Two Approaches: Dual & Non-dual — With me I had a letter from Germany. A Catholic friend of mine had made some points in it, and I wanted to give her an apt reply from the viewpoint of Hinduism.
The first principle of Hinduism, she had written, is monistic pantheism, whereas Jewish-Christian thinking considers that God and Creation are two entities. “This difference appears to me to be absolute. Whether besides the existence of God, there is another existence, created by Him, but a real existence of a different sort, or whether everything beside the deity is only illusion.” It could not be said that monistic pantheism and the Christian viewpoint are (both) correct.
I asked a sadhu – I’d met him often at Anandmayi’s ashram – and we sat down on the banks of the Ganges. The sadhu listened patiently to my translation of the letter. “We distinguish two aspects of Brahmn,” he said. “The Highest Brahmn – we call it transcendent and acosmic – is without any characteristics and is above time, space and causality. Thus the question about a creation of the universe cannot arise from this aspect, because all that exists is Brahmn. It is perceived only by the eye of the one who is enlightened. It is enshrouded thanks to maya, as a phenomenal cosmic Brahmn of infinitely diverse forms and figures. An unenlightened eye perceives this second aspect of Brahmn. What it sees is reality from the level of its knowledge.
“The relative Brahmn is manifested also as a personal god. Water remains essentially water, even if it takes the form of ice. God does not cease to be Brahmn. He is Brahmn that has become a person. We speak about God, in this realm of the ‘second level’, as the Creator, Preserver and Destroyer of the world. To this extent, our thinking combined the strict monism that is expressed in the doctrine of the duality-less Highest Brahmn with the concept of a creation, which can be differentiated from its creator. There are Vedic myths of creation as there are Biblical myths of creation.”
My second question: “What happens in the soul of a person, when he succeeds, thanks to his religious nature and his acquired technique in bringing about this condition? Is it correct, if I say that it is a perception of God’s image in oneself? This would be an explanation that can be understood by a Christian. But he usually doubts that there is a direct or even an absolute perception of God Himself in samadhi. A man, according to scholastic theology, must experience first an intense metamorphosis in eternal life, to be able to endure the eternal divine light.” The sadhu’s response: “Among the prerequisites necessary for attaining samadhi, you have forgotten the most important one that Ma has repeatedly pointed out: Grace of God. All efforts are meaningless without it. Both dualistic and non-dualistic explanations are possible in Hinduism. ‘How does it help me to become sugar? I want to taste sugar!’ That is the viewpoint of a dualist who experiences himself as God’s servant. There is always duality in the blissful unity with God. A non-dualist ‘becomes sugar’. He believes that there is one Brahmn, and he penetrates all the veils of maya, over all stages of samadhi, to reach the mysterious border, at which God’s grace receives him into an absolute unity with Brahmn. Not only can a man see the eternal divine light, he can become one with it.” Abridged from Encountering Bliss.