Tao's unpresent presence
THE TAO PRODUCES ALL THINGS AND NOURISHES THEM; IT PRODUCES THEM AND DOES NOT CLAIM THEM AS ITS OWN.
IT DOES ALL, AND YET DOES NOT BOAST OF IT.
IT PRESIDES OVER ALL, AND YET DOES NOT CONTROL THEM.
THIS IS WHAT IS CALLED THE MYSTERIOUS QUALITY OF THE TAO.
All that is subtle in existence is invisible. Things are visible according to their grossness. That which is visible is superficial; that which is invisible is profound and deep. Therefore, those who set out to seek God make a fundamental error. The very word "Ishwara" for God is irrelevant and absurd. That which can be seen is not Ishwara; that which is seen, by dint of the very fact that it can be seen, is not God. What the eyes see is matter, what the hands feel is matter, and that which the mind knows - that too is matter.
Actually, whatever we know develops a boundary, a form, a structure. That which forever remains beyond all our knowing, that which we can never touch or never see no matter how much we want to - and yet, whose existence we cannot deny - that is God (Paramatman).
There are three things. One is the visible world that consists of all that we see and that registers on our senses. To be visible means to be evident before our eyes. That only we consider to be true and authentic. That which we cannot see, can touch, it is only natural that our mind should deny its existence. This is the second category.
If there were only these two categories of existence, then God would have no place in the world the atman could not be and religion would be of no use. Then love also would not be possible and all prayers would be false. But there is a third category. We have talked of the first two: the first is the visible world that we can see, touch and feel with our senses; and the second is the invisible world which we cannot experience with our senses - we cannot see it, nor touch it, nor understand it. Now there is a third classification of existence which we also cannot see, nor touch nor understand, and yet whose existence we cannot deny. This third category is God himself. Lao Tzu refers to it as Tao.
Tao means religion Tao means the law, Tao means the supreme rule, the ultimate reality. This third Lao Tzu refers to as Tao. Whether we say Ishwara or atman or truth it makes no difference because all names are given by man.
Buddha has referred to this category as nirvana, the void. Those who lack understanding interpret his statement to mean that Buddha denied the existence of God. If that is what Buddha meant, there would have been no need for him to refer to it as shunya (void). Buddha has not denied the existence of God, but he refers to Him as the void.
Why did Buddha choose this word to describe the ultimate reality? Because both aspects of existence are contained in the void. The void is, and also is not. It exists as if it did not exist.
Its presence is not present. It does not exist in a gross form, and therefore those who try to grasp it in a gross way never attain it. Those who endeavour to know it in the same manner as they know other objects can never know it. We have to change our very method of knowing.
Let us try to understand this. I say that there is love for you in my heart. But you cannot understand my love by dissecting my heart. If you try, you will come to the conclusion that I told a lie because nowhere will you find love within me. Love is not matter that can be examined in a laboratory. What the scientist will find will be things that love may have no knowledge of. He will come across the various organs of the body, the flesh, the bones and even the heart, but nowhere can he point and say, "Here is love." Then the scientist is bound to declare that there is nothing like love. Then only two things are possible: either this man is purposely lying or he is under an illusion.
But if the scientist is asked, "Granted that this man was under some illusion, have you been able to locate this illusion within him?" he has no answer to this. He cannot find the illusion anywhere on his table. Or, if the man was telling a lie, the lie should be hidden some where within him.
Actually, the scientist should say that the man who said he was in love is not there at all, because he cannot he found anywhere within the body. What comes within our grasp of understanding is unable to speak. But this the scientist will not say because he himself can speak.
So we shall have to say that love exists, but not as an object. It has a different dimension of existence.
Love exists, but not like matter. And remember, the more invisible the love, the deeper it is. The more it is expressed, the more base it becomes. When someone declares his love, he debases it, because even this much brings love within the grasp of senses. If nothing else. the ears hear the declaration.
Therefore, a person like Buddha would never say to anyone that he loves him. To say it is to destroy the love. If love is there, there is no need to express it even this much. If love is, it will be experienced.
If it cannot be experienced without expression, there is no way to experience it.
Have you ever experienced a love that was never spoken, that was never expressed; where the lover never touched your hand or took you in his embrace, where the lover made no effort to reveal his love? And yet, you felt as if you have been refreshed by the waters of the Ganges, or that suddenly flowers seem to have showered on you and some distant music from unknown quarters begins to play within you. No fingers touch the strings of the veena, and yet its mellow music enthralls your very being. No one is near, and yet someone seems to have gone deep within, to the very core of your being. If you have experienced such a love, it will be easy for you to understand what Lao Tzu says, for God's nature is like love.
Unfortunately we do not know love. And one who does not know love can never know God, because love is the way of the supreme power.
The first sutra of Lao Tzu is: God gives birth to everything and nourishes it also. And yet, He claims no ownership over it. Man's consciousness has lifted its hands to heavens infinite times, man has bowed low in reverence and worshipped Him, his soul has cried out to Him, proclaimed faith in Him, even experienced His presence, but there has never ever been any response to his utterances. Man has called himself the son of God. Man hails God as his creator, his preserver, but God never confirms. He never says, "I am your creator, your preserver." Unproclaimed, silent is His Being.
Understand this a little. He who makes a claim, by his very action forfeits his rights. If a father has to tell his son that he is his father, if a lover has to make it known to his beloved that he is the lover, if a guru has to announce to his disciples that he is the guru, the genuineness is destroyed. The day the guru demands respect from his disciple, he should know that his gurudom is either lost or non-existent. It needs to be proclaimed. He who is revered with instinctive spontaneity is a guru. He who has to make known his gurudom, knows well, within himself, that he is not a guru.
When I was in the university, a question was asked during a conference : "Why doesn't the student of today respect his teacher?" I replied, "Where is the teacher?" Guru means, one who is invariably respected, who cannot but be respected. He does not demand respect; rather, respect flows towards him as the waters of the river flow to the sea. If the sea questions why the rivers do not flow into it, we shall have to inform the sea that it is under an illusion and that it is no more than a pond or a lake. The very meaning of the ocean is that rivers flow into it; that rivers have no other option but to flow towards it. The river exists only to flow into the sea. If it does not flow into the sea it cannot be a river. The ocean does not have to attract the attention of the rivers towards itself. Its being is enough.
Respect and reverence flow towards the guru: love flows towards love. But if a claim is being sought, it proves the claimant is absent.
This may seem paradoxical, but it is so. Whenever you claim that you love, search within. You will not find even a trace of love, because love is claim enough unto itself. Its very being is enough to prove it. All other claims are impotent declarations of what is not within. God does not claim, for God is the claimant.
There was an atheist in the West by the name of Diderot. In one of his meetings, he held up his watch and said, "If God is, let him give me a small proof of His existence. Let Him stop my watch ticking right now. You say God is the creator and the destroyer of this world. Let him stop this man-made watch and prove His presence. Then I promise to worship Him forever." All the theists that were present in the crowd looked up to the skies and began to pray, "O Lord, by your grace, the lame can climb mountains, the blind begin to see, the dead come to life! What can you not do? And this is a trifling matter. Stop this watch and prove yourself to the infidels!" But the watch did not stop.
Diderot won, not because his atheism was right but because the theism of the theists was incorrect.
They were coaxing God to enter into competition with Diderot. They were urging Him not to lose this opportunity to prove himself. If, however? Diderot was really wise, or if the theists were really wise, they would have understood.
My feeling is that if God also had entered into the competition that day, He would have become inauthentic forever and ever. Had the watch stopped, to prove His authenticity, God would have debased himself. Actually, claims always arise from the low, the inferior. If God could not be indifferent to one single Diderot, He would have lost all claim to Godhood.
Diderot went home exulting in his victory. All his life he remained perfectly convinced of his understanding because if God could not give even such a slight indication of His existence? how could He exist?
We need proofs to demonstrate the existence of anything. Actually, that which is, needs and gives no proof. We seek proof only when we doubt the authenticity of a thing. Those who have been the greatest believers in God, have never troubled to prove His existence. Those who have given proofs of His? existence were not theists. Those who made the existence of God a syllogism for their arguments and lengthy, logical calculations cannot have been theists. Those who try to persuade themselves with proofs of His existence are also atheists. If any proof turns out to be wrong, their God becomes false immediately.
If God depends on proofs for His existence, then remember? the proof is greater than God. Tertullian has said, "I believe in you because you have never given any proofs." This man must have been a perfect theist. He says, "I believe in you because you seem impossible. Whatever way I think, I find no evidence of your being. Therefore, I firmly believe that you are. If your existence depended on my testimony, then I would be greater than you, because then it would be in my hands to give evidence to prove or disprove you. My intelligence would then become the deciding factor on which your existence depended."
Lao Tzu says, "He is the creator, the preserver, but he is not the acclaimer." He has never proclaimed His ownership. He is so sure and confident of His ownership that He needs no declarations. Because we are not sure of ownership, we need to proclaim it time and again, even to our own selves. Have you ever noticed that you hardly ever talk of a thing you are sure of?
Vivekananda went to Ramakrishna. He shook him by the arm and declared, "I want to know whether God is." He had asked this question to others before. Many tried to give him proofs of God's existence, some with logic, some through the shastras, but Vivekananda was not satisfied because if your God is hidden behind logic, you can be proved wrong. Logic is a double-edged weapon.
To Vivekananda's question, Ramakrishna replied, "Do not waste time in asking useless questions.
Tell me if you want to know, to see, to meet Him." For the first time Vivekananda was facing a man who was so sure of himself that he never offered to prove or to teach. He simply said, "If you want to meet Him, say so".
Vivekananda commented later on that he had asked this question to others and caused them embarrassment; but in the case of Ramakrishna it was his turn to be disconcerted; because he realised that he himself had not yet decided the issue. It was mere curiosity that he was out to satisfy. One thing, Vivekananda says, was clear from this: that this man's knowledge depended on nothing outside himself. He knew; his knowledge was pure. There were no reasons why - he knew.
And he was so sure and confirmed in this knowledge that he said, "If you want to know, say so."
This question that baffles almost all of mankind was so easy for Ramakrishna - as easy as if someone had asked him about the sun and all he had to do was to take him by the hand and take him out of doors! It is worthless to argue whether the sun is or is not. Step out of the house and there the sun is! Ramakrishna's speech was so artless, so spontaneous, that it carried the mark of deep and profound knowledge. Where there is complete assurance, there is no claim. If God is not assured within himself; who else can be? Therefore, God has not proclaimed His existence. People say that the Bible is the book of God, that the Koran and the Vedas are books of God, but I say unto you, there is no book of God. All these books belong to men who have had a glimpse of God. God can only write a book if He feels inferior within himself. He would only proclaim himself if He himself was doubtful of His existence. There is no book by God because God has given no statements.
Whom would He want to convince of His existence? He is. His ownership is natural because there is no competitor. Ownership has to be declared only when there is the fear of other aspirants.
A husband tells his wife: "I am your master." Why? because all around there is rivalry, and any time the ownership can be snatched away. Anyone can be the owner. You proclaim your ownership of a house because if you do not do so in time, others can snatch it away from you. But if God proclaims, to whom should He proclaim?
Therefore, Lao Tzu says, He does not declare His ownership. Tao, Paramatman or religion make no declarations because His claim is confirmed and natural. He is. He does everything and yet does not boast of being the doer.
Whenever we do anything, we are motivated by compulsion. This gives rise to the ego. You sleep all night, breathe for twenty-four hours, but you do not boast about it. You do not proclaim from house- tops that you breathed so many times! Mind you, your number of breaths runs into thousands each day. You can boast that you have slept twenty years out of a life of sixty years, but we do not do this for these acts are so natural to us that we do not proclaim to be the doer.
But man always boasts. He boasts if he has even one rupee in his pocket. When he has thousands of rupees, he proclaims his riches for sure. Yet he would pay thousands of rupees for one breath.
But he never boasts about it. If a dying man were told that he would be given so many breaths if he agreed to give away his wealth, he would most willingly part with it. But it is strange that all his life he proclaimed his paltry wealth and never his precious breath! Breath was natural to him and hence did not need to be proclaimed. Wealth was not his nature. He had to toil in order to attain it, and hence the claim.
Where there is effort, there is ego. Where there is no effort there is no ego. If God had to make an effort to make the world, as we do to gain wealth, then ego would bound to be there. But if it is an effortless act on His part - like our breathing - then there is no question of the ego and, hence, of proclamation.
So those who know never like to say that God made the world. They prefer to say, "God became the world." They do not allow even this much distinction: that God made the trees. They say God creates Himself and becomes the trees. The clouds that glide in the skies are not driven by the power of God. Rather it is God himself who glides in the clouds. God does not create man; rather, He himself is born as man.
Understand this a little. An artist paints a picture. No sooner is it made than it becomes separate from the artist. But God is not separate from His creation, because there is no way for Him to stand apart. He is connected with His creation like a dancer with his dance. When a dancer dances, he and his dance are not two separate things; they are one. If he stops, the dance stops. We cannot ask him to go away and leave his dance behind. Therefore, we have depicted God as a dancer in our images of Him: Nataraja. And the reason is only this: that the dance and the dancer are one.
God can be understood best as a dancer.
God and the universe are one. Whatever happens within the universe happens within the order of His disposition. It is, therefore, that Lao Tzu says, "IT (TAO) DOES EVERYTHING AND YET DOES NOT BOAST OF IT."
Only one whose acts are stamped with force and violence bouts. Do you know of any act of yours that you have performed without the feeling of pride? Know then that that virtuous deed.
This may sound difficult because our good deeds also give rise to conceit. The truth is that if there is no conceit, we do not care for virtuous deeds. If I ask you to contribute towards the construction of a temple, you will at once ask where I intend to place a plaque with your name. If I say, "This temple shall bear no plaques," know for certain that this temple will never be constructed. We do not care for the temple; we care only for the tablet that bears our name. The plaque is significant; the temple secondary. The inscription looks nice only on a temple - and therefore, the building. If no acclaim is forthcoming, we are not prepared to donate.
The shastras say, "Give charity and you will be acclaimed in this world for your virtuous deed and reap the reward of it in the next world." Spend one coin in charity and you gain thousands in heaven."
To get a single coin out of a person, you have to promise him millions in return.
But the meaning of a good deed is something very different. A virtuous deed is a deed which does not give rise to arrogance. That act which gives rise to arrogance and conceit is a sin. Therefore, it can be safely said that God has never committed a sin because there is no sign of conceit in any of His actions. To date, He has not once proclaimed that 'I am'. Therefore, all that He does is virtuous.
Your actions also can be virtuous, if there is none go consolidating behind them. If an act is performed and nothing is added to your ego, then the act becomes a virtuous deed. That which adds to your ego is a sinful act.
So the question is not between a virtuous deed and a sinful deed. The question is of the doer himself. The question should be: how is a deed to be performed? The act must be done, but the sense of being the doer should not be strengthened. Then, it is a virtue.
Even if the act is not performed and the ego is strengthened by it, it becomes a sin. Action is not necessary. A man may not steal; he only thinks about stealing. A man may not kill; he only thinks about murder. Or, a man may not be fighting in the elections but only thinking about it. Such people climb the steps of ego in their thoughts, which are a substitute for action. It is not everyone who can perform. Action has its own problems, its own difficulties, but everyone has the capacity to dream.
All men cannot be kings but they can rule over the kingdoms of their dreams. But an act in your dream also helps to push the ego up a few steps. Even if you are sitting in a chair and dreaming that you have won the elections, this is enough to lift the ego sky-high. The ego is like the mercury in a thermometer. The slightest pleasure you take in your actions and it rises immediately - even when the act itself is not performed.
But the opposite can also happen. You do a good deed and there is no pride behind your action.
Then, the mercury falls.
"IT (TAO) DOES ALL, AND YET DOES NOT BOAST OF IT. IT PRESIDES OVER EVERYTHING AND YET CONTROLS NOTHING." This sutra is very subtle. Tao is the all-in-all of everything, yet does not control anything.
A common question that has been asked throughout the ages is that if God is, and if everything happens according to His will, then why does he allow a thief to steal, or a murderer to kill, or a cheat to deceive? And when the weak is tormented by the strong, why does He merely look on?
The question is consistent and deserves recognition. Intelligent people have questioned this time and again. Actually, the biggest doubt in the minds of intelligent people about the existence of God is caused by this question.
Bertrand Russell asks, "If God exists, how can He allow a child to be born blind or crippled or with cancer? If God is, how does this happen? And you say He is the doer of everything!" The hell that we witness today in life makes us doubt whether God really is. If there is a God, doesn't He deserve to be called Satan, seeing life is as it is? The question is very consistent with the facts: if God is, why is there evil in the world?
A Muslim friend came to visit me. This was his question too. He said, "The biggest question I feel is that if God is, then why is the world so evil?" He is right, because there can be no relationship between God and evil. How can there be?
I told him, "Let us remove all evil from the world for a moment. Can you visualize what the world will be like then?" The moment you remove evil, the good also disappears from the scene. Good cannot exist on its own. It is because of evil that good exists. Remove darkness and light disappears together with it. Light exists because of darkness. Remove the cold, and the heat is automatically lost. Heat and cold are different variations of the same thing. If we try to remove death, life too will be lost. If there is no death, how can life be? Or, if there is no life, how can death be?
The universe exists with the help of polar opposites. The world's existence is brought about by the music between opposites. If the opposite is removed, both are removed. Remove the male, and the female is lost. Remove old age, and youth is lost. The young person always wishes to prolong his youth because he does not know that youth and old age are so closely combined that if one is removed, the other is lost. We all wish ugliness to be removed from the world; but if ugliness is lost, beauty will also disappear. If you wish for a world without ugliness, be prepared to face a world where nothing is beautiful.
I told my friend, "If you wish for a world where evil is banned, good will flee from such a place immediately. Then this world will be a big prison house; because where there is no freedom to do evil, there can be no freedom at all.
In fact, the word "freedom" contains the freedom to do evil also. If a man is told that he is free only to be good, what meaning does such a freedom convey? This freedom has no meaning. Rather, it implies bondage. It would be proper to say; you are condemned to be good - not free to be good.
When we tell a person he is free to be good, the freedom to be evil enters along with the freedom to be good. God is the totality and yet he does not control anything. This means that God creates, but He creates freedom.
A man is free to be good and free to be bad - as bad as he wishes - when God is the Lord of everything. This is because true freedom exists only if there is freedom to do what one wishes, be it good or bad. When no such freedom exists, man is not man but a machine which does whatever it is made to do because it is insentient.
Man is sentient; he possesses consciousness. Consciousness is not possible without freedom. Lao Tzu says; He is the creator, but not the controller. He has not created a prison for us, where He stands guard at the gate.
People like Bertrand Russell say that it is this very reason that creates a doubt about His existence.
But I say, it is for this very reason that God is. Where freedom is not, God cannot be. Freedom is the very proof of the existence of God. He is, because we are so completely free. He is! You may compare the existence of God to the example of the ocean and the fish that live in it. The fish are not aware of the ocean but their very existence is because of the ocean. Suicide; our lives become a veritable hell. Then we turn around and say, "Slavery was better, because then we were happy."
Freedom always finds us moving downward.
We seek slavery in all kinds of ways. And the ways we seek it are really astounding! Erich Fromm has written a unique book, Escape from Freedom. Fromm says that each man wishes to escape freedom. Wherever he finds freedom, he quickly seeks out slavery and hides himself behind it.
This slavery cannot be detected easily because our habit . of serfdom is so old that we cannot discriminate slavery from freedom.
If a person sets out to seek truth, he does not directly go out in search of it but begins to turn the pages of the shastras. Little does he know that this is slavery. He wishes to borrow even truth; - he wants someone to give it to him.
If a person wants to know truth, he does not set out by himself to discover it; he goes and falls at the feet of a guru saying, "You are my everything. Give me the knowledge of truth. How can I, a sinner, do anything?" He little knows that all his sins are his own doing. A lot of toil and effort is required to become a sinner. He admits his ability to commit sins by saying he is a sinner. At the same time he says, "How can a sinner do anything to gain knowledge of the truth?" Actually, he is begging to be saved from his freedom. He is requesting this guru to become his jailer so that if tomorrow, he finds himself in hell, he can put the responsibility on the Guru. And if he attains heaven, he can always claim the credit for having chosen this guru. Thus, man clings to the shastras, and to gurus.
People like Hitler, Mao and Stalin are not born accidentally. They are born only when a whole country desires to be enslaved. Each person eagerly wishes for a man who can stand up and say, "I know what is right, Follow me!" - so that they can follow him. They want to be told clearly what to do and what not to do. This is why we pursue politicians and sadhus and mahatmas. And these whom we ask, - they too have asked others. They have no direct knowledge of their own; they too do not know what is right and what is wrong. The fact is, when there are people to inquire, teachers become available.
We are eager to place our burden on others. Freedom seems too heavy for our shoulders. It should actually be the other way around: freedom should give us wings to fly in the sky.
Freedom seems very cumbersome, because we do not know what to do with it. There was a Zen fakir by the name of Nanin. One day he stayed late at his guru's ashram. He asked his guru to give him a lamp since it was too dark and he had far to go. The guru gave him a lamp but as soon as he began to go down the steps, the guru blew out the flame and extinguished it. Nanin was surprised.
"What kind of a joke is this?" he asked.
The guru replied, "It never pays to find your path with another's light. Your own darkness is much better than someone else's light. Go, seek in your own darkness, so that the lamp within you may become lightened. The more you seek, the more you shall be cleansed. You will fall, you will dash against things, your limbs may break, but you will discover your soul in the bargain. Therefore, I have extinguished the lamp."
Nanin has written in his memoirs that he was never able to forget this man who had snatched the lamp from his hands and snuffed it out. He was the one who pushed him into darkness and made provisions for the lamp within to burn. "Today," he says, "when I see the flame burning within, my head bows down in reverence and gratefulness to this man who caused it to be lit."
This is freedom. It is very easy for God to place a light in your hands, but you can only live like worms with the help of such light. You will never fall, never go astray. There will be no hell; you will go straight to heaven. But the heaven that is obtained with the help of another is worse than hell, because such a heaven is a bondage. The good fortune that is not entirely one's own, that has not been sought and attained and experienced by one's own effort is worse than misfortune. Therefore Lao Tzu says: "Tao creates everything but controls nothing. It gives no instructions. It has given us the strength and the means to walk but it does not say, "Walk like this." The power to walk belongs to Tao; the space, the path, the darkness, the light, the very person who walks is Tao; and yet, Tao does not command: "go to the right, go to the left."
Tao gives us life, but it makes freedom the very basis of life. This freedom can become the agony of life or the benevolence of life; the choice is entirely ours. This freedom can cause that which lies hidden within to be revealed. This freedom can also be utilised to create our own darkness, our own nether world where we can rot and decay and be destroyed. One thing is certain however: that there is perfect freedom in the world. This perfect freedom is the unacclaimed declaration of the existence of God. This is His silent declaration of "I am".
But we are totally unaware of this freedom. We are afraid, because freedom means responsibility. It means that I am the only person responsible for all my actions. If I find myself in hell, I have no one to blame but myself.
This responsibility perplexes and confuses us, so we try to shove it on to each other. The husband puts the responsibility on the wife, the wife on the husband, and thus both absolve themselves, taking the other to be accountable. They are not at all conscious of the game they play.
Eric Berne has written a book The Games the People Play. In this book he describes almost all the games that human beings play with each other. This act of throwing responsibility on each other is also a game. The funny part is that the one on whom we place the responsibility, places the same responsibility on us. He who cannot be responsible for himself how can he be expected to shoulder the responsibility of others?
Unfortunately, neither he nor you are aware of the fact that you have placed your responsibility on each other. And so, we blame each other throughout life, without knowing that we both are beggars who are holding our begging bowls before each other. Each begs of the other, and neither can give!
Freedom is frightening, so we try to look for some kind of slavery. Our so-called God [not the Tao that Lao Tzu speaks of] is also a bondage. We place the onus on Him. We say, "We are in your hands.
Take care of us!" Therefore, when a man is happy, he never thinks of God; but when he is unhappy, he always thinks of God. He does not want to bear the responsibility for his own unhappiness. He is only prepared to be responsible for his good fortune. He likes to feel and believe it was entirely because of him. But when bad days befall him, he looks up to heaven and cries, "How can I suffer so when you are there? Of what use is your being if I suffer so? Either banish my woes and give me proof of you existence or I shall not believe in you."
A man came to me and said, "I have complete faith in God. I prayed to Him that if my son did not get a job within fifteen days I would never have faith in Him. And, within fifteen days, my son got a job!"
I told him, "God has struck a bad bargain with you. Do not ever test Him again in this way or else you will be disappointed.
He was adamant in his belief. He said, "I am now convinced that He is!"
I said to him, "This very conviction will land you and your God in trouble one day. Your son getting a job is a mere coincidence. Do not pride yourself that God took pains to get your son a job. This way, you prove yourself and your son to be more significant than God. Even his job is more important than God; God has proven himself to be your servant. Do not ask Him for such things again. Such coincidences are never repeated.
After two months, the gentleman returned. He said, "What kind of words have you uttered?
Everything is confused now. Four times I tried to attain God's favour, and four times He has failed me. God has turned His back on me!"
I told him, "God has not turned his back on you. Neither does He turn His face towards you. He has no face and no back, nor is your prayer, your insistence, your appeal, of any consequence. What is precious and meaningful is your own self."
Your value, your meaningfulness, depends upon the extent to which you make creative use of your freedom. Your value depends upon the right use you make of your freedom. The very meaning of Sadhana is this: The creative use of your freedom.
Sadhana means the creative use of your freedom. The worldly man is one who uses his freedom destructively. He is leading to his own destruction. He makes his freedom the obstruction to his own elan vital and is instrumental in creating his own gallows.
We do not remember God in happiness, but we remember Him in our unhappiness because then we want to shove off the responsibility from our shoulders. Russell has written, "I will only believe that God really is when there is no sorrow on earth." Russell is right as far as theism goes. Our theism will fade if there is no sorrow on earth. Think a while: Will anyone remember God if there is no sorrow on earth? Will the temple bells ring? will candles burn in churches then? Will the call of the muezzin fill the morning air? These prayers, these calls, this worship, these oblations of fire - through all these, our sorrow cries. And the absurdity of it all is that neither temples nor mosques can eradicate our sorrows, because it is we who create them and we alone can destroy them. Sorrow is the misuse we make of our freedom. But it is this freedom that we want to save ourselves from.
Really, would the thought of God ever have entered our mind if there was no sorrow on earth? How could it arise? God is like medicine for an illness. If there is no illness, who but a madman would think of taking medicine? God is like a medicine to us. We use Him to cure our ills. When there is sorrow, we think the medicine of His name; when there is happiness, we throw the bottle of this medicine in the dustbin.
We think of Him in sorrow only, because we want to place the responsibility for our ills on His shoulders. But you cannot place any responsibility on God's shoulders because God does not bind you. You are free, independent. No one is there in this world who is a greater advocate of freedom than God.
The freedom He confers on His creation is so profound that we see so much dissimilarity around us.
The socialist and the communist, who always criticize God always put forth this argument: that if there is a God, then why all this inequality? Their argument appears to be correct on the face of it because they do not take the trouble to think. Remember, however, that freedom and equality are opposite conditions. If you desire equality, you cannot have freedom; if you desire freedom you cannot have equality. All people can be made equal, but then all will have to be slaves. Equality can only exist in prison. Even in a prison, if there is some laxity, inequality creeps in. Utmost strictness is required to maintain equality.
Complete equality is possible only in complete subservience. Therefore, if communism succeeds, the whole world will be one big prison. If communism does not succeed completely, it cannot be communism.
Freedom means that each person has the freedom to be what he wishes to be. Then, inequality is bound to be there. Then inequality is inevitable. If equality is to be maintained, each man will have to be forcibly made to conform to the accepted level of equality.
Another interesting development that follows such equality is that the level of consciousness falls according to the degree of equality in a society. The greater the equality, the lower will be the plane of consciousness. Supposing there is a class of thirty pupils. The boy who is the thirteenth in the class cannot be made to attain the first grade; but in order to maintain equality, the first boy can be forcibly constrained to go down to the level of the thirteenth. Actual equality can only be maintained at the level because the lowest can never be pulled up to the highest point, whereas the highest can be obstructed and made to go down. Likewise, it is not easy to bring all the patients in a hospital back to good health, but it is very easy to make healthy people sick. To pull back is always easier; to rise up is always difficult. Therefore, the greater the equality, the lower will be the plane of intelligence; and the greater the freedom, the greater the possibility of intelligence touching the peaks of consciousness.
Remember, freedom means that he who wants to reach the peak will reach, and he who does not want to reach will not reach. He is free to remain where he was if he so wishes, and he is free to undertake the long journey - again, if he so wishes. So to people like Marx who deny the presence of God on the grounds of inequality, I say that this is one of the many proofs of the existence of God:
that there in so much inequality and disparity in the world because of the complete freedom He has granted us.
People invariably invoice equality and freedom in one breath. Not only this, in France they went a step further and shouted the slogan: "Justice, Freedom, Equality!" This is complete insanity, but we are not aware of it because we are so enchanted by the trickery of words. We never try to investigate deeply, but are simply carried away by the magic of words. If there is equality, there cannot be freedom; and if there is freedom, equality is impossible. And if you want justice, you shall have to choose between the two.
Then also, if you opt for freedom, your justice will be entirely different; and if you opt for equality, your justice will be entirely different. If you choose equality, then an attempt to be different will be termed a crime. If you choose freedom, this very attempt would be deemed a just and rightful act. If you choose equality, it will be lawful to keep each man limited; and if you choose freedom it will be considered lawful to encourage a person to be different. It will be unjust and unlawful to hinder or obstruct a person from becoming unusual and different.
All this is very difficult to deal with. Freedom and equality are very important problems.
So, Marx denied God. He had very little to do with God. Rather, he had no use for Him. But one thing was clear to him: If God exists, freedom cannot be destroyed. Then inequality is bound to remain.
So if inequality is to be destroyed, we shall have to destroy the very philosophy of the existence of God. Thus it is not without reason that Communism is atheistic. A person cannot be a communist and still believe in God. He has to be an atheist, because the very meaning of God is freedom - no control.
What Lao Tzu said dates back 2500 years before Marx. Independence and freedom can only be in absence of control. Only where there is freedom is there the possibility of development. But then, the responsibility rests with us. If we wish to avoid it, we will have to find some means of bondage and slavery. If we do not make God or guru our master, we shall make the state our master. It makes no difference. Let he who wills, throw the reins round our necks. We are ready to follow. We are incapable of walking ourselves; we need someone to prod us, to goad us on. Then we are assured and feel confident. We feel there is no need for anxiety; we cannot go wrong. But remember, this is the biggest mistake Whatever we do after surrendering our freedom is an error, a sin, a crime.
Lao Tzu says, "THIS IS THE MOST MYSTERIOUS QUALITY OF TAO." That is so. It is, and yet it is not the cause of anyone's bondage. Think this over: If God comes and stands before you here and now you shall no longer be free. Why? Because His very presence will create inferiority in you. You will be thrown into confusion; all your misdeeds will stare you in the face.
The priests explain to people, "He has a thousand eyes. He sees you from everywhere." This is only a trick to deter people from stealing. God has no eyes. By this I do not mean He is blind. He needs no eyes to see us. But the priest must admonish, "His eyes are always on you, wherever you are!"
This is just to create the fear of God with you. If a person really believes this, it will be impossible for him to commit a sin! How can he dream of committing a sin when a thousand eyes, like searchlights, are always focussed on him!
But he who is thus saved from sin is merely succumbing to fear. The sin is committed twice over.
The theft is committed and the fear-complex haunts the person.
I have read about a Catholic nun who used to bathe with her clothes on. When other nuns asked her why she did this, she said, "Don't you know that God is everywhere? He is even in the bathroom!"
But this poor woman was not told that one who can see through the bathroom can also see through her clothes. If God is everywhere, we can not remove our clothes anywhere, for wherever we do so, He is bound to be looking.
These are nothing but ways of arousing fear. Man does not become good this way; he only becomes fearful. A fearful man is never a good man. Only a fearless man can be a good man. Priests of all religions, however, have made man conscious of His presence everywhere - although God is totally non-present. This too is a part of His total freedom. If He were present, we could not even exist, let alone be free. His presence in itself would have snatched away our freedom, because then, how could we commit violence? All this then becomes impossible. So His very absence is an inevitable part of His freedom. He is as if he is not. The class-room is full, but the teacher is missing. Then, each child does what he feels like doing. Each one is free to do what he likes. It is His profound and mysterious, distinctive quality that He is and yet is absent. He is, but He is not present. He is everywhere, - not an inch of space is without Him, not a pore of the body, not a simple beat of the heart, not a particle of matter is without Him - and yet, He is not present. His non-presence is so complete that people question His existence.
This is His mysterious quality: that He is everywhere and yet is so unobtrusive that we doubt His existence. We can turn round and ask, "Does He exist? And if so, where?" We are not convinced unless we can see Him, because if He was, we could surely see Him.
Even one who says he has seen Him is completely helpless when asked to show Him. He is dismissed as mad, of unsound mind. There are thousands who swear that there is no God because He cannot be seen, so when some one comes along who claims he has seen Him, he is singled out from the crowd, and stands like a lone figure against the crowd who revile him. Buddha, Christ, Mahavira, Mohammed, stood alone against the whole world. In fact, there have not been more solitary figures than them in the history of this world. They lived surrounded by crowds and yet they were alone.
Mahavira was always surrounded by a crowd, but he was alone within himself because not a single person understood or believed what he said. Lao Tzu also found himself surrounded by thousands of people, yet he was alone. Those who heard him doubted his words because they could not see what he saw. Yet these were lovable persons. Their personality was magnetic.
We doubt the words of these people and yet we cannot help but follow them. Their elan vital is filled with a mysterious magnet that draws us towards them. Their eyes are hypnotic. Once they catch you, they do not leave you. We do not have the courage to accept what they say, and time and again we wish to run away from them. We try to criticize them, we try to escape from them, and yet there is something in them that invariably draws us towards them. But these are solitary people because they talk of Him whom they find present but who is absolutely non-present for us.
Ramakrishna told Vivekananda. "I have come to know that you have not eaten for days. Why don't you go inside the temple and tell Mother about it, you foolish fellow? Go and ask Her for what you want."
Vivekananda was an intellectual who took nothing for granted and when Ramakrishna talked like this he wondered, "Where's the mother? Who is this mother?" But Ramakrishna spoke with such faith and conviction that he did not dare to raise these questions that arose in his mind.
His father had died, leaving a debt to be cleared. He found it impossible to clear it. There was not enough food for two in the house, so everyday he pretended he was invited out so that his mother would eat. He would return home in the evening and talk about how much he had enjoyed the meal so that his mother would be assured that he had eaten. Under such conditions, Ramakrishna's words seemed to be the words of a madman. Which mother was he talking about? He could not believe.
Ramakrishna had just become the priest of the temple when the trustees filed a suit against him. On the eighth day, he was called before the committee and charged with tasting the food before it was offered in worship. To this, Ramakrishna replied, "When my mother used to feed me, she always tasted the food first. How can I offer my Divine Mother what has not been tasted and tested? How can I be sure it is fit to be put before Her?"
The trustees were filled with despair. What mother was he talking about? The temple was theirs, the idol was one they had erected. Surely this man was mad! He was a worker employed by them for eighteen rupees a month, they had spent lakhs on constructing this temple, and this man had the temerity to say he would rather leave the job than offer untasted food to his mother! He insisted on smelling the flowers first before offering them to Her, because how could flowers be offered to the mother that bore no fragrance? The members of the Board looked at each other. What was this man saying? It was unbelievable. And yet when they looked into his eyes, they felt that they would have to believe what he said. Perhaps he could see what they could not!
This man is alone. And the cause for his solitude is this mysterious qualification of God: that He is, but He is as if He is not. So only those who discover the art of seeing Him in His absence - they alone can see Him. Those who develop the art of seeing without the eyes, they alone can see Him.
Those who embrace Him without the use of hands, they alone can embrace Him. But unfortunately, neither the theist nor the atheist believes in this mysterious qualification of God. Understand this a little. The atheist says, "Leave all this nonsense! What is not, is not. Where is the need for all these deliberations? Go straight to the point. If He is not, He is not; if He is, He is." An atheist's logic is straight and simple. He believes in mathematics and straight forward calculations. He says, "Why go into all this 'as if He is not' and such stuff? Why not say directly: He is not. Why go into a long fruitless debate? If He is, He should prove His presence. Let Him come before us and we shall accept His existence."
The theist's trouble is the same. He also is not yet able to grasp the 'as if'. He too cannot understand that God is as if He is not. Then he begins to invent the devices we all know. One invention of his is an image, a symbol, to make it possible for us to understand this mysterious qualification. He carves an image. Then he forgets God and drops all talk of him. He concentrates on this image now; he bows at its feet. The image is at least a concrete thing he can catch hold of. Then he makes an image of Buddha, Rama or Krishna and prays to it:
"I am not concerned with the formless Brahma that may or may not be. You are enough for me."
But this is also an atheistic attitude. He cannot defeat the atheism's argument so he says, "There may be no Paramatman but Rama is, Krishna is." Then he weaves stories of miracles around and about Rama and Krishna to answer the atheist's questions: "When a thorn pricks Rama, his foot bleeds. If you slay Mahavira, he dies. Then, they are just ordinary human beings." So the theist has to invent stories of miracles in counter-argument. He has to say: "Slay Mahavira. The sword will break but Mahavira will remain unaffected. Kill Jesus. You may think he is dead, but he rises again the next day. He is resurrected; he cannot die." All this is an outcome of our ignorance, because we do not understand the mysterious characteristic of God.
A friend came yesterday. He is an intelligent person and has great regard for me. He told me, "Why do you not perform some miracle like Sai Baba? Thousands will flock to you." What use are these thousands of people? What shall I do with them? They come not because of Sai Baba but because of the miracles. If even one came for the sake of Sai Baba it would be more fruitful.
One who comes for miracles is not a theist. A theist is one who says, "Everything in this world is a miracle. There is nothing that is not a miracle A seed turns into a tree; clouds move in the sky; the sun comes out, there are stars; there are birds and animals; there is man - everything is a miracle!" He who sees no miracle in all this is impressed by the ash that comes out of the hands of a miracle-man. That the sun comes out is no miracle to this blind man, but a little ash drops from this man's hand and he is impressed!
The intelligence that believes in this ash is not the intelligence that can go God-ward. Lakhs of people are bound to gather, but this crowd will be the crowd that gathers to watch a magic show. It has nothing to do with religion.
The stories woven around Mahavira, Christ or Rama are downright false but the devotee, out of sheer frustration invents them. Otherwise his God does not look distinctive from the rest of mankind.
So he says, "When Mohammed walked, even on the sunniest day a cloud moved along with him.
The devotee has to say all this because his logic is the same as the atheist's; he has the same intelligence.
One who sets out to look for miracles does not have the heart of a devotee. Is there anything in this world that is not a miracle? Show me a single thing that is not a miracle! This whole world is a miracle!
Is it not a miracle that you are? There is no reason why you should be. The world would have no complaint if you were not. But you are - a complete living entity. It never occurs to us that there is no reason why we should exist. The world would have got on just as well without us. Yet we are! We do not know who creates us; we do not know who destroys us, who brings us into existence, who takes us out of it. We do not know. Is this not a great miracle that is taking place every moment of our existence? And here are we flocking to see a man who takes a little ash out of his hands! Lack of intelligence makes such things appear like miracles. If man is intelligent, the whole world appears to be a miracle.
Otherwise, we have to invent devices to prove that Rama is God, Krishna is God. I do not say they are not. What I mean to say is that everything on this earth is God. Everything here is divine. There is nothing on this earth which is not God. Therefore, there is no need to prove that Rama is God, that Krishna is God. When every thing is God, Rama is bound to be God also. On this earth, existence itself is God. But we do not accept a simple, ordinary man to be God, so we devise ways and means to accept him as God. We place these before us as an ideal and forget all about the distinctive speciality of God. We have torn the mystery of God apart from our consciousness. We have raised our own gods, our Tirthankaras, our avataras, and we go around and around these, because these are what our intellect can grasp, whereas Lao Tzu's mysterious quality of the Tao is beyond our understanding. Remember however, that until such time as the mysterious quality of the Tao comes within your understanding you have not entered the gates of religion. The day you gather courage and attain the ability to understand this you shall have your first glimpse of the temple of God, not before that. All other things are home-made stuff. All the avataras and Tirthankaras are your own creations. If you want to enter into God, you have to remember this mysterious quality of the Tao always.
He is present as if He is not. He is absent, and yet He is present. If this is constantly remembered, if it pervades every breath you take, the revelations of religion will begin in your Life, and the screen of religion will begin to rise, to reveal the glory that is existence.