The Four, Linked Questions
When the world outside seems unreliable, then one’s own heart has to be prodded for answers.
For finding answers within, one has to clear the mind of blocks. There should be a willingness to look into aspects that may hurt one’s long held beliefs. I had to overcome many blocks that were obstructing my thought process. I had once shut out the words of a book from my mind because it implied at something that I didn’t want to believe. The book is ‘The Power of your Subconscious Mind’ by Joseph Murphy. It said very clearly that ‘the power lies within’. The power to cure, the power to heal, the power to chart our own lives… It was difficult for me to accept this, as I had always been leaning on that somebody else called God. God was the one with the powers. He decided our lives. There is none but my own weak self to rely on? It was like being told that the parent you think you are walking with is a figment of your imagination. You have actually been talking to yourself! It was again bringing to the fore the advaitic philosophy that I had once shoved to a side. For me God would become so powerless if it were to be the poor me! ‘I am God’ was therefore a very unnerving philosophy to me and so I avoided even trying to reason out the truth. I was terribly afraid that it might be true! It was not easy to overcome this fear or mental block, and I needed help.
It is said that when a student is ready the teacher appears. A teacher, in fact a Philosophy teacher, did come in my life at this point of time and he introduced me to a magic word ‘synthesis’ which just made my thinking turn a whole somersault! This word cleared my thinking process in one miraculous moment. The teacher told me how Indian philosophy is a synthesis of contradictions. It assimilates all contradictions. He explained it with the example that when a person walks over a radius that leads to the centre of the circle, another person walking on another radius of the same circle may seem to be on the wrong road. But the closer they reach to the centre, the distance between the two roads decreases. Finally when both have reached the centre they can laugh aloud at their foolishness of having thought the other to be on the wrong road! So also all of us ardently seeking God are right. We are not aware that all who sincerely seek God are walking on some radius leading to the same centre that is God. If we were aware, we would not be worried about others on the other rediuses unduly. Somebody far behind in understanding, need not be rushed forward either; not faster than one rung at a time. A child learning the alphabets is not foolish. Unless he does that he will not be able to read great philosophies even in his adulthood. And so nobody can be wrong or at a ‘wrong’ level of understanding as long as there is sincerity and the purpose is divine. These were the words of the teacher that finally helped settle my troubled mind.
I had finally found through the words of my wise teacher that I needn’t try to eradicate contradictions but rather that I should learn to assimilate them. My troubled mind was finally eased. But then I needed to see the synthesis. I had to see how Christianity fitted into the whole picture, without contradicting any other religious teaching.
1. Who or what is God?
There are numerous ways to explain God to our own minds but as a quencher for myself, I have chosen to explain God using the synthesis of concepts from mainly Christian and Hindu scriptures. There are of course many other ideas enmeshed in the view that I am presenting here but the base is the Christian and Hindu scriptures.
I stress the similarity drawn between Adipurusha (Purusha or Parama Purusha) and the Christian concept of the Word(Son of God)as follows. The term ‘Adipurusha’ means First Man. He is the supreme Purusha who has been with the Eternal Spirit and is born in the womb of God. He is the knowledge and the wisdom and is responsible for the formation of the universe. This Parama Purusha is also called Omkaara. This Om or Omkaara is the vibration heard by mystics who attuned their minds to the cosmic mind through meditation. This Omkaara that formed the universe is very clearly the same as the power or vibration that Christians call ‘the Word’! For the Bible says ‘In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God…Through him all things were made. John 1:1-3’.That is Omkaara can be equated to the Word.
What we can derive as a result of these similar concepts is that the whole world is the result of vibrations (Om, Word). Two scriptures agree on this concept and therefore this is the basic concept or equation that I am holding in mind as I proceed to other ideas and towards a further analysis and synthesis.
Now my personal idea of God has to stem basically from my experience, and not just read ideas. So my personal experience is of the power of thought, how questions in my mind have drawn answers from the universe and I find resonance to this truth in books I have read as well. We may have also experienced or at least heard of how ‘thoughts can lead to outcomes’. It is often said that we should think positive as positive thoughts lead to positive outcomes and negative thoughts lead to negative outcomes. Some even go as far as saying that our thoughts determine our lives! These thoughts could be subconscious, which means that we may not be totally aware of these thoughts. In fact it is also believed that the collective subconscious of all the people in the world is responsible for whatever happens in the world, be it wars or even natural disasters!
Continuing in the same line… if our thoughts create our future, then whatever created this universe must be 'a Thought'. From the stars to the sun and the planets, the wonder called life and the master machine called man (which got endowed with the same power of thought) must all be the product of thought!
The next step to thoughts is words. Thoughts given form is Words. The Hindu scriptures which include four Vedas are considered the emanations of the breath of Brahma. This breath of Brahma is ‘Thought given a form’ or in other words it is the Word of Brahma and therefore for attuned minds it becomes possible to ‘hear’ God’s Mind. The Hindu philosophy speaks of the cosmic vibration not only as Om but also as vac(word) or naad Brahma(sound of the creator), which created everything, which the yogis were able to ‘hear’ through meditation and documented as the ‘Vedas’.
The conclusion to the above consideration is that Word or sound (Naad ) or cosmic vibration which could be heard is therefore not just a part of God but being an emanation from the breath of God is the creation of God! To explain it in human terms; our thoughts have no form but when we speak, we give a form to our thoughts by using our voice and language. In the same way the thoughts or lets say the Mind of God does not have a form and therefore the only 'form' of God is His Word or His Sound. Therefore to conclude, creation has been possible through ‘the first form’ created by God, which itself is actually a vibration heard as ‘Om’ and which is in fact the Word of God! A creation can be differentiated from the creator by terming it as ‘Son’. Therefore the first form, that is Om or Omkaara or Parama Purusha or ‘the Word of God’, being a creation of God, can be termed Son, considering the Creator (thought) as the Father. All creation has been possible through this Word and has no existence without it. This answers how everything that exists is said to be part of the one God and also explains how the Word is the Son of God being a first form or first creation.
Now we need to go back and consider the source of this thought, Word, sound or vibration because that undoubtedly carries not just the Mind of God but even behind the Mind, the Ultimate Power . That is, whatever 'power' causes this thought to be conceived and then resonate in the universe as Word/sound which resulted in the act called creation must be the basic power we call God. This conceiver is not matter, for matter is itself a creation and so this non matter can be called at best an Eternal Spirit or even ‘the Holy Spirit’. Eternal because it was never created and yet exists; Holy because nothing obviously can influence it or hurt or stain it (both terms are a corollary to ‘it’ being a non created entity).
But even as we are defined by what our thoughts, our words and our actions are, so also God must also be not only the conceiver but also his thoughts his words and his action. The conceiver (Holy Spirit), the thought or Mind (Father) and the Word or Omkaara/Adipurusha (the first begotten). This is the Holy Trinity. And yet the three are one with no difference between them because words and action are the evidence of the mind, and thoughts in the mind. Words cannot be without the mind and mind is known by the words that come from it. In this case the mind is the Cosmic Mind. Also as every creation was created through the Word and has its existence in him, hence creation (the action/work of the Word) is also a part of God.
God can therefore also be very simply and conveniently be called a ‘Cosmic Mind of an Eternal Spirit’( being devoid of a material Body) and where all creation is the evidence to its presence and its intelligence, and is its body. According to the Hindu Scripture the Geeta, 'just as the soul is to the body, God is to the universe'.
2. If there is nothing but God then why is all humanity said to be born in sin?
The Trinitarian (Triune) God that we pray to is one and thus belongs to an absolute world where there is none but Him. But we live in this relative world where though we are parts of 'the One Body', we have forgotten it. Now when ‘one’ has become ‘many’, each one can experience each others love, know ones own self through the other and in general have a good experience. But there is a difficulty. The thoughts of all the individuals can be ‘good’ only as long as they love each other as their own selves. Having forgotten this reality makes one love the other less than the own self. That is where the problem begins. It brings in dislike, envy, murder, stealing and so on termed as evil or sin. In short it brings in bad thought and consequently bad outcomes. The bad outcome at worst is the inability to ever realize one’s true nature and such a state can be referred to as eternal death. In the letter of Saint Paul to the Romans 5:12, he says, ‘Sin entered the world through one man and through sin death, and thus death has spread to the whole human race because everyone has sinned’
Just being in the relative world results in the feeling of ‘I’ and ‘you’ which itself is the forerunner of that which we call sin. This is what is meant when it is said that ‘we are born into sin’. It means that we are born into a relative realm, that is, a realm where there is ignorance of the absolute and so where there happens to be evil or sin.
This does not mean that our soul becomes sinful because relative realm is an illusion and evil is sort of a byproduct of the illusion. The only reality is the Absolute realm of the cosmic consciousness. To understand how the soul could remain untainted, we only have to compare with some of the patterns in our own life like that of sleeping, dreaming and waking up. Let’s take an example. A person has a dream in which he murders another man. When he wakes up should he be called a murderer? Not at all for it was not real. What if he wakes up to his reality and realizes that in the world that he lives there is none but him? Then what would his dream be called? A meaningless mumbo jumbo! The idea of another person was just that, ‘an idea’ and ‘the evil’ was just the result of the absurd idea. Life on earth is such a meaningless mumbo jumbo, and God is deliberately having the dream to entertain himself and from which he will eventually wake up. Now suppose the man wakes up in the middle of a dream but still is not fully awake then he will go off to sleep again and may dream the continuation of the dream or some other dream.In our world this could be something like rebirth.As long as the man stays asleep he has sinned, he has murdered. When he is fully awake, only then is he free from the sin. Now consider this corollary, "As long as he keeps thinking he murdered, he will continue sleeping."
It can be understood from the above example that the soul is not sinful and therefore is part of the one and only God. One has to realise this true nature to be freed from the bondage of sin and hence rebirth. It is the ignorance of the true nature that comes with being in the body, that results in all humanity being sinful and so the term ‘born into sin’. Man only needs the removal of ignorance of his true nature and this awareness will make him part of God. In other words ‘truth shall make him free’ This clears the contradiction of the two statements that were taken up and both statements are therefore true. Though man is born into sin, creation is still a part of God. The above analysis also leads to some other conclusions.
3. Who is Jesus?
Jesus is considered by Christians as the Word made flesh (Word Incarnate), the first begotten (son), the only son of God. The doubt I had in the context of my understanding of God and creation was- How could Jesus born a human have a special status as the Only Begotten of God, when everything is supposed to be a part of God and therefore with obviously no such distinct status for one ‘human’?
There is just one separation between the Word and its creation, which I bring up here and it is that, all things will pass away but the Word will not pass away. All that perishes is therefore the illusion created by and through the Word. All creation is therefore within the Word and has no existence separate from it. Now it becomes clear that the Word, Omkaara or the Cosmic Vibration being the only imperishable creation is therefore not only the ‘first’ form but is also ‘the only begotten’ of God.
Now the question that remains is; how can Jesus born a human be this ‘Only Begotten’ the imperishable Word? Let us allow ourselves a bit of wild speculation here. We have heard of saints whose bodies did not decompose. Did their holy lives give an imperishable character to the body? The fact that Jesus took up his body again after death and ascended to ‘heaven’ with the body (as per the Bible), did make me wonder if this ascension ‘with the body’ was actually a pointer to the imperishability of the Body of Jesus. Was this imperishability on account of the purity of the life that Jesus had lived (as is assumed of the Body of Saints) or was this somehow related to how Jesus was conceived and therefore what his identity really was? Then could it be that resurrection of Christ is also another assurance that Jesus is in fact The Imperishable, that is, the Word of God? It seems too far fetched a logic and more logical seems the idea of the Word taking the "perishable" human form, and then it would mean that Avatars (incarnations) cannot be exhausted in just one appearance!
But it cannot be denied that the scriptures do vouch that it was a virgin who conceived Jesus (which can be a pointer that though Born through a Human he was not totally ‘Just a Human’) The scriptures also say that it was, the Word that made it’s dwelling with us, but again should that have to mean imperishabilty?
I believe that the vedic scriptures also give the same importance to Jesus as do the hebrew scriptures and that it is the vastness more than the inaccessabilty and tough language of these scriptures that has made the message almost invisible. There are numerous verses from the Rigveda (purushasukta hymn, 10th Mandala and their interpretations that I have read in at least 2 books by Sanskrit scholars, who have given numerous verses similar to those in the Bible and which describe him as a first born and as the one given up for sacrifice of sins. But my limited knowledge of sanskrit cannot contend with any arguments of the possibilty of these interpretations being faulty. But all this still is merely speculation. It may or may not be true and we cannot go by it alone.
But, there is an inference that can be definitely drawn from a crucial incident mentioned in the Bible 'It is about the three wise men from the east who studied the stars and travelled far following a star to reach the place where the messiah was Born and who declared that they had come to worship Him. Why would three men(Magi) from our subcontinent travel with gifts to see a baby Jesus born in some far off Land unless they were totally convinced of his importance. There must have been something in their scriptures too that convinced them to travel that far to look at and worship (or pay homage to) the new born. For they had asked,"Where is the baby born to be the King of the Jews? Mathew 2:2. Since Jesus never became the King of the Jews in the literal sense, what they meant should be the 'Son', for it is a Prince, who becomes King. The Son inherits the Kingdom(the world). I want to mention here another word used for Purusha in the Rigveda. It is Prajapati. The sacrifice of Prajapati is called Prajapatiyagam. And, the meaning of Prajapati is 'King'.
Now, the following are a few relevant verses from the Bible concerning Jesus …
‘He was in the world and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him..John 1:10’
‘The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the only begotten, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth…… John testifies concerning him…. “This was he of whom I said, ‘he who comes after me has surpassed me because he was before me”John1: 14 and 15’
Consider another statement from the Bible. ‘Christ is the power and the wisdom of God. 1Corinthians1:24’, which is also what is said about the cosmic Purusha as mentioned earlier; the cosmic Purusha is the wisdom, knowledge and intelligence that has coexisted with the Eternal Spirit and who brought the physical universe into existence.
Also, Jesus himself says that ‘before Abraham was born, I am’, even though Jesus was born a long time after Abraham. John says about Jesus ‘this was he of whom I said, ‘he who comes after me has surpassed me because he was before me.John1: 15.’ These statements imply that Jesus was present a long time before he was actually born. John, a pious soul (in all probability aware of his own ‘true self’), still points out such a distinction between himself and Jesus. For these statements to be true, Jesus has to be more than human. Then who could he be?
To understand this we may consider the concept of avatar in Hindu philosophy which distinguishes man-god from god-man as follows. According to this philosophy, the man god ascends from duality (the human as separate from God) to divinity, whereas the God-man or avatar descends from Infinity to duality to work amidst us. We as sons and daughters of God are unconscious divinity in a human form requiring to become a conscious divinity by seeing through the illusion of duality. On the other hand avatar is where God consciously becomes a man for the liberation of mankind. In Hindu mythology, Ganesha is considered the first Soul- Adi Devata- to have traversed the path from divine unconsciousness to divine consciousness, and so is responsible to guide all the souls through this journey by coming into the world as Avatar. It is to be noted that Ganesha or the elephant God is infact the symbolic representation of the Sanskrit letter for Om!
Trusting what both scriptures have to say, and holding the two religion’s basic philosophical concepts in mind I find it quite reasonable to conclude that Jesus is linked to the one who was present much before anything else was created and so he is an incarnation of the Word in a way that his divinity overshadows any measure of the Human nature in Him so that it is in no way wrong to accord him the title of ‘The First Begotten’ who exists with the spirit, that is, he is the incarnate of the ethereal body that existed since eternity with the Eternal Spirit and came down to earth for the glory of God.
A special distinction of Jesus as Son of God can really be possible, and especially because ‘nothing is impossible with God’. ‘God purposely chose what the world considers nonsense in order to shame the wise…..This means that no one can boast in God’s presence. 1Corinthians1:27 and 29.’
I add here Jesus’ statement concerning himself, ‘Is it not written in your Law, ‘I have said you are Gods’? If he called them ‘Gods’, to whom the message of God came- and the Scripture cannot be broken-what about the one whom the Father set apart as his very own and sent into the world?' John10:34.
4. What did Jesus come in the world for?
Expanded, this question would be. ‘If everything is part of God and every sincere seeker will eventually find his way to God, then why did Jesus have to come in the world?’ The question is vital, but there are other questions that need to be answered before this. How many are able to sincerely seek God? How many are willing to sincerely put the effort required for it? The world is too attractive, so attractive that we rarely even think of God let alone seek Him!God has to reach out to the weak man who fails to reach out to God
There is an example that explains the way man is trapped by the lure of the world. In earlier times the villagers in India used a trick to catch monkeys. They would fill peanuts in a narrow necked pot called a surahi . The monkey would put its hand into the neck of the surahi and grab the peanuts, but is not able to remove its hand without letting go of the peanuts. It does not realize that its love for peanuts is clouding its mind and preventing its only way to escape, namely letting go of the peanuts. The only trap here is the monkey’s desire which eventually gets it caught. Such is the lure of the world. Even those who put the effort to overcome their desires may be discouraged when they again fall back into the lures of the world. When man becomes willing to return to God but is not able to maintain the self control that is required for it what can he do? He may in fact give up his efforts to overcome the world, in frustration, as something impossible. This is where God reaches out to man and makes the impossible possible. The way out is faith in the liberating power of a supreme sacrifice.
Jesus is the solution both in the form of his simple commandments and also in terms of a supreme sacrifice.
The teaching of Jesus is simple. According to him to realize God, there are just two requirements. ‘God should be more important to you than anything else in the world’. The second is ‘Love your neighbour as your own self’.
But even doing that is not so easy. What if one fails in following that? After all the law according to which the world runs has it that we pay for our thoughts. Since essentially we keep experiencing the outcomes of our own thoughts and deeds, and we never stop on either of these, it can be an unending cycle, which leads to life after life after life. It can thus lead to eternal ignorance of one’s true nature as it is so difficult not to sin.
Here again Jesus is a solution in the form of a supreme sacrifice. He took the debt or the punishment of our sins by dying on the cross, so that we may not have to undergo eternal death or eternal ignorance of our true nature, if we but believe that it is so. In ancient times, as a payment for sins the practice was to sacrifice the best sheep. It is understandable that the blood of the purest of pure is required to wash away the innumerable sins of mankind and that purest of pure could only be the Son of God Himself.( ‘I am the good shepherd; the good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. John 10:34.’ In laying down his life for us he has given the ultimate proof of love for us. The Bible says in Acts4:12, ‘There is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among mortals by which we must be saved.’It is because Jesus has been the only human being to take upon himself the doom, the punishment for the sins of all mankind (not of a few or a small group).
And yet, Jesus’ sacrifice is for a chosen people as he himself puts it. He is the shepherd of a certain flock. Which is the flock that Jesus refers to? We have to refer to Jesus’ words to understand that. When asked why he keeps the company of the tax collectors and the sinners, Jesus said that it is the sick that need the doctor not those who are healthy.
It is evident from these words that most people would qualify under the category of the sick, for who is the one that has not sinned! There are those who fall again and again into sin but repent each time and are disgusted of their own acts. These are the people who need someone to carry their burden. There are people who want to return to God but are pulled back by the fear of the debt of their sin. These are the people who need to be assured that their sins are paid for and so are no longer held back by the Law. Jesus, ‘the Word Incarnate’ came for the lost sheep, the poor in spirit, for the weak men and women, who live the worldly life but want to escape from its hold. Their spirit is willing but the flesh is weak.
There may also be people, who are strong in mind and therefore who can train their minds to remain in God. They are healthy but also so few. Such extraordinary people can be counted on the fingers. They are the ones who sought ‘the Word’ and attained Him by leading a detached life and through continuous meditation.
To quote from ‘Catholic answers to fundamentalists’ questions by Philip St. Romain, ‘..even for people who have not heard his name, Jesus is the Way, the Truth, the Life. Their consent to him and the guidance of his spirit in their conscience implies a kind of faith-call it implicit faith, as distinguished from explicit faith such as we find among believers in the church.’ This statement reflects what is said in Romans chapter 2. It speaks in essence that it is not what is outside or physical or the community (here Jew) that is valued by God, but rather what is inside. ‘The Gentiles do not have the Law; but whenever they do by instinct what the Law commands, they are their own law…’ Their conduct shows that what the Law commands is written in their hearts’ Romans 2:14 and 15.’
Now the question is; if knowing the Word can be a way and if implicit faith is enough, what exactly is the benefit of knowing Jesus?! To quote again from ‘Catholic answers to fundamentalists’ questions by Philip St. Romain, ‘..it is much better to live in the full light of the revelation of God.’ To know the Word incarnate is to know the Word in its fullness, and to be aware and make use of the Grace that his death on the cross has purchased for us. To not only reach out to God but to be able to avail of God’s hand reaching out to give a helping hand to man’s efforts.
So Jesus is needed by the world as an assurance to us that we are new creations in God when we accept Him as having paid for our sins. Our past does not exist. We are free from having to pay for our (or our anscestors') Karma (deeds), we are free from the karmic cycle! Though this is the Grace of Jesus for the believers of Jesus as Christ the saviour, this Grace does not work for those who do not care to practice the way that Jesus taught us, because choosing Jesus means choosing his way. Rejecting Jesus’ teachings is the same as rejecting Jesus. Those who do not put effort to practice what Jesus taught, only pretend to have chosen Jesus because of some mistaken notion of salvation. Their heart is still in the world, and so, such 'so called followers' are not under the Grace.
The forty days of fasting and penance called lent before Easter is the reminder to all Christians that Jesus has paid for our sins. During lent the true Christian remembers all sins he might have fallen into during the year. Remembering the pain that Jesus underwent for our sake, the true Christian repents and cries and does penance. The Christian is created again, is a new creation every time he sincerely repents remembering the cross and truly resolves not to sin again. The Christian thus renews his freedom from the karmic cycle or the Law every time he repents sincerely with remembrance of the ultimate sacrifice for his sins, the holiest of holy sheep, the Christ, on the cross.
There is a parable which explains the need of a savior for the world. In this parable Jesus speaks of the wedding feast of the son of a king to which many were invited. When they did not turn up, people from the streets were called to come, wearing wedding clothes to the feast. They arrived but the ones among them, who came without wearing the wedding clothes, were sent back. I read into this parable as follows.
God invited his creation man to 'gain wisdom' and experience the magnificence of God. But they enjoyed life so much that they delayed the pursuit of the experience of their real self through the gaining of wisdom. So God called the 'simple' to come to him 'believing in Jesus' as the redeemer from their sins. The simple people believed and respected Jesus as the son of God and followed his teachings. They entered the glory of God. Others came, claiming to believe in Jesus, but their disregard for his teachings showed that they were not sincere in their respect for the one from God; and so were denied the glory of God.
After telling this parable, Jesus had concluded, ‘Many are invited, but few are chosen.’ Matthew 22:14. Jesus( through his sacrifice for sins), is an invitation to all to enter the glory of God, but those who claim to believe in Jesus but do not follow his teachings will obviously not be chosen.
I conclude the synthesis with what Jesus says of himself. Jesus says that he is the Way, the Truth, the Life. His Way was of ‘loving our neighbour as our own self’. He is the Way also because he has paid for our sins and had he not done that there would have been no end to what we would have to suffer as a consequence of our sins. He is the Way to God because he is the Word Incarnate, and understanding the Word is the only way to understand God and His will. The Word is the help, the aid held out from God, holding which we can reach the seemingly unreachable. The Word is the only Truth being the only imperishable creation of God and therefore the Word is the Life itself. The Word is the one basis of all the religions born in different lands.
Thus, explanation of Jesus as the Way to God, does not exclude the followers of other religions and still maintains the Christian faith. In fact I believe multiplicity of religions is a need as people of each land are nourished best by what grows in their own soil.Not everybody would understand the taste in rice of course but it would still be carbohydrates that the staple of any land would actually be providing.