A God-believing person is a believer in the “concept of God”. An atheist is also a believer, but in the “concept of No-god”. Both of them are believers. They believe in some concept of their mind. This apriori belief stifles their enquiry. A seeker of ultimate Truth should start with no belief.
Whether you believe or do not believe – in God or even in the World – the fact remains that you have to believe in yourself. If you say “no”, then your statement or even enquiry loses its ground. So, you cannot question the “believer” – the believer of God or No-god. In fact, you cannot call it a belief; it is a conviction. It is an experience that cannot be denied.
That is why the scriptures define “aatmaa” as the conviction/experience of “I”-ness or “am”-ness in us: “Aham pratyaya-gocharah”.
Knowledge of Truth is to realize that this “I” is not really limited by the body. It is undivided, one, and universal. In fact, the whole universe, of which the body is also a part, is “appearing” in this “aatmaa”. This “I” or “aatmaa” or Consciousness, is the supreme Reality.
All questions spring from the mind. The solution also lies in the same mind. All contradictions meet and dissolve when the mind is taken to a higher, subtler, and more comprehensive plane. A spiritual teacher does not answer a question; he answers the questioner. He tries to look into the mind of the questioner, tries to straighten the kinks, so that the enlightenment dawns in the mind.
I have never belived in any God, or questioned any belief. I have only inquired about God or the ultimate Reality. Seldom have I failed in getting the right answer. Whenever the meaning or relevance of any scriptural statement or sloka was not clear, I could not denounce it as irrelevant or contradictory (as did Max Mueller). I thought and thought till I got the enlightening revelation, finally landing on the Truth about my own Self.
When I went to my Gurudev (Baba Gangadhara Paramahamsa) with my enquiry about the ultimate Truth, he pointed out that being a Physicist I must appreciate the difference between theoretical knowledge and the conviction gained by doing the experiment myself. He put me in the laboratory of my being, to do the experiment with my own being, and have the knowledge first hand.
Now, as far as the life and its fulfillment are concerned, it does not matter whether you believe in God or No-god, or anything whatsoever. What really matters is what you do with your belief. Knowledge of the real identity must make one free from all the bondages the mind and intelligence are suffering from.
A true seeker of spiritual truth should read the inspiring and enlightening writings of ascetic Saints and Knowers, and not of intellectual giants or erudite scholars. Otherwise all the Professors of Vedanta in the Universities would have been guiding people as spiritual teachers. They don’t. If and when deeper enquiry dawns in them, they humbly go to the saintly Knowers. Because, spiritual knowledge is a knowledge to be lived. It is gained easily and naturally from a person who is living the knowledge. A flame is to be lit from another flame, not from a beautiful picture of fire.
Why don’t you read Swami Vivekananda’s “Jnaana Yoga” and other lectures? Have you read the bioigraphical writings on so many saints published by Sri Ramakrishna Mission centres? You can also try to read “In Tune with the Infinite” (by Ralph Waldo Trine).
Of course, you can read our publications by Poojya Swamiji “Vedantic Way of Living”, “Brahmavidya Abhyasa”, “Essential Concepts in Bhagavadgeeta – vol. 1”, “Divinizing Every Moment”, and surely “My Beloved Baba”.
Have you ever thought why man started thinking of God? Or, in our scientific language, why man felt like introducing the concept of something or somebody like God?
We find everything in the world is governed by causality – cause and effect relationship. The book in front doesn’t move unless I push it. The letter doesn’t get written until I think and write it. … That is why, seeing the apple fall to the ground (and not move towards any other direction), Newton was looking for a “cause” in the earth.
People in ancient past, seeing the natural phenomena (like the existence and movement of the heavenly bodies, sudden occurences like lightning, flood, earthquake) for which they could not locate any apparent cause, thought of some unknown Powers behind. That is why those days we had the lightning-god, the rain-god, the wind-god, the creator-god, the destroyer-god, etc.
Initially, it might have been the naïve concepts of one or more super human beings controlling the world from some unseen quarters. With the evolution of abstract thinking, these concepts were replaced by refined concept of God as formless “Cosmic Intelligence”.
Whatever it is, the concept of God is an “inference” from the causality we observe in the world. I would rather call it an “extrapolation” that has to undergo drastic revaluation on deeper thinking and analysis.
Thousands of years ago, the Rishis of our land (ascetic scientific thinkers who became Knowers) enquired into the Ultimate Reality and found that although everything we observe in the material world is related by causality, the Ultimate Truth, if at all there is, has to be beyond causality. Why?
Suppose we find B to be the cause of A, the question will be “How did B come to be”. We find by further analysis that C is the cause of B. But, then what can be the cause of C? Proceeding like this, whatever cause, say Z, we arrive at the end, the question will still remain: “What caused Z?” In simple words, our question will be: “Who created the Creator/God?”
This inconclusiveness of the very nature of causal search is called “infinite regression” or “anavasthaa doshah”. To circumvent this logical stalemate, some argued that the “first cause” in the chain was a “cause-less cause”. That is how the Creator (Brahmaa) was called “svayambhooh” or “self-born”.
But, this way of truncating the very causality that makes us look for an ultimate cause, is not logical. Rather, we must realize the fact that “causality” is limited by duality and time, and the ultimate Reality, by definition, must transcend causality. The necessity to look for an ultimate “cause” comes out of the extrapolation of causality beyond its kingdom. So, the extrapolation of the law of causality in determining the ultimate Reality is not valid. The Reality, by its very definition, must transcend causality and duality.
In science, right in the beginning, we have, by a fundamental postulate, kept away the “Subject” from our enquiry. The Subject who is knowing the world. Our Rishis discovered that the key to Reality lies in the Subject. They thought that the whole world (which includes my body-mind-intelligence personality) is known by “I”, the Subject. So, let us first find out what that “Subject” in reality is.
And they discovered the “Subject” – the Self, the Consciousness, who is revealing the external world as well as the internal world of mind-emotion-intelligence-ego. They discovered that the “I” in us is really not limited by our body-mind complex; it is the unchanging Substratum of the entire changeful Universe.
This was the greatest discovery of mankind – the discovery of our immortal identity. From this have flown the eternal Jnaana-Ganga (the Ganges of eternal knowledge). This discovery made the Rishis sing the song of Immortality era after era – as enshrined in the Upanishads, Bhagavadgeeta, and other unparalleled literature of Bharat.
This discovery fulfilled man emotionally as well as intelligentially. It made him free and natural. No more running after. No more running away. No more struggle to gain happiness. No more fear of coursing through unhappiness. The possibility is open before every body, even today. The question is only whether one wants it.
The discovery of the real “Subject” or “I” was not a “conclusion” or “theory”, but a “discovery” – an experimental discovery. Anybody is free to repeat the experiment and verify for himself/herself. In fact, innumerable seekers did perform the experiment as guided by the able Teachers and ratified the record of the predecessors.
Not that all will succeed. Like in laboratories, many of the students are not able to get the correct results. They cannot blame Nature or the laws for that. They must understand that their sincerity or competence was lacking. Rarely one, who is confident about his knowledge and method, may experiment more thoroughly, enquire deeper, and sometimes discover newer laws too.
In spiritual field, the 3 steps to conviction are: “shruti-yukti-anubhavah”. First, one has to learn (by hearing or reading) about the Truth from the Knowers and scriptures (shruti). Then he has to introspect and analyze with all the subtle reasonings (yukti) till his intelligence becomes doubtless. Finally, the Truth has to become his first hand experience (anubhavah).
The pursuit needs extremely subtle introspection and analysis. One has to get rid of all preconceived notions and imaginations. Any desire or ambition will not allow the seeker to have the impersonal vision necessary to overcome delusions. Finally, reasoning itself will lead us beyond reasoning, to get merged in the transcendental Truth. All thoughts, all reasonings, all doubts, all attainments, all happiness-sorrow-consolation, all beliefs, are within the ken of duality. They all get dissolved in the Consciousness that transcends all dualities.
This pursuit finally takes one to an understanding where all differential notions dissolve. Even the common concepts of bondage & liberation, existence & non-existence, knowledge & ignorance, death & immortality, happiness & unhappiness – all dissolve in the transcendental uniformity. That is why the Truth is called “indescribable”. Anything that can be described becomes an objective concept before the knowing “I”, the Subject. The Truth is beyond the Subject-object duality or division.
The concepts of five elements, five sheaths, three gunas, and finally that of Soul and Brahman – all are ‘concepts’, ‘theories’, and ‘models’ built around this Realization. All your questions, and many more, deeper and intricate too, have been asked and replied and recorded in the scriptures in the form of immortal dialogues between the humble disciple and the knower Guru. Volumes of arguments are there in the Sanskrit literature for the learned ones to delight in.
The path is compared with walking on a Razor’s edge, extremely sharp and subtle. But, a sincere seeker guided by a competent Teacher will soon get confidence by identifying the milestones on the path. In fact, the goal being one of becoming, every step forward on the path is towards becoming the goal. The small, constricted “self” has to become the universal “Self”. So, the path is one of inner expansion every step, and inner expansion always generates enough inspiration to go further ahead.
There are many concepts and models for strengthening the moral fabric of the society, for consoling the aggrieved mind looking for continuity or justice, for making the desire-ful mind peaceful, inattentive mind attentive, or the desultory mind one-pointed; but they are all part of religious life and beliefs. Spirituality starts where religion ends.
So, the religious concepts like rebirth or transmigration of the soul, karma theory, heaven-hell, Yaaga-Yajna, etc. do not have any role in true Spiritual pursuit. However popular they might be, however useful and efficient they might be for keeping the individual mind as well as the social psychology under check and balance, a seeker of ultimate Truth will have to outlive them. That is what the Upanishads say.
Doubts, confusions and conflicting thoughts about ‘the meaning of life’ arise because we refuse to see the world as it is; we refuse to accept life as it is. We miss ‘continuity’ and ‘meaning’ because we are too selfish and fragmented in our vision. When we see Nature as a continuous whole moving in its own beautiful rhythm and harmony, and our life as a tiny, insignificant, yet indispensable speck in it playing its own destined role, then no more special meaning or continuity we look for.
Whatever meaning is there in the galaxies getting born or vanishing into the blackholes, the earth speeding around the sun, the big red rose and the tiny white grass-flower blossoming with equal beauty, the same meaning our life also assumes in the infinite web of Nature. The earth never asks for the meaning in its spinning, the flower never asks for the meaning in its blossoming. And that is why the earth never stops, being tired of running, the flower blossoms its best without getting depressed by the thought of whether anybody will appreciate its beauty.
True spirituality enables a person to blossom naturally like a flower with whatever qualities he/she has. It makes us see and accept life and the world as they are.
Innumerable waves are rising and subsiding in the ocean. The forces and molecules making a wave now, will get distributed amongst many waves next moment, and amongst innumerable waves in future. If you identify your ‘self’ with a particular wave, you have birth and death; but if you identify your ‘Self’ with the Ocean, then you are immortal – “In me, the Ocean, all the waves rise and subside over the infinite span of time, without causing any increase or decrease in me.”
Whether you are bothered about immortality or not, it is a fact that our real identity transcends time-space-causality, and hence transcends mortality too. But this identity is one, uniform, and universal – undivided by the usual notion of individuality marked by I, you, and others. Knowledge of this identity is called ‘Self’ or ‘Brahman’ in spirituality, ‘Reality’ in philosophy, and ‘God’ in religion.
Remember that Our Eternal Mother is always waiting for us, calling us back on Her lap. Engrossed in the small small thoughts of material gain, social position, and self-image, we ignore Her. The day we cry for the Mother’s lap leaving all other desires, She takes us in Her cooling embrace.