I want you to think of the curious
sensation of nothing that lies behind ourselves.
Think of the blank space behind the
eyes, about the silence out of which all sound comes, and about
empty space, out of which all the stars appear. I liken this
curious emptiness behind everything to God, an image-less,
non-idolatrous God of which we can have no conception at all.
Basically, when you really get down to it, that emptiness is
Now it sounds very odd in our civilization to say,
"Therefore, I am God," or for
that matter, "You are God."
But this is exactly what Jesus
in his culture God was conceived as the royal monarch of
the universe, and anybody who got up and said,
"Well, I am God," was
He was subversive. He was claiming
to be, if not the boss himself, at least the boss' son, and that
was a put-down for everybody else.
But he had to say it that way
because, in his culture, they did not have, as the Hindus have,
the idea that everybody, not only human beings, but animals and
plants, all sentient beings whatsoever, are God in disguise.
Now let me try to explain this a little more clearly. I cannot
help thinking of myself as identical with continuous with one
with the whole energy that expresses itself as this universe. If
the universe is made up of stars a star is a center from which
energy flows. In other words there's the middle and all the rays
come out from it.
And so I feel that as the image of
the whole thing all energy is a center from which rays come out
and, therefore, each one of us is an expression of what is
basically the whole thing.
In the Jewish, Christian, and Islamic religions we think of God
not only as a monarch but as the maker of the world, and, as a
result of that, we look upon the world as an artifact, a sort of
machine, created by a great engineer. There's a different
conception in India, where the world is not seen as an artifact,
but as a drama.
And therefore God is not the maker
and architect of the universe but the actor of it, and is
playing all the parts at once, and this connects up with the
idea of each one of us as persons, because a person is a mask,
from the Latin persona, the mask worn by the actors in
So this is an entirely different conception
of the world, and as I think I shall be able to show you, it
makes an amazing amount of sense.
So we start with the premise that you are God, and you don't
know how you grow your body, how you make your nervous system
work, or how you manage to emerge in this environment of nature.
All this is unknown to you, the you that is not you, the you
that is not the ego.
This is God - that is to say, not the
cosmic boss, but the fundamental ground of being, the reality
that always was, is, and will be, that lies at the basis of
reality. That's you.
Suppose you're God. Suppose
you have all time, eternity, and all power at your disposal.
What would you say to yourself after a while,
"Man, get lost."
It's like asking another
question which amounts to supposing you were given the power
to dream any dream you wanted to dream every night.
Naturally, you could dream any span
of time - and it could be anything your wanted - because you
make up your mind before you go to sleep.
"Tonight I'm going to dream of
Naturally, you would start out by
fulfilling all your wishes.
You would have all the pleasures you
could imagine, the most marvelous meals, the most entrancing
love affairs, the most romantic journeys; you could listen to
music such as no mortal has heard, and see landscapes beyond
your wildest dreams.
And for several nights, oh maybe for a whole month of nights,
you would go on that way, having a wonderful time.
after a while, you would begin to think,
"Well, I've seen quite a bit,
let's spice it up, let's have a little adventure."
And you would dream of yourself
being threatened by all sorts of dangers. You would rescue princesses from
dragons, you would perhaps engage in notable battles, you would
be a hero!
And then as time went on, you would dare yourself to
do more and more outrageous thing, and at some point in the game
you would say,
"Tonight I am going to dream in
such a way that I don't know that I'm dreaming," and by so
doing you would take the experience of the drama for
What a shock when you woke up! You
could really scare yourself!
And then on successive nights you might dare yourself to
experience even more extraordinary things just for the contrast
when you woke up You could , for example, dream yourself in
situation of extreme poverty, disease, agony. You could, as it
were, live the essence of suffering to its most intense point,
and then suddenly, wake up and find it was after all nothing but
a dream and everything's perfectly OK.
Well, how do you know that's not what you're doing already. You
reading, sitting there with all your problem, with all your
whole complicated life situation, it may just be the very dream
you decided to get into. If you don't like it, what fun it'll be
when you wake up!
This is the essence of drama. In drama all the people who see it
know it's only a play.
The proscenium arch, the cinema screen
"Well, this is an illusion, it is not for real."
other words, they are going to act their parts so convincingly
that they're going to have us sitting on the edge of our seats
in anxiety, they're going to make us laugh, they're going to
make us cry, they're going to make us feel horror.
And all the time, in the back of our
minds we have what Germans call hintergedanken, which is
a thought way, way, way in the back of our minds, that we're
hardly aware of but really know all the time. In the theater, we
have a hintergedanken that it's only a play.
mastery of the actors is going to almost convince us that it's
And so, imagine a situation in which you have the best of all
possible actors, namely God, and the best of all possible
audiences ready to be taken in and convinced that it's real,
namely God, and that you are all many many masks which the basic
consciousness, the basic mind of the universe, is assuming.
To use a verse from G.K.
But now a great thing is in
Seems any human nod
Where shift in strange democracy
The million masks of God.
IIt is like the mask of Vishnu, the
preserver of the universe, a multiple mask which illustrates the
fact that the one who looks out of my eyes and out of everyone's
eyes is the same center.
So, when I look at another human
being, and I look straight into their eyes, I don't like doing
that, there's something embarrassing about looking into
someone's eyes too closely.
Don't look at me that closely
because I might give myself away!
You might find out who I
really am! And what do you suppose that would be?
Do you suppose that another
person who looks deeply into your eyes will read all the
things you're ashamed of, all your faults, all the
things you are guilty of?
Or is there some deeper
secret than that?
The eyes are our most sensitive
organ, and when you look and look and look into another person's
eyes you are looking at the most beautiful jewels in the
And if you look down beyond that
surface beauty, it's the most beautiful jewel in the universe,
because that's the universe looking at you. We are the eyes of
So that in a way, when you look
deeply into somebody's eyes, you're looking deep into yourself,
and the other person is looking deeply into the same self, which
many-eyed, as the mask of Vishnu is many-faced, is looking out
everywhere, one energy playing myriads of different parts.
It's perfectly obvious, because if you were God, and you knew
everything and were in control of everything, you would be bored
to death. It would be like making love to a plastic woman.
Everything would be completely predictable, completely known,
completely clear, no mystery, no surprise whatever.
Look at it another way. The object of our technology is to
control the world, to have a super-electronic pushbutton
universe, where we can get anything we want, fulfill any desires
simply by pushing a button.
You're Aladdin with the lamp, you
rub it, the jinni comes and says,
"Salaam, I'm your humble
servant, what do you wish? Anything you want."
And after a while, just as in those
dreams I described you would decide one day to forget that you
were dreaming, you would say to the jinni of the lamp,
"I would like a surprise."
Or God, in the Court of Heaven,
might turn to his vizier, and say,
"Oh, Commander of the Faithful,
we are bored."
And the vizier of the Court would
"Oh King, live forever, surely
out of the infinitude of your wisdom you can discover some
way of not being bored."
And the King would reply,
"Oh vizier, give us a surprise."
That's the whole basis of the story
of the Arabian Nights. Here was a very powerful sultan, who was
bored. And therefore he challenged Scheherazade to tell him a
new story every night so that the telling of the tales, getting
involved in adventures, would never, never end.
Isn't that the reason why we go to the theater, why we go to the
movies, because we want to get out of ourselves? We want a
surprise; and a surprise means that you have to other yourself.
That is to say, there has to enter into your experience some
element that is not under your control.
So if our technology were to succeed completely, and everything
were to be under our control, we should eventually say,
"We need a new button."
With all these control buttons, we
always have to have a button labeled SURPRISE, and just so it
doesn't become too dangerous, we'll put a time limit on it -
surprise for 15 minutes, for an hour, for a day, for a month, a
year, a lifetime.
Then, in the end, when the surprise
circuit is finished, we'll be back in control and we'll all know
where we are. And we'll heave a sigh of relief, but, after a
while, we'll press the button labeled SURPRISE once more.
You will notice a curious rhythm to what I have been explaining,
and this rhythm corresponds to the Hindu idea of the course of
time and the way evolution works, an idea drastically different
from ours. First of all, Hindus think of time as circular, as
going round - look at your watch, it goes round. But
Westerners tend to think of time in a straight line, a one-way
street, and we got that idea from Hebrew religion, and from St.
There is a time of creation, then a course of history which
leads up to final, eschatological catastrophe, the end of the
world, and after that, the judgment, in which all things will be
put to right, all questions answered, and justice dealt out to
everyone according to his merits. And that'll be that!
Thereafter the universe will be, in
a way, static; there will be the eternally saved and the
Now, many people may not believe that today, but that has been a
dominating belief throughout the course of Western history, and
it has had a tremendously powerful influence on our culture. But
the Hindus think half of the world is going round and round for
always, in a rhythm.
They calculate the rounds in periods
that in Sanskrit are called kalpas, and each kalpa
lasts for 4,320,000 years.
And so a kalpa is the period
or manvantara during which the world as we know it is
manifested. And it is followed by a period, also a kalpa
long, 4,320,000 years, which is called pralaya, and this
means when the world is not manifested anymore.
And these are the days and nights of Brahma, the godhead. During
the manvantara when the world is manifested, Brahma is
asleep, dreaming that he is all of us and everything that's
going on, and during the pralaya, which is his day, he's
awake, and knows himself, or itself (because it's beyond sex),
for who and what he/she/it is.
And then, once again, presses the
button - surprise!
As in the course of our dreaming, we would
very naturally dream the most pleasant and rapturous dreams
first and then get more adventurous, and experience and explore
the more venturesome dimensions of experience.
In the same way, the Hindus think of a kalpa of the
manifested universe, manvantara, as divided into four
periods. These four periods are of different lengths. The first
is the longest, and the last is the shortest. They are named in
accordance with the throws in the Hindu game of dice. There are
four throws and the throw of four is always the best throw, like
the six in our game, the throw of one, the worst throw.
Now, therefore, the first throw is called krita and the
epoch, the long, long period for which this throw lasts, is
called a yuga. So we will translate yuga an epoch,
and we will translate kalpa as an eon. Now the word
krita means done, as when we say, "well done," and that is a
period of the world's existence that we call the Golden Age when
everything is perfect, done to perfection.
When it comes to an end, we get
treta-yuga that means the throw of three, and in this period
of manifestation there's an element of the uncertain, an element
of insecurity, an element of adventure in things. It's like a
three-legged stool is not as secure as a four-legged one -
you're a little more liable to be thrown off balance.
That lasts for a very long time, too, but then we get next what
is called dvapara-yuga.
Dyam means two, and in this
period, the good and the bad, the pleasurable and the painful,
are equally balanced. But, finally, there comes kaliyuga. Kali
means the worst throw, and this lasts for the shortest time.
This is the period of manifestation in which the unpleasurable,
painful, diabolical principle finally takes over - but it has
the shortest innings.
And at the end of the kali-yuga, the great destroyer of
the worlds, God manifested as the destructive principle Shiva,
does a dance called the tandava, and he appears,
blue-bodied with ten arms, with lightning and fire appearing
from every pore in his skin, and does a dance in which the
universe is finally destroyed.
The moment of cosmic death is the
waking up of Brahma, the creator, for as Shiva turns round and
walks off the stage, seen from behind, he is Brahma, the
creator, the beginning of it all again. And Vishnu is the
preserver, that is to say, the going on of it all, the whole
state of the godhead being manifested as many, many faces.
you see, this is a philosophy of the role of evil in life which
is rational and merciful.
If we think God is playing with the world, has created it
for his pleasure, and has created all these other beings and
they go through the most horrible torments - terminal cancer,
children being burned with napalm, concentration camps, the
Inquisition, the horrors that human beings go through how is
that possibly justifiable?
We try by saying,
"Well, some God must have
created it; if a God didn't create it, there's nobody in
charge and there's no rationality to the whole thing. It's
just a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury
signifying nothing. It's a ridiculous system and the only
out is suicide."
But suppose it's the kind of thing
I've described to you, supposing it isn't that God is pleasing
himself with all these victims, showing off his justice by
either rewarding them or punishing them, supposing it's quite
different from that.
Suppose that God is the one playing
all the parts, that God is the child being burned to death with
napalm. There is no victim except the victor. All the different
roles which are being experienced, all the different feelings
which are being felt, are being felt by the one who originally
desires, decides, wills to go into that very situation.
Curiously enough, there is something parallel to this in
There's a passage in St. Paul's
Epistle to the Philippians in which he says a very curious
"Let this mind be in you which
was also in Jesus, who being in the form of God, did
not think identity with God a thing to be clung to, but
humbled himself and made himself of no reputation, and was
found in fashion as a man and became obedient to death, even
the death of the cross."
Here you have exactly the same idea,
the idea of God becoming human, suffering all that human beings
can suffer, even death. And St. Paul is saying,
"Let this mind be in you," that
is to say, let the same kind of consciousness be in you that
was in Jesus.
Jesus knew he was God.
Wake up and find out eventually who you really are. In our
culture, of course, they'll say you're crazy or you're
blasphemous, and they'll either put you in jail or in the nut
house (which is the same thing).
But if you wake up in India and tell
your friends and relations,
"My goodness, I've just
discovered that I'm God," they'll laugh and say, "Oh,
congratulations, at last you found out."