Shining World

Who Needs God?

Johan: Dear Sundari, I know you have answered this question before, but I cannot find the satsang on the website. Please can you clarify why Vedanta seems to negate God on the one hand and promote God, on the other? I am confused about this. Why must I bother with God at all? I was hoping that self-inquiry would allow me to move once and for all away from the messy idea of God and religious dogma and straight to the Self. I find a much saner approach to the God question in scientific thinking.

Sundari: Some people, mostly emotional or religious types who are not qualified for Vedanta, criticize it because they see it as too ‘intellectual’ and impersonal, lacking in ‘feeling’. Conversely, Vedanta attracts atheists, apostates, and secularists because they see it as intellectual, and impersonal. Both groups wrongly believe Vedanta dispenses with God. While Vedanta is impersonal and requires an intellect capable of assimilating its very subtle teachings, it is not purely intellectual, and neither is it atheistic. Everyone comes to Vedanta with their own ideas, many of which are ignorance posing as knowledge. Ignorance does not mean stupid. It means identification with who you think you are—body/mind (objects), and not knowing what you are—Consciousness (the subject). Ignorance is caused by the hypnosis of duality (Maya), the idea that the subject and object are separate, and I need objects to make me happy and complete.

Duality so fascinates and deludes the mind with its ever-changing show that we totally identify with the experiencing entity, the body/mind. And we ‘ignore’ our true nature, the ever-present, unchanging, ever-full, non-experiencing witness of the constantly changing show. If an inquirer is qualified and has sufficient faith in the scripture, their erroneous ideas fall away as Self-knowledge assimilates. There is no better mind-detergent for ignorance than the nondual teachings of Vedanta.

With assimilation comes the ability to discriminate between ignorance (that which is only apparently real, meaning not always present and always changing—the body/mind), and Self-knowledge (that which is real, meaning always present and unchanging, the Self). With discrimination, an understanding of what God really is develops for the first time. Along with that understanding comes a great devotion to God as our primary relationship, informing all others. Devotion to God is equivalent to karma yoga, the fundamental practice for self-inquiry, which puts the childish needy grasping ego in its place. Karma yoga means consecrating all actions to God in an attitude of gratitude with the understanding that all results come from God. We are inescapably dependent on God and deny that at our own peril.

Vedanta Not a Religion

Though Vedanta is not a religion, it does have a theology and God is central to it. But Vedanta’s God differs greatly from that of religion. Secular ideas in philosophy, psychology, science, Buddhism, and yoga are all thought systems that dispense with God quite nicely, though not all of them do. However, the bad news for those who are ready for self-inquiry and have an aversion to the word or idea of “God”, is that we must understand God if we want a happy life and especially if we want self-inquiry to work.

The Search for Security

Life’s uncertainties and unpredictability have always been evident which is why security is the primary motivation of most human beings. From the beginning of civilization and long prior to it, since the evolution of higher-order cognition through abstract consciousness, humans have searched for the numinous to make sense of life. In so doing, we turned to an external ideal for security and support in an uncertain world. We interpreted our existence through metaphysical explanations that began with the gods of animism, superstition, paganism, moving onto the various dictatorial religious Gods. Almost the entire history of human spirituality is one long, interconnected, ever-evolving, and remarkably cohesive effort to fashion God in our own image. 

Religion is an attempt to make sense of the divine and how we fit into the picture by projecting our emotions and personalities onto God. In short, personalizing God by ascribing to it our traits and desires, our strengths, and our weaknesses. Religion conceives of God as is infinitely superior, all-powerful, infallible, invisible, and untouchable. Whether we are aware of it or not, and regardless of whether we’re believers or not, what most of us envisage when we think about God is a divine portrayal of ourselves: a human being but with superhuman powers and attributes. Religion demands allegiance to its dictates and belief in an all-powerful God who metes out punishment or reward. It does not encourage thinking for yourself and certainly not self-inquiry.

Humankind’s revolutionary emancipation from superstition, magical agency, and capricious gods began as early as the 9th century BC. It progressed to the thinkers of the Enlightenment era and on to the scientific materialism of today. Our search for understanding why we are here and how or why we choose to act in the world moved us away from our Gods toward secular philosophy and scientific rationality. A personal, as opposed to divine agency replaced blind allegiance to infallible man-made religion and arbitrary divine control of our lives. While this may seem like emancipation, it really isn’t because we are still limited to our identity as a person. We may think we gain the freedom to think and decide for ourselves by ditching the religious God.

But if we believe we control our activities, it naturally follows that we are responsible for the consequences of them. The world is uncertain as it ever was. Not only that, if we throw God out with the bathwater, we make ourselves responsible for judging or sanctioning ourselves and others for misbehavior. We find in Vedantic scripture, the planet’s oldest extant texts on Existence, an independent and logical means of knowledge that does free us of our limited identity. Vedanta, predating most religions by thousands of years, explains exactly what and who we are as individuals, what the Field of Existence is, how it functions, and how we relate to it. These scriptures make it clear that God and the Field of Existence are non-different and impersonal. There is no need to believe in God when you understand God is non-separate from you.

All Beliefs Must Be Defended

Though Vedanta emphatically states that we need God, where it differs from religion is that God is not something to believe in. God is to be known. To know God, you don’t need beliefs. You need God-knowledge. It’s fine if your religion provides you with social and emotional advantages more important to you than knowledge. But if you are an inquirer investigating beliefs and hungry for knowledge, that will not be enough for you. You will need to let go of beliefs to make progress. We say that God doesn’t make sense as a belief because by saying God is a belief, you’re stating that God may or may not exist. All religions are based on beliefs, and because all beliefs lack certainty and can be negated; they must be defended.

If your relationship with God is based on non-negatable knowledge instead of belief, there is no need to defend beliefs. The test for something that qualifies as non-negatable knowledge is simple: 1. It stands alone independent of my beliefs. 2. It is true in all time frames (past, present, and future) and all three states (awake, dream, and deep sleep). 3. It is true to the subject regardless of my beliefs and opinions (i.e., if a black cat appears in front of me, I will see a black cat and not a dog even if I hate black cats and love dogs). If your ‘knowledge’ fails on any of these three factors, it is subjective and not objectively true.  It does not stand alone.

God Is A Contentious Issue

The God issue is a complex and contentious one, and perhaps one of the most misunderstood. Today, we live in particularly challenging times, especially since the Corona virus pandemic took us all hostage. Humanity is at a collective crossroads, and it’s been long in coming. Where to from here is unknown.  But even before the current pandemic brought us to our knees, modern society is, according to the sociologist Elise Boulding, suffering from “temporal exhaustion”. She aptly says, “If one is mentally out of breath all the time from dealing with the present, there is no energy left for imagining the future.” Many of us live barely coping with our karma, punch drunk from what life throws at us one day to the next, let alone dealing with a disaster such as the Covid19 pandemic.

We need God more than ever.  Death is always staring at us in the face but now we focus acutely on how fragile life is.  Life would be a lot simpler if all we had to contend with was our physical survival. The human being is unique in that we have complex emotive and cognitive abilities. A human is a combination of self-reflective, discriminating intellect/mind (spirit) and body (matter). This faculty developed as we increasingly needed answers to how to relate to our environment to survive physically and thrive psychologically. What differentiates human beings from other animals is the capacity for self-reflection. While self-reflectivity is all very wonderful, and without it we would still be swinging from trees, it does have a downside.  

Spirit or Matter, Does it Matter?

For better or worse, self-reflectivity grants us ‘free will’ and the ability to make reasoned choices. Thanks to this, we consider ourselves the ‘roof and crown’ of sentient beings, capable of transcending the limits of being merely human. But along with the capacity for choice comes doubt and with it, worry. The doubting function is important because it gives us the ability to discriminate. It is vital for our survival because nothing in the world is what it appears to be.  The downside of the ability to doubt though means we live in the twilight zone between ignorance and knowledge.  We make mistakes and suffer because we are always confused about what the truth is.  Particularly the truth about what or who we are. Are we spirit or are we matter? How can we tell?

Animals Do Not Suffer Doubt

Animals have a much easier time because they are not self-reflective, so being blissfully ignorant, neither self-doubt nor concern about the meaning of existence occurs to them. They have only rudimentary intellects and their power to think is only in terms of their instincts and desires. While we can also apply this description to many humans, animals differ from (most) of us in significant ways. They do not need to interpret their environment other than for physical survival, such as ideal times to hunt or when to hide from prey. Whereas understanding our environment for our physical and mental well-being is imperative to us. Animals act purely according to their God-given program, from which they cannot deviate. We humans, however, can deviate from our program, usually much to our detriment.

Pre=programmed Behavioural Determination

Because of pre-programmed behavioural predetermination, animals are incapable of worry because they accept reality as it is. They do not chase objects to complete themselves because, unlike humans, they have no concept of being incomplete or inadequate. Unable to conceptualize either the future or death, they fear neither. While animals experience physical fear as a protective mechanism, they do not have the capacity for rational evaluation. Therefore, they do not suffer psychologically from the things that happen to them, in them, or around them. Animal lovers will protest and claim that animals do have feelings and suffer emotionally.

It’s true that domesticated pets or animals who come into close contact with humans are positively and negatively affected and develop strong bonds with us. Many animals seem to display human-like emotions and tendencies, such as sadness, love, affection, loyalty, caring for young and members of their group as well as humans. Even wild animals such as elephants show a marked capacity for meaningful connection and empathy. But this does not make animals self-reflective. As much as we tend to project our humanity and neuroses onto them, no animal can break out of its program. And no animal is going to write a book or give a talk on the meaning of existence any time soon.

The Ones That Worry

Making bad decisions or breaking the rules of life, fear of inadequacy, of death, of what might or might not happen in the future is solely the nature and plight of human beings. We are what the Vedic scriptures define as ‘the ones that worry’. Moreover, and perhaps most importantly, because animals have no free will, they cannot break dharma, the natural laws that govern the Field of Existence.  So, there is no karma for them.  They are exempt from the moral and psychological human order of existence. Whereas everything that happens in the fields affects us psychologically and we pay a big price for breaking the natural laws of life. Animals are not attached to results and do not suffer when they do not get what they want. It’s not that they do not act for results, because obviously, they do.

For instance, a hungry lion chasing a zebra is not just having fun or seeing how fast it can run. It definitely wants to kill and eat the zebra. But if it does not catch its zebra dinner, the lion will not get depressed or beat up on itself.  It won’t need to book an appointment with its therapist to discover why it failed or stay awake at night worrying if it will ever catch a zebra. The lion does not care or suffer from self-doubt and will try again the moment the opportunity presents itself. Human beings, caught in the twilight zone of doubt, care very much if they don’t get the results they want. Not only that, but we evaluate ourselves mercilessly based on our success and failure at doing so. Our happiness and suffering boil down to whether we get what we want or avoid what we don’t want. The results of our actions, however, are value-neutral and above all, not up to us. Humans do have karma because we can make choices that often result in suffering for ourselves and others.

Karma Only Meaningful When Evaluated

Karma becomes meaningful only when we learn to evaluate it. We either like our karma, don’t like it, or are indifferent to it. While we have a choice as to how we relate to our karma, we cannot avoid it. One of our greatest challenges is learning to navigate life free of the psychological and physical suffering that ensues when we don’t understand what’s going on, make bad decisions, and don’t get what we want. To do this, we must develop the ability to assimilate the meaning of experience so that we can learn and grow from it. We cannot do that unless we understand the logic of existence, which entails a threefold process: understanding who we are, understanding the natural laws that govern the Field we are a part of and live in and understanding how we relate to it. For that, we need God-knowledge because God and the Field are synonymous.

The Anthropocentric God

The Mesopotamians, Egyptians, Greeks, Romans, Indians, Persians, Hebrews, Arabs, and the plethora of more recent religions all devised theistic systems in human terms and with human imagery. The same holds true for nontheistic traditions such as New Age counterculture, pagan and indigenous belief systems. Even Jainism and Buddhism conceive of the spirits and devas that populate their theologies as superhuman beings who are, like their human counterparts, bound by the laws of karma. Though Muslims deem it sacrilegious to depict the divine in form, this does not change the fact that the Islamic God, like all the others, is ascribed superhuman qualities.

Now, it seems the personified God is in trouble. The problem with seeing God in human terms is that if God is a magnified and superior version of us, he (it’s almost always He) must also share our flaws and limitations, but on an even greater scale. Unable to reconcile this limited and gender-centric view of God, growing numbers now reject religion on the grounds that it is not rational and just does not make intellectual sense. How, or why, are we supposed to worship a capricious and fickle God who created us as flawed beings yet demands perfection from us in a flawed, ever-changing, unpredictable, unfair, and perilous world, where the odds are stacked against us?

Do We Really Need God?

This raises some important questions. Do we even need religion, or God, for that matter? While rejecting the notion of a petty, tyrannical God is a good idea, if we say that we don’t need God at all and throw God out, what will give humanity a moral compass, sustaining it through dark times, let alone the normal challenges of life? More importantly, who are we without God, how do we relate to our environment, and how do we understand ourselves and life if we reject the intelligent cause behind it all? There is no way to make sense of life without including an intelligent creative force behind it. Scientists, atheists and thinkers may understandably deny the existence of an almighty yet flawed humanoid God.

Although most people have never thought about it, applying the simple logic of inference we can legitimately infer that there must be an intelligent, conscious cause behind the world.  You cannot deny that you exist and are conscious because you must exist and be conscious to deny your existence/consciousness. Therefore, you cannot deny that God exists because without God as the cause, there would not be anything in existence and therefore no logic to existence. Whether we know it or not we all seek God because we want to be happy. Being happy involves understanding our minds and being in tune with our environment.

Programmed to Find Answers

To say that there is no God relies on nihilistic thinking and the principle of infinite regress, or random chance, all of which lacks logic. As self-reflective beings, our program hardwires to search for and find the meaning of our existence.  We are impelled to find answers to questions such as: how did we get here, where do we come from or go to, what sets off infinite regress or causes randomness, and how can consciousness arise from matter? Nobody can ignore this fundamental drive, not even the committed atheist. It makes no difference if, in our search for the meaning of existence (or release from it), we find religion, drop out in India chasing nirvana, turn to science, rely on work and worldly success, sport, sex, entertainment, drugs or the bottom of a bottle.

Wherever we seek, and whatever we choose to call it, we are looking for God, period. The reason we are always looking for God is that we are looking for the Self. More on this below. Whether we realize it or not, the lightning storm of the brain’s endless activity is all about evolving to find God. This is because finding God is not a choice. It is a necessity. Those who do not find God (or a suitable substitute) do not fare well in this world. So, the question is, instead of seeking a substitute, wouldn’t it be better to cease being a seeker and become a finder, of the real thing?

We Need A (New) God Narrative

Perhaps the problem is not God, but our narratives about God. We need a new narrative that is not anthropomorphic but impersonal. The propensity to see God in human terms is what binds man and God to the smallest common denominator – the inadequate, limited human. While God and man have different functions in the Field of Existence, we share the same essential nature, which is neither human nor divine. Our shared nature is eternal, all-pervasive, unlimited, and ordinary Consciousness, the nondual essence and source of the Field of Existence. We add the adjective ‘ordinary’ because if something is all there is, it cannot be extraordinary because there is nothing to compare it to.

A Paradigm Shift

To come to a different view of God we need a paradigm shift in our thinking. This will allow us to conduct an inquiry into the creation that is independent of personal views and beliefs.  One that includes intelligent cause and frees us from limitation.  We experience consciousness as our existence all the time, whether we realize we do or not. Even though this knowledge is at the heart of more enlightened modern-day physics and neuroscience, the ‘old guard’ stubbornly clings to its outdated views.

The Scientific View

Many who tire of religion, or ‘new age’ ideas find solace in scientific explanations to our existential and spiritual questions. But though science is a noble pursuit, it too sadly lacks any means of knowledge for Consciousness.  It can only explain the nature of objects because its means of knowledge is the senses. As a result, most scientists still insist that the universe is random. Its origin, they purport, was an explosion that came out of nothing, and consciousness evolved from dead matter. The synapses in our brains somehow fire up, like spontaneous combustion, creating consciousness. Now, that’s a bit of a stretch, even for scientists who ignore the obvious logical fallacy of their reasoning. Everyone knows the brain is just meat without consciousness, and nothing comes from nothing. How is it possible for inert matter to create Consciousness? And if you insist that consciousness comes from matter, where does matter come from?  There had to be something that the Big Bang ‘banged’ from. What was there prior to the objects to make them manifest?

Science Could Make the Leap Beyond Materialism

Some people believe that the current struggle between science and spirituality will shape our future. Vedanta has no problem with science as a means of knowledge for objects. Science could be useful in the service of self-inquiry if it made the leap from its doggedly dualistic foundations. In fact, many of our pioneering scientists were mystics who saw through scientific materialism. Take Nikola Tesla, for example. He was heavily influenced by Vedic philosophy. He said: “The day science begins to study non-physical phenomena it will make more progress in one decade than in all the previous centuries of its existence.” Max Plank, the physicist who has been credited with originating quantum theory which won him the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1918, famously said: “I regard consciousness as fundamental. I regard matter as derivative from consciousness. We cannot get behind consciousness. Everything that we talk about, everything that we regard as existing, postulates consciousness.”  

Yet mainstream science, for the most part, remains aggressively limited to and dominated by, its dualistic epistemology.  Even though science may have explained many things on the material plane nothing it has come up with frees us from the limitations of being human. Scientists proclaim that it is not their job to provide answers to the meaning of existence and generally deplore the unmeasurable and murky world of spirituality, which is fair enough. We cannot blame them for such a myopic view.  But as much as its proponents try to stay away from the topic of consciousness because of the metaphysical implications, science has reached a point where certain basic mysteries it has grappled with for a long time cannot be solved without resolving Consciousness.

Chemically Determined or Random Process

The scientific worldview traces all activity, all physical processes in the brain, including our imagination and creativity, to either chemically determined or random processes, depending on which strain of materialism you confront. A century after the quantum revolution in physics, scientists still cannot agree that matter and energy both emerged from a timeless state that is either an empty void (which no one accepts) or a field of infinite possibilities, a veritable womb of creation, which almost everyone is beginning to accept. And as much as many scientists find it offensive and religious types contest it, the world’s ancient sages and spiritual teachers knew about this timeless domain long before religion appeared, or physics arrived with its exact measuring devices and methods.

In the beginning, There was neither existence nor nonexistence, All this world was unmanifest energy… The One breathed, without breath, by its own power Nothing else was there… (Excerpt from the Rig Veda, one of oldest known religious texts, circa 1700 BCE)

Existence and Non-existence Have no Location

The Vedic seers knew that neither existence nor non-existence can be located since that applies only to things with a beginning and an end. Existence (or Consciousness, if you prefer), does not begin or end. Physicists refer to what came before matter as a singularity that exploded into being in a blinding flash of light: The Big Bang. But because the pre-creation ‘state’ did not happen in time, it must still be ‘there”. No matter how many Big Bangs bang and universes expand across billions of light years, only to collapse on themselves and withdraw into the void, nothing will change or can change on the pre-creation level. This ‘level’ has no location, no boundaries, and is unchanging because it is not in time or space, i.e., it is not in duality. It is non-dual Consciousness.

What is Duality?

To repeat for emphasis, duality is the persuasive idea that I am separate from everything, and I need objects to make me complete.  An object is anything known to me, always changing and not always present. Whereas Consciousness is what knows the objects, nondual, unchanging, and omnipresent. It is not a ‘state’ because all states exist in time and therefore come and go.  Consciousness is the unchangeable knower of all states. Science does not take duality into account because it does not recognize what it is. It proceeds perfectly in everyday affairs without tackling the thorny issue of “metaphysics,” as materialists like to call all things related to God and spirituality. But what does it mean to be ‘spiritual’?

According to Vedanta, spirituality has nothing to do with beliefs or superior deities. It is the knowledge that removes ignorance of our true nature and reveals the pure non-negatable beauty and logic of Existence. But as reality is a shared concern and not to be left to ‘specialists’, the issue of where the cosmos came from matters a great deal to us. The answer reveals not only where we come from, but who we are. We cannot avoid the question, “Is the universe conscious?’ If it is, as it clearly must be, then our minds are embedded in the cosmic mind—it cannot be any other way. What this cosmic mind is and what it says about who we are, are not specialist, scientific, or even necessarily religious, questions. They cut to the heart of what God, and by extension, what man is and is not.

Which Came First?

If we ask, “Which came first, consciousness or matter?” we need to answer with another question. “Which stands alone?” There is no debate here as it’s clear that living organisms are dependent on consciousness because they are inanimate without it. But it’s not so obvious that inert objects are also made of consciousness. However, if we investigate matter scientifically, it breaks down into increasingly smaller particles and then into space—and—the most important factor which few take into consideration: the knower of particles and space. Science calls this ‘the observer’ effect because it has demonstrated that the act of observation can alter scientific results. But it does not know that the Consciousness in the scientist is the non-experiencing observer itself: the knower, the known, and the source of all that is known.  It is a dispassionate ‘all-knowing eye in the sky”, always watching, always aware, and never not present.

We Cannot Stuff the Infinite into the Finite

Quantum physics was bad news for the scientist when it first emerged as the dominant scientific theory. It destroyed all convoluted theories designed to preserve existing scientific ideas of reality prior to it. Even today, the famous saying by the scientist Werner Heisenberg ‘quantum physics is not only stranger than we think but stranger than we can think’ holds true because materialist scientists try to make Consciousness fit into what we think and know, which will never work. How can a finite mind, applying finite logic, stuff the infinite into a finite theory? It is impossible. Consciousness, being nondual and not in this universe but the source of it is not subject to any of the natural laws of physics that run the whole creation. Quantum mechanics only operates within the creation and is not capable of explaining Consciousness; it can only point to the probabilities of different realities.  Most importantly (and maddeningly for the materialist), quantum mechanics shows that quantum properties simply do not exist independent of their observation (measurement). Objects are only ‘real’ from the observer’s point of view. They have no actual substantive reality but dissolve into the substratum, which science calls the Unified Field, and we know as the ground of being, Consciousness.

Consciousness Never Gets Switched On or Off

Furthermore, though materialists may balk, what quantum physics demonstrates is that while matter is dependent on consciousness, Consciousness depends on nothing. It exists with or without matter because it is eternal, the one and only constant factor. Consciousness is not something that gets ‘switched on’ at the moment of scientific observation because if that were so, the scientist would get switched off when Consciousness is switched off.  Science would begin and end as does everything else.  But science, the quest for knowledge is eternal. Consciousness is not something that is there only when we are aware of it because, without it, awareness would be impossible, and we would not exist. All matter including the body/mind comes and goes, but Consciousness, the knower of matter/the body/mind, does not.  Consciousness is the real you. As Consciousness, we are eternal, unborn, undying, unchanging, whole and complete, always present. We call Consciousness the Self – capital ‘S’ – to distinguish it from our reflective or individual consciousness.

Only the Body Dies

You might say this is unprovable and you would be right if you take yourself to be the body because the body ends permanently at death. In spite of the Christian claim of the resurrection of Christ, nobody has ever come back from death to confirm that you do not end after the death of the body, though many near-death experiences confirm it. Scientists try to debunk NDE’s because they can’t explain them. It’s also true that those who experience them often don’t understand or assimilate the real import of their experience because they are still identified with the body during the experience. If you are identified with the body/mind you are in duality and from that position, there is no way to prove anything but duality.  Anything can be true or false, not to mention finite.  Deductive reasoning will only get you so far.  Science is all about the rational approach, but it does not use pure reasoning or logic as the essential part of its methods. Its epistemology is the five senses. Science calls knowledge gained from the senses that it can verify through established scientific methods ‘empirical knowledge’. 

Not an Object of Knowledge

But as stated the senses function in duality and only work for knowledge of objects. Consciousness is not an object of knowledge because it is not in duality. We cannot measure Consciousness because it is the measure of all things. Being the knower of all objects is that which makes knowing anything possible. The mind/senses are the effects or the subject, and as such, are not capable of knowing or understanding Consciousness because it is the cause, the object. The effect can never understand the cause because the cause is subtler than the effect.  Consciousness exists in ‘another’ order of reality: non-duality. Non-duality and duality never meet, though they are not in opposition to each other because nothing opposes non-duality. Non-duality allows everything to be because it is free of everything. If this were not so and duality could impact non-duality, there would be no possibility of freedom from it.

Duality is Persuasive

Duality, however, is persuasive when we are identified with the body and look at the world from the sensory perspective, which most of us are hardwired to do. It is a big leap from the dualistic view of God as something separate from and infinitely better than me, or from denial of the existence of God to the logical non-dual, ‘non-different from me’ God. When we are identified with the body/mind we are limited to experiencing the world through our senses, which are constrained and programmed to function only within a limited range.  From this perspective, there seems to be no other option but to deny God or to personify and objectify God. Until that is, we have evolved to assimilate non-dual God-knowledge. Religion reinforces this view as it creates an external, almighty invisible God that we must fear and implore. Science fares no better with its materialistic arguments that seemingly prove the non-existence of God. We have no quarrel with science, but the difficulties modern science has in understanding Consciousness or the origin of the universe show how counterintuitive non-duality is.  

Perception is An Object Known to Consciousness

Western religions do not approach God as Consciousness, the ground of being, though some Eastern religions do, particularly Vedic religion.  Material science knows about consciousness, but it cannot make the obvious connection of matter and Consciousness because it relies on perception and inference as its means of knowledge. Scientists do not realize that perception is an object known to Consciousness in the form of the scientist itself and that perception is dependent on Consciousness. Science can reason up to the point when the creation began—but it cannot tell us what happened before it began. Though scientists are scrambling around with many speculative theories to explain what happened before the appearance of particles—the most popular being the inflation theory—they cannot come up with a cohesive hypothesis because of the huge gap in their understanding. 

That gap will never be bridged with current scientific methods because beyond the Big Bang theory of creation there is no information from which to reason. Though we can infer there must be something that the creation emerged from, scientists do not accept inference at this point. They think they will find proof of their theories about how the creation came into being.  But they will not because the only means of knowledge that works at this point is non-dual knowledge because the creation originates from non-dual Consciousness. ‘Non-dual’ means not two or more. While we say that all is one, technically, non-duality does not mean only one either, because one implies two. If it is non-dual, there are no objects, no time, no space, and no experience. Non-duality means nothing other than. How do you measure that?

The Science of Nondual Consciousness

Vedanta is a science of non-dual Consciousness, but scientists and many atheists and intellectuals invariably dismiss non-duality as spiritual nonsense. Yet, even if science were to accept non-dual Consciousness as the ground of being, it won’t remove our suffering unless we accept our non-dual identity as Existence/Consciousness. A purely intellectual understanding of Consciousness is not enough to break the hold duality has on the mind. You can approach Consciousness with the intellect, but you will only get to the doorway of non-dual knowledge and no further until the mind has evolved to want different things and the intellect has been trained to think differently. If we are too conceited to accept that our thinking may be flawed or lacking and so vain that we think we can wrestle the ultimate answers from this world solely with our intellect, we will remain stuck in the world of duality, which is tantamount to conflict and suffering.  We will never get beyond duality to non-duality and enjoy freedom from fear and limitation.

Nothing More Fundamental

Life, the Field of Existence, duality—our universe—may well have begun with a bang and may end with one. Or maybe we will just float off into nothing in an ever-expanding universe. Nobody knows. But we do know it will end. Where does it go? It becomes unmanifest and disappears into non-dual Consciousness from whence it came. Scientists know that there is a fundamental substratum that cannot be negated which is called the Unified Field, among other names. But what they do not know is that the fundamental substratum is non-dual Consciousness, the ground of being. The word fundamental, like the word unique, cannot have a comparative or a superlative because if it did it would void the meaning of those two words.

There is no such thing as ‘uniquer’ or ‘uniquest’ or ‘more fundamental’. If something is the ground of being that is the end of the line. But in duality, the world of the senses, we can never be sure that what we take to be the fundamental qualities of the world will stay fundamental for very long. Truth in anything, even in science, is always provisional. In fact, science can sidestep the idea of truth altogether. There is only what is truer than what is currently known to be true. Progress in science might even be understood as the certain knowledge that there is always some (as yet) undiscovered quality that is more fundamental and ‘truer’.

We Are Always Stepping out of Duality

Our saving grace is that because Consciousness is not ‘in’ duality, we can step out of duality.  Even though the senses can trap the mind in duality without non-dual knowledge, we step out of duality all the time without realizing it. To find out who you are, there is no need to take a trip to India and sit in a cave meditating for twenty years, chant mantras, take a trip on acid or court any other mystical ‘out of body’ experience. You can override sensory input by asking yourself just a few simple questions: How do you know you exist or are conscious? Has anyone ever told you that you exist and are conscious? No, why not? Because it’s obvious. That you exist and are conscious cannot be denied for the simple and aforementioned reason that you would have to exist and be conscious to deny it. So, to answer this question then, you need only to ask who is that knows you exist, and what is Existence, capital ‘E’? The next question that follows is, how do you know what you know? You cannot be what you know, just like you can’t be what you see, right? What you know and what you see is known to you. Who and what is that? If you say it is your mind that sees and knows objects outside of yourself, are the objects or your thoughts and feelings not known to you? Yes. Do they know you?  No, they do not. Your thoughts and feelings and the objects you are looking at are not conscious. But you are.

The only thing we need to determine is who that ‘you’ is. And then the trick is to live that truth as your primary identity. If that does not convince you, then ask, who or what is looking out of your eyes? Religion says that God is invisible and untouchable. We say that God (Consciousness) is not only the one looking out of your eyes, it is all that is visible and what allows us to see. Our vision cannot help but be organized around light, and we cannot see anything without it, so we could say that God is both light and that which makes light possible. The same brain responses that enable us to see a tree or a person as a tree or a person instead of a ghostly swarm of buzzing atoms, also enable us to experience God every time we open our eyes. We just have to know what we are looking at.

To function in this world, the senses relay information from the Field to our mind, which then interprets it through our intellect, thoughts, and feelings. But there is some ever-present factor that always knows what we are seeing, thinking, and feeling. Therefore, you cannot be your mind. Your mind is another object known to you. Even in deep dreamless sleep, when there is no information exchange between the Field and the mind, consciousness must be present, or you would not know you slept when you wake up. And, in fact, you would never wake up again. If you accept this—and how can you not—you must agree that Consciousness cannot be negated, as is demonstrated in the following true story.

Can You Step Out of Consciousness?

An alternative thinking scientist was giving a lecture at the Max Plank Institute, the High Church of quantum physics, on the topic of the Unified Field and consciousness. A very irate member of the audience, a well-known physicist, got up and challenged the speaker. His outrage concerned the fact that the speaker equated the Unified Field with Consciousness. So, the speaker asked the irate scientist: “Are you conscious?” “Of course I am,” he replied.  So, the speaker asked him, “Well then, could you please tell me how you step out of Consciousness?” The scientist had no answer.  You cannot step out of Consciousness.  You cannot step out of God.  You cannot step out of your Self.

God is Consciousness

The crux of the matter is then, what or who is God? Are God and Consciousness the same thing? We say yes, but what that means requires a different kind of thinking which is not religious or scientific in the way we usually understand those terms. We agree with the scientific method of establishing truth independent of personal views and opinions. What Vedanta teaches is not ‘spiritual’ or materialistic. It explains the relationship between spirit and matter—how God/Consciousness and all sentient and insentient beings share the same essence. This teaching is counterintuitive and needs to be properly unfolded because the mind tends to interpret data according to its own ideas, which may or may not stand independently.  Vedanta teaches that God is not only not ‘supernatural’ or divine, but the only natural ‘thing’ there is. In fact, God is ALL there is and not some remote extra-cosmic superhuman deity beyond our reach. You cannot divorce yourself from God no matter how much you try. So, the bad news is if you want to deny God, you will have a hard time. And the good news is if you are looking for God, you can’t miss. God is the essential part of the equation without which life makes no sense. Without an intelligent source, our existence has no foundation at all.

Nothing Withstands the Changing Sands of Time

There is nothing in this world that withstands the changing sands of time. Whether you agree or not, if you believe in a God outside of yourself, no matter how elevated, your idea of God is dualistic, and therefore, in this world. There is no ‘out of this world’ in duality. The only conception of God that is not in this world is the non-dual, which reveals that God and the world exist in Consciousness. In you. But not the ‘you’ that appears as a body/mind. The you that is ‘your’ eternal unborn essence.

Denial of God is A Cruel Waste of Joy

Denial of this is a waste of time, energy and, of joy. The only sane way to live is to embrace God. Resistance is futile, so why try? If you don’t or won’t love God because you think you are so smart and God is a childish fantasy or a deluded religious fiction, God won’t be hurt or even notice. But you will. God neither needs nor seeks our love but cannot not love us because God is intelligent and unlimited. Our refusal to love God is ignorance: a kind of masochistic refusal to love ourselves. As a result, we end up the only losers.

How to Define God

If you have trouble getting on board with this idea, let’s try defining God in a way that makes sense even to a jaded 21st-century intellect. Through the process of logical, impartial, independent as well as empirical reasoning, Vedanta reveals that the source of everything is unborn, changeless, limitless, non-dual Consciousness. In other words, that everything resolves into Consciousness and, most importantly, this is your own unexamined experience. What is it that brought you into this world?  It was not your mamma and papa, because though your mamma and papa know how to have sex, they have no idea how to biologically create a human being. What is it right now that is circulating your blood, keeping your heart beating, telling you to eat or drink, and putting thoughts in your head? What is it that’s growing everything: the grass, the flowers, the trees, and the hair on your head? You could say it is nature and that is what brought you here. If so, what is nature?

God Is the Cause and the Effect

If we put all religious connotations of God aside for the moment, let’s say nature is the effect and God is the cause. God is responsible for all the objects, including you and me. In short, God is the cause of everything and because its effects are the cause in a different form, everything is God. A good analogy is milk (cause) and cheese (effect). Cheese is not cheese without milk; it has changed state, but it’s still fundamentally milk. The form has changed but the essential nature has not. The essential nature of anything is that without which a thing is not a thing. If we remove milk from cheese, it is not cheese anymore—just as if we remove sweet from sugar, salty from salt, and heat from fire, we will no longer have sugar, salt, or fire.

Or, looked at another way—take a spider spinning its web. Is there a difference between the spider (cause) and the web (effect)? Yes and no. There is no web without the spider and though the web is not the same as the spider it is not different either because it is made from the spider. Likewise, God is the essential nature, the universal intelligence, the energy and material behind all creation, and it is the creation too. Therefore, we cannot remove God from the equation because God is our essential nature. Though we do not have God’s powers as individuals we share the same identity.

The End of God as Parent

God isn’t a person with human qualities, like a bearded old man doling out rewards and punishments according to our good and bad deeds. God is the power in and behind the creation, an impersonal principle, like gravity. For many, hearing that God is impartial and impersonal is the worst news. It sounds so nihilistic and bleak—the big bad void. An infinite God that is nowhere and everywhere cannot be found and is of no use if you are identified with being a person. I.e., identified with the body/mind. If all you are after is God’s ‘stuff’, we understand this difficulty. Religions developed around the idea of a dualistic God who is there to protect, uplift, and take care of us, but who also punishes. If you are not after God’s stuff but after God, you are ready for self-inquiry. We must warn you though that non-duality does away with the dualistic parent-God you must obey and placate.  So, if you are attached, it’s best to stay where you are. 

Beyond the Need for a Parent-God

But if you have matured beyond the need for a parent-God, non-duality gives God back to us in a very different way. There is no need to seek this God because it is you and everything around you. The non-dual God is not a nurturing or punishing parent.  It does not ask anything of us and does not judge, nor does it tell us what to do (or else!) Yet the non-dual God gives us everything we need, including the complete freedom to mess up. What’s more, it offers us freedom from the messed-up version of who we think we are. It explains the laws (dharma) that operate in this world and how to manage our mind with Self-knowledge so that we don’t mess up anymore. This God is in charge of rewards and punishments only according to the nature of our actions, which depend on whether we follow dharma or not.

The Field Runs on Natural Laws

The Field of Existence runs on natural, universal, and immutable physical, psychological, and moral laws that we cannot contravene without consequence. We call these laws universal dharma, which manifests as the field of experiences that present themselves to us moment to moment. Physical laws exist ensuring that fire is always hot, sugar is always sweet, gravity is always gravity, etc. Psychological laws exist so that certain circumstances, like feeling loved, leave the mind peaceful; while others, like being exposed to violence, leave it agitated. Moral laws exist so that lying, stealing, or hurting others feels wrong; and being helpful, cheerful, or showing compassion feels right. 

The law of non-injury is innate for most of us. If you doubt this and have a low opinion of humanity, research has shown that most people react instinctively to help a stranger in trouble, without thought for themselves. Kindness, empathy, and co-operation are deep human needs and helped us to survive. This fact has become so evident with the advent of the Covid19 pandemic; many people surprised themselves and were surprised by humanity’s innate connectivity and capacity to care. We may be a sorry lot in many ways, but actually, it is only a very small minority who actively set out to cause harm. Nonetheless, while we all understand intuitively that there are universal laws, very few people understand that to live a relatively peaceful life, all we need to do is follow them, assuming we want to be happy!

Universal Laws

Dharma basically comes down to the following: do no harm, respect nature, yourself, and others, manage your thoughts and feelings for peace of mind (and don’t take either too seriously), act appropriately and timeously, contribute to life. In short, don’t be a jerk.  If you follow these rules, your life experience (karma) will respond accordingly. Karma takes two forms: it is any action, thought, or word, and the (‘good’ or ‘bad’) results of any action, thought, or word. Your karma shows whether nature or God (the Field), is currently on your side. Sometimes we follow dharma (or think we do) and get the opposite of what we want. There is always a lesson in this, regardless of whether we know what it is or not. But if we violate dharma, nature/life will cut us down and make us feel pain sooner or later.

Nobody escapes karma. Just as a bullet once fired from a gun cannot be stopped, your karma will unerringly find its target. God never makes mistakes. Clean up your karma by following dharma and for the most part, it’ll be smooth sailing. God isn’t watching you. God is just handing out karma—the results of your actions. It’s all impersonal, but it’s the opposite of bleak and depressing.  The nondual God takes away all fear of lack, loss, and death and gives back to us our inviolate, unchanging and inherent wholeness. God’s laws are built into the system. Therefore, it’s good to know the rules and live by them, because without God-knowledge you’re a rudderless ship blown from pillar to post on the unpredictable, treacherous ocean of duality. Sooner or later, you will be smashed on its rocks.

Reversing the Reversal

Most people experience the world as a duality: you are there, and I am here. Believing that they are separate from everything and everyone else, most people are identified with their body/mind and thus live in worry and fear. But duality is only an appearance, an apparition, and not reality. In fact, all is one and there is no separation because reality is non-dual. There is only one of us here appearing in seeming multiplicity. Duality tricks us and reverses the data we receive through our senses putting us ‘under its spell’. Non-dual knowledge of God reverses that reversal so we can see life as it really is. It’s like we have been standing on our heads our whole lives and for the first time, we are standing on our feet. Feet are what ‘stand under us’, and it is the same when we understand and assimilate non-dual God knowledge.

We stand firmly as the Self and not the limited, incomplete, and fearful individual. So, for now, let’s assume that all experience is non-dual despite the scientist’s worldview that that reality is a duality.    From an individual point of view, if we strip away the body-mind-sense complex, our story, and every limb or part that we call “me”, what remains? Just Consciousness—the essence of who you are. As we have determined, I don’t have to ask you if you’re conscious because it’s obvious. From God’s point of view, take away all of God’s stuff— everything in the universe—and what remains is also just Consciousness.

The Universe is Knowledge Made Manifest

We say the universe, God, is conscious. The universe isn’t random. If it were, scientists wouldn’t be able to, for example, do any calculations. It’s only because of consistent natural laws and patterns that we can navigate the world at all. Everything here is just knowledge made manifest. How else do you get a towering oak from a small acorn? Or a fully formed baby from an egg and sperm invisible to the naked eye? For this reason, we say the universe is intelligent. Vedanta does not recognize the Bible as valid independent means of knowledge because much (though not all) of what it holds as truth is based on beliefs and opinions of the people who wrote about the supposed events.  But intelligent design is an area where we’re in agreement with the Bible, as are some of the alleged comments ascribed to Christ which are nondual in nature.

Consciousness Plus Maya Equals God

Up until now, we’ve learned that God is a figurative entity—a name for Consciousness plus various powers including the knowledge, energy, and matter to make stuff. We’ll call these powers ‘Maya’. Maya is a Sanskrit word meaning ‘that which makes the changeless (Consciousness) appear to be changing’ by spinning the dream of life as we know it. From this, we’re able to state: Consciousness plus Maya equals God, the Creator. Ok, so we’ve defined God. But how about a person? Consciousness plus a body-mind-sense complex equals a person, the creation. Interestingly enough, God, the person, and the creation all include Consciousness. Everything just resolves back into Consciousness, even God and God’s stuff. It may seem implausible, but the essence of the universe isn’t dark matter; it’s pure, attributeless, non-dual Consciousness. 

Are We the Same as God?

We are and we are not the same as God. We share our essence with God, Consciousness, just like all clay pots are made of clay, gold rings are made of gold, all cheese is made of milk and all spider’s webs are made of the spider. Is a ray of sunshine really that different from the sun? Yes and no. Obviously, as individuals, though are essence is Consciousness, we cannot wield God’s powers as we aren’t omnipresent or omniscient. Only God has total knowledge of everything in the Field. We only have knowledge of the world we have contact with. Whereas God creates everything, we only create our own subjective realities. Relative to the person, God is unlimited. As people, we are limited and live in a limited Field.

But we are God from the perspective that we are a product of God and by the fact that we share the same identity—Consciousness. How you relate to these statements will depend on who you think you are. Are you the limited person or limitless Consciousness? Whichever it is, let’s not diminish the fact that we share the same source, which is really cool. Knowing this reminds us that we are not small and limited, the scourge of the earth, as religion would have us believe. We are unlimited, beautiful, and whole. Moreover, accepting our true identity as universal eternal Consciousness does not eliminate us as finite individuals. It is liberation from our primary identity as a limited individual, giving us freedom from and for the individual.  In other words, freedom from the suffering imposed by duality when we are identified solely with the body/mind.

God’s Stuff is the Tricky Part

It gets tricky when we look at all God’s stuff. We say God’s creation is beginningless because it exists in Consciousness. Consciousness is a causeless cause without beginning or end. Consciousness just is and has no limitations because if it did, it wouldn’t be whole, complete, changeless, and non-dual. We say Consciousness is real and all objects, including thoughts, are only apparently real because “real” is that which is always present and never changes. Can you come up with a better definition for ‘real’? Think about it. Objects—and that includes your thoughts, emotions, and feelings too—are always changing and unreliable, so they don’t qualify. Nothing in this world including the world is not subject to change except for Consciousness. All objects are also made up of other objects or parts, unlike Consciousness, which is whole, complete, and independent of parts. Thus, the only ‘thing’ that is real is you, Consciousness; the knower of the body/mind sense complex and its story that arise in you. 

What is Real Cannot be Born

Now it gets more difficult. You could argue that matter is also eternal because all matter reverts to energy, constantly recycling within the Field, which is true. Because matter cannot be destroyed but changes form, all objects are beginningless too, though they are not always manifest in form. Furthermore, all objects are fundamentally Consciousness, which is real. Something that is real can never be born. Only something that is not real can be born. When objects manifest in form, though their essence is non-dual Consciousness, they manifest as reflected consciousness, not pure Consciousness. Everything you are looking at is reflected consciousness, including your body.

Though Consciousness does not have eyes, what is looking out of your eyes is pure Consciousness looking at itself, just like you would look at your image in the mirror. Your reflection is you but is not the same as you. We are not saying that the reflection in the mirror (all objects) does not exist. Objects exist because we experience them. But because they are always changing into something else, objects are only apparently, not actually real, just like your reflection in a mirror is not real. But because duality fools us, we mistake the reflection for the real thing. 

The Snake and the Rope

It’s like the story of the guy who goes to the well at dusk to draw water and, in the dim light, mistakes a coiled rope for a snake. At the moment of his misinterpretation, to him, the rope is a snake, and he jumps back in fear. It’s not until the error is corrected that the “snake” becomes a rope again and he sees his mistake. The “snake” existed only in his mind but wasn’t real, although his fear felt very real. Objects exist because we experience them, but on closer examination, they flunk the test. Even science confirms this because everything breaks down to atoms then subatomic particles, then invisible energy.

Objects Are Just Thoughts

I explained the definition of what an object is above. Understanding the definition is central to self-inquiry. Objects are ephemeral and fleeting, appearing as something one moment and something else the next. When examined closely, objects are just a temporary aggregate of smaller parts, but really, they are just thoughts. All objects exist as thoughts. Our senses instruments don’t actually sense objects, just their properties—colour, shape, texture, taste, smell, etc. From the various sensory inputs, the mind automatically takes the properties, aggregates them, and applies a name and form so that wet and translucent becomes “water”, yellow is hot, and crackling becomes “fire,” and so on. We’re living in a thought universe operating in very predictable programmes created by the forces that run the Field which is interpreted by our five senses. Translational neuroscientists have established that the process of observation/experience is the same as what you experience during a magic trick, which is a series of “electrochemical signals going around a bunch of circuits in your brain.” Because there are no windows in your skull, the only way you can get information into your brain is through your five senses.

A Grand Simulation of Reality

From there, your brain draws on memories and uses cognition to fill in the details (or gaps), essentially forming what neuroscientists call “a grand simulation of reality.” From this point of view, it is true that we create our own reality because we do not experience the world as it is. Rather, we experience everything through the filters of our subjective beliefs, opinions and tendencies. We experience the world as we are and think. Within this transactional reality (reflected reality), it’s not that the world around you is not there. It’s there, but you’ve never actually lived there. You’ve never even been there for a visit.

The only place you’ve ever been is inside your mind. Now that’s a thought to give some pause! Maya, the transactional reality, superimposes the illusion of duality onto non-transactional non-duality. Like a mirage of water on the desert floor, it appears real but isn’t. You cannot drink the water. Moksa, a neat Sanskrit word that means freedom from the hypnosis of duality, is the ability to discriminate what is real and always present (Consciousness/non-duality/the real you) from that which is not always present and always changing (the Field/duality, the apparent person and their story), i.e., the reflection.

Duality’s Gift

There is nothing wrong with duality. Just as we cannot get rid of God, we cannot get rid of duality, we can only negate it as only apparently real, which renders it as good as non-existent. Duality is only a problem when we don’t know what it is and mistake it to be real, like the snake and the rope. We suffer believing that we are small, limited, and inadequate and that we must chase objects to complete us. There is nothing inherently wrong with objects, but if we chase them or are dependent on them for our happiness, they ultimately fail us because objects are value-neutral and cannot make us happy for long. But when we know the joy is in us and not in objects, we can enjoy them free of dependence and the inevitable fear of loss dependence generates.

We know that we are fine with or without the objects of desire. We can love with open, not grasping, clinging, arms. Duality’s special gift is that it gives us the opportunity to hold and touch the ones who embody the love we are, to enjoy a great meal, a sunset, to make and appreciate great art, and much more. All our creativity, innovation and ingenuity are possible thanks to duality and God, who is the only doer. Duality is only cruel when we fall under its spell and believe ourselves to be doers who own things. Life is beautiful and benign when we know that we are full and complete; when we understand how things work here and follow dharma. Self-knowledge does not immunize us from the challenges and losses of life, but it gives us the tools to deal with both and therefore frees us of fear.

Where Does God Come From?

In answer to the question “Where does God come from?” we can reason that because Consciousness is never born and never dies, Consciousness is eternal; and because Consciousness is eternal, so is God. Remember, the essence of God is just Consciousness, and because Consciousness is beginningless and God’s stuff exists within Consciousness, God is beginningless. Since God has no beginning, God is not born. God simply is. But here’s the catch: God isn’t real either. By our definition, only Consciousness is real and unlimited. God, or the Creator and creation (Consciousness plus Maya), only exists because of Consciousness. When Maya is added to Consciousness, it appears to be limited, ‘impure’, or to have qualities.

Maya is a power that exists in Consciousness or Consciousness could not be called unlimited.  To qualify as unlimited, Consciousness holds the potential for all powers, including the potential to limit itself, although it is only an apparent, and not actual, limitation. When Maya appears in Consciousness, this creation and your personal story, appears along with it, just like a reflection in the mirror, or a movie on a screen. The screen is you and the movie playing out on it comes from you, but it is not you. This whole show is only a show, a trick of light with a predetermined end, after which it goes unmanifest until it appears again.

You Are ‘Here” Before, During, and After

You, Consciousness, are there before, during, and after. You have always been ‘here’ because there is ‘nowhere’ you are not. Think of a photograph. When you look at it, you don’t see the camera. But you know there is a camera by virtue of the photo’s existence. It is the same with Consciousness. For there to be a world to experience there must be Consciousness, but just like the camera exists with or without the presence of a photograph, so does Consciousness exist with or without the creation. Therefore, like the individual, God is dependent on Consciousness, but Consciousness is independent of God. God is only apparently real, just like all God’s stuff, and only apparently unlimited. Nevertheless, as a person living in this world, we still experience God as unlimited. You can’t just write off God or pretend the rules of life do not apply to you when you claim your identity as non-dual Consciousness. You’re still in this dreamscape whether you like it or not. Everything you have is given to you by God, even if it isn’t real by our definition, and you had better understand and follow the rules, or you will suffer.

Why Does God Create?

As humans, we think there must be an answer for everything if only we can figure it out. But there is no answer to the question “why would God want to create anything?” Maybe God was bored? Or maybe God just wanted to know itself, so it created conscious beings with senses that allow God to see, smell, taste, touch, and hear its creation. When we know that we share the same identity as God we no longer care about why. It’s a redundant question. To know that we are God experiencing itself suffices. Yet we know it is an enduring mystery why anything exists at all.  

Is There Really a Creation?

If, as the mature inquirer we assimilate the teachings of Vedanta, it becomes clear that there is no actual creator because there is no actual creation. If something is not real, what is it, and how can it be created? The Self cannot create because if it did, it would not be nondual.  The person cannot create because it is an object known to Consciousness. So, who creates what? Does God create? Yes and no. God is the creative principle but does not actually create either; it is the causeless cause behind creation. As explained, the Field of Existence comes into being when God (Maya) appears. The forces that govern the Field, the gunas sattva, tamas, and rajas, come together in such a way as to manifest the world of apparent objects.

Briefly, sattva is the energy of revelation and intelligence, tamas is the energy of delusion and of matter, and rajas is the energy of desire and action. Sattva provides the blueprint for life forms, tamas the matter, and rajas bring the two together by activating the blueprint to manifest forms. (For more on the gunas, please read James Swartz book ‘The Yoga of the Three Energies’). The gunas are what is running the show we call life, they are behind everything that happens, including our conditioning. So, is anybody doing anything? If you think you are a person you believe you are a doer.  If you know you are the Self, the doer is negated because you know that everything that happens in the Field is under the control of God (the gunas) and, it’s not real.

Resolving the Subject/Object Split

The right question to ask then, is: is there a creation at all? Again, yes, and no, depending on who you think you are. If you know you are the Self, there is no creation because there is only you. The subject/object split resolves in you. If you are identified with the person and not the Self, the creation exists and is real, which is a big problem for you. Separate the subject and object and you have suffering. Vedanta does not deny the existence of the apparent reality, but when you understand what it is and what you are, the creation is as good as non-existent. Existential suffering ends for you.

The Bizarre and Beautiful Creation

The creation may not be real, but it is incredibly beautiful and intelligent. The deeper you dive into it, the more bizarre it gets. Open one door and there’s another, and then another—an endless series of doors to open. It’s rather like babushka dolls stacked one inside the other in ever-diminishing size. A puzzle folded within another puzzle, where the macrocosmic mirrors the microcosmic and vice versa. To comprehend reality is to see the ocean in a drop of water, the intelligence of creation in a seed, and infinity in the eyes of a baby.

Let Go and Let God

God’s stuff comprises a set of patterns that appear everywhere, for God is very frugal. Take nature’s fractals, for example. The veins under your skin appear like the veins in a leaf, which look like the branches of a tree, which appear like the river-made veins found on the surface of our planet. Nature is just a fixed set of laws and patterns applied repeatedly. From a few we get the many, just like from the 26 letters of the alphabet countless words are assembled, or by virtue of the four nucleobases that make up our DNA, multitudinous living beings are created. We are just explaining nature, but in a way that suggests there is Consciousness and intelligence behind it.

God isn’t about guilt, fear, or asking for a new SUV. God is about life itself. So, do not supplicate. Appreciate. Once you know God and how God’s Field of Experience works, you just let go and let God do your life. Whether you like it or not, you really have no choice anyway because you are not in control of what happens. God is. By living your life with an attitude of complete acceptance, surrender, and gratitude, you shed the load of existential anxiety and put this burden where it belongs – with God, the Field. And with that acceptance comes a huge sense of relief. There are only two things up to us: our attitude and acting appropriately and timeously in accordance with what each situation asks of us.

Do I Create My Own Reality?

You may think that because you have free will, you don’t need to negotiate with God and that you create your own reality. While it’s true you create your own subjective reality, that’s about it. Even when we take right action with the right attitude, there is no guarantee that we get what we want. Often, we don’t. There are no guarantees in this world; we win as much as we lose. This may leave you feeling like a failure, despondent, and in despair. But when you act in the spirit of surrender and gratitude, which is karma yoga, you know the results are impartial and not up to you, and you take what comes with equanimity. God’s laws are non-negotiable because if they were, everything here would fall apart.

From our individual point of view, we do have free will and a certain degree of control; we can choose an apple over an orange, for instance. If this were not the case, success at anything would be impossible. But looking at the big picture, you are totally dependent on God, even if you don’t believe in God. God is synonymous with the Field of Existence and no action takes place without the blessing of everything else. So many factors need to be present for anything to happen that it should be obvious there’s an intricate network of constant support operating that is not our doing. We appear to be doers, but we don’t see the infinite factors that had to be present and actions that had to take place so that we can do anything or for anything to happen. 

Although most people’s choices seem to be volitional and individual, they are usually highly predictable and repetitive.  This is because, without Self-knowledge, people behave like automatons, although they don’t think they do.  They think that they are doing the choosing, but actually, their conditioning is doing the choosing. Everything that happens does so by virtue of the gunas. The gunas give rise to the individual, their conditioning, and their karma. If you know you are the Self, you are not bothered with free will or outcome because you know that there are no bad outcomes, just outcomes.  

Self-Reliance an Illusion

Many people take pride in self-reliance, but it’s all just a big joke. If you think you are solely responsible for your achievements, even your failures, or what you ‘own’, you are only fooling yourself. How you respond to what the Field asks of you is up to you, but everything has been given to you—your parents, your body, your shelter, your education, your clothing, your food, your partner, your entertainment. Even the things that are taken away from you and the tough times are gifts because it is in suffering that we turn inwards to find answers.

God is the Only Doer

Nothing belongs to anyone, and no one is doing anything. God is the only doer, and everything is God’s stuff. Everything we need is always given to us regardless of what we are going through. God takes care of even the smallest and most seemingly insignificant life forms. Life is an embarrassment of riches. Gratitude is therefore the best, and only, appropriate attitude. There’s an old Zen monk who likes to say that he can see the whole universe in a single sheet of paper, and he’s right. Look at everything that had to occur for even a single sheet of paper to manifest—the sun, the water, the tree, the lumberjack, the chainsaw, the truck, the factory, the salesperson, the retailer, and on and on. The sheet of paper didn’t manifest itself, and neither did we, or any of what we believe we control, or own.

Our sense of control is just an illusion because all results come from the Field of Existence, even our ability to make decisions. How much control do you even have over your own thoughts?! No action takes place without the blessing of all things in the Field, which takes care of the needs of the total before our own. We have a problem with this and suffer when we believe that our likes and dislikes take precedence. We believe that we can do our own thing in order to get what we want, subscribing to the illusion that we can control the outcome—but we never can.

What About Evil and Bad Things Happening?

Many people have a great deal of difficulty over the thorny question of evil and suffering, and it is a tough one. Materialists base their arguments for the non-existence of God on the fact that belief in God must include all the bad things that happen, such as accidents, plagues, illness, violent crime, and so on. Their point is if we accept an all-powerful God that is good, we must also accept an all-powerful God that is ‘bad’, which cancels each other out. We agree that God is not logical from a dualistic point of view. But we say the non-dual God is logical, even though it makes both good and bad possible. The Field of Existence, which is a duality, is there for us to work out our karma. In the Field nothing exists without its opposite. If that were not so, the game of life would be impossible.

You cannot have heat without cold, sweet without bitter, or ‘beautiful’ without ‘ugly’. If God had to restrict us to only good, how would we function here? Therefore, God must give us the potential for both good and bad, and everything in between. It’s not God that causes the world’s problems; ignorance of God does that. When we know God and follow dharma, we do no evil because we understand the rules of life and of non-injury.   Under the spell of duality, people believe they are small and inadequate and act out of fear and desire, creating suffering. Take away the hypnosis of duality, and ignorance of the true nature of reality, and everything is totally fine.

Even though, as individuals, we must still contend with the gains and losses of life, we can do so from an entirely different perspective as the eternal Self when we take Consciousness as our primary identity. Nobody has the knowledge of the big picture, so we cannot say from our limited knowledge as individuals why bad things happen to good people or good things to bad people. ‘On the subject of karma, even the sages are perplexed’ say the sacred texts. But we do know that everyone is experiencing what they need to at that moment for reasons only God knows.

The Zero-Sum Fish Bowl

There are no accidents or victims in God’s world. There is also no death, no disease, and no suffering because we are not the body, and this world is only apparently real. In the world of duality, there are no winners and all appearances to the contrary, no losers either. It’s a zero-sum game. Everything evens out eventually. We’re all swimming in the same fishbowl. Vedanta just calls out what you, and everyone else, intuitively already knows. We might not be able to put our finger on it, so we come up with all kinds of names for it— God, Isvara, Allah, Jehovah, “Him,” “Her”, or Universal Force. Whatever you want to call it, it doesn’t really matter. It’s all as impersonal as the weather. When people say they don’t believe in God it’s usually the religious subjective God they’re referring to, whether we are talking about the Christian, Jewish or Muslim ‘God’.

In other words, they are saying they don’t believe in a big daddy who sends people to heaven or hell depending on how many ‘Our Fathers’ they recite, ‘adhans’ or calls to prayer they heed, or ‘tefilla’ observed. Not to mention, God is pretty unpopular these days considering all the violence, confusion, and corruption HE has inspired for so long. Judaism is the only Western religion that does not have a gender-specific noun or pronoun for God. In Sanskrit, the ancient Indian seers had no problem with the neuter pronoun and referred to God as both “it’ and ‘that’. Buddhism and Hinduism’s understanding of God is pantheistic. To understand God for disenchanted and understandably critical Westerners, we need to clean the muddied slate and open our minds to a new and more mature understanding of God.

The Saving Grace of God Knowledge

Despite all the religious overtones and baggage, there’s great usefulness to having God-knowledge. It helps us understand that everything is the way it is and couldn’t be otherwise. Things are working out in a grand scheme of things that we can never fully understand from a personal perspective, but which, appearances notwithstanding, somehow takes care of the whole. This changes the victim ‘blame game’ into one of sanity and common sense, of beauty even, and grace. It removes anxiety and fear of the unknown, especially the fear of loss and death. With nondual God knowledge, we can understand how everything in the Field of Existence works. These are not small things. God isn’t just a pacifier or some bedtime story to comfort you when life doesn’t give you what you want.

God-Knowledge Is Ignorance Insurance

God-knowledge alleviates ignorance—the cause of suffering—and it promotes healthy habits such as gratitude and the ability to let go; two of this world’s best remedies for relieving stress and worry. We could argue all day and night whether or not God exists or what God is, but you cannot deny your experience, even if you are oblivious to it, that everything you’re witnessing right now is being simultaneously created, maintained, and recycled by a power greater than you. Call it nature, the Field, or Life, if you will. It makes no difference. Vedanta is neither for nor against any religion. As the science of Consciousness, Vedanta provides us with a valid and independent means of knowledge for both ‘small’ self and ‘big’ Self-inquiry. It removes ignorance of our true nature as Consciousness and produces the ability to discriminate between the two orders of reality: duality and nonduality. It ends existential suffering because it removes all doubt about who you are, how you relate to and need to function in the Field of Existence, and how to manage your mind.

A Religious Attitude

Vedanta advocates the need for a ‘religious attitude’ to life as essential to happiness and a meaningful life. God is to be worshiped, not for God’s benefit, but for our benefit. Worshipping God is not about ritual or self-abnegation, it is about living intelligently because we understand the gift of life. It is about practicing gratitude in whichever way works for us. If that is lighting a candle, chanting, sitting in silence, walking in nature, surfing a wave, or revering a symbol of God meaningful to us, it matters not. God is not fussy, because everything is God. Though we should definitely not fear God, we need to respect life and live in harmony with it because we aren’t in control. We can try to live without God, but how impoverished our lives are without appreciation for God’s bounty. How sad and joyless is a life without God!

Three Definitions of God According to Vedanta

We need to understand the definitions of God according to Vedanta gradually and systematically until we can see the full vision or the whole Mandala of Existence. The way in which I define (or deny God) will determine my life experience and devotion. Each level of my understanding of God produces its own kind of devotional attitude. The first three stages are personal devotion and involve free will, which is why these stages are called dualistic worship. The purpose of these stages of worship is that these practices reduce subjectivity and neutralize likes and dislikes, as well as negating the doer and managing and neutralizing the childish ego. The fourth and last stage of devotion, non-dual devotion, takes place once the egoic doer is permanently negated by Self-knowledge.

Stage 1: Dualistic God Knowledge and Worship

God-knowledge has three levels of dualistic devotional practice which develop as my understanding of God matures. Stage one is not essential, but it is a stepping-stone to the next stage of devotion. In the first level of understanding, where all religions originate, my understanding of God is as a personified and ‘personal’ deity, a HE usually; a father figure who takes care of me and listens to my problems. It is a parent/child relationship. In this stage, most believers are after God’s stuff, rather than God. As a devotee I want something, so I supplicate God to get the desired results. My devotion to God is informal, undisciplined, emotional, subjective and “heart” based. My desire is to serve and worship according to the qualities that condition the instrument of love: the mind and heart. 

If the heart/mind is dull (tamasic) superstition and fear inform one’s worship. For example, fear-based religious worship. If the heart/mind is passionate (rajasic), desire informs one’s worship. At its worst, it leads to sectarianism, fundamentalism, fanaticism, and dogmatism, giving rise to all religious wars. It makes people feel self-righteous, that they have “God on their side” and can act out whatever they believe “in His name,” that they are better than others and their way is the only way. On the other hand, it also offers the benefits of religion as mentioned previously, such as connection to others, the support of the community through the comfort of rituals, emotional/psychological support and coping systems, or therapy.

Stage 2: Karma Yoga and Worship

My understanding has progressed somewhat beyond seeing God as a parent to seeing God in all of life. My devotional practice is emotional but also intellectual and I start to develop the desire for God, not so much God’s stuff anymore. I start to practice karma yoga—surrendering the results of actions to the Field (or God) with an attitude of consecration and gratitude because I have realized that the results of actions are not up to me, which helps neutralize the idea of doership.  Karma yoga lessens the pressure of succeeding or failing and offers me the tools to objectify my thoughts/emotions. If my heart/mind is pure (sattvic), I love for the sake of the object/beloved (God) and for the sake of love itself, such as the ecstatic rapture of saints and mystics, who are often found in this stage. But even a pure mind sees the beloved as an object—as ‘other than’. There is a doer, a lover. 

This doer/lover loves something or someone other than his or herself; even though in all cases, known or unknown, it is for the sake of the Self that one loves. A mature devotee knows that he or she is the Self and worships all as the Self. But a dull (tamasic) or extroverted (rajasic) devotee remains unaware of this fact because they feel incomplete and love an object in order to feel complete (God or some other symbol of divinity) because it makes him or her feel more secure, more complete, and ‘happier’. There is usually, however, a sense of separation from the object. The advantage that a sattvic (pure) devotee enjoys over a tamasic/rajasic devotee is that the object of worship (God, in whatever way it is conceived) is always available to reciprocate.

Whereas if you see God as a person or a thing, your love is not always available or receptive. But the lover of God as Consciousness/Self is never far from the beloved because God is Consciousness and Consciousness is unfailingly responsive. No matter how the Self is invoked, it responds lovingly because Consciousness is love. It does not matter whether you see Consciousness as the religious God or as another kind of symbol: an idol, a person, nature, a practice or ritual, or as life itself. Consciousness does not discriminate because it sees everything as itself. There is a beautiful saying in the Bhagavad Gita, Krishna speaking to Arjuna says: “In whatever way you worship me (i.e. the Self or Consciousness) I will come to you to make your faith strong”.

Stage 3: Objective God Knowledge

This stage is also compulsory for self-inquiry; here devotion is still dualistic, but much less so. Vedanta calls this upasana yoga (meditation, contemplating, or keeping the mind focused on the Self). It is where worship of God becomes objective: purely impersonal and intellectual. Knowledge of God and the creation start to crystallize. There is still duality, and you see God in special forms (for example, in icons or beauty) but gradually, as your knowledge becomes firm, this progresses into seeing and worshipping God in all forms, the good and the bad.

Stage 4: Impersonal God-Knowledge or Self-Knowledge

In the final stage of understanding, I transcend my idea of myself as merely a person. I see myself and God, as the formless essence of all both manifest and unmanifest, as Consciousness.  My devotion is non-dual and therefore non-personal, beyond subjectivity and objectivity, i.e., free from the limited small self, the person and their story. With non-dual vision, you see everything primarily as the Self and secondly as the person, never confusing the two again. You still live as the person obviously and follow dharma, your own, and universal dharma, which requires following the rules of the Field of Existence, or God, automatically.

You continue with your devotional practice except it is no longer dualistic in that you know that everything is you, Consciousness. You have permanently discriminated between what is real, i.e., what is always present and unchanging, and what is apparently real, or what is not always present and always changing—the body and the world. The final stage does not negate the previous three, it simply completes the full picture. When we appreciate God as both form and formless, and as sharing the same identity as ours, we can see God as a ‘personified’ deity if we choose to, or in any symbol that is meaningful to us. Or we can see God as the totality of nature, as the Field. It does not matter at this stage of understanding because my God-knowledge cannot be negated and has become firm Self-knowledge. Just as quantum physics does not displace Newtonian physics, both understandings are valid at their respective levels.

Om tat sat   Sundari

Your Shopping cart