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God Is Nowhere

Swami Ramteertha used to tell a parable:

Man Sitting In ChurchThere was a great atheist. In his drawing room he had written in big letters: “God is nowhere.”

His small son was playing one day while he was reading his newspaper. The small son was trying, was learning how to read, so he tried to read the sentence on the wall: “God is nowhere.” But nowhere was a big word, so he broke it into two. He read, “God is now here.”

The father was shocked. He had never read the sentence that way. The whole gestalt changed: “God is nowhere,” and the child was reading, “God is now here.” There is great difference between “nowhere” and “now here”! For the first time he read that sentence with the vision of a child, with the innocence of a child.

It is said that since that day he could not read the old sentence in the old way: “God is nowhere.” Whenever he would look he had to read, “God is now here.” It became something fixed – such was the impact of the child.

A Buddha is always here. You have always been here. You don’t come from anywhere and you don’t go to somewhere else. This whole universe contains you. We are part of it.

OSHO, The White Lotus

What Is the Meaning of the “God Is Nowhere” Story?

The essence of this story lies not in the actions of the characters but in the transformation of perception, the shift from ‘nowhere' to ‘now here'. It traverses the landscapes of comprehension, transcending the boundaries of mere letters and syntax, inviting us to behold the subtle nuances of interpretation.

In the innocence of the child's gaze lies a sacred wisdom—a wisdom that transcends the limitations of adult reasoning. The proclamation etched in bold letters undergoes a metamorphosis, altering the very fabric of reality. ‘God is nowhere' dissolves into the eternal truth of ‘God is now here', unveiling a revelation that echoes beyond the confines of language.

It beckons us to peer beyond the veils of our convictions, to embrace the innocence within, and to witness the profound transformation that occurs when we view the world through the unblemished lens of a child's vision.

This story, while seemingly simple, resonates with the essence of spirituality. It invites us to delve into the depths of our consciousness, to unravel the layers of perception, and to transcend the barriers that confine our understanding. It embodies the essence of spiritual awakening—a shift from the apparent to the profound, from the seen to the unseen.

In the innocent interpretation of a child lies the key to unlocking the mysteries that surround us. It is a reminder that truth often dwells beyond the confines of our preconceived notions, waiting to be discovered through the lens of innocence and purity. Thus, this story stands as a beacon, guiding us to perceive the world with the boundless wonder and clarity of a child's heart.

Personal Reflection Questions

Spiritual stories are an opportunity to reflect on your own life. Here are 10 questions you can use to go deeper with the teachings in this story:

  1. Reflect on the power of perception and how the small son's innocent reading transformed the atheist's understanding of the sentence. How can a shift in perspective alter our perception of the world around us?
  2. Consider the impact of breaking down a word like “nowhere” into two separate words, “now” and “here.” How does this linguistic play contribute to the child's reinterpretation of the sentence, and what does it reveal about the malleability of language?
  3. Explore the contrast between the father's staunch atheist belief, as reflected in the sentence “God is nowhere,” and the child's spontaneous reading, “God is now here.” How does this juxtaposition highlight the potential for new insights when viewing the same words through different lenses?
  4. Contemplate the role of innocence and childlike perception in the story. How does the child's unfiltered interpretation bring a fresh and profound meaning to the sentence, challenging preconceived notions?
  5. Reflect on the concept of gestalt and how the child's reading changed the entire gestalt of the sentence for the father. How can a simple shift in perception lead to a more holistic understanding of life's complexities?
  6. Consider the shock experienced by the father upon hearing his son's reading. How does this moment of surprise serve as a catalyst for reevaluation and transformation in the father's worldview?
  7. Explore the theme of fixed beliefs and how the impact of the child's reading became permanent for the father. How do our beliefs shape our reality, and what happens when those beliefs are challenged or reshaped?
  8. Contemplate the duality inherent in the words “nowhere” and “now here.” How does this linguistic play mirror the broader themes of spiritual awareness and presence in the story?
  9. Reflect on the symbolic significance of the sentence on the wall and its transformation from a negation of God's existence to an affirmation of God's presence. How might this shift in meaning resonate with the reader's own spiritual or philosophical journey?
  10. Consider the lasting influence of the child's reading on the father's perception. How might this story inspire readers to revisit their own convictions and be open to alternative perspectives, especially those that arise from the innocence and wisdom of a child?