Does studying Vedanta require you to believe in God?

By Ramji (James Swartz)

Short answer: God is a word that means many things to many people so this is not a question that easily lends itself to a short answer. However, if by God you mean some kind of being that lives in a heavenly realm somewhere “out there,” then no, Vedanta does not require you to believe in that.

Long answer: As mentioned above, no belief in God “the being” is required for Vedanta. However, Vedanta often utilizes symbolism to teach and this symbolism often includes anthropomorphic gods. Initially, for many people this symbolism is helpful, but it is not totally necessary. The point to remember is that these symbolic gods are symbols of you, limitless, non-dual awareness. Since this awareness has no form or attributes, a symbol is often helpful to inquire into it. Vedanta is nothing but inquiry into yourself, and it uses many different tools to facilitate this inquiry.

If by God you mean the creator of the universe then Vedanta does have a term for this: Isvara. It is very important to understand that Isvara is not a being in the sky looking down from heaven, or a being of any kind for that matter. Isvara is impersonal. Isvara is simply a word that denotes the entire universe: the substance that makes up the universe as well as the intelligence that creates, maintains, and destroys it. Isvara is something to be understood and appreciated because by doing so, one understands how the world operates and therefore how to properly live their life. In this process, one’s mind becomes clear, peaceful and prepared for self-inquiry, the knowledge that leads to enlightenment.

Below a chart depicting the five stages of devotion (bhakti) by Ramji.

And a few questions for your contemplation: In order for there to be a creation, does there not have to be a creator? Can something come from nothing?

Om Shanti Om

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