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How do you know that God exists? ~ Q&A with Swami Swaroopananda

“God is a name that we give to a certain reality, so there is a more important question that should come first, which is, "How do I know that I exist?" In the same manner that I know I exist, I can know that God exists, not just as a theory but as a reality. 

If we are going to find God we are first of all going to find God within, so it is very important that we learn how to meditate. God is the indweller of our being. He is the indweller of the innermost recesses of our heart. He is our innermost reality and dwells within us in the form of the Atman or the Supreme Self, the One Self that dwells equally in the hearts of all beings. In our tradition, God is called the One That Rules from Within. He rules the whole creation from within and in order to find God we have to go within. And to find God within we have to learn how to purify our minds and how to make our minds completely still. We have to learn how to meditate to the point where we have direct God-vision or God-realization as our innermost self. This is the birthright of every person. 

Swami Sivananda says God is closer to us than the jugular vein because he is our own Supreme Self and that Supreme Self is not many, it is one. It dwells equally in the hearts of all beings, not just of human beings. It permeates all creation and transcends all creation. So the only way to know whether God exists or not is to learn how to meditate. Meditation is the key and through meditation we have the vehicle by which we can find out without any preconceived notion the truth about God. Before that happens we may have an intuition about the existence of God, we may have faith, we may have a belief, we may have devotion before we know directly. All these things are there. 

You might ask, "How do you know that there is such a thing as the color red?" The answer is, "I know that there is such a thing as the color red because I have consciousness, I have a mind and I have senses that function. Specifically I have eyes. When I have all of these -- consciousness, mind and senses -- I can know directly that there is such a thing as the color red. If the color red is present I will know it and every person who has functioning consciousness, mind and senses will know that the color red is present when it is there. 

On the other hand, the color red may be present but if the eyes are not functioning, or if the mind is not functioning, or if we are unconscious, we will not know that there is a color red there. It will be just a word, a name. Similarly, if God is always present within our heart, how can we know God? The answer to this question is to develop the eye of wisdom or the eye of meditation. In this regard, meditation serves the purpose of our eyes when we perceive color, although meditation is done with the mind. 

When the divine eye of meditation is developed, and then directed within the still mind, it is possible to have a direct experience of God as the Self or the Atman. This is the yogis' answer to the question. Once we are able to see God within then we also will be able to see God without. God is not just within; He is all around us, but we are not able to behold it because we have not seen God within. Once we see God within we will also be able to see God without. The key is meditation and the secret is meditation and it is not a matter of belief. It is a matter of faith, proper guidance, practice and divine grace, which is primary. This is what is needed, practice of meditation.” ~ Swami Swaroopananda

 

Swami Swaroopananda is the Acharya (spiritual director) of Sivananda Yoga Centers and Ashrams on the West Coast of the United States, in the Middle East, and in the Bahamas, and is one of the foremost disciples of Swami Vishnudevananda. He is renowned for his spontaneous yet clear, concise, and complete answers to every question. This Q&A is from a Satsang at the Yoga Retreat during the April 2011 Yoga Teachers' Training Course.