Why I am NOT an "Atheist"?

Last updated on May 31, 2008

Posted on May 31, 2008

In my last piece I have talked of why I am a “Hindu” and what it means to me.  From what I have written some one would surely say that the way I have argued against “God”, I surely must be an atheist!  How come I am pointing to a “faith” and yet talking against “God”.  I think it needs a bit of reflection and introspection from my part and I want to take you on that journey as well.

Let the journey start from that question of “Hindu vs Spiritual”.  My reason for going to the specific label was not as much of a love for the “label” as much as my wonder and amazement for the treasure-trove of the choices for spiritual thinking and journeys available within and the possibility of looking through the many attempts to help me keep on at my own journey.  Honestly, there is philosophically far more variety of thought within what has (in recent history) been termed as Hinduism than in all the other traditions put together.

Amazingly, if one were look at the entire continuum of sub-sects within “Hinduism”, you can find that someone has argued along some theological / philosophical line and also for most part liked to live in that “silo”.  I may not agree with all of them in their blinkered view of the Truth, because I firmly believe that if you take ONE path, you necessarily disregard the others and Truth, Infinite and Dynamic as it is, can NEVER be one-dimensional!  But the mingling of the entire rainbow can potentially lead one to PURE WHITE LIGHT!

So, no ONE path – however halo-ed its propounding founder may have been – has ever been able to explain the Truth.  In that sense, ALL the sub-traditions within “Hinduism” (and I regard the off-shoots like Sikhism, Jainism and Buddhism as part of that whole – whatever the practitioners may say to argue for distinctions despite singing hymns to the contrary), are as illusionary and incomplete in arriving at the truth, as any other human thought is.

However, when you look at them as a whole – you combine the Love and self knowledge of Nanak with austerity and compassion of Buddha with duty-bound and self-less actions (violence directed nevertheless) of Guru Gobind Singh with complete non-violence of Mahavir, you find them contradicting yet coming from the same origin!  That origin was pursuing the question – Who Am “I”?  You cannot find ONE path necesarily.. but can see the potential and the possibilities of the Truth as a whole – its pain and love!  All the colors of the rainbow suddenly become apparent, however contradictory!

Everyone attempted to look at this question honestly from all their resources within.  They found “an” answer.  Actually, it was less of an answer but more of an experience.  They tried their best to explain and “replicate” it for others.  Mahavir’s way was to not hurt anything because he saw everything as the same as the highest of existence.  So “his” footprint was damaging to that existence.  Buddha was also along the similar lines, whatever have been their theological differences.  Philosophically they were similar.  They both saw themselves AND the rest as the two main protagonists in the play of pain and misery!

They kept fighting this relationship towards giving up one’s assertion leading to alleviation of others’ misery and pain.  That is “One” way to approach to explain what they experienced.

Nanak also experienced the Infinite, undifferentiated Truth.  His way to translate that Truth again saw the difference between Guru and the learners.  That everyone is a learner and someone can “teach” underlined his way of defining the path.  The idea of “murshid” or the teacher was primary in that tradition.  It had its merits but it also structured the Truth around the teacher.  As often happens, teacher’s primacy led to an ego that was no more than teacher-fixation.  At the level of human experience and the misery that relationships bring, the teacher-fixation was no different from any other desire-fixation.  There was an “I” and there was the “other” and a relationship.  The entire misery was in that bond!  That misery cannot be alleviated even if that “other” is Nanak Himself!  Until, everyone could confidentally stand up and say, I am Nanak and Nanak is I, just as Nanak Himself declared, that individual misery could not be removed.

Now, the same misery of relationship can be seen in the more traditional practices within Hinduism as well.  Whether it was Chaitanya or Meera or Tulsidas, everyone was trying to “institutionalize” love by preaching it!   Love cannot be taught!

Interestingly, the core concepts and pointers of that experience of Truth were known and apparent to all.  What were they:

– Truth is Infinite and Conscious (Chetan) and Dynamic
– Life and existence as we see is temporary and not permanent (some have differed along the way but for most part this was very widely articulated)
– “I” is illusionary fixation which leads to misery through relationships

The inferences drawn however by everyone were constrained by their going in positions when they translated their experiences (or knowledge, in case of some philosophers like Adi Shankara, Vivekananda and Dayanand Saraswati).

Why did this occur?

Everyone – or most – could see the dichotomy between the Truth, that was Infinite, Universal (omni-scient/omni-potent and all the rest of it) and the Material, that is finite and individualized.  If you were to closely look at the contadictions within the different traditions, you could see very clearly that all these were a result of taking the principles and the characteristics of the Infinite to explain the Finite!  It is as if one was using the characteristics of the Quantum Mechanics to explain Newtonian physics.  Contradictions will occur.  Einstein and many others have attempted that as well in trying to arrive at “Theory of Everything” and failed as of now.  It is an impossibility.

So is there no way to that elusive “Theory of Everything” in spirituality as well?  Why does a person who is a Master at the Infinite quantum level when he takes that paradigm to the macro-level and the material step into contradicting world view?

If I may dare say, even the Highest Masters failed in that attempt!  And in their attempt to somehow “force-fit” the Infinite experience into the Finite, they consistently fell back on that attractive but useless ally called “Morality”.  Do this and dont do that and you will have succeeded.  It is like how a typical scientist approaches things.. “such and such observation is true, given these assumptions” – Hypothesis and Theory is proved.. within the constraints of course!  But can that, which is Infinite, be experienced or understood within the confines of any constraints??

Those that did not want to use this bogey of constraints – like Krishna, Osho, and Krishnamurti – often perplexed everyone and were denounced for their “contradictions”.

Why did Krishna have thousands of lady lovers?  Why did Osho allow “free sex” in his commune?  Why did Krishnamurti have a loving and sexual relationship with the wife of his best friend and manager? – all these questions reflect naivette as much as they reflect a judgment!

Why is something that we have decided to call “bad” have any “authority” to say something that we might want to consider “good”?!!

Some live with these contradictions, and others deny it.  So, Buddha’s sexuality is denied, Jesus’ marriage and birth is denied.  It does not matter what may have been the “Truth”, it just makes us feel “good” and add weight to the messenger!  Message’s importance or otherwise is NOT based on our introspection of it.. but rather on the “Divinity” of the messenger – as WE define it!  So, “Truth” becomes how we want to define it not as we receive it!!

Hence, we have just two choices with respect to living while we look for Truth:

– We define how it must be and deny contradiction through edicts enforced by power of force, money or authority of an institution
– just live with the contradictions and learn that the Infinite cannot fit into the Finite!  It is a fallacy and illusionary!  Just live with it.

The second way takes a HUGE toll on one’s ego!  It is difficult to explain.. for everyone wants “an” answer.. which means that of the Infinite possibilities we have to deliberately choose ONE option and use it as a proxy for “Truth”.  Finite can be understood, Infinite cannot be.  Since everyone is into explaining, preaching, and teaching – from Nanak, Jesus to your neighborhood pandit – the Truth is compromised at the very first utterance of a definitive answer!!

What is explained or explainable – is not and cannot be the Truth!

This is the first verity that one has to understand on the journey to Truth!  And it has to be LIVED even when one finally gets to experience the Infinite.

The easiest way to relate this to another who asks the question – “What is God – or Truth (for God is a proxy for Truth)?” – is to say… “I don’t know”.

The only other way to “answer” this question without having the “answer” mired into hypocrisy is to state the contradictions of it all as it is.  Now, THAT takes a lot of courage and honesty which not many have demonstrated because it is difficult for anyone to follow!  You can, for example, follow (or believe you are following) the “10 commandments” but there is no way you can follow the entire treatise of Vasistha which centers on “Go find the Truth yourself!”.

So when Krishna says I am gambling amongst the ills, I am the greed of the greedy as well as the goodness of the good, I am ego of the egotists and the humility of the humble – what do you really make of this .. more importantly.. what the HECK should I follow?  From the limited mindsets of those who want to push the Infinite into the Finite.. this is plain nonsense!  But is it?

For a world where we have not been able to differentiate the particle-wave nature of a photon of light.. for it could be both at any point.. or one.. or neither (as in purely).. how can we find ONE way for anything?

So, my “God” is Infinite – as infinite as infinite gets – and therefore it is the Truth.   And since it is Infinite, I cannot explain it.  It is nowhere and still everything.  There is no abode or form or way to define this Truth… and in that sense, I find it difficult to define  a God that can be named or defined or created.  But I do realize that Truth cannot be enforced!  I bow to the idols and in my weak hours pray to someone.. and also read the scriptures, fullly realizing its limitations and the contradictions.  But I have chosen to accept the contradictions.  I refuse to accept a theistic or a finite world.. a world that is “explained” by our limited minds and rejoice in that as if it was the only way.  On my way, instead of putting those travellers down (who have chosen to build temporary mansions on the road-side and called it their destination), I meet them and try to move on.

The scenes, the flowers, the gardens the streams, the mansions on the road side are to be enjoyed and rejoiced, but the journey goes on.  This not taking the refuge is sometimes callled atheism – which in my mind, is another mansion however, on the opposite side of the road.  The keeping on at the journey is neither.. its neither theism nor atheism.  It cannot be explained in context of a definitive “God” and His Theism!

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