God? ~ Dr. Evan Finkelstein

Via on Nov 30, 2011
Photo: Amancay Maahs

Some say there is one God; some say there are many Gods, some that there is no God at all.

What does this have to do with the price of beans in China? Not much. Unless you were God, then, according to some, You would be the beans, You would be the price, and You would be China. And, even when people referred to You as “You” they would have to capitalize the Y. That’s pretty special treatment.

Photo: Sarah Spaulding

Some people destroy in the name of “their” God and are convinced that they are doing the right thing. Others think those people are crazy and that God (“their” God, not the God of the crazy people) will certainly punish the destroyers for their wicked deeds.

Obviously, the God of those people can’t be as great as “our” God; if He/She were, then those people wouldn’t be doing those insane things. Why can’t they just come over to our God? And see the “true” Light? Then, everything would be so much better (at least, from that point of view).

For thousands of years, there have been arguments, wars, inquisitions, trials, immolations, excommunications and on and on, related to the existence and nature of God: what is the right way to envision God?

Does He, or maybe She, sit on a large fancy throne high up in the clouds somewhere in heaven surrounded by angels and other assorted celestial beings? And, how did they get that heavy throne to stay up in the sky? Well, it’s God, man, He/She can do anything!

Well, if He/She can do anything why can’t my team get into the Superbowl? Is He/She deaf? Can’t God hear my prayers? Is Green Bay, Wisconsin closer to heaven than Chicago, Illinois? Or, do they just yell louder? Does this mean that God has preferences? Does He/She just like some of us better than others of us? Is it the way we dress? Our cologne? Our mouthwash? Was it something we said?

And if God is omnipresent why can’t we see Him/Her?

I mean God should be a lot easier to find than our glasses or car keys. Some saints claimed to experience God; others said those saints were nuts and that God is a just a hallucination of their imagination. Some contend God doesn’t exist at all. Life just came into being of its own; we don’t know exactly how it first started; it just did that’s all, just be quiet and pass the chips.

And some say that God is supposed to be omniscient about the past, present, and future. He/She knows everything you’re going to do before you do it. So, do we have free will or not? If God already knows, then isn’t everything already predestined? So is free will fake? An illusion? Are we just a bunch of wind-up toys that can’t find the key nor meet our winder? Some of us fall off the table and some of us don’t, but there’s no rhyme or reason why? Or is there rhyme and reason, but few, if any, can figure it out? Not poets, nor logicians. Maybe, those that think they figured it out start religions or, at least, health spas.

 

And, what is this whole thing about suffering? Some say that God is all merciful and all loving and omnipotent. If He/She is that way, why is so much of the world in turmoil? Why are there so many tears and fears? Can’t God control His/Her own show?

If not, then where’s the omnipotence? If God can, then where’re all the love and the mercy? Or, do we bring the suffering on ourselves by doing things we shouldn’t and perhaps God’s just shaking His/Her cosmic head thinking: “I really wish they’d stop doing that! Well, in time they’ll learn; if I do it all for them, they’ll never develop.”

And what about Justice? Some say God is like a completely fair and impartial judge. He/She rewards the just and punishes the wicked. Well bad things certainly do happen to good people. At least, many would say they are good people and the things that happened to them were bad. Would God not agree? Does He/She perhaps see things we don’t? Or, is reincarnation true and these good folks are just currently reaping what they have sown in some past not so good life? This could explain a lot of seeming inequities, if it were true.

Maybe there is order and justice in the world; maybe it is being run by an all-knowing, all-powerful, all-loving and intelligent existence, but who really knows?

Maybe it’s all just an empty nothing that came from nowhere and is going to nowhere, but it sure, sometimes, dresses fancy and makes a lot of noise trying to figure things out and find its way! Maybe that’s what God is, the actual process of living.

During my life-search, in 1969 I learned the practice of Transcendental Meditation and something opened up to me inside; it was an experience of simplicity, peace and a sweet feeling of “knowingness,” it felt very good and it occurred many times during my years of practice. These days, when my mind rumbles on, as it sometimes will, about all these theological and philosophical questions, I just have to laugh because it’s just so funny that one can know without knowing. Yes, as strange as it may seem, one can know without knowing.

Photo: Adam Brill

Lao Tzu put it this way in part of Verse 1 of the Tao Te Ching:

A mind free of thought,
merged within itself,
beholds the essence of Tao
A mind filled with thought,
identified with its own perceptions,
beholds the mere forms of this world.

Buddha put it this way:

Then Subhuti asked: “What does enlightenment mean?”

The Buddha replied: “Enlightenment is a way of saying that all things are seen in their intrinsic empty nature, their Suchness, their ungraspable wonder. Names or words are merely incidental, but that state which sees no division, no duality, is enlightenment.”

                                                           Prajnaparamita

Subhuti asked: “Is it possible to find perfect wisdom through reflection or listening to statements or through signs or attributes, so that one can cay ‘This is it’ or Here it is?’”

The Buddha answered: “No, Subhuti. Perfect wisdom can’t be learned or distinguished or thought about or found through the senses. This is because nothing in this world can be finally explained, it can only be experienced, and thus all things are just as they are. Perfect wisdom can never be experienced apart from all things. To see the Suchness of things, which is their empty calm being, is to see them just as they are.” Ashtasahasrika

Maharishi Patanjali in his Yoga Sutras put it this way:

“Yoga is the complete settling of the activity of the mind.”

David put it this way in the biblical Psalms:

“Be still and know that I am God.”

The Sufi Farid Al-Din ‘Attar expressed it like this:

The heart is the dwelling place of that which is the Essence of the universe within the very heart and soul is the very Essence of God. Like the saints, make a journey into your self; like the lovers of God cast one glance within. As a lover now, in contemplation {sustained experience} of the Beloved be unveiled within and behold the Essence. Form is a veil to you and your heart is a veil. When the veil vanishes, you will become all light.

The Sufi Mahmud Shabistari put it this way:

“In that presence “I” and “we” and “you” do not exist. “I” and “you” and “we” and “He” become one: since in the unity there is no distinction, the Quest and the Way and the Seeker become one.”

The Christian mystic John Ruusbroec said it like this:

“There the soul is simple, spotless, and pure, empty of everything. In this pure emptiness the Father reveals his divine resplendence, which neither reason nor senses, neither rational observation nor distinctions can attain.”

The Cabbalist Rabbi Joseph Gikatilla expressed it this way:

The depth of primordial Being is called Boundless. Because of its concealment from all creatures above and below, it is also called Nothingness…. Its existence cannot be grasped by anyone other than it. Therefore, its name is “I am becoming.”

Maharishi Mahesh Yogi put it this way:

“Once the mind gets to the transcendence, it knows Itself. It’s not the mind that knows Being; Being knows Itself. As long as there is some activity, we say “mind”; when activity subsides, it’s pure awareness. It is not knowing; it is Knowingness.”

“Being is known on the level of Knowingness, not the level of thinking.”

Anyway, some thoughts about God and going beyond them—happy journey!

 

____________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Dr. Finkelstein is professor of Comparative Religion and Maharishi Vedic Science at Maharishi University of Management. He has written articles that identify the common ground inherent in many of the ancient wisdom traditions. He has taught numerous courses on the universal principles that can be located in Hinduism, Taoism, Confucianism, Buddhism, Judaism, Christianity, and Islam.

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41 Responses to “God? ~ Dr. Evan Finkelstein”

  1. Matovu Henry says:

    Dear Dr. Evans,

    Thanks a lot for all those answers. Yeh you have given us some light to what has been lingering in our minds.

    I loved it and I read it on and on again.

    Thanks.

    Henry

  2. Lezlee says:

    Wonderful aticle, thank you. I have been doing some work recently on the connections between all religions and finding common links; quite easy really! Buddhism and Tao really appeal to me, and have for some time, though must look further into others. Love the humour too ;-)

  3. Evan Finkelstein says:

    Der Lezlee,
    Thanks for your comment–I'm glad you enjoyed the article!
    All the Wisdom Traditions have a lot more in common than some may think. I've found that on the deepest levels they are very unified and one can see this clearly in the beautiful experiences of the saints of these various traditions.

  4. Amanda says:

    I love this. After being raised in a fundamental Christian home, it has taken me a while to live relatively guilt free about having this belief that all religions have the same basic beliefs, or at least many similar ones. It's just hard to live with the judgement of a family who believes I am going to hell along with many others who do not believe that Jesus is the way, truth, and life… That this is the ONLY way.

    • Rob says:

      Hi Amanda,

      Consider reading the Gospel of Thomas, discovered in 1945. I think you'll find a Jesus in accord with Dr Finkelsteins article. Then there will remain a question for some on Christianity, perhaps. :-)

  5. Mehul Kar says:

    Great article Dr. Finkelstein. I wrote something similar a couple years ago, loved all the examples you provided though:
    http://blog.mehulkar.com/2009/11/the-nature-of-go

  6. Patricia Saunders says:

    This is a fantastic article, Dr. Finkelstein. For me, it makes the point that what matters is not some intellectual level of understanding of God through debate but "Being" — being established in the unbounded nature of God and knowing the light of God at that level.
    I have asked many of these questions in my time and for me, the answers came from deep experiences of that "small, still voice of calm" in meditation. Please, please write more articles like this — it's so uplifting to read. (Liked the humor too.)

    • Evan Finkelstein says:

      Dear Patricia,
      Thank you, I'm glad that you enjoyed the article. I very much enjoyed all of your very insightful comments! I think you should write an article based on your experiences!

  7. bunzel says:

    To me, as a result of the discovery of our own programming – DNA – I like to the think of the word "God" as an empty placeholder — a variable in our code… This resonates with many of the sources you cited and the sense that it is life as we live it that gives the world meaning, and we live as God. You might enjoy my own post on this topic; incidentally, I know Ellen through my work with PowerPoint and I've been writing in this field for the past few years–but not a Dr. http://lifeisintelligent.wordpress.com/

    • Evan Finkelstein says:

      Thanks for your reply! I think there are as many ways to see God, as there are seers. I think everyone sees some angle of the Reality; in my view, God is that which is inclusive of everything and yet is a Wholeness that is more than the some of His/Her own parts.

  8. Antonio Duarte Lourenco says:

    I like this article “god”

  9. lampatthedoor says:

    Thanks for the lovely article Evan. Profound and serious insight presented in a deceptively light and funny way.

    • Evan Finkelstein says:

      Dear Lampatthedoor,

      I responded to your kind comment earlier, but my response seems to have disappeared!
      Oh well, such is the way of the world!

  10. Evan Finkelstein says:

    With a name like that you must be shinning both inside and outside at the same time! Thank you for your kind comments; I'm happy that you enjoyed the article. Keep on shinning!

  11. bunzel says:

    I agree. I find it ironic that I didn't experience my own shift in perspective until I saw the confluence of computer programming and DNA.

  12. Alexandra says:

    This is such a beautiful article! The Truth is all encompassing!

    • Evan Finkelstein says:

      Dear Alexandra,
      Thank you for your kind words of appreciation. I totally agree with you–the experience of the deepest truth of life shows it to be all-encompassing! There is a famous saying in India that "Truth alone Triumphs" I take this to mean that nothing of the time-space-causation bound aspect of the world can ever diminish or defeat the Universal Being that exists as the very core of the life of everyone and everything.

  13. debra says:

    Wonderful article, so eloquently stated, thank you for simply stating our true nature and purpose – regardless of race, creed, or color. Dr. Finkelstein your contribution reminds us of our wholeness and connectedness, and that is why we stay steady with our daily practice of Transcendental Meditation, for that inner peacefulness and calm. Thank you.

  14. Beata Ballard says:

    Humor, like love, can serve as glue–may you keep paving your way with humor, then stick it to'em!!! Beata

    • Evan Finkelstein says:

      It seems that the direct experience of pure Being is what's most "sticky"! Thank you for your comment!

  15. Andréa Balt says:

    This is one of the most relevant, profound and beautifully written articles I've had the pleasure of reading on Elephant. Thank you for sharing your wisdom.

    • Evan Finkelstein says:

      Dear Andrea,
      Thank you for so kindly sharing your appreciation! I'm very happy that you enjoyed the article!

  16. AHH says:

    Beautifully fun, and inquisitively thorough. This article is a all encompassing as the quotes.
    Thank you very much Dr. Finkelstein.

  17. andy p says:

    What more can you say, the kingdom of heaven is within. Anyone who has had the good fortune to feel the divine within knows that there is only one truth and that pervades everything and all religions. You just feel and see it it everywhere you look, from a beautiful sunrise to an empty crisp packet. Once you make contact within, then you can see it everywhere. If you don't make contact within, it's just a mental notion that has limits and boundaries.

    • Evan Finkelstein says:

      Dear Andy,
      Thank you for your comment. I think you expressed the main idea very beautifully. We experience It within and then can experience It here, there and everywhere! Ultimately, It is all that there is, was or will be. We know It by being It. I have found that TM brings one to that limitless existence of pure Being, so easily and so directly; because of this, I think it is the greatest blessing for every wisdom tradition. Each person can attain the that divine Totality without having to leave his or her own tradition. And, with this natural technique, even those without any tradition at all, can equally attain this being of Ultimate Reality. There are no restrictions, eternal freedom is equally available to all!

  18. Pippo Schillaci says:

    LSD probvided me with knowing without knowing.

    • Evan Finkelstein says:

      Yes, but how long did that experience last? The the goal of all the Wisdom Traditions is to stabilize that experience and make it permanent in daily life. (Some traditions refer to this as gaining a permanent state of Cosmic Consciousness.) No one has found any drug that can do this. Plus, as so many of us have experienced, drugs have downer, negative side effects and can, in some cases, lead to neurological damage. In my view, I would advise keeping away from drugs. I recommend the regular practice of TM.

  19. [...] Plug into your Source daily. Have a moment of solitude with God, your Higher Self, the Universe, whatever’s in charge [...]

  20. Aneeq Zaman says:

    This was a beautiful read that I found through David Lynch. What I think is, that there isn't and cant be a god, if there is any such being, it doesn't have to be one necessarily, just because we, the humans, want one ruler of a country or community. To me, its an insecurity of a human mind, since we are and feel so alone and are amazed at the space and beauty around us. But what I love about this article is the meditation and feeling light and become one with everything around us. The idea of things merging into one for that moment is beautiful. It made me think of nature, the people I love, all become one, inside me. I am them, I am everything, for that moment.

    • Evan Finkelstein says:

      Dear Aneeq,
      Thanks for your comment! That very experience you so beautifully described is what many would think of as an experience of the Oneness of God! A Oneness that is made up of an infinite diversity that is part and parcel of unbounded Being.

  21. [...] that’s where you go. It is the Self, the alpha and the omega, spirit, that which many people call God. From there you can picture the journey of your existence as a circle that begins and ends in the [...]

  22. Interesting. And how, in the Maharishi's view, does the mind actually *get* to transcendence?

    • Evan Finkelstein says:

      Hi!
      The experience is that with Maharishi's Transcendental Meditation technique the mind comes to the state of transcendence in a very easy and natural way. This method of meditation is very effective and very simple to learn and to practice. It's not a matter of a particular view or philosophy, but rather of gaining, repeatedly, the direct experience of the transcendent through the use of this technique.

  23. Evan Finkelstein says:

    Dear Rob,
    Thank you for sharing this; yes, I think it does resonate the same truth, especially if the knowing is on the level of pure Being and not merely a conceptual level of knowing.

  24. Evan Finkelstein says:

    Dear Steffie,
    Thank you for your insightful comment. I'm glad that you liked the article. Yes, I also think that Ultimate Unity has many names, but they are the many names of the same One Ultimate Truth. Once we know It, all the names are acceptable and beautiful!

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