A Conversation Between a Theist and an Atheist
by Swami Sivananda
Golmal (Atheist): O Ram! Please show me your God or Brahman of whom you speak very highly everyday. If God really exists I should see Him with my own eyes now.
Ram (Theist): I will beat you now with this stick. Please show me your pain.
Golmal: How can I show you my pain Ram? Your question is quite absurd. One will have to feel the pain himself.
Ram: Similar is the case with God also, O Golmal. You will have to realise Him through constant and intense meditation. He cannot be seen by these fleshy eyes, as He is beyond the reach of the senses and mind.
Golmal: If God is beyond the reach of the senses then He should be a non-entity, a mere void, a negative concept, a metaphysical abstraction. I do not wish to attain such a negative state of nothingness. I will not gain anything by attaining Him. I am very happy here when I enjoy the different kinds of sensual objects. There is nothing beyond these sensual pleasures. Why do you talk some nonsense? Something beyond the senses? How could this be? I think you are dreaming. I think you are in the cloud O Ram! I cannot believe such things. I am a scientist. I want accurate laboratory proofs.
Ram: Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Well said Golmal. I really pity you. Had you developed two horns on your forehead, I would have rightly called you a cow or a buffalo. You want laboratory proofs? Very fine indeed. You wish to limit the illimitable all-pervading God in your test-tube, blow-pipe and chemicals. God is the source of your chemicals. He is the substratum for your atoms, electrons and molecules. Without Him no atom or electrons will move. He is the inner ruler (Antaryamin). He is Niyanta. Without Him the fire cannot burn, the sun cannot shine, the air cannot move. Without Him you cannot see, cannot talk, cannot hear, cannot think. He is the maker of all scientific laws, the law of gravitation, the law of cohesion, the law of attraction and repulsion, etc. He is the law-giver. Bow to Him with faith and devotion. You will have a thorough knowledge of the Science of sciences, Brahma Vidya, through His grace and attain Moksha.
Golmal: Nonsense. Is there anything like Science of sciences? I had my education in Oxford and Harvard Universities. I never heard there of a science like this. You are not only a dreamer but a liar also.
Ram: Do not use indecent words, Golmal. Be polite. Be courteous. Behave like a gentleman. Just note the conversation that took place between Saunaka and Angiras. Saunaka, the great Grahastha, questioned Angiras, Kasmin Bhagavo Vijnate Sarvamidam Vijnatam Bhavati, O Bhagavan! What is that which being known all these become known? Angiras replied It is Brahma Vidya, the Science of sciences, by knowing which the Immortal Brahman is realised. By knowledge of Brahma Vidya or the Science of sciences you hear what cannot be heard, you perceive what cannot be perceived, you know what cannot be known, you think what cannot be thought of. Just as by the knowledge of a single nugget of gold all that is made of gold is known, the difference being only a name arising from speech, but the truth being that all is gold; just as by the knowledge of a single pair of nail-scissor all that is made of iron is known, all modifications being only a name based upon words, but the truth being that all is iron, thus, O Golmal, is that Brahma Vidya or the Science of sciences.
The basis for all the secular sciences is Brahma Vidya or Adhyatmic Science. If you know this Supreme Science through direct intuition, you will have knowledge of all other worldly sciences, just as you will have knowledge of articles made of clay if you have a knowledge of clay itself. You cannot learn this Science of sciences in any University. You will have to learn this under a Brahma Srotri, Brahma Nishtha Guru after controlling your senses and the mind. This is a Science taught by a Seer or Rishi or a liberated Sage in the forests under a tree (Forest University). You will have to undergo a rare discipline therea discipline which checks the wandering mind and outgoing senses, a discipline which cannot be had in any of the Universities of the world.
Golmal: What will the students eat there? Are there hotels and decent rooms?
Ram: Some aspirants practise Vayubhakshana. They live on air for some days through this Yogic practice. Some live on Kandamula or roots. Some take Sattu-atta or dried flour. They live in thatched cottages or grass huts, on the banks of the Ganga.
Golmal: Is that all? Can you not get a little butter, some sweets or jam and toast occasionally? How can they live without fruits and vitamins?
Ram: Jam and butter! Sweets! You cannot dream of such things. These things are not necessary to keep up health. Yogis practise Khechari Mudra, Pranayama, enter into Samadhi, drink the nectar that dribbles from the Sahsrara (Amritasrava) and maintain a high standard of vigour and vitality. They suspend the breath and live for any number of years they like. Sweetmeats, jam, etc., are not suitable for the practice of Yoga.
Golmal: How can I believe that God exists when I cannot see Him actually with my eyes?
Ram: Though you do not see the stars in the day time, yet they do exist. Though you cannot see the sun on a cloudy day, yet it does exist. Even so though you cannot see God with these physical eyes, Yet He does exist. If you get the divine eye or the eye of intuition (Jnana Chaksus) by the practice of meditation you will behold Him.
Golmal: I think, O Ram, that there is no such thing as God or 'Immortal soul' or divine eyes or eternal bliss or soul. It is all the wild imagination of the so-called Vedantins and Bhaktas. Just as red colour is produced by the combination of lime, nut and betel leaves, so also this body is formed by combination of the five elements. This body only is the soul. There is nothing beyond this body. There is nothing beyond sensual enjoyments. The philosophy of flesh or the philosophy of Virochana or the Epicurean, 'Eat, drink and be merry' appeals to me most. We should extract as much pleasure as possible from this body and sensual objects. There is no use in practising penances or self-restraint. We should allow the Indriyas to run riot or to have a free play with the sensual objects. This only is wisdom. Fasting, observing Mouna, celibacy, meditation are the foolish acts of an ignorant man.
Ram:These worldly objects are ephemeral. They wear out the vigour of all senses. Even the longest life is very short. No man can be made happy by wealth, sons and woman. Man weeps in old age. He is drowned in sorrow when he loses money, when his wife or son dies, when he develops incurable disease. Nachiketas was not tempted by the worldly gifts of Lord Yama. He persisted in attaining the eternal bliss of the Immortal Soul and got it through the instructions of Lord Yama. You are a passionate, ignorant man. You have neither discrimination nor dispassion. You are drowned in worldliness. That is the reason why you cling to these worldly objects. Your mental state is really deplorable! I really pity you! May lord bestow upon you right understanding and pure intellect (Visuddha Buddhi). You have got a perverted intellect now (Viparita Buddhi). You have a clouded understanding. You are under worldly intoxication. You cannot have a clear conception of the Supreme Tattva.
Golmal: O Ram! Nature only does everything. Why should we accept the existence of God? Nature nourishes. Nature is everything. This world can go on without an Isvara or Lord. Nature can manage everything.
Ram: Nature is not independent. She is the handmaid of the Lord of Nature. Nature is His Sakti or illusory power. Just as clay is to the potter, so is Nature to the Lord. The Lord gazes at Prakriti or Nature. He is the Prime Mover. He sets the Prakriti in motion. Then the Prakriti starts her activities. Just as heat is inseparable from the fire, so also Sakti is inseparable from the Lord (Sakta or possessor of Sakti). Just as the power of burning is inherent in fire, so also Sakti is inherent in the Lord.
Golmal: What are the chief attributes of your Lord?
Ram: God is Omnipotent, Omniscient, Omnipresent and all-merciful.
Golmal: Can He make a two-sided paper only one-sided? Can He make a man jump on his own shoulders? Can He make the fire burn downwards? Can He make the sun radiate coolness? Can He make a barren woman's son father of seven children? If He cannot do these things, He is no longer the Lord.
Ram: I have already told you, Golmal, that you have a perverted intellect. That is the reason why you are asking these impertinent and useless questions. A spiritual-minded person will never talk a word in vain. You are wasting your life, time and energy. God is Omnipotent. He can do and undo things in the twinkling of an eye. His grace makes the dumb man eloquent and the cripple a climber of mountains. Develop Sraddha, Bhakti. Utilise your body in His service. It is very difficult to get a human birth; therefore try your best to realise in this birth. Your questions are all silly and meaningless. There are some fools who put questions like these: How many teeth a crow has? Why cannot the elephant lay eggs? You are also one of them. Try to become wise. Learn to discriminate. Give up wrangling and arguing. Develop your heart. Make it soft and pure.
Golmal: O Ram! You say, God is all-merciful. I say, God is very cruel. He is very unjust. He makes some very rich, others very poor; some healthy and others very sickly and deformed from the very birth.
Ram: God is quite just. He is the silent witness. This world runs in accordance with definite laws. There is order. Virtue brings its own reward; vice brings its own punishment. God neither punishes nor rewards any individual. Man reaps the fruits of his own actions. As he sows, so he reaps. The law of cause and effect operates. This law is inexorable.
Golmal: Why God created this world? When He is Poornakama, i.e., one in whom all desires are gratified, how did the desire to create this world arise in His mind?
Ram: Some people take delight in creating imaginary doubts and such other controversial questions like, Why God created this world? When did Karma begin? Why should there be ignorance at all? When did man take his first birth? How can ignorance come in the Atman who is of the nature of Satchidananda? Which is more powerful whether Prarabdha or Purushartha? and many other questions. They put such questions simply to satisfy their curiosity as a sort of intellectual amusement. Such questions do not help in anyway their progress in the spiritual path. The result is mere lingual warfare and beating about the bush with no substantial result. These are all Ati-Prasnas or transcendental questions. Words are finite. Language is imperfect. One can get a solution when he transcends the three states and the three Gunas and rests in his own essential Svarupa, through constant and protracted Nididhyasana and attains Dridha-bhumi or Yogarudha state. The frail, finite intellect that is conditioned in time, space, causation cannot peep into the beyond. You will get answers for these questions when you get knowledge of the Self.
All doubts are rent asunder, the three knots are broken when one attains Brahmic Sthiti or Sahaja-Avastha or the native state of pristine purity and glory. People generally rack their brains and waste their energy when such doubts assail them. This is a trick of the mind to delude the aspirants and swerve them from the path of divine contemplation. What is wanted is rigorous Sadhana and burning Vairagya and strong Mumukshutva and sustained determination.
Golmal: If God is all-merciful, if He is an ocean of mercy, why should there be pain and disease in this world?
Ram: Pain is the only best thing in this world. It is an eye-opener. It is a blessing in disguise. It infuses mercy in your heart and turns your mind towards God. It develops your will-power or power of endurance. It forces you to find out the way of escape from the clutches of Maya or the thraldom of matter.
Golmal: Why should there be evil in this world? Can He not create a world with pure bliss only? Why should there be a mixture of pleasure and pain? Does this not go against His Omnipotent nature?
Ram: This universe is a mixture of good and evil, This is a relative plane. You cannot expect pure unalloyed happiness here. You can find pure bliss in your innermost self or Brahman only. Evil is not a distinct entity. Good and evil are the obverse and reverse sides of the same coin. Evil exists to glorify good. What is evil at one time is good at other time. What is evil for one is good for another. A rogue is a saint of the future. If you keep him in the company of a saint he will become a veritable Mahatma. Have you not studied the lives of rogue Ratnakar, Jagai and Madai! They became very good saints when they the came in contact with great souls. The body of a man is the result of good and evil actions. Therefore he should reap the fruits of his good and evil actions viz., pleasure and pain. Destroy ignorance. Understand philosophy and become wise. It is high time for you now.
Golmal: O Ram! Thank you very much indeed. My mind is slightly turned towards your side by your impressive and forcible instruction. Please give me some strong proofs for the existence of God. I am led to believe now that some Supreme intelligence or power governs the universe.
Ram: God or Brahman is Svatah-siddha (self-proved). The Self is the basis of the action of proving. Therefore it is evident before the action of proving itself. It is therefore impossible to deny it. In denying the existence of Brahman you deny your own existence, which is absurd. Brahman is the basis of all pre-suppositions, demonstrations and all notions.
Golmal: I have understood this point well. Doubtless the Self cannot be demonstrated. But it is possible to infer His existence from certain empirical facts. Please furnish me with those facts. Then I will have perfect conviction.
Ram: The existence of Brahman is known on the ground of its being the Self of everyone, because everyone is conscious of the existence of the Self. There is an inherent feeling in everybody I existAham Asmi. Man never thinks I am not. This self of whose existence all are conscious is Brahman.
Golmal: Well said indeed! I can understand this point very well. It appeals to me nicely. Please teach me further in this direction.
Ram: Close your eyes and imagine for a moment that you are dead.
Golmal: Yes. I have closed my eyes now. I now imagine that I am dead.
Ram: What do you find now?
Golmal: I imagine that my dead body is lying down on the ground as a corpse and I am witnessing the dead body.
Ram: You can never imagine your annihilation. You can never think that you do not exist after the physical body is thrown away. This itself clearly proves that you are always the witnessing subject (Sakshi Drashta).
Golmal: This also convinces me to a certain extent. Please give me some more practical illustrations.
Ram: O Golmal! Here is a very practical illustration. You dream sometimes that you are dead and that your relatives are weeping. Even in that supposed death-state you see and hear them weeping. This clearly indicates that even after seeming death, life really persists. This also proves that immortality is an inherent attribute of the soul. You exist even after the physical sheath is thrown out. That existence is Brahman or Atman.
Golmal: Ram, this is really a wonderful illustration. My doubts about the existence of God or Self are dwindling. Please give me some instructions from the experiences in daily life.
Ram: A certain lady had a fall from the third storey of her house. Underneath there was a bed of sharp angular stones. She would have received very serious injuries but she was miraculously saved. She herself expressed, I actually felt the warm embrace of some invisible hands. Some mysterious power saved me. Instances like this are not uncommon in daily life.
Golmal: May I hear another illustration?
Ram: You find that even the world's best doctor fails to cure a dying king. You might have also heard of many instances where patients ailing from the worst type of disease are cured miraculously where even the ablest doctors have declared the case to be hopeless. This itself is clear proof that there is the Divine Hand behind all cure.
Golmal: Can you illustrate this through the theory of Karma?
Ram: Some people die when they are eighty years old, some die when they are in the womb, some die at twenty, some at forty. What is the cause for the variation? Who has fixed the span of life for all? This clearly proves that there is the theory of Karma, that there is one Omniscient Lord who is the Dispenser of the fruits of the actions of the Jivas, who fixed the span of life of the Jivas in accordance with their nature of Karma or actions, who knows the exact relation between Karma and their fruits. As Karma is Jada or insentient, it certainly cannot dispense with the fruits of their actions.
Golmal: Prove the existence of God by taking facts from this physical body which is regarded as the temple of God.
Ram: The insentient engine of a railway train cannot move without the intelligent driver. Even so this insentient body-engine cannot move without the intelligent driver God or Isvara. From the existence of the body you can infer the existence of the hidden driver of the body engine.
Mark! There is display of intelligence in every inch of creation. Who pumps blood into the arteries? Who converts food into chyle and red coloured blood? Who does the peristalsis in the bowels and stomach and send the faecal matter to the rectum and anus? Who closes and shuts the eyelids to prevent dust from falling into the delicate eyes? Who gave intelligence to the cells and glands to secrete semen, milk, bile, saliva, gastric juice etc., from the blood? Who gave intelligence and power to the spermatozoa to move, unite with the ovum in the womb and develop into a foetus? Wherefrom does this minutest, subtlest substance, Jiva, as nice as the ten-thousandth part of the point of a hair, derive the capacity to assume gradually the features, complexion and shape of its parents? What is the power which sustains it and helps its growth in the mother's womb? Who arranges for milk in the mother's breast before the child is born?
How wonderful is the human machine! How harmoniously all the organs work in unison in the economy of nature! In Gita this body is known as Navadvara Pura (nine-gated city). In summer the skin works energetically to throw off all impurities of the blood and to relieve the kidneys which had over-worked in winter. The endocrine glands, pituitary, pineal, adrenals work in perfect harmony in manufacturing the internal secretions, and the harmones to help the metabolic process of the body, growth and structure.
It is a great marvel to see the working of the nervous system under the control of the brain, and the movement of the afferent and efferent impulses through the spinal cord. There is a magnificent electric battery inside with switchboard and wires. The operator is Antaryamin (Inner Ruler, God), who controls and supervises everything. He is Upadrashta (supervisor), Anumanta (permitter), and Mahesvara (the great Lord). Look at the heart and lungs which work under the direct control of the brain. How wonderful are these vital organs, the tripods of life? Can an eminent scientist manufacture any of these organs, tissues, fibres, tendons or cells in his boasted laboratory with his boasted intellect. How harmoniously the different systems such as the digestive system, circulatory system, nervous system, integumentary system work without any rest! How beautifully the different centres in the brain such as the vision-centre, olfactory centre, centre of smell etc., do their functions! One is struck with awe and wonder when he begins to think seriously on the structure and working of this delicate human machinery. To think that this most wonderful mechanism is the result and product of a fortuitous combination of matter or atoms is simply absurd and ridiculous indeed! It has been, doubtless, moulded and fashioned by some architect who is infinitely more skilful, intelligent and powerful than the ordinary architects who build palaces and bungalows. That architect is God or Isvara (Ruler) or Creator. Call Him by any name. It does not matter much.
Golmal: Give me facts for the existence of God by the study of mind and its functions.
Ram: Unless there exists one continuous principle equally connected with the past, the present and the future or an absolutely unchangeable Self which cognises everything, we are unable to account for remembrance, recognition and so on, which are subject to mental impression on place, time and cause. The Self is distinct from and superior to ideas, because the ideas require an ultimate principle which renders the cognition of the ideas possible.
The Manas is an organ of sensation and thought. It must be under the control of some one who uses this instrument. The Jiva or human soul is not the Director of the mind because we see that ordinary men are swayed away ruthlessly by the mind. Therefore there must exist some other Supreme Being, who is the Director of the mind. He is the Anataryamin, the inner Ruler and Controller.
Then again look at the miraculous power of the mind. In the Kenopanishad the first Mantra begins, Who is the Director of the mind? There is the play of the Divine hand here also. Can my brother psychologist manufacture a mind from his laboratory? We are struck with wonder when we look into the diverse faculties of the mind, viz., power of discrimination, power of judgment, power of reasoning, retentive power, power of imagination, cogitative faculty or the power of reflection, power of understanding, etc. No one but God can create such a powerful and miraculous mind.
Golmal: Give me facts for His existence from the study of nature.
Ram: Who provides food for the little frog that lives hidden between the strata of rocks? Who clothed the fruits with skin to prevent contamination from outside.? Who divided the seasons and Ritus? Who made the water hot beneath the ice to enable the fishes to live comfortably in the icy regions of the Himalayas, in Gauri Kund and other places? Who has combined four parts of inert nitrogen with one part of combustible oxygen gas?
At whose command does the sun rise punctually in the morning and set in the evening? The sun is 9,28,30,000 miles away from the earth. What a great wonder that from such a long distance the sun is able to bring light, heat, energy and vitality to all the living beings who inhabit this globe! There are countless millions of suns much larger than the one which we see but which appear to us like tiny stars on account of their being remoter than the sun with which we are acquainted. It takes millions of years for the light from these stars to reach the earth. The velocity of light is 1,86,000 miles per second. Light from distant stars has not yet reached us even now. What a great marvel it is! All these stars, planets and satellites are revolving in the sky in fixed orbits from day to day, month to month and year to year under immutable definite laws. God is the Niyanta. The Sun cannot shine without Him. Fire cannot burn without Him.
Who supplies water to the trees, flowers, various shrubs etc., that are found in the forests? Who is this unseen, untiring gardener who works without wages or any sort of remuneration? Who gives nourishment in time to tigers, lions, birds, fishes, plants, insects, worms etc.? How is it that only human beings are born of human beings, birds of birds, tigers of tigers, dogs of dogs, horses of horses, elephants of elephants, ants of ants, bears of bears, mules of mules, an exact copy of their parents in every respect? From a tiny seed there springs a huge banyan tree that can give shelter for thousands of persons. From a tiny seed there comes out a big mango tree that gives thousands of delicious fruits. What is that power which supports and nourishes these trees? What is that hidden miraculous power that brings out a huge form with hair, fingers, toes, eyes, nose, teeth, ears, legs, thighs, etc. out of one drop of semen? What is that power that brings out a mighty tree with foliage, flowers, twigs and fruits out of a tiny seed?
Golmal: Can you explain the meaning of the 'Ekasloki' of Sri Sankara?
Ram: In the day time what gives you light? Sun. At night when there is no sun, what gives you light? Moon, stars and lamps. When there are no sun, moon, stars and lamps what gives you light? Eyes. Which gives you light when the eyes are closed? Buddhi or intellect. Who finds out the defect in the intellect whether there is clarity or turbidity? Aham (I). That Aham is the Light of lights or the Eternal Soul or Atman or the Infinite.
Golmal: What can we infer from the study of deep sleep. The Vedantins talk much of deep sleep. What is the difference between sleep and Samadhi?
Ram: In sleep there are no senses, no objects, no mind and yet you experience the highest bliss. When there are no objects wherefrom have you derived the bliss? The mind rests in Brahman during sleep and it is from Brahman this Bliss is derived. Further, during sleep when there are no other persons 'I' alone exists.
In sleep you experience Avidya-Avrita Sukha. There is a veil between you and the Self. You do not return to the waking state with intuitional knowledge; you are ignorant. Whereas in Samadhi you get knowledge of the Self; you enjoy directly the eternal bliss of the Self as there is no veil. Your ignorance is destroyed in Samadhi.
Golmal: Give me a very simple but very impressive proof for the existence of Soul.
Ram: You say in daily life 'My body,' 'My Prana,' 'My Indriya,' 'My mind.' This clearly denotes that the Self or Atman is entirely different from body, mind, Prana and Indriyas. Mind and body are your servants or instruments. They are as much outside of you as these towels, chairs, cups are. You are holding the body just as you hold a long walking stick in your hand. You are the possessor or proprietor of this body. The body is your property or possession. The body, the senses, the mind etc., are not the soul, but belong to it.
Golmal: I am quite satisfied now, O my beloved Ram, I am quite convinced. I was under a great delusion till now. I was sunk in utter ignorance. I am grateful to you for your valuable, cogent, convincing spiritual instructions. Thou art my Guru and saviour. Please tell me now the method to attain this immortal self.
Ram: Purify the mind. Control the senses. Develop the four means. Hear the Srutis. Reflect and meditate. You will attain Self-realisation.
(Golmal did rigorous Tapas and meditation and eventually attained the final beatitude of life. He now addresses Ram.)
Golmal: O Ram! O my venerable preceptor! Thousand prostrations unto thee. Thou hast saved me from this terrible Samsara. I now rejoice in the Self. Atman is now like the Amalaka fruit in the palm of my hand. I behold only the Self everywhere. The glory of Brahman is ineffable. All my doubts, fears, worries, sorrows, delusion, pain have vanished in toto. I am bodiless, mindless. I am all-pervading intelligence. I am self-luminous. Sivoham, Sivoham, Sivah Kevaloham. Suddhoham. No words can adequately describe the state of illumination.
Again and again prostrations unto thee, my Saviour and Redeemer.
Ram: O Golmal! Rest in the Supreme Peace. Now roam about and disseminate this Supreme Knowledge throughout the length and breadth of the land, lift up your brothers from the quagmire of Samsara. You are no longer a Golmal with a perverted intellect. Thou art a blessed Jivanmukta now. Thou art Swami Jnanananda Saraswati.
Jnanananda: My adorable Lord! I shall carry out thy behests. Obeisance unto thee!
Jnanananda sings a Vedantic Song:
Chidananda Chidananda Chidananda Hum
Har Halme Almast Satchidananda Hum
Nijananda Nijananda Nijananda Hum
Har Halme Almast Satchidananda Hum
Sivananda Sivananda Sivananda Hum
Agadabhumwala Agadabhumwala Akhilananda Hum
Ajarananda Amarananda Achalananda Hum
Har Halme Almast Satchidananda Hum
Nirbhaya aur Nischinta Chidghanananda Hum
Kaivalya Kevala Kutastha Ananda Hum
Nitya Siddha Suddha Satchidananda Hum
Knowledge Bliss, Knowledge Bliss, Bliss Absolute
In all conditions I am Knowledge, Bliss Absolute
I am without old age, without death, without motion,
In all conditions I am Knowledge, Bliss Absolute
I am without fear, without worry, Bliss Absolute
Knowledge Absolute Existence Absolute
Independent, unchanging, non-dual Atma
Advaita Atma Immortal Atma
Eternal pure, perfect Knowledge, Bliss Absolute
Knowledge Absolute Existence Absolute