Christianity has a similar concept. And I dare to claim that this concept is not true. Can you prove (and this challenge goes also to Christian clerics) that Allah/ God is indeed so unfair and divisive? Can you prove there will be this huge cauldron of fire where billions of people will burn for ever after Judgment Day? Do these claims of “eternal hellfire for unbelievers” not rather have the purpose to keep the flock in check? To divide and rule?
There are about 2 billion Christians, who are told they have to remain Christians, otherwise they can’t go to heaven. And then there are about 2 billion Muslims who are told that they have to remain Muslims, otherwise they can’t go to paradise. Both religions had plenty of time to sort out which one is true, but they did not do it. Why? Because they cannot prove it. They can only make claims and counterclaims and fight among themselves, between Muslims and Christians and with heathens or infidels. They do this for the last 2000 years.
Under these circumstances, can anyone claim that Islam or Christianity is beneficial for humanity? Is it not time to have a thorough check of what REALLY is the truth?
In regard to the absolute Truth, Dr. Zakir Naik, your ancestors, the Indian Rishis, made valuable contributions and you can be proud of them. In ancient times, long, long before Christianity or Islam appeared on the scene, the Rishis had a very mature understanding of Brahman which would be ‘Truth’ or ‘Supreme Being’ or ‘God’ in English. Brahman is not personal, not a superhuman entity somewhere in heaven, not male or female, not jealous of other gods, not revengeful if ignored, but is Sat-Chit-Ananda, the conscious, one essence in all names and forms – like the one ocean is the essence of all the waves.
The Rishis realised that this universe is a wrong perception of Brahman. They called it Maya, not really true, only apparently true.
For anything to qualify as absolute Truth, it has to be always – past, present and future – and it has to be self-evident.
The Rishis came to the conclusion that nothing fulfils these criteria except pure (= thought free) consciousness. This consciousness is here and now, always, everywhere. Yet we miss it because we focus only on things or thoughts, emotions, etc. – like, when we focus a torchlight in a room only on the furniture and miss the empty space. Infinite space, which throbs with life and love is actually a good metaphor for Sat-Chit-Ananda – the highest truth that underlies names and forms (nama-rupa).
Science has meanwhile discovered the Sat-aspect of the truth. Oneness is there. To discover that this Oneness is also aware (Chit) and blissful (Ananda) scientists would need to turn to their own consciousness to research further instead of looking outside. Let us see whether in future the scientists will support also the claim of the Rishis that this whole manifestation is alive and full of bliss.
In one point, however, you are right, Dr. Zakir Naik: There is only one Truth, one God, which the wise call by different names. But the nature of that one God you got wrong. It does not send non-Muslims or non-Christians eternally into hellfire. The Supreme Being is indeed merciful and compassionate.
But you wanted to know who is Ganapati.
May I explain a bit of your ancestors’ tradition which struck me as most profound when I came to know of it?
Sanatana Dharma is not only about intellectually knowing Sat-Chit-Ananda, but about realising it. Since Brahman is all pervading, it must be also in us (“Ayam Atma Brahma”, and “Aham Brahmasmi” claim the Upanishads). So we can tap and feel it. For this, however, we need to follow certain rules. We need to purify ourselves, lead a moral life, speak the truth, etc. To eat plenty of meat and have plenty of sex is not conducive for this purification. Yet one factor is very conducive: Bhakti – love for God.
Here Hindu Dharma brings in Ishwara.
The concept of Ishwara is close to the Abrahamic notion of a personal God but more benevolent. There is no eternal hell for unbelievers, though temporary hell for bad karma exists. Everyone gets chance after chance in life after life till he realises that he is not a separate wave, but one with the ocean.
Ishwara is God with attributes and has innumerable aspects, as this universe has innumerable aspects or human nature has innumerable aspects. These aspects are personified in different deities or gods and the devotee can choose the one who is dearest to him. It helps to develop love for the invisible Truth – for example through Ganapati.
Those Devas are mistakenly much maligned by Christianity and Islam. They are not separate entities but kind of access points to the one Brahman, which is otherwise unimaginable. It is possible to feel familiar with them, to love them, to talk with them. And the scriptures leave no doubt that devas are ultimately Brahman.
And here, Dr. Naik, you may get an answer to your question whether Ganapati is ultimately the Supreme Being.
The Ganapati Atharvashirsa Upanishad, which is part of the Atharva Veda, states: “Tvameva kevalam karta si, tvameva kevalam dharta si, tvameva kevalam harta si.
Tvameva sarvam khalvidam brahmasi, tvam saksadatma si nityam.”
It means: You alone are the creator, you alone are the sustainer, you alone are the annihilator. All this is Brahman and you are that Brahman. You are indeed the Atman eternally.
This declaration, however, is not unique for Ganapati. It is said for other deities, too.
Yet the fact that this is written in a sacred text, is not proof enough. There are plenty of sacred texts in this world and if everything in them is blindly accepted as true, we end up with all kind of proclaimed truths which are not true. We need to verify what is declared as truth on the touchstone of reason, intuition and experience. If it contradicts all of these, it is not worth believing it and certainly not dying for it.
The proof that all deities are Brahman is because only Brahman really exists. Brahman is like the ocean. The waves are not separate from it. The name by which one worships the Divine, does not matter. What matters is how much devotion one feels. The greater the devotion, the more miracles can happen. Ganapati is loved by millions of Hindus worldwide. He is the door through which they try to access Sat-Chit-Ananda.
Sanatana Dharma is very ancient. And yet the Rishis had such deep insights, for example that the world is a wrong perception of what is really true, like seeing a snake at dusk when in fact there is only a rope. Westerners who ridiculed Hindus because they believe that the world is an illusion keep now quiet as science supports the Hindu view.
Meanwhile NASA scientists have detected the building blocks of DNA in meteorites. The Max Planck Institute in Germany published the first picture of the whole universe. It had an oval shape. Could it be possible that those who ridicule Hindus for worshipping a Shiva lingam might soon rethink their attitude, as well, lest they embarrass themselves?
Great men have come and gone in India’s ancient civilisation. Some have been made into gods. There is nothing wrong with it. The Divine is in all.
It should make you reflect, Dr. Naik that science keeps validating the insights of the Rishis, for example the mindboggling age of the universe, or the ultimate Oneness of all.
Attempts to vilify Indian tradition by you and others are successful because the British weaned Indians away from their tradition and most people know little about it. Yet if you are sincere, you will realise that the wisdom of your ancestors scores high over the worldview and the mind set of Abrahamic religions. The attitude of “We alone are right and you go to hell if you don’t accept our religion” is doing great harm to humanity. It may be helpful for world dominion, but do you want to live in a world where everyone has to wear a strait-jacket?
If I were you, Dr. Naik, I would be worried especially about one thing: what if you wake up after death and there is NO paradise waiting for you? What if all those Jihadis, who were inspired by you, cursed you after realising there was no paradise for them? What if you are taking birth again in another form and reap the fruits of your actions of this life where you consciously or unconsciously distorted the truth? Rebirth is not only mentioned in the Indian texts. There is also plenty of evidence for it – over 3000 cases are documented in the archive of Virginia University.
Dr. Naik, I don’t know how deeply you believe what you preach. I know from personal experience how effective brainwashing in childhood can be. But I also know that it is possible to get out of it.
For me, it was a great relief to come out of the Christian religious strait jacket and I would encourage you to also genuinely enquire into the truth. Your concept of God is not the ultimate Truth. You quote a book as support. Truth does not fit into a book. Truth is THAT WHAT TRULY IS.
Your ancestors, the Indian Rishis, spoke from experience, not from book knowledge.
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