What is “God?”
The word “God” holds many different meanings for many different people.
The one definition of the word “God” that would satisfy (just about) everybody is simply this: “God = The Highest Level Being, which brings everything into existence, and upon which the existence of everything depends.“
Abraham, widely considered “The Father of Monotheism” in the West, perceived this Being, and when he did, he told everybody about it. Today, thousands of years later, billions of people throughout the world use the word “God” to describe Abraham’s realization.
Unfortunately, the Modern Christian, Jewish, and Muslim God is NOT the same one that Abraham saw. The Deity that billions of Westerners worship today is NOT The Highest Level Being, which brings everything into existence, and upon which the existence of everything depends… as will be simply and undeniably demonstrated below.
In essence, Western Religions are doing what the Bible warned them NOT to do: worshiping something that is a step below the level of the One True “God;” i.e. “an Angel.” For, by their definition of God as a Deity, they are inherently limiting it to something smaller than, created by, and dependent upon EXISTENCE ITSELF. Existence Itself is The Highest Level Being, which brings everything into existence, and upon which the existence of everything else depends.
“God” does not EXIST. “God” IS Existence.
In “The Big Three” Western Religions — Christianity, Judaism, and Islam — the word “God” represents what we might call “a Deity.” A “Deity” is an entity, some THING that exists, that has ultimate power, and uses its power to fulfill its own ends. It has, in many ways, a human-like consciousness; it decides what it wants and what it does not want, it tells humans what to do, it favors one person over another, one group of people over another, one species over another, et cetera.
From the Eastern Perspective, on the other hand — Buddhism, Taoism and related systems of spirituality — the word “God” is simply NOT USED. “God” is a Western word. Because the Eastern Spiritual Systems don’t use the WORD “God,” Westerners tend to view them as “Godless” or “Atheistic Religions.” This is very confusing from the Western Perspective. How can a person be atheistic and spiritual at the same time?
In the East, instead of focusing on a Deity called “God” (as they do in the West), the attention is, instead, directed toward the Fundamental Unity and Oneness of Existence Itself.
This is very different from the Western Perspective. Whereas the existence of a “Deity called God” is something that cannot be proven or disproven, and has been the subject of debate, war, and persecution for thousands of years… the Fundamental Oneness of Existence is something that cannot be denied. It is simply… one way of looking at the world. It is a perspective, not a belief.
You see, a “belief” is a GUESS, about a fact that may or may not be true. A perspective, on the other hand, is simply a way of looking at something that is right there in front of you. For example, if you see three people standing and talking together, you can either see them as THREE: separate individuals, or you can see them as ONE: a unified group. So which is it? Are they THREE? Or are they ONE? Neither way is “right” or “wrong.” Whether you look at them as individuals or as a group is not a question of belief… it is simply a matter of perspective. So too, the ONE-ness of Existence is simply a PERSPECTIVE; it’s a way that you can choose to look at Reality. You’re seeing all of Existence as a UNIFIED WHOLE instead of just a collection of individual parts. And you, yourself, are a part of that whole. From the “Oneness Perspective,” THAT’S WHO YOU ARE.
When a person sits down for a few minutes and quietly contemplates the Oneness of Existence, the deep, “unanswerable” existential questions of life begin to disappear. Who am I? Where was I before I was born? Where will I go when I die? What is the meaning of life? What is “infinity?” What is “nothingness?” What is “God”? Why am I here? Where did everything come from? Why does anything exist in the first place? The answers to all of these questions are simply and childishly obvious from the “Oneness Perspective.” And by “childishly,” I mean that when you finally come to see the answers, you will realize that you already understood all of this when you were a child. There were no questions in the first place. This is why you didn’t start asking these “unanswerable” questions until you were nearly an adult… these existential questions, in reality, simply arose out of your mistaken viewpoint that you are SEPARATE FROM, and MORE IMPORTANT THAN the rest of Existence.
So… this is the Eastern Perspective. Focus on the ONENESS of Existence… instead of seeing it as many individual parts… and you will realize enlightenment.
And this is completely different from the Western Perspective, which says… Worship the ONE GOD in Existence, instead of many individual gods, and you will enter the Kingdom of Heaven. Clearly, completely different.
Or is it?
Is it possible that Buddha and Abraham, Lao Tze and Jesus.. were all just using different words to describe the same thing in the first place???
Well, let’s look back at the stories of Genesis in the Old Testament.
Naturally, in the beginning, humans (like Adam and Eve) were in direct contact with God. They knew God directly, and therefore they simply KNEW that God was One (and not Many).
Over the course of history, people began to “lose contact” with God, and began to worship “idols,” or “angels,” or “representations of God.” Polytheism was born. And God was not very happy about it at all.
And then, Abraham came on the scene! Abraham sat in a field and contemplated Existence. “How did this all come into being?” he asked himself. “Why does anything exist in the first place?” Abraham contemplated The Sun, and The Moon… things that his contemporaries considered to be “The Highest Being, which brings everything into existence, and upon which the existence of everything else depends.” But Abraham couldn’t believe that these were the highest beings. After all, they exist; therefore, there must be a “higher” being that created them as well! But if there’s a higher being, then something must have created that as well!
Suddenly, through his meditation, Abraham had a flash of insight. Abraham saw “God” for the first time. And he carried the message of the “One True God” to the rest of the world.
EXISTENCE IS ONE UNIFIED ENTITY, and its Nature is to Exist. There is nothing outside of it, because anything outside of Existence, by definition, does not exist.
Nothing could ever “create” existence,” or “be the creator of existence,” because in order to do so, it would have to EXIST in the first place, thus placing it WITHIN the realm of Existence Itself. For a God to exist outside of existence is non-sensical. If it exists, it is part of existence. If it is not part of existence, it does not exist.
Anything and everything that exists (including real or imagined Deities) owes its existence to the existence of Existence Itself. The existence of any THING (like the Sun, The Moon, or a Supernatural Spirit Being) is DEPENDENT ON (and therefore subservient to) the existence of Existence Itself. And we know for a fact that Existence Exists. This is not a question.
Abraham did not “believe” in “God,” he simply KNEW God to exist by perceiving it directly. This is what’s meant by the idea that Abraham was a “Prophet” who “saw God” and “communicated with God directly.” It is impossible to deny that Existence Exists. Abraham wasn’t trying to create a new belief system and introduce a new Deity; he was pointing out something so obvious and fundamental to Reality that even a child could understand it. In fact, everybody already understands it, they just might not realize it on a conscious level. Existence Itself is the Highest Level Being, the cause of all causes, the creator of all creators, and the thing upon which everything depends for its existence.
But Abraham didn’t have the word “Existence” to explain what he saw! All he had were the words of his agrarian society. So he used the words “Adonai,” or “Elohim,” which mean “Master” or “Lord.” Words indicating “the top of the hierarchy.” What else could he do? These were the limitations of his language at the time. He didn’t have words like “Entity,” “Deity,” “Existence,” or “Highest Dimension in the Nested Hierarchy of Dimensions of Reality.” All he had were words related to people, fields, grains, and sheep.
With his “Existence is One” model of Reality, Abraham challenged the conventional, multi-deity, poly-theistic theology of his time, and brought Monotheism back into the popular culture of the Near East. And for doing so, Abraham has been revered for thousands of years, by billions of people, as one of the most popular spiritual pioneers of all time.
Do you see the parallels to The Buddha, who challenged the conventional perspective of his time, and popularized Non-Dualistic Mono-Existence-ism in Southeast Asia?
Abraham said “God is One.”
The Buddha said “Existence is One.”
They were speaking in different languages, at different times, to different people. Yet both of them carried essentially the same message of Peace, Love, Oneness, and Spirituality. Is it so hard to believe that they were actually talking from the same perspective, and simply using different words to describe their experiences?
In this way, we can truly understand what Abraham meant by “The One God.” It is no longer an object of BELIEF… “A mysterious deity that only Abraham could talk to, because he was a special person with super prophet powers.” It is something that each of us can perceive for ourselves, something right there in front of us, just waiting for us to look; the Living, Existing One Reality. It Is That Which Is. All we need to do, in order to perceive directly the True One God of Abraham, is to shift our perspective of Existence from “a collection of many parts” to “one unified whole.” And this is the message of Abraham, conveyed rather ineffectively over the years through the use of anthropomorphic imagery.
Luckily, in Southeast Asia, the Eastern Mystics have kept that perception alive long enough, and in a form clear enough, for us to re-phrase it in a way that we (and hopefully future generations) can understand.
And to me it is a very funny thing, to see how the Jews, and the Christians and the Muslims, see Eastern Mysticism as some “weird, foreign, exotic thing,” … even as idolatry, atheism or blasphemy … when in reality it is the Buddhists who are worshiping the God of Abraham, and the Western Religions are entrenched in the very Polytheism that Abraham broke away from in the first place!
The problem with Polytheism isn’t just the idea that there are many Gods, or having a bunch of stone statues around your house. The fundamental problem is that when you focus on a “Deity…” something that EXISTS… you are missing the bigger picture of EXISTENCE ITSELF. When you think that SOME THING THAT EXISTS is MORE IMPORTANT THAN EXISTENCE ITSELF, you are confusing yourself. How can something that exists be more important than existence itself? If it exists, it is WITHIN existence. Even if it happens to be an all powerful deity.
This is the fundamental error and paradox of Western Religion, which gives rise to things like Atheism and Agnosticism. If you say that “God Exists,” then you run into all kinds of trouble. Where did God come from? Why did He create the Universe? How can we know that He even exists in the first place?
BUT, if instead of saying “God Exists,” you say that GOD IS EXISTENCE… well then you no longer have all that trouble! In fact, everything begins to fall into place. And when you read the Bible from this perspective, and many of the later commentaries, you finally begin to understand, on a really deep level, what people like Abraham and Jesus were really talking about in the first place.
Other examples of God-As-Existence from Early Judaism & Christianity:
1. Maimonades, one of the most widely respected of the ancient Jewish Biblical Commentators, said: “You must KNOW GOD, not ‘BELIEVE THAT GOD EXISTS.’ If you ‘BELIEVE THAT GOD EXISTS,’ it is as if you are committing Idolatry.” Maimonades makes the distinction between seeing and believing; when you believe something, it means that you are not seeing it. You can’t KNOW that a deity exists; the best you can do is BELIEVE it. Conversely, you cannot BELIEVE that EXISTENCE EXISTS, all you can do is KNOW it. Unfortunately, Jews today tend to interpret this statement to mean that you must make your belief so powerful that it is as strong as knowledge. And thus, Delusion is born.
2. The New Testament describes Jesus as the Son of God. From the Oneness-of-Existence Perspective, we are all the Children of God. We grow out of God as a child grows out of its parents. God is the ultimate Creator of Everything, because everything comes into Existence only as a result of Existence Itself. In fact, since Existence is ONE, we are not only the CHILDREN of God, but WE ARE GOD. We are all simply parts and manifestations of Existence Itself. Thus, Jesus was both the Son of God, and God as well. So are you, by the way. You’re welcome, Confused Christian Theologians.
3. The most important prayer in the Jewish Prayer Book is called “Shema Yisrael,” which means, “Listen, Children of Israel.” It goes, “Shema Yisrael, Adonai Eloheinu, Adonai Ehad.” The last two words are considered to be the most important in the prayer, and the devotee is directed to focus on them intently for several seconds after uttering the prayer. These two words are translated as “GOD IS ONE.” The prayer doesn’t say “There is One God.” It says “GOD IS ONE.” This is a very important distinction, and apparently it is one that the Ancient Jewish Mystics understood.
4. A Jewish friend of mine just emailed this to me: Abraham Isaac Kook, first Chief Rabbi of the Jewish community in then Palestine, held that atheists were not actually denying God: rather, they were denying one of man’s many images of God. Since any man-made image of God can be considered an idol, Kook held that, in practice, one could consider atheists as helping true religion burn away false images of god, thus in the end serving the purpose of true monotheism.
An SMS conversation with a Friend:
God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit are the highest levels of being in Christian Cosmology.
Kevin: Christianity doesn’t acknowledge existence itself then, huh? No wonder they’re so confused.
Where did you get that idea? Christians acknowledge existence.
Kevin: Then you’re saying that God, Jesus, and The Holy Ghost are synonymous with the Oneness of Existence? If not, how can you say “They Exist” and yet are higher-level Beings than Existence Itself? Anything that exists is, by definition, subservient to existence itself. By definition, existence itself is the highest level being possible [because anything else that exists is included in Existence, but all of Existence is not included in anything else that exists]. It brings all other beings into being… in other words, it allows for anything that exists to exist. The Ultimate Creator 😉
No, you’re confusing Buddhism with Christianity. God is not the oneness of existence. There is no oneness of existence. There is creation and a creator. The creator always existed, then he created what we see as reality.
Kevin: So now, you have these two things. You have “God,” and you have “The Universe.” “Creator,” and “Created.” Two things. Therefore, neither of them can be considered “Existence Itself,” because it does not include “EVERYTHING.”
So, now you take a step back and look at the big picture. Instead of looking at them as “two separate things,” you look at them as A GROUP of two things. ONE GROUP, of TWO THINGS. That “grouping” can now be seen as a larger entity, which is a “higher level being” than both “God” and “The Universe.” This is what I’m calling “Existence Itself,” or “The Oneness of Existence.” It includes and is greater than every other thing; therefore it is The Highest Being in the Nested Hierarchy of Beings.
This is actually a very simple concept. Maybe the simplest in all of existence. That’s why it can be so hard for people to see, but once you see it, it’s the most obvious thing in the world. Like a riddle.
“What is bigger than God?”
Ha, ask that to a Catholic priest 😉
An Analogy to Try to Make This Clearer
Ted is a computer programmer and video game creator, working for Blizzard Entertainment. He created a video game, with an entire video game Universe inside.
The video game Universe includes a character named Lord Pandamaster. Lord Pandamaster looks around at his video game world, the video game Sun, the video game Moon, the video game mountains, the video game people, and thinks…
“Wow, how did this all get here? Someone must have created it. Maybe the Sun created it? Nah, the Sun is PART of the Universe… someone must have created that, too!”
From here, Lord Pandamaster can go in one of two directions with his philosophizing.
DIRECTION A: Seeing the Deity.
Lord Pandamaster has a brilliant flash of insight. He realizes that there is someone, some “other-worldly being” in another Dimension of Reality, who has created the entire Video-Game Universe that he sees around him.
Lord Pandamaster prays to this Video-Game Creator Deity to reveal himself. Ted, the Video Game Creator, types on his keyboard: “Hello Lord Pandamaster. My name is Ted. I want you to go battle some monsters today. Yeehaw.” So of course Lord Pandamaster does as he is told, because, hell, Ted is the All-Powerful Creator of the Universe. Who knows what he could do if he gets angry.
Lord Pandamaster tells all of his video-game friends about Ted the Creator… how he created the Sun, the Moon, the video-game EVERYTHING!
After thinking about it for a few minutes, Lord Pandamaster’s friends are confused.
“Wait… Lord Pandamaster… the same question of “Why does it exist?” that you asked about the Video-Game Sun, Moon, and Stars, applies to Ted as well! If this Deity named Ted exists, then someone must have created HIM, TOO, right? And someone must have created THAT creator as well…”
Pandamaster frowns, as he realizes this blatantly obvious truth. “Oh no,” he thinks to himself, “It goes on to infinity! I wonder if Ted knows about this…”
DIRECTION B: Seeing the Existence Underlying Everything
Lord Pandamaster has a brilliant flash of insight. He realizes that IT DOESN’T MATTER whether or not there’s a Video-Game-Creator-Deity named Ted who created the Sun, Moon, and video game mountains.
Even if there IS some super-being in another dimension who created this video-game Universe… then He is simply a PART of an even BIGGER “Universe…” a multi-dimensional Universe if you will… that includes Him, this video-game Universe, and anything ELSE that might happen to exist (which may or may not be in a higher dimension that even Ted doesn’t know about).
You can trace the “higher levels of reality” and “spheres within spheres” all the way to infinity. But there’s something deeper than all that at work here. And that is that ANYTHING is able to exist in the first place! Why should existence exist in the first place? Why, it could just as easily be the opposite… nothing at all ever came into existence.
Lord Pandamaster realizes, therefore, that it must be the FUNDAMENTAL NATURE OF REALITY for EXISTENCE TO EXIST, as opposed to the opposite (that the fundamental nature of reality is not to allow for existence). Existence Itself, therefore, is the Ultimate Creator of everything, and includes absolutely everything that exists, in every dimension. In fact, it includes all dimensions of reality, because those are things that exist too. And if Existence Itself were to suddenly switch from “on” to “off;” well then, everything, including Ted the Video-Game-Universe Creator, would cease to exist as well.
Pandamaster tells all his friends about this, and they’re like, “Whoa, that’s awesome dude.” People write books about it, but have some trouble with the phrasing since the word “Existence” hasn’t been invented yet.
Somewhere, in another dimension, a programmer named Ted is reading the words of his Creation, Lord Pandamaster, on the screen of his computer. “Whoa, dude,” says Ted, as he realizes that he and his Creation are both manifestations of the same One Reality. He takes another hit from his bong. “Pandamaster is one wise video game person, man.”
The views expressed in this article are those of the author, and do not necessarily represent the views of, and should not be attributed to, Meditation Magazine.