Maurice. I am glad to meet you Raj. As you know, we in the West have become very interested in eastern religions in recent years and I would be glad if you could give me an insight into your system of beliefs.
Raj. I also am glad to meet with a Christian to discuss spiritual matters. We have a great respect for Jesus as a teacher and many of his teachings are echoed in our writings. We are glad to include him in our ‘Pantheon’. But you must be careful about using the word ‘system’ about Hinduism. We do not have creeds or confessions such as you have, and our view of the world, reality and of God is very different from yours.
What is God like?
Maurice. Then tell me Raj, what do you believe about God? What is he like?
Raj. He is like you, he is like me. In fact you are God and so am I!
Maurice. But surely the distinction between God and man, between Creator and creation, is absolutely fixed. Believing oneself to be God is the basic pitfall in mysticism. The Christian Bible records that this is the illusion that Satan used to deceive Adam and Eve.
Raj. I am interested that you should stress this so-called distinction between God and man. You also use the word ‘illusion’. We believe that this so-called distinction between God and man is the master illusion. We would say to you and to all your Christian friends: ‘You also are he!’ Your concept of personal, individual identity is an illusion resulting from your lack of insight into the real nature of the universe.
All the striving of man against man, and nation against nation, is the result of this error of distinction. Distinction is illusion, or ‘Maya’ as we call it. All reality is one — the universe is God and God is the universe — God is everything and everything is God. For the truly enlightened person there is no division in the universe.
Maurice. But what about good and evil, joy and pain, sickness and health, freedom and slavery, poverty and riches? — Surely there are great divisions in mankind because of these realities?
Raj. That is true, but these divisions are based on illusion. As your philosopher Kant put it: ‘Categories are in the mind’. If the human mind is properly trained and enlightened these divisions disappear.
If you can imagine a countryside divided by hedges and walls and ditches suddenly being inundated by a flood. The divisions disappear and all you can see is an unbroken sheet of water. The divisions are not only invisible — they no longer divide! A boat can travel in any direction, north, south, east or west. The boatman is free and unhindered in his movements. And so is the truly spiritual person in his thinking and actions.
Maurice. But that makes a mockery of morality and compassion. If it were true, it would be possible to ignore the suffering in the world because it would be illusory.
Raj. Your mention of suffering is important. Because there is a pattern in the nature of things, such phenomena as suffering and joy have a way of balancing out.
We believe in an after-life, just as Christians do. But for us the after-life has a meaning and purpose, which ensures a balance and adjustment in the world. The man who suffers in this life can be reincarnated in another life, perhaps one that is happy and prosperous.
For this reason we believe that present suffering, because it can be compensated by joy in the next life, is not so oppressive.
Maurice. But our belief in an after-life is not based on a process of reincarnation, as yours seems to be. We believe that a just God oversees these things. He rewards righteousness and punishes evildoing, and this is finally dealt with in the life to come. But we do not believe in an endless cycle of reincarnations. Our Bible says: ‘It is appointed unto man once to die, but after this the judgement’ (Hebrews 9:27).
Raj. You restrict your comments to man and his after-life, but this again shows your bondage to the illusion of distinction. As I told you, we believe in the oneness of all reality, and this includes not only humanity but also all the animal life in the world.
Reincarnation is not restricted to human transmigration. Man to animal, animal to man — these are possibilities also. That is why we show more respect for animals than you do. For us, all life is sacred and we do not differentiate between human and animal as you do.
Maurice. But if this system is taken to its logical conclusion, all sorts of problems arise. In fact, some people say that the suffering and poverty seen in India is accepted and ignored just because of this belief in reincarnation as the great leveller and compensator.
Raj. Unfortunately your ignorance, if I may use the word, is coming through in all your statements. You make much of a compassionate care for the poor and suffering. But a truly spiritual and enlightened person would be above all this illusion, knowing that these apparent contrasts in society are not significant!
Maurice. But some of your own leaders, such as Mahatma Gandhi, have been very concerned for the poor and have sought to improve their lot.
Raj. It may be that Gandhi and others like him have been influenced by Christian values, to the detriment of their spirit of true detachment.
Maurice. I believe that what you have told me about your beliefs would paralyse any urge you might have to ameliorate the sufferings of your fellow man.
Raj. That word ‘ameliorate’ is an interesting one. It means to work for the improvement of your fellow men and their situation. But this is to look in the wrong direction. Instead of looking out into the world of illusion, one should look within. God is within, in the soul, not outside in the world of division and Maya.
Raj. But I must go now. I have an appointment at the local mission hospital. I have a problem with my gall bladder and our local government hospital does not have a specialist in this field.
Maurice. Don’t you find it incongruous that you go to an unenlightened non-Hindu specialist for help with a condition that is really illusory?
Raj. Perhaps, but I must hurry because the queues get rather long with the peasants coming in from the country. And after all, the specialist is also God!