• If we are God, then why are we, the human race, so corrupt, violent and confused?

  • It seems that, if we all were God, we would not be so destructive and brute beings such as you see on this planet.

  • If we are all God, then why are we not perfect in virtue all the way through?

  • If we are God, why do we have to obtain moksha? If we are God, we should be moksha all the way, all the time.

Please do not just down vote my question. I have been struggling with this, I am sincerely seeking an enlightened answer.


2 Answers 2


The answer is obvious, it is because we are not exactly the God, we are jiva, an energy of God. And because we are an energy of God, we are called as God by some. Just like fire and a spark of fire are essentially the same, so also God(Brahman) and us(Jiva) are essentially the same. But, just like fire is huge than a spark of fire and has more heat or energy, so also there are differences between us and God. Hence, to say we are God would not be absolutely correct. Now let's talk about the cause of corruption, violence, etc.

Apart from jiva shakti (which is us), there is another kind of energy of God known as maya shakti (illusory potency). This maya is also known as prakruti whose product are the three modes of material nature known as satva(goodness), rajas(passion), tamas(ignorance). And the major difference between God and us is that, God is mayadhish (the Lord of maya)[Sve. Up - 4.10] but we are mayadhin (under the influence of maya). So maya cannot even stand before God ashamed of Her position, but those who are under it's influence get bewildered by it:

vilajjamānayā yasya sthātum īkṣā-pathe ’muyā
vimohitā vikatthante mamāham iti durdhiyaḥ
[SB - 2.5.13]

The illusory energy of the Lord cannot take precedence over the Lord, being ashamed of her position, but those who are bewildered by her always talk nonsense, being absorbed in thoughts of “It is I” and “It is mine.”

So being influenced by the three modes of material nature in the course of time we get affected by corruption, viloence, etc. If we were God, then we would be free from these effects. But because we are not we are afflicted by these things and only by approaching God that we can get moksha, liberation, etc. which is getting rid of this divine energy of God known as maya:

daivī hy eṣā guṇa-mayī mama māyā duratyayā
mām eva ye prapadyante māyām etāṁ taranti te
[BG - 7.14]

This divine energy of Mine, consisting of the three modes of material nature, is difficult to overcome. But those who have surrendered unto Me can easily cross beyond it.

Now there are certain schools of thought (advaita of Shankara for example) that say jiva brahmaiva na parah. That is, jiva is Brahman itself, not different. And followers of that tenet strongly cite statements like aham brahmasmi,etc. to say we are Brahman or God. But one should clearly understand what kind of Brahman we are and who are eligible to say I am Brahman. And secondly, saying that jiva is Brahman itself is only a partial view of the truth. In the Vedas there are both kinds of statements which say jiva is Brahman and jiva is not Brahman. Hence, different schools of thought have arisen in course of time giving importance to different statements of the Vedas. But the truth is, there are both similarities and disimilarites between God and us (I am skipping verses to keep the post short) and we are God only in the sense that we are energies of God [BG - 15.7]. But because we are under the influence of different modes of nature caused by maya, we act in corrupted ways and need liberation.

  • Out of curiosity, do you believe in Visistadvaita? (The analogy of fire and a spark is the traditional Visistadvaita analogy.) I know that you believe that Vishnu is Shunya Purusha and all that, but do you have the same view of the relation between Jiva and God that Visistadvaitins have? Commented Dec 20, 2014 at 17:08
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    Fire and spark is a Upanishad analogy. Not unique to Visistadvaita. Commented Dec 21, 2014 at 8:16

So are we really God? Who are we? Who is God? What is our relation with God?

Different schools of Hinduism say different things about this concept.

  1. Advaita (commonly called Non-Dualism) - Sri Adi Shankaracharya (believed to be incarnation of Lord Shiva)

    According to this school of thought, there is only One who exists in this world, and that is God. There is no 'we' so the question 'I am God' does not arise. The answer is There is no 'I' and there is only God. In other words I-ness is a consequence of EGO or AHAMKAR. This Ego is illusory and not real.

    Shri Adi Shankaracharya says that:

    brahma satyam jagan mithya

    jivo brahmaiva napara

    Brahman alone is real, the universe is illusory

    The Jiva is none other than Brahman

    Thus the Self is Brahman. So does this mean 'we' are 'God'? NO. This means the notion of 'we' is false, or imaginary. Thus 'God' IS. There is nothing else to be called 'we'. That is the perception of an individual 'Jiva' is itself imaginary, therefore there can be no such statement as 'I am God', it is rather like God alone exists and all else is illiusory. This is Advaitic phiolosophy, contrary to the belief that many have on Advaitins that 'they think they are God'. Rather they think 'what we perceive as ourselves is only Ego and not real' and 'the only thing that is real is God'. Thus the declaration 'I am GOd' by Advaitins is not an egotistic assertion of equating the Jiva with Brahman, but rather it is the destruction of all ego, by the removal of Jiva and replacing it with Brahman.

    Swami Vivekananda says on 'The Complete Works of Swami Vivekananda', Volume 1:

    So the non-dualists say, "This universe does not exist at all; it is all illusion. The whole of this universe, these Devas, gods, angels, and all the other beings born and dying, all this infinite number of souls coming up and going down, are all dreams." There is no Jiva at all. How can there be many? It is the one Infinity. As the one sun, reflected on various pieces of water, appears to be many, and millions of globules of water reflect so many millions of suns, and in each globule will be a perfect image of the sun, yet there is only one sun, so are all these Jivas but reflections in different minds. These different minds are like so many different globules, reflecting this one Being. God is being reflected in all these different Jivas. But a dream cannot be without a reality, and that reality is that one Infinite Existence. You, as body, mind, or soul, are a dream, but what you really are, is Existence, Knowledge, Bliss

    The commonly held analogy of advaitins is the dream. Imagine a dream. There are multiple friends, enemies and yourself in the dream. There is a realistic looking scenario. However upon waking up, it is realized that none of these entities were actually real. All of it was just a play or a dream. Similarly this world is an illusion or a dream where God himself plays various different parts. Thus what is moksha? Moksha is realizing that we are not what we think we are (i.e) body, mind or ego, but rather we are the Atman, which is Brahman.

    Shri Adi Shankaracharya says in Shivohum Mantra:

    Mano buddhya-hankara chittani naham

    Na cha shrotra jihve, na cha ghrana netre

    Na cha vyoma bhumirna tejo na vayuhu

    Chidananda rupah shivoham shivoham

    I am not the mind, intellect, thought, ego, or some form of the supreme being; I neither have ears, nor tongue and I neither have nose (nostrils) nor eyes; I am not the sky, earth, light or the wind; I am the fortunate, joyful, supreme being who is the very emblem of truth, knowledge and eternal bliss. I am consciousness and bliss. I am Shiva, I am Shiva.

    So in short according to Advaita, 'we' are not 'God', 'God' is 'God'. There is no one else.

  2. Achintyabhedabheda - Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu (believed to be incarnation of Lord Krishna)

    According to this school of thought, we are not different from God, but still we are different from God. Thus the scholars in this school commonly classify jivatma as being an eternal energy of paramatma.

    It is stated in Sri Chaitanya Charitamrita Adi lila 2:37 that:

    The material world, full of conditioned souls trying to lord it over matter, is a manifestation of the external energy of the Supreme Lord, and the spiritual world, full of perfect servitors of the Lord, is a manifestation of His internal energy. Since all living entities are minute sparks of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, He is the Supreme Soul in both the material and spiritual worlds. The Vaisnavas following Lord Caitanya stress the doctrine of acintya-bhedabheda-tattva, which states that the Supreme Lord, being the cause and effect of everything, is inconceivably, simultaneously one with His manifestations of energy and different from them.

    Sri Jiva Goswami says in Bhagavat Sandarbha 16:

    There is one Supreme Being. He is naturally endowed with inconceivable energies. Through these energies he exists eternally in four states: His own form, His spiritual expansions, the jiva and pradhana (matter). These four states may be compared to the sun's power, the sun globe, the sun's rays and the sun's effulgence.

    Thus an analogy to understand this school is 'Moonlight' and its 'rays'. Moonlight is the source of the rays. However when we use the term Moonlight, we do not differentiate it from its rays, although the rays are not technically the moonlight. The rays are in a way dependent on Moonlight. Jivas are dependent on God. Similarly jivas are the energies of God or the 'rays' of God. Thus they are inseparable, although different.

    So in short, according to Achintyabhedabheda, we are not God, we are energies of God.

  3. Vishistadvaita (commonly known as Qualified Non-Dualism or Qualified Dualism) - Sri Ramanujacharya (believed to be incarnation of Balarama or Lord Krishna)

    According to this school of thought, there is the One and then the Many. However there is a qualifier. This One is the whole and the many are its parts.

    Sri Ramanuja says in His commentary of Vedanta Sutras II.3.43

    'One part (quarter) of it are all beings, three feet (quarters) of it are the Immortal in heaven' (Kh. Up. III, 12, 6)--on account of this mantra also the soul must be held to be a part of Brahman.

    Swami Nikhilananda says in The Schools of Vedanta:

    According to Ramanuja, the upholder of Visistadvaita, or Qualified Non-dualism, the Reality is Brahman; but the individual souls and the universe are also real, being parts of Brahman or modes of His manifestation. Brahman, with the universe and the individual souls, constitutes the whole of Reality. This is illustrated by the philosophers of this school with the metaphor of the pomegranate fruit. The seeds are the living souls and the rind is the universe. One cannot think of the fruit without the seeds and the rind.

    Thus each jiva is a part of Vishnu who is the one who lives in All and All lives in God or Sri Narayana. Thus according to this philosophy 'we' are not 'God', but we are 'parts of God' or 'attributes of God'.

    Moksha according to this school is the event when Vishnu, who is believed to be the Brahman, by His own Grace, offers Moksha to us.

    Some Vishishtadvaitins believe that a positive act of Surrender (called Sharanagati) is required for Sri Vishnu to offer Moksha to us because other techniques for liberation are very difficult, while others believe that even this act of Surrender is difficult and the jivas are so powerless that even this cannot give Moksha and only Sri Vishnu only can give it. (Although in a way this can also be called surrender of all notions, including that of surrender)

    Keshav's fantastic answer here:

    Regarding the means of Bhakti and Prapatti

    Vadakalai View: Accept both as the direct means but Bhakti is more difficult and dilatory while Prapatti is easy and immediate

    Tenkalai View: Do not accept any means because Jeevatma is so utterly dependent as to be incapable of adopting either Bhakti or Prapatti as a means.

    Wiki reference:

    Sri Ramanuja and (some sects of) the Vishishtadvata tradition accept Saranagati, total surrender at the Lord's lotus feet alone as the sole means to moksha, liberation from samsara and going to Vaikuntha.

    So in short, according to Vishishtadvaita, we are not God, but rather parts or attributes of God.

  4. Dvaita (commonly known as Dualism) - Sri Madhvacharaya (believed to be incanation of Vayu after Hanuman, Bhima)

    According to this school of thought, there is One and then the Many, with no further qualifications. Jiva is totally different from the Brahman or God.

    Trivikram Acharaya says about Sri Madhvacharya's great dvaita vedanta philosophy in Tattva Pradipa:

    1. The scriptures' direct perception and inference are its testimony.
    2. There exists a five-fold eternal relation between Bhagavan, the human souls and matter.
    3. The world of matter is real.
    4. The individual souls are servants of Hari.
    5. There is a gradation of fitness among atomic souls.
    6. Divine Hari is the highest conception of Godhead, the Supreme Truth of all and the world.
    7. Realization of Godhead Hari is possible by following the whole body of the scriptures.
    8. To unfold the eternal function true to his proper nature brings about the emancipation of each soul.
    9. The practice of performing this pure function is called Bhakti

    Thus according to Dvaita, we are not God, we are jivas, God is Brahman and the two are eternally real and separate.

Thus each school has a different take on its realtionship between jiva and God, however none of the school says we are God. Advaita says there is only God and nothing else. Achintyabhedabheda says we are energies of God. Vishishtadvaita says we are parts of God. While Dvaita says we are separate and God is separate.

Now sir, instead of giving me an answer to my question, you have further confused me with four different philosophies. Which one is valid? Which one do I believe?

Each person says His philosophy is superior to the other's, just as children argue that 'their gift is superior to other's gift'. But let us take a closer analysis on ONE SIMILARITY between what each philosophy really says.

  1. Advaita says give up the attachment that you are the body, you are the mind, you are the ego. you are not the one you think you are.

    Gaudapada Karika on Mandukya Upanishad:

    Atman as Neti, neti—"Not this, not this." (Br. Up. II. iii. 6.) Thus dissociating from Atman such adjectives as happy or unhappy, which would make It an object (vishaya), scripture indirectly helps to establish It as the eternal subject or substantive. The negation of attributes reveals the real nature of Atman.

  2. Vishistadvaita says give up all attempts to reach God by your own effort and realize that you are really incapable of reaching Lord Narayana and SURRENDER to Sri Vishnu. He will of His own compassion liberate you.

    Bhagawad Sri Yamunacharya states in Sri Alavandhar Stotram/Stotra Ratnam

    Na Dharma Nishthosmi Na Cha Atmavedi

    Na BhaktimansTvat Charanaravinde

    Akinchanonanyagati Sharanyam

    Tvat Padamoolam Sharanam Prapadye

    O Lord, I do not know Dharma, I do not know Dnyana, I do not have Bhakti in your divine Lotus Feet. All I have is I am Akinchan (one who does not have anything), and Ananyagati (One who is totally dependent ONLY on You). This akinchan and ananyagati soul is surrendered to your Lotus Feet.

  3. Achintyabhedabheda says give up every single attachment and just chant the name of Sri Krishna of Gokula, what greater liberation than playing with Him eternally

    Srila Prabhupada says with Lord Caitanya: The Golden Avatara:

    Simply by chanting, one can have self-realization, God realization, and when there is God realization, then nature realization is included also.

  4. Dvaita says give up your own selfish efforts and serve Sri Vishnu, only then He will admit you into Vaikunta

    According to Madhvacharya's philosophy

    The only way for the jīva to escape the world is divine grace, which can only be gained through selfless devotional service to God, or bhakti.

Notice that each one says different things, but all of them ask us to do one thing. That is 'give up the attachment' or 'renounciation' or 'sacrifice' or 'self-lessness' or 'surrender'. That is the essence of all scriptures.

Sri Ramakrishna says:

What is the significance of the Gita? It is what you find by repeating the word ten times. It is then reversed into tagi (or tyagi), which means a person who has renounced everything for God. And the lesson of the Gita is: O man, renounce everything and seek God alone

Basically saying that the one common sentiment in all the schools of philosophy is the idea of renunciation of selfish thoughts and desires or surrender of all notions of self-effort or egotistic tendencies. Advaitins do it in an effort to realize Who they are. Dvaitins call it selfless service to God in an effort to enter Vaikunta to serve Sri Krishna/Sri Narayana. Vishistadvaitins call it SURRENDER to God because everything else is futile. While achintabhedabeda's do it by chanting Hare Krishna and thereby giving up every other selfish desires.

  • 1
    Conversation has been moved to chat: chat.stackexchange.com/rooms/21031/… Note that I gave the wrong link before. Commented Feb 11, 2015 at 6:53
  • If you're interested in Yamunacharya's Stotra Ratna, I just posted a question about it here: hinduism.stackexchange.com/q/7826/36 Commented Jul 21, 2015 at 1:52
  • From what I have understood by your answer on Vishistadvaita part that basically it is Bhakti Yoga. If Jiva is powerless to attain Moksha then there is no concept of Karma. If a person has spent his whole life in devotion then also there is no guarantee that he will achieve Moksha. Am I right?
    – Pinakin
    Commented Oct 23, 2015 at 6:22
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    @ChinmaySarupria You are right that Vishistadvaita would come under the broad spectrum of Bhakti. To Me, surrender is the culmination of Bhakti Yoga (Atma Nivedanam). However the people who follow Vishistadvaita (@Keshav will be able to clarify more on this) explicitly make a difference between Bhakti Yoga VS Sharanagati/Self-surrender. According to Vishistadvaita, Bhakti Yoga refers to the specific guidelines preached by Lord Krishna in the Gita, whereas Sharanagati refers to an act of self-surrender by the jiva due to Him realizing his utter inability to follow the Gita's teachings sir.
    – Sai
    Commented Oct 23, 2015 at 13:43
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    @ChinmaySarupria There are two schools of Visishtadvaita/Sri Vaishnavism, known as Thenkalai and Vadakalai, as I discuss here: hinduism.stackexchange.com/questions/2831/… Vadakalais believe that Bhakti Yoga and Sharanagati can both get you Moksha, whereas Thenkalais believe that Sharanagati is the only way to get Moksha. Commented Oct 24, 2015 at 17:47

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