Why to Approach God?

by October 16, 2011

Question: Most people pray to God only to get their own desires fulfilled. Is such self-serving worship ok?

Answer: The motives with which people approach God can be categorized into four major levels:

Fear: Some people fear, “If I disobey God, then He may punish me for my wrongdoings. So better let me go to His temple and pacify Him by my worship.” This sort of worship is certainly better than atheism, but it is based on a very negative conception of God as a stern judge, a cosmic punisher.

Desire: Some people reason, “There are so many things I want; if I pray to God, perhaps He will give them to me.” Here the conception of God is more positive, as a potent desire-fulfiller. Still the relationship with God is highly utilitarian based on give-and-take rather than love. Srila Prabhupada, the founder-acharya of ISKCON, would say that if we go to God to ask for bread, then that shows our love for bread, not our love for God.

Duty: Some people reason, “God has already given me so much: life, body, health, food, clothing, shelter. It is my duty to go periodically to His temple and thank Him.” Here the relationship is somewhat steady, being based on gratitude for what has already been given and not on greed for what one wants to receive. Still, over time, duty can become a burden. Moreover, the focus in this level is still on what God has done for me, not on God Himself.

Love: This is the purest level of approaching God, where a devotee feels, “My dear Lord, you are the supreme object of my love; I have loved so many things and people, but it was all in vain. Now I simply want to love you and to be loved by you eternally. Just as a parent takes care of the child without the child having to ask his parents, similarly, I know that you will take care of me and so I will not ask you for anything material. I will accept whatever is your plan for me and keep serving you no matter what happens in my life.” It is only this pure love that can satisfy our hearts fully, for love is the innermost need of our hearts.

The real purpose of coming to God is not to have our desires fulfilled, but to have our desires purified so that we can offer pure love to God, and relish his unlimited love in return. So, irrespective of our present level, all of us can aspire to rise to the level of pure love. And that noble aspiration can be swiftly achieved by associating with those devotees who love God purely.

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