Is there a God? Ask Stephen Hawking
Abracadabra By K. B. Ganapathy, Columns

Is there a God? Ask Stephen Hawking

May 18, 2019

A few days back a family friend came to visit us after many years and while leaving gave me a gift, a book. To my surprise it was a book by Stephen Hawking, the physically challenged world famous Cosmologist and Physicist, who answers big questions. Brief answers to the big questions numbering 10.

Though I am many light years away from Science and Cosmology, I decided to honour Stephen Hawking by browsing the book. Finally, I settled to find answer to the biggest question of  all and also the first question: Is there a God?

The very first sentence is an invitation to the clash of wisdom between Science and Religion. It is absolutely unlike the clash of dogmatism and ignorance between various religions. Here  in the clash of wisdom between Science and Religion, we get enlightened and we are taken nearer to truth. Unfortunately, in the clash of dogmatism and ignorance between various religions, we are taken deeper into the abysmal depths of ignorance and self-destruction.

That all important first sentence reads: “Science is increasingly answering questions that used to be the province of Religion.”

We know, irrespective of the religion we follow, for centuries our questions like, Why is man and woman created? Why are we here? Where did we come from? We got the same answer — God made everything. It was His wish.

In Brahmasutra, there is a question which should hit any wise man like a bullet. The question is: Why did God create the world? Undoubtedly the question pre-supposes an unscientific premise that it was God who created us. Whatever it be, the answer is also in the Brahmasutra, but in the form of a question leaving one rather perplexed; it begs another question. The answer: Why does a child play? Apparently the child has no purpose. Likewise, God created this world without purpose but the question remains — But why?

According to Stephen Hawking, nowadays, though Science provides better answers, people will always cling to answers emanating from Religion because it gives comfort and they do not trust or understand Science.

When telephone was invented and a proposal was made to introduce it in Saudi Arabia, the priests cautioned the Sheikh of danger. Only after verses from the Holy Quran were recited and found communicated correctly, phones were introduced in Saudi Arabia. But then, those were the times of blind religious belief and superstition.

Hawking says he does not want to prove or disprove the existence of God. He merely wants to find a rational framework to understand the universe around us. According to him, many disabled people like himself believe they were living under a curse (because of their past karma) inflicted by God. Hawking says he would attribute that disability to the Laws of Nature and adds, “If you like you can say the laws are the work of God.” However, it is no proof of God’s existence.

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He says, in about 300 BC, a philosopher (ancient Greek astronomer and mathematician) called Aristarchus wanted to find out whether the belief of the people that eclipses were caused by Gods is the Truth. He studied the heavens (sky) carefully and concluded that eclipse was really the shadow of the Earth passing over the Moon. God has no role in it and therefore it is not a Divine event.

Discovering nature’s law will tell mankind more about the universe and no need for a God for this purpose. Anyway, God is not going to be our teacher if he is there at all. He says, the laws of nature cannot be broken even with the power of Religion or its God. When there are laws of nature to guide the universe, what role is there for God? asks Hawking.

Therefore, he says, “One could define God as an embodiment of the laws of nature.” If we look at the vast size of the universe, we will realise how insignificant and accidental human life in it is, no matter to the devout follower of a religion it might seem most implausible.

To Albert Einstein, knowing the mind of God is knowing the law of nature. Here, Hawking’s prediction is that “We will know the mind of God by the end of this century.” Much as I would wish all of us are alive at the time predicted by Hawking, the lifespan of humans being what it is, only very few might remain to experience his prediction, if it comes true, that is.

In India, we have any number of Gods bearing eponymous names and also names derived from nature. Apart from these divinities and deities, we have  spiritual persons some of them known as Godmen with huge following. The most famous or notorious one known all over the world was, of course, Osho Rajneesh. I was privileged to hear his live discourses by being physically present. At present, the most talkative and articulate Godman, who flaunts his mastery of flawless English language, who can talk on any subject under the sun, is Isha Foundation’s Sadhguru Jaggi Vasudev, the Mysuru man, presiding over a huge Ashram and temple complex in Coimbatore, South India. He is sought after by the high and mighty as also the celebrities of the world. No wonder, he was invited to lecture at the World Economic Forum at Davos, Switzerland.

While reading Stephen Hawking’s book, I remembered the Sadhguru being interviewed by no less a person than the Oscar-winning Film Director Shekhar Kapur with a few questions on life and death. Shekhar Kapur was rather apologetic when he said, “I am going to ask you a silly question, please bear with me…” Sadhguru’s response was, “No, I am used to silly questions.” Questions cannot be wrong, only answers  can be wrong, Sadhguru once said, at Davos. Going by that logic, the questions cannot also be silly. Only answers !!

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Anyway, let me mention the questions asked by Shekhar Kapur: What happens to one’s life energy once the body is gone? Do I still exist as ‘I’? Do I have a soul? Is there reincarnation…? Is there INDIVIDUALITY after death or does this ‘I’ lose its IDENTITY and become a part of the larger Universe?

Interestingly, this question has a taunting, a teasing tail-ender. Shekhar Kapur:  “Would you answer these questions for me so I can tell people I am quite wise now?” The session goes on apparently without any seriousness. At one point, Sadhguru says, “Some things you know best only by experience.” Apparently, this means, if one wants to know what happens after death, one must die! 

When I was in college, I had heard that nobody knows the taste of Cyanide, a chemical which causes instant death even as it touches the tongue. A Scientist experimented on himself keeping a piece of paper and pen to write down the taste before he died. But he died instantaneously, even before he could record the taste.

Therefore, it is not surprising the Sadhguru told Shekhar Kapur, “You are not ready for the experience. You just want to know for entertainment…” The question and answer seemed to me like a spider’s web where Shekhar Kapur got caught like a fly, only the spider did not devour him. Sadhguru spoke of physical body and the subtle body. He tells the Film Director, “When the physical body falls, the subtle or etheric body is still on,” with karma stored etc. etc.

All the time, I was waiting for answers to Shekhar Kapur’s questions.

Well, the programme ends open-ended with poor Shekhar Kapur not getting the answers but getting a concluding remark: “We are going into areas which need much more elaboration to be properly understood, that is why we usually joke about it and skip it.”

Here I am reminded of the question I posed to Gaur Gopal Das, an engineer-turned-motivational speaker and now part of ISKCON, who was in city during March 2019. He had told the audience only God is perfect and all of us are imperfect. My question: If God is perfect, why this perfect God created this imperfect world?”

It apparently sounded like the primordial question agitating the mind of man. There was instant audience attention — Hmmm… Swamiji produced a broad smile exposing his gleaming teeth from molar to molar. There was an instant hush. Then Swamiji began narrating a similar interaction between a Professor and his student  who asked the question “Have you seen the God?” etc., etc.

Gopal Das then came near me and asked: “Are you satisfied?” I said, NO. “We will discuss this another day,” he said and moved on to take another question.

Well, I guess, therein lies the mystery of God. We can only ask the question Stephen Hawking asked in his book: What happened before the beginning? What was God doing before He made the world? Was He preparing Hell for people who ask such questions?e-mail: [email protected]

3 COMMENTS ON THIS POST To “Is there a God? Ask Stephen Hawking”

  1. H says:

    Sir,

    You would have come across the nasadiya sukta of the rigveda,which actually poses this question. so the question is there from a very very Long time

  2. strangeworld says:

    “If God is perfect, why this perfect God created this imperfect world?”
    What was your time reference, when you asked this question? If you look at Mysuru in all its facets today and compare it with the situation just a century ago, you would not glean so many imperfections then. Is the current status of Mysuru because of God or because of humans?

  3. Raj H says:

    God is neither perfect nor real nor unreal! Sadhguru had in fact answered the God question indirectly, again by posing a question. Obviously, you and I did not create the universe. Someone or something had created the universe before us, much before we humans were born and even started to understand that there is a universe which someone or something has created. So, there must be a creator … it is just that whether Stephen Hawking calls it a bunch of laws or a spiritual person calls it as God, does it really matter? What matters is that we are insignificant as long as we see ourselves separate from the universe.

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