Vedanta says that God is everything. God is all in all; you are God, I am God. People ask: Are you God, am I God? No, no; God cannot be divided, God cannot be cut, God cannot be rent asunder, God cannot be scissored. You are no part of God; if God is Infinite, then you must be the whole God, not a part of God.
Now the question is, if God is all in all, why should He put Himself in a state of affliction in one body, in a state of affluence in another body? Why should He bring plague and poverty to India and political freedom to America? Why should God make somebody the possessor of four or five billions of rupees and another poor, in a famishing, hungering state? Why should He do that? How unreasonable is He! Attempts are made even in this country (America: where Swami Rama Tirthaji had gone as a Hindu preacher in the beginning of this century) and in India to satisfy the questioner, and most people resort to the doctrine of Karma, the doctrine of cause and effect, the doctrine that everybody is the master of his own destiny, that everybody creates his surroundings and environments of his own accord, and thus God is just; people make their own destiny, create their own fortune. Rama (Swami Rama Tirthaji) need not enter into the doctrine of Karma. This doctrine of cause and effect comes from India, and it is countenanced by Vedanta, but it concerns only the empirical universe; it concerns only the phenomenon. It does not go to the root of the question.
According to the doctrine of Karma, which explains transmigration and all that, the circumstances of your present condition are the outcome of your past desires and actions. Thus whatever circumstances, whatever environments, whatever fate or destiny you have, that is made by your past desires, past will or wishes and your past actions. If you examine it, you will see that this doctrine simply shifts the difficulty. It does not answer the question thoroughly. Rama is not going to repudiate or demolish this doctrine. Rama approves of it and supports it, but he wants to bring out the other side of the question, the other phase, which is altogether ignored by the people in America or perhaps not altogether ignored in India, but is kept in the background.
According to this doctrine of Karma, past actions have created the differences in your present circumstances. Then from this it follows that even in your past births, in your past lives, there was a difference in your actions, desires and whims. There were some who were sick, some who were poor and some who were rich. To what cause were the differences in your past life due? The answer is that the differences in the circumstances in your past life were due to similar differences in the life before that. And to what cause were due the differences in the third life from this? They were due to the corresponding differences in the life preceding that. This doctrine makes the difficulty a million times more complex, because according to this doctrine, we see that through all your past lives, all your past births, even back to eternity, even up to the beginning–if there be a beginning–differences were there; there were variety and conflict all along.
Now the question is not answered; it is simply made more complex. Now the question comes with a multiplied force; it stands like this: “How is it that God from eternity should have kept up this difference? How is it that God from eternity should have made one rich at one place and another poor at another place? Why should He have made one diseased at one place and another in perfect health at another place? How unreasonable it is! How is this difference justified?” Vedanta says this was a question which it had to put to you, not you to Vedanta. This is a question which you have to answer. The burden does not lie on Vedanta. It believes in unity, oneness and, at the same time, explains this apparent variety.
For example, if there was a tyrant and he had before him five different persons, different from himself,–that man being in the place of God, and those persons being his creatures, servants, slaves,–and if this man put one of these slaves into a dungeon, the second one into a beautiful garden, the third into a magnificent palace, the fourth into the toilet room, the fifth under a very heavy burden, if he placed on his breast the mighty Himalayas, and kept them on his bosom all the time, and so on, what would you think of such a master? Cruel, unjust master! If God be different from his creatures, and makes one nation very happy and another very wretched, and if He makes one man very wealthy and another very poor, what will you think of such a Master? Cruel, cruel! Unjust, unjust! This is the question which those who believe God to be different from mankind have to answer.
Vedanta does not believe God to be far away; one has only to close his eyes and see Him within.
Now see. Here is a master who goes into the garden at one time, into the mansion at another time, into the dingy dungeon at one time, and into the toilet room some other time, goes into the kitchen himself, and lives also under a burden himself. What will you call him? Is he unjust? No, no. He would be unjust, if the people whom he kept in the dungeon, in the garden, in the mansion or in the toilet room, had been different from him; but if it is he himself who resorts to the toilet, if it is he himself who goes into the other places, if it is he himself who does all these things, then he is not unjust. All the blame is taken off him.
Thus Vedanta says, this apparent variety, this apparent conflict, will be a blame and blot on the face of God, if God were different from the people who suffer and from the people who are rich and poor. It is God Himself, it is Rama himself, it is I myself that am rich at one place, it is I myself that am in the dungeon, it is I myself that am fair, and it is I myself that am ugly; in the garden I am, and in the deserted palace I am. Whom will you blame? Even the blamer I am. There is another thing to be said in relation to this.
It is very hard to preach Vedanta in America where the word ‘I’ is used to denote the body or mind; the people in this country are accustomed to say, “I have a soul,” and they understand by ‘I,’ the body, the mind, the intellect, the incarnate soul or the reincarnated self. Never, never does the man who has realised Vedanta understand by the word ‘I’ the body, the mind or the reincarnated self. This I am not; if I am anything, I am God.
Here are the statements: I am a king, I am a master of a horse, I am a Swami, I am an American, I am a Hindu. These statements are of a different nature from the statement “I am God.” Mark the difference. In the statement “I am king” the word ‘king’ is like a title; “I am a master of a horse,” the title ‘master of a horse’ is like a robe put on. When we say “I am poor,” it indicates that poverty is something and I am something else; poverty is like a robe put on. Well, the Hindus say “I am God,” but, beware, the word ‘God’ is not a title, it is not a robe, it is not an attribute that you put on, keeping to yourself the same little, false ego, and putting godliness on yourself like a robe. The Indian does not mean that, when he says “I am God.” His statement is like this: “This snake is a rope.” Here is a man who in the dark mistook the rope for a snake. There was a coiled rope lying on the ground, and he took it to be a snake, got frightened and fell down. Somebody comes and says, “Brother, brother, your snake is a rope.”
What is the meaning of that? The meaning is that what you mistook to be a snake is not a snake; it is a rope. This is not a statement of the same sort as “I am a king.” Here the word ‘snake’ is not an attribute; the word ‘rope’ is not an attribute; if you had made the statement “this snake is black,” the word ‘black’ would have been an attribute of the word ‘snake.’ But when you say that the snake is a rope, the rope is not an attribute. Mark it, please. It seems to be a little difficult to grasp, but understand it once and then you have no right to bring in objections; understand it aright. “The snake is black” is one kind of statement, and “the snake is a rope” is quite another kind of statement.
Similarly, “I am godly,” or “I am an angel,” is one kind of statement, and when the Hindu says, “I am God,” that is another kind of statement. When he says, “I am God,” it means that: “I am not the body; what you are taking me to be, that I am not. You mistake me to be flesh and blood, bones and muscles, but it is not so. I am not the bones, not the muscles, I am not the mind, nor the intellect. I am the Fountainhead, I am the real Force, the real Thing-in-Itself, the real God, the real Power. That alone I am: I am nothing else.”
Again, when people wish to bring God before their tribunal, they say God did that, as if He were an ordinary person like themselves and could be brought before them and taken to task just like an ordinary person.
The cause of all these doubts and objections may be illustrated by a story.
There was an oil-vendor in India. He kept in his house a very beautiful parrot. One day this oil-vendor left his shop and went out to some place. His servant also went out on some other errand. The parrot was there in the shop. In the absence of the oil-vendor there came up a big cat. At the sight of the cat, the parrot got frightened. It was in the cage, but it got frightened and jumped up; the parrot fluttered his wings and jumped this way and that way until the cage which was hanging on the wall, slipped down and fell upon a jar full of very precious oil. The jar was broken and the oil was spilt. After a while came the oil-vendor, and being very angry, he lost his temper, seeing that his precious oil was spilt. He got annoyed with the parrot; he thought it had done some mischief; he was beyond himself with rage and could not keep his temper because the parrot had thrown down the cage upon the jar and had caused him a loss of about fifty rupees. He opened the door of the cage and just plucked up all the plumes from the head of the parrot. The parrot was made bald; no crest was left on his head. The head of the parrot was bleeding. The parrot did neither speak nor entertain the master for two weeks. The master was very sorry for what he had done. After two weeks, there came a customer to the oil-vendor’s shop. This customer was bare-headed at that time, and he was also bald. The parrot laughed a hearty laugh; it was very happy to see another companion. Then the master asked the parrot what was the cause of his hilarity, what made him full of joy, and the parrot said, as it were: “Oh, I thank God, I am not the only servant of an oil-vendor. This man also must have been the servant of an oil-vendor; otherwise, how could he lose the hair on his head, and how could he become bald, if he had not been the servant of an oil-vendor?”
Exactly the same kind of reasoning some people employ. They think that all the work they perform, all the duties they discharge, everything they do, have some kind of motive or other, which they do with some kind of selfish desire or premeditation. So they say that when God created the world, He also must have done that with some kind of motive or other, some kind of desire or other, some kind of premeditation or other. This is a mistaken way of arguing. This is making God limited. You call Him Infinity and yet you want to drag Him to the level of an ordinary human being? It won’t do.