Once I wrote a book titled GOD to which my Gurudeva Swami Rama of the Himalayas contributed a foreword and gave his blessing. A few months later, however, he published a book titled Enlightenment without God, his commentary on the Mandukya Upanishad the topic of which is the word OM.
Among the major schools of Indian philosophy there are at least four that do not accept a creator God; the two Vedic schools, namely the early Sankhya and Mimamsa (the philosophy of rituals and actions) are believed by the modern scholars not to accept an omnipotent being. The Jaina and the Buddhist traditions, likewise, refuse to espouse a creator God. Yet who could challenge the spiritual achievements of their adherents?
These are puzzles that need unravelling, as follows:
(1) Quite often those who debate in favour of God's existence, actually seek to support their notion of God, and not God as S/he/It is. In the path of the yogis the suggestion is to drop all notions and go into an interior silence. There, somewhere within oneself is to be found an answer to the question: Does God exist? In writing the book on enlightenment without God, this is what my own spiritual master proposed and interpreted the Upanishad as showing the pathways of consciousness which one must traverse in order to find that answer. Since God is stated to be a-nir-vachaniya, not analysable, ineffable, One about whom no statement can be made, there is no point in debating the question. The yogis, the Sufis and all other mystics say: Do not believe what someone else says; find out for yourself. Let the personal experience answer the question. The ways of the systems taught by these masters are methodical and one gradually finds the answer through them within oneself.
(2) This writer teaches meditation in all different societies, cultures and countries, to believers of all religions, atheists and agnostics. Often he has found that the atheists turn out to be better meditators because they have no preconceived notions. The writer makes it a point to suggest that no belief systems that are not personally tested through internal experience, be brought into play in the practice of meditation; one must not begin with a pre-judice (hyphen here intended).
(3) When the basic meditation practices are taught, for example some of the more the hundred or so mental exercises undertaken during shavasana (corpse position), one loses awareness of the body, but becomes much more aware of one's consciousness, first steps in self-realisation. After a few weeks or months, depending on the individual, the practitioners ask: I am not aware of the body and the senses but I am aware of a heightened consciousness; what is it? I tell them: Do not name it soul or God because these have become emotionally loaded words; name it Factor X. God by any other name will do just as well. The proof of this pudding, rather Honey as it is called in the Upanishads (idam madhu), is in the eating.
(4) These states of consciousness are not only subjective experiences but are corroborated by the study of brain waves. It is now well known that at a certain point in the case of a meditation master a flat rate wave is produced, as though one were brain dead, yet the meditator can recount all the happenings taking place around him/her. Many guides of humanity have chosen to leave this "factor" nameless. "the Tao that can be named is not Tao", says Tao Teh-Ching. The Buddhist Shunya, the Void that voids all voids, comes in this category. So does the "na-iti, na-iti" of the Upanishads, and the Via Negativa of Meister Eckhardt.
As you, dear seeker, would actually begin to glimpse this No-God even from the distance, you will find that God is not at all quite the way our individually tailored notions have us believe. What is It really like? In answer to that question the Yogi and the Sufi falls silent, unable to name any names. So will you when you reach there.
Copyright 2002 Swami Veda Bharati
Repreinted from Hindustan Times, November 30, 2002