Even atheists have a God

I have journeyed through science, religion and philosophy, have participated in spiritual practices and have had countless discussions with people on a similar journey. Along the way, like a meandering river, I have been changed by the terrain that I have encountered. I started by looking for absolute truth as if it were an object, a theory or an idea existing somewhere out there, I have discovered that truth lies within me.

I started out an atheist and I now believe in God. Not a God that is in heaven but a God within me. Not a God of any religion but a presence within me. This presence I now know is my essence; my dharma; my religion; my true north. It is my real self. It is who I am. I am not a physical being that I thought I was. I am not my body nor my mind. I am pure consciousness.

The scientific theories and the Vedic insights which have shaped my beliefs are:

  • There is no separation between what is outside of me and what is inside me. This separation is illusory. We perceive separateness because our five senses are limited in their capacity to sense all that exists. There is no objective world outside of my subjective perception of it. The observer in me is the observed. (Latest theories in physics support this view).
  • The manifest world is created in our minds. The world that I perceive is constructed by my brain, it is a mental construct. (Neuroscience supports this view).
  • My body too is a mental construct. (Neuroscience supports this view)
  • I do not exist. The “I” that I identify with is itself a mental construct. It is a thought just like any other thought. (Neuroscience supports this view).
  • I am not my body. I am not my mind. I am not a physical being. (Vedas and neuroscience support this view)
  • I am my essence. I live my dharma. (Vedic insight)

These are radical notions which defy conventional thinking. And, they belie what I see, hear, touch, taste and smell. My sense organs do not nor can they reveal to me that which is real. I did not come to accept these ideas uncritically. These ideas have taken shape in me over twenty years; they did not come to me fully formed nor all at once. Most of these ideas seemed implausible, at first, but after considerable research and after probing and pushing at these ideas to find any flaws, I have come to accept them and they are the bedrock of my belief system.

We live in a virtual reality created by our minds. The world of our senses, the world we accept as real, is created in our minds. The world out there is a projection of my mind. All the objects we interact with are virtual; all the people we interact with our virtual, time and space are virtual. The virtual reality we live in is so realistic that we mistake it for reality. As long as we rely on our senses we will not know that we are trapped in a virtual world.

The way out is the way in(ward). The way inward is the way of self-inquiry. As the Heart Sutra in Buddhism says “Gate, Gate, Paragate, Parasamgate”-you have to go deeper, deeper and deeper still to get to the “other shore”, which is discovering your true nature. This journey inward has led me to understand who I am and what reality is.

My essence is not a thing, it cannot be detected by our senses. It is pure consciousness from which arises our mind which in turn creates our reality. Each of us has an essence which is unique and special; it is who we are meant to be. It is what neuroscientist Donald Hoffman calls a conscious agent. I have realized that what I took to be real- my sensory world, is unreal and what seemed unreal is real.

I have skirted using terms that have religious overtones, such as spirit, soul, atman or God, but I feel that I now have the understanding and the language to state what they mean to me, and what they mean to me is different from what they are conventionally understood to mean. Spirit, soul and atman are synonymous, in my world view, with the Truth in us, our essence, our true nature. It is who we are. It is the only piece of Reality in each of us. Most of us go through life without discovering our true nature or our spiritual self. We identify almost exclusively with the physical and are not aware of our spiritual self. We are asleep to our own true selves. This is why, realizing our true nature is known as awakening. I now know that my true nature is not physical. I am a spiritual being having a physical experience. This realization is a one-eighty degree turn for me. I started my journey believing that I was a material being living in a material world (paraphrasing Madonna).

The material world is so alluring and so real to my senses that in spite of my understanding that it is only Maya I am caught up in its drama most of the time. The difference for me now is that I know how to extract myself from this drama. I know that I have a choice that I can exercise moment to moment-a choice to show up as a physical being or as a spiritual self. Like a quantum particle I can toggle between the two states of being. There is a Buddhist saying that captures this state of being, well “you can be in the world but not of it.” It takes effort to switch from one state to the other and a constant remembering of who I really am.

The two streams of knowledge-physics and the Vedas-have come together for me to create this epiphany in me-the understanding of who I am, and what my dharma is. This is not where I started my journey. I started my journey identifying with my physical self. I have arrived at this view of myself or more accurately led to this belief, by science and the wisdom of the ancient sages. This belief reconciles my knowledge from science and my understanding of the Vedas, it satisfies my intellectual curiosity and it feels right to me. My entire physical being, that is, my mind, body and heart, are aligned with this view.

I believe that we all need a God and we have a God. The God is within each of us. The God is a presence in each of us. Even atheist have a God. This God is not some external deity, it is not the God that religions promote, it is our true nature, it is who we are meant to be. It is uniquely ours. It is universal only in that that each of us and every sentient being is conscious because of it. It is consciousness itself.

Amen!

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