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Difficulty With God
Jane: I have difficulties practicing karma yoga because I have a problem with the Isvara/God concept. I cannot pray to a higher instance, because the whole concept of God has been misused by church or other institutions in the past. This fact makes me angry and has created a strong obstacle against praying.
Rory: This is an issue that needs a little inquiry. Countless people in the West have been unsatisfied or even wounded by conventional religion and many have thrown the baby out with the bathwater and ditched all notion of God entirely. When that happens, however, God doesn't suffer, but we do.
There's no getting around the fact that for a universe to exist there must be both a creative principle responsible for it and a substance from which it is created. It's therefore impossible to discount Isvara. In basic terms, Isvara is the very environment around you, including the environment of your body and mind, and is the force by which the stars shine, the planets spin, water flows and your hair and fingernails grow. Isvara provides us with everything, therefore the only appropriate response on our part is to give something back, and that's the attitude with which we approach karma yoga. We offer up our actions as our way of paying our rent, and we accept what comes as being Isvara's grace (because everything is Isvara's grace).
It's not entirely necessary to conceive of Isvara as a particular form. That's just done because it's easier to focus the mind on than the more abstract concept of Isvara as the cause and substance of the Creation. But you can worship Isvara in many forms, in nature, in the stars, in beauty and so on.
When I came to Vedanta I was also a little antagonistic to the notion of God, but that completely changed. It really doesn't matter how ignorant people abuse the idea of God. That's their problem. I see God everywhere and in everyone. There's nothing but God.