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 Spiritual > Yogananda

Why God Created The World

By Paramahansa Yogananda
Self-Realization Fellowship Temple,
San Diego, California, Dec. 16, 1945

             No matter how many times you hear me speak on the subject of why God create the world, you will always find something new; through infinite concentration one receives ever new light on this enigma.

             Somehow, God has all the power of the universe at His command; but why does He have this power? Why is God God? Why aren’t you God? You will rack your brain when you try to think in this way. That there is a God, an absolute Intelligence and Power, we cannot rationally deny. The testimony of Jesus, Krishna, Buddha, and the saints cannot be questioned. From the ideals they exemplified and the miracles they performed, we know they were speaking truth. They gave irrefutable testimony that God is; and that He is perfect and almighty. They have told us that God is Joy, and God is Love. But if this be so, why did He create such an imperfect world, and an imperfect body for man? We think that if we had the power God has, we could create a much better body than this, and a much better world—at least in our imagination we think we could!

             Jesus said, “He that believeth on me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do.” [John 14:12] How did he know, twenty centuries ago, the “miracles” of modern science that are commonplace today—we see how by radar man can determine the presence and location of things thousands of miles away. A soldier told me that the first time he believed in God was when he saw radar at work. It is the wonders of radio, radar, television, and all the other scientific discoveries that are coming, to which Christ referred when he predicted that we would do even greater things than he had demonstrated. Of course, if each person had radarlike eyese and ears, nobody would have any peace! The thoughts and actions of others thousands of miles away would be impinging on our minds, and there would be no freedom or privacy for anyone. Since there is doubtless some dirt in every home, we have no right to intrude on one another and gossip about our findings. So there is a reason why God threw the cloak of maya, the limiting power of delusion, upon man.

 Man’s Power Is Nothing Compared to God’s

             It seems that as soon as man gains power, he misuses it. Already they are speaking of push-button war, in which one has only to press a button and atomic bombs will destroy nations. Just imagine, New York City with all its millions of people, can be finished with one bomb! God has given great power to man that he might use it rightly. Even so, man’s power is nothing compared to God’s, because this whole world is an atomic bomb that God holds in His hands. If any individual, or the leader of any nation, thinks he can get away with using bombs, he is very much mistaken, for the words of Christ are still true: “…all they that take the sword shall perish with the sword.” [Matthew 26:52] If aggressive countries fight one another, they shall be wiped away, and the meek nations shall inherit the earth. We must use spiritual force, not atomic bombs, or we are going to perish.

             It is evident that in the storehouse of nature are hidden many secrets. Though the atomic bomb is a terrible thing, still it shows that there are inconceivable powers locked in the heart of nature—powers that man has yet to discover. And behind all these is a God. There is an Infinite Intelligence that governs all creation. That Intelligence works through divine law that cooperates with good and punishes evil. Why else is it that Hitler, who first had the secret of building the atomic bomb, lost it, and it came instead into the hands of America? Even though America used it, I don’t think she will do so again—I pray she will not.

             Politicians in their blindness start the whole world fighting. But since man didn’t create this world, he has no right to destroy it. Why, then, did God in His almightiness create such an imperfect world, and give man the power to destroy? If you were God, you would know exactly what is going on, and why this universe was created as it is.

             When you are reading a very interesting novel, you see good and evil contradicting each other, and you think it is terrible when evil is winning. For instance, in one chapter the hero is about to be killed, but in the next, everything is straightened out and he is saved. You must understand that each life is a master novel written by God. It is not up to you to try to fathom it; you will be defeated by the limitations of your maya-deluded intelligence. First conquer delusion and become one with God; then you will realize why He created this world.

             But we do have a right to ask Him why. And there are many, many reasons. First of all, it could not be that this earth is a necessity to Him, because in that case God would be imperfect; He would have something to attain from it. But we have the testimony of the saints that He is perfect; and I give testimony from my own experience, for I have communed with Him. Even though I had had visions and other spiritual experiences before I met my guru, Swami Sri Yukteswarji, I told him I wouldn’t talk about God to others unless I knew Him. When I saw those visions I had experienced coming true, I knew that a Being was guiding me, and I began to see Him in all things.

 This World Is God’s Hobby

             Since God is perfect and this earth is not a necessity for His evolution, it is therefore a sort of hobby to God. For example, there are two kinds of artists: one type is the commercial artist who makes art pay; and the other type is one who creates gossamer wings of art with no market value, simply for the personal enjoyment of it. Now we cannot think of God as commercial, for He has nothing to gain from His art of creation. Similarly, wealthy people sometimes take up special hobbies that are expensive, because they can afford them. I met such a man in Cincinnati; he had a big farm as his hobby. When I visited there as his guest, I said, “Your farm is not paying for itself, is it?” He replied, “That’s right. This egg I am eating cost me ninety cents. I could get one in the market for a few pennies.”

             So this world is God’s hobby. But it is not any fun for those who are suffering in it. I often say to the Lord, “If You wanted a hobby, why did You create pain and cancer and terrible emotions as part of it?” Of course, I am not in the world to dictate to the Lord. I know that. But I humbly fight with Him.

             He laughs at me, and says, “In the last chapter, all will know the answer to these questions.”

             Well, I know the answer, but I argue on behalf of those who don’t: “It may be a play to You, Lord, but it is misery and death to those who don’t know it is just a play. Two people marry and think they have found the perfect love, and then one of them dies —what a tragedy! Or someone who has made lots of money thinks he is happy and then sees the stock market crash, and in despair jumps out the window—how terrible! And in the sense traps of sex, wine, and money there is temptation not only from the outside, but from within. How is man going to justify all this? And why are there gangsters, and persons who are insane, and all kinds of dreadful going-ons, Lord? Why are there germs that kill so many people every year? If the bones of those who die of disease were heaped together, the pile would be as high as the Himalayas; and yet it is a hobby to You, God. What about those who are victims of Your hobby?”

             And the Lord says, “I have made all men in My image. If you know you are a part of Me, you can live in this world and enjoy it as I do.”

             That is the ultimate answer. We do not see this world as God sees it.

 Seeing With the Open Eyes of Wisdom and Calmness

             I will give you and example of how things went wrong in creation. If right now in this room I suddenly close my eyes and start dancing wildly, forgetting everything around me and the limitations of my blindness, you will call out to me, “Be careful! You will fall or bump something!” But I insist, “No, I am all right.” Then I stumble and fall and break my leg; and I cry and ask, “Why did this happen to me?” You will answer, “Well, why did you close your eyes and try to dance in the darkness?” Then I reply, “Oh, my goodness. Why did I dance with my eyes closed?”

             Because your eyes are closed, you cannot help thinking this world is terrible. But if you keep open your eyes of wisdom and calmness, you will see there is a lot of enjoyment in this world—just as though you are watching a motion picture.

             When you go to a movie, you like to see a happy picture, or one that makes you feel good, because life itself is so troublesome. But according to the cosmic motion-picture theory of this earth drama, the historic revolutions and wars and man’s troubles are justified, because if you go to a picture show every day and see only love scenes, you would get tired of them. You would want to see some action, some contrast and excitement. Therefore, God is justified in creating the dualities of this earth. He didn’t want this drama to be stale. If there were only angels, it would be a very tiresome play; where there is a villain and a hero, it is more entertaining.

             The contrasts were made to help us realize that this drama is only a cosmic movie, and that by translating our consciousness into God’s consciousness, we could look upon this earth as He does. But I wouldn’t want to be the villain, for crime doesn’t pay—especially before inexorable cosmic law. I would rather be somewhere sitting under a tree, absorbed in meditation on God, or be busy serving others to make them comfortable with true peace and happiness. For although life is governed by a cosmic plan, we have freedom to change our part in the drama.

             The point is, if you learn to see this world as a picture show, you will find nothing wrong with it. The only thing I complain about is that pain makes this picture seem so real. You wouldn’t mind your hand being taken off if you didn’t feel any pain and if you could put it back in place again. Some saints have shown that this is possible. For example, Jesus carried out his prophecy when he said, “Destroy this temple [the body], and in three days I will raise it up.” [John 2:19] And when Peter cut off the ear of the centurion, Christ restored it. By knowing the Lord, Jesus had the power to remake the body.

             Science concentrates on making more material comforts for man; but when disease comes, and the doctor says, “It is all over,” you can’t do anything about it. And then how do you feel? Helpless. But the masters say you don’t have to feel that way. This world will seem an unjust creation if you keep your eyes of wisdom closed. You must realize that you are God’s child, and if you are in tune with Him you will see this earth as a picture—as God’s hobby. Then you can live in this world without being affected by it all. It is those who take it too seriously who suffer. And because of that suffering, they don’t understand why God created this earth. When a mother hears of the loss of somebody else’s baby she feels sympathetic. But when it is her own baby, she suffers great anguish. When you transform your consciousness into divine consciousness so that you feel for everyone else’s well-being as you feel for yourself, when all the world becomes your greater self, you will become completely dissociated from the sufferings of your little body. You will behold creation as a sort of dramatic experience in which nothing can hurt you.

 Free Choice—God’s Greatest Gift

             We can say that God made this earth not only as a hobby, but also because He wanted to make perfect souls that would evolve back to Him. He sent them out under the cloak of delusion, or maya, but endowed with freedom. That is the greatest gift of God. He has not denied mankind the free choice that He Himself has. He has given man freedom to be good or evil, to do exactly as he pleases—even to deny God. Both good and evil exist, but nobody compels you to be evil unless you choose to practice evil; and nobody can compel you to be good unless you want to be good. God created us with the ability to exercise His gifts of intelligence and free choice, by which we can choose to go back to Him. God certainly means to take us back when we are ready to go. We are like the biblical prodigal son, and God is continuously calling to us to come Home.

             The ideal of every human life should be to be good, to be happy, and to find God. You will never be happy unless you do find God. That is why Jesus said, “Seek ye first the kingdom of God.” [Matthew 6:33] That is the purpose of our existence: that we strive to become good, to become perfect, and to use our free will to choose good instead of evil. God has given to us all the power we need to do so. The mind is like an elastic band. The more you pull, the more it stretches. The mind-elastic will never break. Every time you feel limitations, close your eyes and say to yourself, “I am the Infinite,” and you will see what power you have.

             No joy of the senses, no joy of possession, can match the joy of God. Though He had everything from eternity to eternity, He began to think, “I am all-powerful, and Joy itself, but there is no one else to enjoy Me.” And He thought, as He began to create: “I will make souls in My image, and clothe them as human beings with free choice, to see whether they will seek My material gifts and the temptations of money, wine, and sex; or whether they will seek the million million times more intoxicating joy of My consciousness.” The point that gives me the most satisfaction is that God is very just and fair. He gave man freedom to accept His love and live in His joy, or to cast it aside and live in delusion, in ignorance of Him.

             Though all created things belong to God, there is one thing God hasn’t—our love. When He created us, He did have something to attain, and that is our love. We can withhold that love, or give it to Him. And He will wait endlessly until we are ready to offer our love to Him. When we do, when the prodigal son comes Home, the fatted calf of wisdom is killed and there is much rejoicing. When a soul returns to God, there actually is rejoicing among all the saints in heaven. This is the meaning of the parable of the prodigal son as told by Jesus.

 Watch Yourself From the Balcony of Introspection

     There is so much to life than what you think. Since everything earthly seems so real, how much more so must be the Reality that creates this unreal reality! But the unreal reality makes you forget the Real. God wants you to remember that you wouldn’t mind this earth if it were like a motion picture. Even if the brittle bones of the body break, you would say, “Well, look at those broken bones,” and not feel any disturbance or suffering. You can say that when you are anchored in the Divine Consciousness. You will make fun of your habits, and you will be intensely amused at your distinguishing characteristics, as from a balcony of introspection you watch yourself perform in the motion picture of life. I do that all the time. When you know this world to be God’s lila—His play—then you aren’t upset by the contrasts in this drama of good and evil.

             In a dream you can behold rich people, poor people, someone strong, someone else groaning with disease, someone dying, and someone being born. But when you wake up, you realize that it was only a dream. This universe is God’s dream. And when I ask Him, “Why do You not dream only beautiful dreams? Why must your play be fraught with nightmares?” He replies, “You must be able to enjoy both the nightmares and the beautiful experiences for what they are—dreams, only dreams. But if you dream only beautiful dreams, you will be drowned in that beauty, and never wish to wake up.” That is the answer. So you must not be frightened when nightmares come, but say, “Lord, it is a passing dream. It has no reality.” And when you are smiling with health and happiness, say, “Lord, it is a beautiful dream, but do what You like with my dreams of life.” When you are neither touched by nightmares of disease and suffering and worries, nor bound by beautiful dreams, then God says, “Wake up, now! Come back Home.”

             So watch the universe like a picture-play, as do the masters who are awake in God. They are very much interested in those souls who try to escape this dream. God wants everyone to get out of this nightmare, and watch this cosmic motion picture as an entertainment. He wants you to know that you are one with Him. That is why from time to time He sends God-realized souls to earth to help mankind. When people get too groggy with nightmares, these souls come to wake us up, to shake us and say, “What is the matter with you? You are dreaming.” And you cry, “No, no, my leg is broken,” or, “I am suffering with disease,” or, “I am drowned in poverty.” But when, through the blessings of the great ones, you open your eyes, you see it as a dream.

 Separate the Unreal From the Real

             As a little boy, I used to dream that a tiger was after me; I would cry out that the tiger had caught my leg. Mother would come and shake me from my dream and say, “See, there is nothing wrong. There is no tiger. Your leg is all right.” As a result of that childhood dream I had the first wonderful experience that God gave me: the last time I had that dream, I said, “That is an old trick. There is no tiger after my leg.” And I quickly jumped out of the dream. It went away and never returned. From that time on I was watchful, even in dreams, to separate the unreal from the Real.

             Saints are those who are half awake and half dreaming: on one side awake in God, and on the other side dreaming the dream of incarnation. But they quickly get out of this dream. When my body feels some hurt or pain, I focus my eyes and my mind here at the Kutastha, or Christ-consciousness center, between my eyebrows, and then I feel no pain; and in a little while I don’t even see or feel the body.

             So remember, God is dreaming this world. And if we are in tune with Him, we will live in a divinely intoxicated life and nothing will disturb us. We will watch this cosmic picture as we watch the films in a movie house, without being hurt. God created us that we may dream as He does, enjoying this dream, and all its contrasting experiences, as an entertainment, without being affected by it, absorbed in His eternal joy