The point that I wish to make most strongly, is that behind a vital religious life, for the West, there has to be faith which is not expressed in things to which you cling. In ideas, opinions, to which you cling in a kind of desperation. Faith is the act of letting go, and that must begin with Letting Go of God. Let God go.
But you see, this is not atheism in the ordinary sense. Atheism in the ordinary sense is further hoping that there isn’t a god. It has become extremely plausible that this trip between the maternity ward and the crematorium is what there is to life. And we still have going into our common sense the nineteenth century myth which succeeded the ceramic myth in Western history, I call it the myth of the fully automatic model of the universe. Namely, that it’s stupid. It’s blind force. Hekels. Gyration. Fortuitous Congress of Atoms, is of the same vintage as Freud’s libido. The blind surge of lust at the basis of human psychology.
But when you consider this attitude, you know, what is the poetic counterpart of it? Man is a little germ that lives on an unimportant rock ball that revolves about an insignificant star on the outer edges of one of the smaller galaxies. What a put down that was. But on the other hand, if you think about that for a few minutes, I am absolutely amazed to discover myself on this rock ball rotating around us of the spherical file. It’s a very odd situation. And the more I look at things I cannot get it rid of the feeling that existence is quite weird. A philosopher is a sort of intellectual Yokel who gawks at things that sensible people take for granted. And sensible people who claim that existence is nothing at all I mean just basic and go on and do something. This is the kind of movement in philosophy logical analysis says you mustn’t think about existence. It’s a meaningless concept,and therefore philosophy has become a discussion of trivia and philosophical journals is now satisfactorily dull as any other kind of purely technical inquiry. No good philosopher lies awake nights worrying about the destiny of man and the nature of God and all that sort of thing because a philosopher of today is a practical fellow who comes to the university with a briefcase at nine and leaves at five. He does philosophy during the day, which is discussing whether certain sentences have meaning and if so what and then he would as William Earl said in a very funny essay, he would come to work in a white coat if he thought he could get away with it. The problem is he’s lost his sense of wonder.
Wonder is like a in modern philosophy something you mustn’t have. It’s like enthusiasm in eighteenth century England,it’s very bad form. But you see I don’t know what question to ask when I wonder about the universe. It isn’t a question that I’m wondering about it’s a feeling that I have. Imagine if you had an interview with God, everybody was going to have an interview with God, and you were allowed to ask one question what would you ask. And don’t don’t rush into it. You will soon find that you have no idea what to ask. Because I cannot formulate the question that is my wonder the moment my mouth opens to utter it I suddenly find I’m talking nonsense. But that should not prevent wonder from being the foundation of philosophy. Well, as Aristotle said wonder is the beginning of philosophy. Because it strikes you that existence is very very strange. And then moreso when this so-called insignificant little creature has inside his skull a neurological contraption that is able to center itself in the midst of theseincredible expanse of galaxies and start measuring the whole thing. That is quite extraordinary. And then furthermore when you realize, that in a world where there are no eyes the sun would not be light. And that in a world where there were no soft skins rocks would not be hard, nor in a world where there were no muscles would they be heavy. Existence is relationship and you are smack in the middle of it.
So there is obviously a place in life for a religious attitude in the sense of awe. Astonishment at existence. And that is also a basis of respect for existence. We don’t have very much of it in this culture even though we call it materialistic. A materialist as a person who loves material. And I suppose in the Christian tradition and in the Jewish one would say that the lord God is the greatest materialist because you know as William Temple once said “God is interested in many other things than religion”. Well God only interested in religion the world would consist of nothing but church buildings and Bibles and clergyman. And that would be pretty boring.
So in the culture that we call materialistic today we are of course bent on the total destruction of material and it’s going to version into junk and poisonous gas as quickly as possible. This is not a materialistic culture because it has no respect for material. And respect is in turn based on Wonder, on feeling the marble of just an ordinary pebble in your fingers. So I’m afraid you see for the God is dead theology, that it will sort of drift off into secular do-goodery in the name of Jesus. And this is I think where we can be strongly religious side and stimulated by the introduction into our spiritual life of certain things that are Oriental.
Now you see,, it must be understood that the crux of the Hindu and Buddhist disciplines is an experience not a theory. Not a belief. If we say that religion is a combination of creed, code, and cult, in other words, this is true of Judaism, Islam, and Christianity and if they are religions, Buddhism is not. Because the creed is a revelation they revealed the symbolism of, what the universe is about, and you are commanded to believe in it on the divine authority. The code is the revealed will of God for man which you are commanded to obey, and the cult is the divinely revealed form of worship which you must practice commandment because God is boss. He’s ruler. King of Kings and Lord of Lords.
But the disciplines say of yoga in Hinduism or of the various forms of Buddhist meditation do not require you to believe anything. And they have no commandments in them, they do indeed have precepts, but they are really vows which you undertake on your own responsibility, not in obedience to anybody. They are experimental techniques for changing consciousness. And the thing they are mainly concerned with is helping human beings to get rid of the hallucination that each one of us is a skin encapsulated ego. You know, a little source, a little man inside your head, located between the ears and behind the eyes who is the source of conscious attention and voluntary behavior.
Most people, you know, don’t think, don’t really think that they are anything but that and that the body is a thing you have. Mummy, who would have been if my father had been someone else? See the parents give you the body and you pop the soul into it at some period, conception or partition nobody could ever decide,and this attitude stays with us, that we are something in a body, that we have a body, and we are not it, so we experience the beating of the heart as something that happens to me, when I was talking or walking, is something that I do, don’t you be charged for language won’t allow you to think that it’s not customary to say so. How do you think? How do you manage to be conscious? You don’t know. How do you open and close your hand? Do you know? If you’re a physiologist, you may be able to say, but that doesn’t help you to open and close your hand any better than I do.
So, you know how to do it but I can’t put it into words in the same way the Hindu god knows how he creates this whole universe because he does it but he wouldn’t explain it that would be stupid you might as well try to drink the Pacific Ocean with a fork. So when a Hindu gets enlightened and he recovers from the hallucination of being a skin encapsulated ego and finds out that central to his own self is the eternal Self of the universe. And you go up to him and say “Well how do you do all this? he says “Well, just like you open and close your hand.” And because we are all it. Whenever a questioner used to come to Sri Ramana, the great Hindu sage who died a few years ago, they said to him Master. What was I living before in a previous incarnation and if so who was I? And he would say who is asking the question? Who are you? And a spiritual teacher in both Hinduism and Buddhism is a kind of, well, what he does to awaken you, to get you over the hallucination of being the skin encapsulated ego, he bugs you in a certain way. He has a funny look in his eyes as if to say “Come off it Shiva. I know what you are doing.” And you say “What, me?” Here he looks at you in a funny way. And there, finally you get the feeling that he sees all the way through you, and therefore that all your selfish and evil thoughts and nastiness is transparent to this gaze and then you have to try and alter them he suggests, you see, that you practice the control of the mind. That you become desireless. You give up selfish desires so as to cease to be a skin encapsulated self. And then you may have some success in quieting your mind, in concentrating, but then after that you throw a curve at you. Which is, but aren’t you still desiring not to desire? Why are you trying to be unselfish?
Well the answer is I want to be on the side of the Big Battalions.. I think it’s going to pay better to be unselfish than to be selfish. Well Luther saw that. Augustan saw that. But there it is. Because what he’s done, you see, he’s beginning to make you see the unreality, the hallucinatory quality of a separate self. This has merely conventional reality in the same sense as lines of latitude and longitude, the measurements of the clock, that’s why one of the meanings of Maya, illusion, is measurement. Things for example, are measurements, they are units of thought, like inches are units of measurement. There are no things in physical nature. How many things are a thing? It is any number you want. Because a thing is a think or unit of thought as much of reality as you can catch hold of in one idea.
So when this realisation of the hallucination of a separate self comes about it comes about through discovering that your alleged separate self can’t do anything. It can’t improve itself either by doing something about it all by doing nothing about it. Both ways are based on illusion. You see this is what you have to do to get people out of hallucinations you make them act consistently on the suppositions of the hallucination. People who believe that the earth is flat cannot possibly be talked into seeing that it’s round because they know it’s flat. Because can’t you see? So what you do is this you say let’s go and look over the edge, wouldn’t that be fun? But you see to be sure that we do get to the edge we must be very careful not to walk in circles. So you perform a discipline, you go steadily and rigorously westwards along latitude forty or something and then when you get back to the place where you started. He is convinced that the world is at least cylindrical. By experiment. By reductio ad absurdum of his premises and so in the same way, the guru whether Hindu or Buddhist performs a reductio ad absurdum on the premise of the skin encapsulated ego. Well what happens then? You might imagine from garbled accounts of eastern mysticism that one thereupon disappears forever into an infinite see a faint glimmer of Jello and become so lost to the world in entranced that you forget your name address, telephone number, and function in life and nothing of the kind happens. In the state of mystical illumination, although it may in its sudden onset be accompanied by a sensation tremendous luminescence and transparency and as you get used to it it’s just like everyday life. Here are the things that you formerly thought were separate individuals and the Here it is you who you formerly thought was merely confronting these other people. When the great Dr D.T. Suzuki was asked what is it like to be enlightened he said “It’s just like ordinary everyday experience except about two inches off the ground.” Because what is altered is not the way your senses perceive. What is altered Is that what you think about. Your definitions of what you see your evaluation of it. So when you don’t cling to it when you have no longer a hostile attitude to the world because you know the world is you it is mean to take it from the point of view of biology if I describe the behavior of a living organism I cannot possibly describe that behavior without simultaneously describing the behavior of the environment. So that I discover that I don’t describe organisms in environments, I describe a unified field of behavior called an organism-environment. It’s an awkward word. But there it is. The environment doesn’t push the organism around the organism doesn’t push the environment around. They are two aspects, or poles of the same process.
And so you have to understand that this attitude towards nature, seeing the fundamental unity of the self which manifests it all, is not an attitude as the missionaries are apt to suppose which denies the value of differentiation. You must understand the principle of what are called Identical differences. Take a coin, the head side is a different side from the tail side, and yet the two are inseparable. Take the operation of buying and selling, selling is a different operation from buying but you can’t buy unless somebody sells at the same time and vice versa. This is what is meant by the underlying unity of opposites what is called in Hinduism Vita, or non-duality. Or when the Chinese use the word Tao to designate The Way of operation of the positive and negative principles the yang and yin. It is not a unity that annihilates differences, but a unity which is manifested by the very differentiations that we perceive. Just as it’s all polar. It’s like the two poles of a magnet are different but yet one magnet. So when we say oriental monism is a point of view towards life which merges everything into a kind of sickening goo. This is terribly unfair. It just isn’t so. If you argue that the sort of doctrine that everybody is really the Godhead destroys the possibility of real love between individuals because you have to be definitively other than I am to love you, otherwise it’s all self-love. Well that argument collapses in view of the doctrine of the Trinity. If the three persons are one God then they can’t love each other by the same argument. Hinduism simply uses the idea which is in the Christian Trinity only it makes it a multi-Trinity instead of the three one. That’s all. Of course the thorn in the flesh is always in approaching a doctrine which seems to be monistic pantheistic. What about evil? Are we to make the ground of being responsible for evil. And we don’t want to do that because we want to keep God skirts clean. In spite of the fact that our own Hebrew Bible says I am the Lord, there is none else. I form the light and create darkness. I make peace and create evil I the law do all these things. And haven’t you heard the story about the yetzer hara? That according to Jewish theology the law of God implanted in Adam at the beginning of time I think all the yetzer hara it means the wayward spirit. I call it the element of irreducible rascality. And it’s very necessary to have this in order to be human. You see how it was done was this prohibition not to eat of the fruit of the tree of knowledge. That was the one sure way of being a being, of getting it eaten. But of course when the Lord God accused out and said you have been eating of that tree, I told you not to eat. And he passed the buck to Eve said this woman that I gave is me she tempted me and I did eat. He looked at Eve, “Now what about it?” She said “Well it was the serpent.” He looked at the serpent, and the serpent didn’t say anything. Because he knew too much and he wasn’t going to give away the show. Who is it that sits at the left hand of God? We know who sits at the right hand. But it’s hushed up, because that’s the side where the district attorney sits. And in the Book of Job, of course you know, Satan is the district attorney at the court of heaven, he’s the prosecutor, he’s a faithful servant of the court.
Because you see, the whole problem is, it would be very bad indeed if God were the author of evil and we were his victims. That is to say, if we keep the model of the King of the universe and the creatures are all subjects of the king, then a God who is responsible for evil is being very unkind to other people. But in this theory God is not another person. There are no victims of God. He’s never anything but his own victim. You are responsible. And if you want to stay in the state of illusion, stay in it. But you can always wake up.