Windows to the divine
IN INDIAN PHILOSOPHY, THE NATURE OF ULTIMATE TRUTH HAS BEEN DESCRIBED AS TRUTH, SATYAM, BEAUTY, SUNDRAM AND GOODNESS, SHIVAM. ARE THESE THE CHARACTERISTICS OF GOD?
These are not the qualities of God. Rather, they are our experiences of God. They do not belong to the divine as such; they are our perceptions. The divine, by itself, is unknowable. Either it is every quality, or no quality at all. But as the human mind is constituted, it can experience the divine through three windows: you can have the glimpse either through beauty or through truth or through goodness. These three dimensions belong to the human mind. They are our limitations. The frame is given by us; the divine itself is frameless. It is like this. We can see the sky through the window.
The window looks like a frame around the sky, but the sky itself has no frame around it. It is infinite.
Only the window gives it a frame. In the same way, beauty, truth and goodness are the windows through which we can glance into the divine.
Human personality is divided into three layers. If intellect is predominant, then the divine takes the shape of truth. The intellectual approach creates the window of truth, the frame of truth. If the mind is emotional, if one comes to reality not through the head but through the heart - then the divine becomes beauty. The poetic quality is given by you. It is only the frame. Intellect gives it the frame of truth; emotion gives it the frame of beauty. And if the personality is neither emotional nor intellectual - if action is predominant - then the frame becomes goodness.
So here in India we use these three terms for the divine. Bhakti yoga means the way of devotion and is for the emotional type. God is seen as beauty. Jnana yoga is the way of knowledge. God is seen as truth. And karma yoga is the way of action. God is goodness.
The very word 'God' comes from the word 'good'. This word has had the greatest influence because most of humanity is predominantly active, not intellectual or emotional. This does not mean that there is no intellect or emotion, but they are not predominant factors. Very few are intellectual and very few are emotional. The majority of humanity is predominantly active. Through action, God becomes "the good."
But the opposite pole must exist too, so if God is perceived as the good then the devil will be perceived as the bad. The active mind will perceive the devil as the bad; the emotional mind will perceive the devil as the ugly; and the intellectual mind will perceive the devil as the untrue, the illusory, the false.
These three characteristics, truth, goodness and beauty, are human categories framed around the divine, which is, in itself, frameless. They are not qualities of the divine as such. If the human mind can perceive the divine through any fourth dimension, then this fourth dimension will also become a quality of the divine. I don't mean that the divine is not the good. I'm only saying that this goodness is a quality that is chosen by us and seen by us. If man did not exist in the world then the divine would not be good, the divine would not be beautiful, the divine would not be true. Divinity would exist all the same, but these qualities, which are chosen by us, would not be there. These are just human perceptions. We can perceive the divine to be other qualities as well.
We do not know if animals perceive the divine, we do not know how they perceive things at all, but one thing is certain: they will not perceive the divine in human terms. If they perceive the divine at all, they will feel and perceive it in quite a different way from us. The qualities they perceive will not be the same as they are for us. When a person is predominantly intellectual, he cannot conceive of how you can say God is beautiful. The very concept is absolutely foreign to his mind. And a poet cannot conceive that truth can mean anything except beauty. It cannot mean anything else to him.
Truth is beauty; all else is simply intellectual. For a poet, for a painter, for a man who perceives the world in terms of the heart, truth is a naked thing without beauty. It is just an intellectual category.
So if a particular mind is predominantly intellectual, it cannot understand the emotional mind, and vice versa. That is why there is so much misunderstanding and so many definitions. No single definition can be accepted by the whole humanity. God must come to you in your own terms. When you define God, you will be part of the definition. The definition will come from you; God as such is indefinable. So those who look at him through these three windows have, in a way, imposed themselves, their own definitions, on the divine.
There is also the possibility of a fourth way of seeing the divine for one who has transcended these three dimensions in his personality. In India, we do not have a word for the fourth. We simply call it turiya, the fourth. There is a type of consciousness where you are neither intellectual nor emotional nor active, but just conscious. Then you are not looking at the sky through any window. You have come out of your house and you know the windowless sky. There is no pattern, no frame.
Only the type of consciousness that has realized the fourth can understand the limitations of the other three. It can understand the difficulty of understanding among the others, and can also understand the underlying similarities among beauty, truth and goodness. Only the fourth type can understand and tolerate. The other three types will always be quarreling.
All religions belong to one of these three categories. And they have been constantly quarreling.
Buddha cannot take part in this conflict. He belongs to the fourth type. He says, "It is all nonsense.
You are not quarreling about divine qualities; you are quarreling about your windows. The sky remains the same from any window."
So these are not divine qualities. These are divine qualities as perceived by us! If we can destroy our windows, we can know the divine as quality-less, nirguna. Then we go beyond qualities. Only then does human projection not come in.
But then it becomes very difficult to say anything. Whatever can be said about the divine can be said only through the windows, because anything that can be said is really being said about the windows, not about the sky itself. When we see beyond the windows, the sky is so vast, so limitless. It cannot be defined. All words are inapplicable; all theories are inadequate.
So one who is in the fourth has always remained silent about it, and definitions of the divine have come from the first three. If the one in the fourth has spoken at all, he has spoken in terms that seem absurd, illogical, irrational. He contradicts himself. Through contradiction he tries to show something. Not to say something; to show something.
Wittgenstein has made this distinction. He said that there are truths that can be said, and there are truths that can be shown but not said. A thing is definable because it exists among other things.
It can be related to other things, compared. For example, we can always say that a table is not a chair. We can define it by reference to something else. It has a boundary to which it extends, and beyond which something else begins. Really, only the boundary is defined. A definition means the boundary from which everything else begins.
But we cannot say anything about the divine. The divine is the total, so there is no boundary; there is no frontier from which something else begins. There is no "something else." The divine is frontierless so it cannot be defined.
The fourth can only show; it can only indicate. That is why the fourth has remained mysterious. And the fourth is the most authentic, because it is not colored by human perceptions. All the great saints have indicated; they have not said anything. Whether it is Jesus, Buddha, Mahavira or Krishna, it doesn't matter. They are not saying anything; they are just indicating something - just a finger pointing to the moon.
But there is always the difficulty that you will become obsessed by the finger. The finger is meaningless; it is indicating something else. It must not catch your eye. If you want to see the moon, the finger must be absolutely forgotten.
This has been the greatest difficulty as far as the divine is concerned. You see the indication and you feel that this indication is, itself, the truth. Then the whole purpose is destroyed. The finger is not the moon; they are absolutely different. The moon can be shown by the finger, but one must not cling to the finger. If a Christian cannot forget the BIBLE, if a Hindu cannot forget the GITA, then the very purpose is destroyed. The whole thing becomes purposeless, meaningless and in a way non-religious, anti-religious.
Whenever one approaches the divine, one must be aware of one's own mind. If one approaches the divine through the mind, the divine becomes colored by it. If you approach the divine without mind, without you, without the human coming in; if you approach the divine as an emptiness, as a void, a nothingness; without any preconceptions, without any propensity for seeing things in a particular way - then you know the quality-lessness of the divine, otherwise not. Otherwise all the qualities we give to the divine belong to our human windows. We impose them upon the divine.
ARE YOU SAYING THAT WE DO NOT NEED TO USE THE WINDOW TO SEE THE SKY?
Yes. It is better to look from the window than not to look at all, but to look through the window cannot be compared to the windowless sky.
BUT HOW DOES ONE GET FROM THE ROOM TO THE SKY WITHOUT THE WINDOW?
You can pass through the window to go to the sky, but you must not remain at the window. Otherwise the window will always be there. The window must be left behind. It must be passed through and transcended.
ONCE ONE IS IN THE SKY THERE ARE NO WORDS - UNTIL ONE COMES BACK INTO THE ROOM. THEN THE STORY COMES...
Yes, one can come back. But then he cannot be the same as he was before. He has known the patternless, the infinite. Then even from the window he knows that the sky is not patterned, not windowed. Even from behind the window he cannot be deceived. Even if the window is closed and the room becomes dark, he knows that the infinite sky is there. Now he cannot be the same again.
Once you have known the infinite, you have become the infinite. We are what we have known, what we have felt. Once you have known the boundless, the boundary-less, in a way you have become infinite. To know something is to be that. To know love is to be love; to know prayer is to be prayer; to know the divine is to be the divine. Knowing is realization; knowing is being.
DO ALL THREE WINDOWS BECOME ONE?
No. Each window will remain as it was. The window has not changed; you have changed. If the person is emotional he will go out and come in through that window, but now he will not deny other windows; he will not be antagonistic to them. Now he will be understanding of the others. He will know that other windows also lead to the same sky.
Once you have been under the sky, you know that the other windows are part of the same house.
Now you may wander to other windows or you may not. It depends on you. You need not; one window is enough. If a person is like Ramakrishna he may wander to other windows to see whether the same sky is seen through them. It depends on the person. One may look through other windows or one may not.
And really, there is no need. To know the sky is enough. But one may inquire, be curious. Then he will look through other windows. There have been persons who have wandered and persons who have not. But once a person has known the open sky, he will not deny other windows; he will not deny other approaches. He will confirm that their windows open to the same thing. So a person who has known the sky becomes religious, not sectarian. The sectarian mind remains behind the window; the religious mind is beyond it.
One who has seen the sky may wander; he may go to other windows also. There are infinite windows. These are the main types, but they are not the only windows. There are so many combinations possible.
IS THERE A WINDOW FOR EVERY CONSCIOUSNESS, FOR EACH MAN?
Yes. In a way each person comes to the divine from his own window. And each window is basically different from any other. Infinite are the windows, infinite are the sects. Each person has a sect of his own. Two Christians are not the same. One Christian differs from another as much as Christianity differs from Hinduism.
Once you have come to the sky, you know that all differences belong to the house. They never belong to you. They belong to the house in which you lived, through which you saw, through which you felt, but not to you as such.
When you come under the sky, you know that you were also part of the sky - only living within walls.
The sky within the house is not different from the sky beyond the house. Once we come out we know that the barriers were not real. Even a wall is not a barrier to the sky; it has not divided the sky at all. It creates an appearance that the sky is divided - that this is my house and that house is yours; that the sky in my house belongs to me and the sky in your house belongs to you - but once you have come to know the sky itself, there is no difference. Then there are no individuals as such.
Then waves are lost and only the ocean remains. You will come back inside again, but now you will not be different from the sky.
IT SEEMS THERE ARE SO FEW CHRISTIANS WHO HAVE GONE TO THE SKY AND WHO HAVE COME BACK WITH THIS CONCEPT.
There are some - Saint Francis, Eckhart, Boehme....
THEY DIDN'T TELL US IT WAS THE SAME SKY, DID THEY?
They could not. The sky is always the same, but they cannot report on the sky in the same way.
Reports about the sky are bound to be different, but what is being reported is not different. To those who have not known the reported thing itself, the report will be everything. Then the differences become acute. But all that is reported is just a selection, a choice. The whole cannot be reported; only a part of the whole can be reported. And when it is reported, it becomes dead.
Saint Francis can report only as a Saint Francis can report. He cannot report like Mohammed, because the report does not come from the sky. The report comes from the pattern, from the individuality. It comes from the mind: the memory, the education, the experiences; from the words, the language, the sect; from the living. The report comes from all that. It is not possible for the communication to come only from Saint Francis, because a report can never be individual. It must be communal or it will be an absolute failure.
If I report in my own individual language, no one will understand it. When I experienced the sky, I experienced it without the community. I was totally alone at the moment of knowing. There was no language; there were no words. But when I report, I report to others who have not known. I must speak in their language. I will have to use a language that was known to me prior to my knowing.
Saint Francis uses the Christian language. As far as I am concerned, religions are only different languages. To me, Christianity is a particular language derived from Jesus Christ. Hinduism is another language; Buddhism is another language. The difference is always of language. But if one knows only the language and not the experience itself, the difference is bound to be vast.
Jesus said "the kingdom of God" because he was speaking in terms that could be understood by his audience. The word 'kingdom' was understood by some and misunderstood by others. The cross followed - crucifixion followed. Those who understood Jesus understood what was meant by "the kingdom of God," but those who could not understand thought that he was dealing with a kingdom on earth.
But Jesus could not use Buddha's words. Buddha would never have used the word 'kingdom'. There are so many reasons for the difference. Jesus came from a poor family; his language was that of a poor man. To a poor man the word 'kingdom' is very expressive, but to Buddha there was nothing significant about the word because Buddha himself had been a prince. The word was meaningless for Buddha, but meaningful for Jesus.
Buddha became a beggar and Jesus became a king. That is bound to be. The other pole becomes meaningful. The unknown pole becomes expressive of the unknown. For Buddha, begging was the most unknown thing, so he took the form of the unknown, the form of a beggar. For him, bhikkhu, beggar, became the most significant term.
The word 'bhikkhu' is never used in India because there are so many beggars here. Instead, we use the word 'swami', master. When someone becomes a sannyasin, when he renounces, he becomes a swami, a master. But when Buddha renounced he became a bhikkhu, a beggar. For Buddha, this word carried something that it could not carry for Jesus.
Jesus could only speak in terms that were borrowed from Jewish culture. He could change something here and there, but he could not change the total language or no one would have been able to understand. So in a sense, he was not a Christian. By the time Saint Francis came along, a Christian culture had developed with its own language. So Saint Francis was more of a Christian than Christ himself. Christ remained a Jew; his whole life was Jewish. It could not be otherwise.
If you are born a Christian, then Christianity may not be expressive to you; it may not touch you.
The more you have known it, the more it becomes meaningless. The mystery is lost. To a Christian, the Hindu attitude may be more meaningful, more significant. Because it is unknown, it can be expressive of the unknowable.
As far as I am concerned, it is better that a person not remain with the religion of his birth. The attitudes and beliefs that were given to him at birth must be denied sometime or the adventure will never begin. One should not remain where one was born. One should go to unknown corners and feel the exhilaration of it.
Sometimes we cannot understand the very thing that we think we have understood the most. A Christian thinks that he understands Christianity. That becomes the barrier. A Buddhist thinks he understands Buddhism because he knows it, but this very sense of knowing becomes a hindrance.
Only the unknown can become the magnetic, the occult, the esoteric.
One must transcend the circumstances of one's birth. It is just circumstantial that one is a Christian by birth; it is just circumstantial that one is a Hindu by birth. One should not be confined to the conditions of his birth. One must be twice-born as far as religion is concerned. One must go to the unknown corners. Then the thrill is there. The exploration begins.
Religions are, in a way, complementary. They must work for others; they must accept others. A Christian or a Hindu or a Jew must know the thrill of conversion. The thrill of conversion creates the background for transformation. Whenever someone comes from the West to the East there is something new. The Eastern attitude is so different that it cannot be put into familiar categories.
The whole attitude is so opposite to what you are familiar with that if you want to understand it, you yourself will have to change.
The same thing happens to someone from the East when he goes to the West. It should happen.
One should be open so it can happen. It is the unknown, the unfamiliar, that will create a change.
In India, we could not create a religion like Christianity. We could not create a theology. We could not create the Vatican, the Church. There are temples, but there is no Church. The Eastern mind is basically illogical so it is bound to be chaotic in a sense. It is bound to be individual; it cannot be organizational.
A Catholic priest is something very different. He is trained to be part of an organization. He belongs somewhere in the hierarchy. And it works. An establishment, a hierarchy is logical, so Christianity has been able to be spread throughout the world.
Hinduism has never tried to convert anybody. Even if someone has converted himself, Hinduism is not at ease with him. It is a non-converting religion, non-organizational. There is no priesthood in the sense that exists in Catholicism. The Hindu monk is just a wandering individual - without any hierarchy, without belonging to any establishment. He is absolutely rootless. As far as the outside world is concerned this approach is bound to be a failure, but as far as the individual is concerned, as far as the inner depth is concerned, it is bound to be a success.
Vivekananda was very attracted to Christianity. He created the Order of Ramakrishna based on the pattern of the Catholic priesthood. This is very alien to the East, very foreign. It is absolutely Western. Vivekananda's mind was not Eastern at all. And just as I say that Vivekananda was Western, I say that Eckhart and Saint Francis were Eastern. Basically, they belonged to the East.
Jesus himself belonged to the East. But Christianity does not belong to the East; it belongs to the West. Jesus was basically Eastern; he was anti-church, anti-organization. That was the conflict.
The Western mind thinks in terms of logic, reason, system, argument. It cannot go very deep; it will remain on the surface. It will be extensive, but never intensive.
SO ORGANIZED RELIGIONS ARE A CURTAIN TO US. THEY WILL HAVE TO GO IN ORDER FOR US TO SEE THE SKY.
Yes. They cover the window, they are obstacles.
WILL THE WESTERN MIND HAVE TO EXPAND AS THE EASTERN MIND HAS?
The Western mind can succeed as far as science is concerned, but it cannot succeed in religious consciousness. Whenever a religious mind is born, even in the West, it is Eastern. In Eckhart, in Boehme, the very quality of the mind is Eastern. And whenever a scientific mind is born in the East, it is bound to be Western. East and West are not geographical. West means the Aristotelian, and East means the non-Aristotelian. West means equilibrium, and East means no equilibrium. West means the rational and East means the irrational.
Tertullian was one of the most Eastern minds in the West. He said, "I believe in God because it is impossible to believe. I believe in God because it is absurd." This is the basic Eastern attitude:
because it is absurd. No one can say this in the West. In the West they say that you should believe something only when it is rational. Otherwise it is just a belief, a superstition.
Eckhart too is an Eastern mind. He says, "If you believe in the possible, it is no belief. If you believe in the argument, it is not religion. These are parts of science. Only if you believe in the absurd does something that is beyond mind come to you." This concept is not Western. It belongs to the East.
Confucius, on the other hand, is a Western mind. Those in the West can understand Confucius, but they can never understand Lao Tzu. Lao Tzu says, "You are a fool because you are only rational.
To be rational, reasonable, is not enough. The irrational must have its own corner to exist. Only if a person is both rational and irrational is he reasonable."
A totally rational person can never be reasonable. Reason has its own dark corner of irrationality. A child is born in a dark womb. A flower is born in the dark, in the underground roots. The dark must not be denied; it is the base. It is the most significant, the most life-giving thing.
The Western mind has something to contribute to the world. It is science, not religion. The Eastern mind can contribute only religion, not technology or science. Science and religion are complementary. If we can realize both their differences and their complementariness, then a better world culture can be born out of it.
If one needs science, one should go to the West. But if the West creates any religion, it can never be more than theology. In the West you give arguments to yourself to prove God. Arguments to prove God! It is inconceivable in the East. You cannot prove God. The very effort is meaningless. That which can be proven will never be God, it will be a scientific conclusion. In the East we say that the divine is the unprovable. When you are bored with your proofs, then jump into the experience itself; jump into the divine itself.
The Eastern mind can only be pseudo-scientific, just as the Western mind can only be pseudo- religious. You have created a great theology in the West, not a religious tradition. In the same way, whenever we make an attempt toward science in the East, we only create technicians not scientists, persons of know-how, not innovators, creators.
So do not come to the East with a Western mind or you will only misunderstand. Then you will carry your misunderstanding as an understanding. The attitude in the East is categorically opposite. Only opposites are complementary - like male and female.
The Eastern mind is female; the Western mind is male. The Western mind is aggressive. Logic is bound to be aggressive, violent. Religion is receptive, just like a woman. God can only be received; he can never be discovered or invented. One has to become like a woman: totally receptive, just open and waiting. This is what is meant by meditation: to be open and waiting.
RAMAKRISHNA SAID THAT THE BHAKTI APPROACH IS THE MOST SUITABLE FOR THIS AGE.
IS THAT SO?
No. Ramakrishna said that bhakti yoga was the most suitable approach because it was the most suitable for him. That is the basic window through which he came under the sky. It is not a question of an approach being suitable or unsuitable for a particular age. We cannot think in terms of ages.
Centuries live contemporaneously. We seem to be contemporaries; we may not be. I may be living twenty centuries back. Nothing is absolutely past. For someone it is present. Nothing is absolutely future. For someone it is present. And nothing is absolutely present either. For someone it is past and for someone else it is yet to come. So no categorical statement can be made for the age as such.
Ramakrishna was a devotee. He came to God through prayer and love, through emotion. He realized in this way, so for him it seemed that this would be helpful to everybody. He could not understand how his way might be difficult to others. However sympathetic we may be, we always see others in the light of our own experiences. So for Ramakrishna, the way seemed to be bhakti yoga: the way of devotion. If we want to think in terms of ages, we can say that this age is the most intellectual, the most scientific, the most technological,. the least devotional, the least emotional.
What Ramakrishna was saying was right for him might have been right for the people who were with him, but Ramakrishna never affected the larger world. He belongs basically to the village, to the nontechnological, nonscientific mind. He was a villager - uneducated, unacquainted with the greater world - so what he said should be understood according to his village language. He could not conceive of the days that have now come. He was basically part of the peasant's world where intellect was nothing and emotion was everything. He was not a man of this age. What he was saying was all right for the world in which he moved, but not for the world that exists now.
These three types have always existed: the intellectual, the active, the emotional. There will always be a balance among them, just as there is always a balance between males and females. The balance cannot be lost for long. If it is lost, it will soon be regained.
In the West you have lost the balance. Intellect has become the predominant factor. It may appeal to you that Ramakrishna says, "Devotion is the path for this age," because you have lost the balance.
But Vivekananda says the opposite. Because the East has also lost the balance, he is predominantly intellectual. This is just to balance the existing extreme. It is complementary in a sense.
Ramakrishna was the emotional type and his chief disciple was the intellectual type. He was bound to be. That is the coupling: the male and the female. Ramakrishna is absolutely female:
nonaggressive, receptive. Sex not only exists in biology; it exists everywhere. In every field, whenever there is polarity there is sex and the opposite becomes attracted.
Vivekananda could never be attracted to any intellectual. He could not be; he was not the polar opposite. There were intellectual giants in Bengal. He would go to visit them and would come away empty-handed. He would not be attracted. Ramakrishna was the least intellectual person possible.
He was everything that Vivekananda was not, everything that he was seeking.
Vivekananda was the opposite of Ramakrishna, so what he taught in Ramakrishna's name was not in the same spirit as Ramakrishna's teaching itself. So whoever comes to Ramakrishna through Vivekananda can never come to Ramakrishna at all. Whoever understands Vivekananda's interpretation of Ramakrishna can never understand Ramakrishna himself. The interpretation comes from the polar opposite.
When people say, "Without Vivekananda we would never have known about Ramakrishna," it is right in a sense. The world at large would never have heard about Ramakrishna without Vivekananda. But with Vivekananda, whatever is known about Ramakrishna is basically false. It is a misinterpretation. This is because his type is quite contrary to Ramakrishna's type. Ramakrishna never argued; Vivekananda was argumentative. Ramakrishna was ignorant; Vivekananda was a man of knowledge. What Vivekananda said about Ramakrishna was said through the mirror of Vivekananda. It was never authentic. It couldn't be.
This has always been happening. It will go on happening. Buddha attracts persons who are the polar opposite to him. Mahavira and Jesus attract persons who are spiritually the other sex. These opposites then create the organization, the order. They will interpret. The very disciples will be the falsifiers. But this is what is so. It cannot be helped.