As I grew up, several things began to trouble me about the fundamentalist religious heritage in which I was born. First, was the matter of exclusiveness. The people of our denomination felt that they possessed Truth uniquely and insisted on that idea. It didn't matter that all other Protestant denominations who differed slightly from ours did so too, and the Roman Catholics as well. Besides, it wasn't a case of all those others simply being wrong; they were also going to be punished for their bad judgment in having chosen not to ride on the divinely ordained bandwagon. They would have a lesser place in heaven, or perhaps not reach there at all. And for the vast non-Christian world, well, it was better not to speculate on the ultimate fate of those billion or two billion souls.
It seems to me now, and will seem to many who read these words, that I am referring to some unbelievably quaint, long-vanished period of human thought. But these ideas were current only a couple of generations ago, and are accepted avidly by many born-again Christians even today. Conservative evangelical movements such as the Moral Majority attract multitudes in the United States through gigantic church programs and television broadcasts. (I shan't even refer to modern musulmans and communists, who in their fashion are as zealot as we Protestants were.)
How troubling a thought. I asked myself how anyone could be so sure of this. One didn't have to be overly observant to see that person was narrow because he was limited, ignorant. Was it intelligent to conclude that someone who had been born into a different spiritual tradition and was following it conscientiously should be punished for not believing as we did? What if you were a native somewhere where no missionary had ever penetrated? And what about those who had lived and died before Christ was born? How could the leaders of our denomination be so sure that Jews and Muslims and Hindus and Buddhists — yes, and even for the most part the Roman Catholics — were not getting something from their faith? What about the elevated scriptures of other religions and the fact that wise men, undeniable saints, were known among the pagans? Was not this attitude of thinking everyone else benighted just a terrible religious provincialism?
A second problem confronting my adolescent attempts to be a practicing Christian was that I could never seem to get "saved". As described in the many sermons I listened to during my early days, conversion was an occurrence which, when it came, gave you a particular assurance and miraculously changed you from a bad to a good person. But to my dismay, although I prayed for it and responded to altar calls to my fullest ability on several occasions, I could never achieve this transformation.
A third difficulty was my failure to see how, if God was God, such differences should be permitted to exist between man and man in capacity, opportunity, and inclination. I listened to the various Christian explanations of this; but they added up, it seemed to me, to one of two conclusions — that God must be either demoniac or whimsical. If demoniac, how could he be God? And if his acts were merely capricious, why bother to posit, as responsible for the universe, the existence of a God at all? Since it seemed only just that the Director of all creation should practice at least the minimum code of justice of a good and wise human, I could not accept the Christian explanation of individual differences.
Fourth, to me the Christian doctrine of history was not reasonable. It simply did not explain the past sensibly or give you a means for viewing the present or future. Propounded by that most able public-relations man of the early church, St Augustine, in his The City of God, the theory is so familiar as to seem almost law: Creation began at a certain point in time and is proceeding toward a culminating event which will continue eternally. Adam was born guiltless, but tempted by Satan, through his own self-will, fell from his perfect condition, introducing sin into the world. All men inherit this sin, and each has his chance — one chance — to come out of it. Some continue to sin up to their death and are thereafter everlastingly damned; some, through the mediation of Christ as expressed though the Catholic Church, gain their redemption and share in an unending resurrection. History thus becomes essentially a battle between the powers of God and Satan, from which God must emerge victorious. Earthly troubles — persecutions, wars, temptations to follow false gods, and all other evils of past and present — have a purpose: they are the flails with which God — "our" God, that is, the true God of the Old and New Testaments — since the beginning of time, has separated the wheat from the chaff, the elect from the damned. Such occurrences have been the tools which have fashioned the citizens with whom He would populate his city of vision, paradise.
What a crude and naive teaching — and how complacent! Everything I knew was at variance with any straight-line theory of progress; and time, which is its very cornerstone, had already been proved to be illusory. The concept of perpetual progress did not square with common observation. Augustine did not see that the new order he was promoting was certain — it too to lose eventually its dynamic quality, as the Roman Empire of his day had done, and to enter, equally, into its own period of barbarism and decay. Then too, how could one, on the basis of this Christian theory of history, explain the infinite age of the universe, the previous decline of great cultures and valid religions, the rise and fall of animal life, the rhythm of evolution-involution our eye is witness to from our birth? How indeed to view the falling off of Christian sanctity, the fracturing of Christian society and the vulgarization of the Church — that Gate to the City of God — itself?
And a fifth stumbling block to accepting Protestant dogma was its, to me, inadequate handling of the problem of evil. There is a force of evil, personified by Satan; and of good, exemplified by God. Each wars in this universe, and in men's hearts, at times one winning, and at times the other. However the end of the story, as in a western melodrama, is known in advance; the Good Guy has the greater power and is sure to triumph in the end.
To this I always said: "Then why does He let it go on — all this mess, all this suffering? If He really is stronger, why doesn't He put an end to the agony?
And I was given this answer: "Oh no. We grow by suffering. Evil is permitted to persist for its chastening value. We are trained by evil."
"But are we?" I would reason. "Is evil a proper tool for a good Almighty to use?" (Youth is always shocked that God should be less literal than he!) 'Many are not trained at all — only drowned in the world's evil. If God is omnipotent, and it's trained people that he wants, why doesn't He just create us already chastened, finished, trained?"
And the answer that I got was: "Because we don't permit him to Because of the perversity in man's heart. Man wants to do wrong; he likes doing wrong. He was once perfect, but he chose to turn away. He chose, as he still goes on choosing, to resist perfection."
I saw, of course, that Christians must take this position, for without it the whole idea of Christ as special redeemer — on which Christian theology is based would fall. But really, who can agree that any human being would choose evil, clear-mindedly prefer to spurn God? One might be ignorant, impassioned, impetuous, a fool. But would anyone rationally decide to remain permanently perverse, habituated in a course which must lead to his eventual destruction? Putting the onus on Adam doesn't help, for is it logical that I should suffer as a result of an act committed by some individual I could never have known, thousands of years in the past? And advancing the theory of predestination that God wants some people to be lost well that is just a blasphemous teaching; that is, again, making God demoniac.
That man has a tendency to be less than a saint, that pain may be educational, was easy to see. But that God should will man to suffer, or that man should rationally pursue wickedness that I could not and would not accept.
So after many unsuccessful attempts to make a "decision for Christ" which would work and be permanent, towards the end of my teens, as already mentioned, I made a trembly, guilt-ridden withdrawal from church. In deep conflict, I came to the conclusion that I was an anomaly who must somehow attempt to find Truth through some alternate means.
In Chapter Four I describe how I searched for an ideal in the social sciences and the gradual disillusionment they afforded. When I chanced to be told one day by the manager of the hotel where the American Psychological Association, of which I was a member, was holding its annual meeting that we adjustment specialists were acting away from home about as badly as had the Legionnaires when they had had their convention in that same hotel a few months earlier, I felt sure that I was engaged in a very dubious quest.
The best proof that I was not on a false trail would be to encounter a social scientist who was himself well adjusted, or someone who had been perfected through psychological techniques. I was tired of listening to mere theorizing as to what great things our programs might accomplish. I wanted to see someone somewhere who was a proper result of what we preached. It was at this point that I met Harry Hopkins. It was a thrilling moment. He had always been an ideal. A trained social worker, a man who had gone through a lengthy psychiatric analysis, he also had had enormous power, as friend of and adviser to President Franklin Roosevelt, to put into practice many of the same ideas we as social scientists supported. He had been in charge of some of the largest social engineering projects ever undertaken. I sat beside Harry Hopkins for a couple of hours in a Pullman chaircar traveling from Washington to New York. It was in July of 1945. Hopkins had just returned from his trip as President Truman's emissary to Stalin to try to settle the vexing problem of Poland's independence. Here was a man who, at the height of his life, should have something hopeful to tell me about scientific humanitarianism. I questioned Hopkins closely and he answered frankly. And what did he have to say? That he was defeated; that he could see no hope for mankind, no solution anywhere. He was sunk in the deepest despair. He was to die a year later.
Perhaps I should not have been shocked, but I was. And I recalled other older men I had encountered. When young they were said to have been courageous and idealistic. But even when successful, as old men they had become hopeless and defeated, without belief, without peace. History was full of examples of bankrupt humanitarians. Was that what I was here for to grow old and disillusioned? Life couldn't be designed as such a bad joke as that; there must be something perfect and clean somewhere.
Eventually I concluded that for both an end to believe in and an influence to help me toward it, I was looking in the wrong place. Reason told me that truth must be somewhere back in the field of religion, but where? I was disenchanted with my childhood faith. Roman Catholicism could be discounted at the outset, as more of the same. In becoming an Episcopalian, I had hoped that something helpfully atmospheric and artistic might be available from that old faith. I even approached an Anglican monastic order; but again, more of the same. I looked into the claims of Christian Science and other New Thought sects, with their emphasis on sweetness and positive thinking, and concluded their approach to be superficial. And never anywhere in all my searches did I find a representative of his faith whom I felt knew experientially much of what he was talking about.
It was then that the publications of Vedanta came to my attention: Christopher Isherwood's Vedanta for the Western World; Aldous Huxley's The Perennial Philosophy; and Swami Prabhavananda's translation of the Bhagavad-Gita, with its classic introduction by Huxley. And I began to read again the New Testament, with opened eyes: "And he said to them all, if any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me. For whosoever will save his life shall lose it; and whosoever will lose his life for my sake, the same shall save it. For what is a man advantaged, if he gain the whole world, and lose himself, or be cast away?"
This was it. Maybe if I had been born a thousand or so years before I might have found what I wanted in the Christian tradition. But now, even though put off by some matters oriental as being in dubious taste, and even though the word Hinduism scared me to death, I had to conclude that what I must have was available only through a religious journey to the East. Hence the shift to Swami Prabhavananda's center and all that that shift set in motion.
For me, then, Vedanta was at last the right answer. For people of this day and age who really want religion, but for one reason or another cannot find fulfillment in the faith of their heritage, it offers much. I listed earlier five stumbling blocks I found in the faith in which I was brought up. I shall mention them again and show how Vedanta met these problems.
I had been troubled, first, by the conflicting claims of the many religions and sects. If everyone claims that he has truth, and the claims are not compatible, can anyone have it? It just made you wonder whether anyone had or could have the truth; for what could be more discouraging to the innocent seeker of truth than the mutual contention which goes on in its support?
The Semitic tradition, for reasons unknown, seems to be constitutionally exclusive. In the history of Christianity, Judaism, and Islam, fanaticism is a prominent feature. The occidental mind is for ever attempting to find and establish truths which are absolute, unassailable, subject to no contradiction. Indian thought, I found out, on the contrary, claims that various sorts of seemingly conflicting views can all be true at the same time, for such kinds of truths, verbally established, are relative. In studying Vedanta, I was bewildered at first, and then comforted, to find that no action, no view, no position is clearly right or wrong in and of itself. Everything, I was often told, "depends". It can only be said that that truth is more true then another which leads more directly than the other towards higher truth. Accept the ideas of the heterodox; respect superstition; permit the beliefs of your opponent. These, like yours, are provisional, representing stages. Welcome all contradictions; they may be somebody else's truths to live by.
But there is a Truth which is not relative, and that is that we are essentially Spirit. The evolution which is occurring is man's progress from the belief that he is separate and individual, in his state of relativity, to the certainty that he is one with God, in which he goes beyond relativity, beyond truth and untruth. But this, we are told, is a state never arrived at rationally, but experienced, realized.
Aldous Huxley brought these ideas together in a brief equation which he called the Perennial Philosophy, first enunciated by the mystic Bruno Rontini in the Huxley novel Time Must Have a Stop . On other occasions Huxley spoke of the affirmations making up this formula as the Highest Common Denominator of spiritual religion, and the Minimum Working Hypothesis:
For those of us who are not congenitally the members of any organized Church, who have found that humanism and blue-sky domeism [aestheticism] are not enough, who are not content to remain in the darkness of spiritual ignorance, the squalor of vice or that other squalor of mere respectability, the minimum working hypothesis would seem to be about as follows:
- That there is a Godhead or Ground, which is the unmanifested principle of all manifestation.
- That the Ground is transcendent and immanent.
- That it is possible for human beings to love, know and, from virtually, to become actually identified with the Ground.
- That to achieve this unitive knowledge, to realize this supreme identity, is the final end and purpose of human existence.
- That there is a Law or Dharma, which must be obeyed, a Tao or Way, which must be followed, if men are to achieve their final end.
- That the more there is of I, me, mine, the less there is of the Ground; and that consequently the Tao is a Way of humility and compassion, the Dharma a Law of mortification and self-transcending awareness.
Huxley reexamined this equation in the extraordinary introduction he contributed to the Prabhavananda-Isherwood Bhagavad-Gita:
At the core of the Perennial Philosophy we find four fundamental doctrines:
- First: the phenomenal world of matter and of individualized consciousness — the world of things and animals and men and even gods — is a manifestation of a Divine Ground within which all partial realities have their being, and apart from which they would be non-existent.
- Second: human beings are capable not merely of knowing about the Divine Ground by inference; they can also realize its existence by a direct intuition, superior to discursive reasoning. This immediate knowledge unites the knower with that which is known.
- Third: man possesses a double nature, a phenomenal ego and an eternal Self, which is the inner man, the spirit, the spark of divinity within the soul. It is possible for a man, if he so desires, to identify himself with the spirit and therefore with the Divine Ground, which is of the same or like nature with the spirit.
- Four: man's life on earth has only one end and purpose: to identify himself with his eternel Self and so to come to unitive knowledge of the Divine Ground.
This compact credo gave me the formula needed for viewing conflicting religious claims. So compact, so compatible with world wisdom. I could turn to religion with a broad spirit, without supporting any new provincialism. One may approach the top of a mountain from any side, but when the summit is reached, pathways merge. Climbers may be far apart when they are in the foothills of theology, ritualistic observances, or organizational practices. Climatic and geographical causes, historic factors, and group temperaments all make for different starting points. That is normal. It adds to the richness of the pageant. Is life in this world not more delectable for the varied contributions of Buddhism, Judaism, Confucianism, or indeed even, say, of Theosophy, Scientology, and Primal Scream Therapy? How artistic that there should be room for such variety how rich the texture is, and how much more interesting than if the Almighty had decreed one antiseptically safe, exclusive, orthodox way. Although he is Unity, God enjoys, it seems, his recreation, his play, his lila, in endorsing variety!
But the realization of the highest truth — the Truth that is "truest of the true" — is all the same realization. For God, when he is found, the avatars and saints tell us, is One, the One without a second. If anyone will compare their statements about this, as Huxley does in The Perennial Philosophy, one must agree. Or if one wants experimental data from one who proceeded in a scientific spirit, there are the well-documented reports concerning Sri Ramakrishna, who followed in all orthodoxy one after another the world's great religious paths, reaching the same Light equally by way of each.
Second, I grew to see that perfection is most unlikely to come precipitously, instantaneously; and it is illogical to expect that it should. Do we produce new tissue all of a sudden, become piano virtuosos or figure skaters in an instant, or reach health, after we have been sick, in a flash? Do we find any development in nature occurring without struggle, effort, time? The fabric of the mind, I saw, is remade most slowly of all. Hence yoga — a word and discipline I had formerly shied away from as denoting something in objectionable taste — became to me a course in self-improvement. Adjustable to individual leanings, yoga provides a variety of practices for the slow remodeling of the mind and discovery of the Divine Ground. By recollectedness, by meditation, by repetition of the Name, by selfless work and abnegation, one might, I began to see, slowly turn one's moment-to-moment existence into a freeing sacrament.
Third, about individual differences — the inequities we find between people, and Christianity's unsatisfactory explanation of them. Through its rejection of the doctrines of reincarnation and karma in the fourth century, Christianity fashioned for itself, it appeared to me, a trap from which it was later never able to escape. To me, the principles of reincarnation and karma seemed, the first time I heard of them, patently sensible. At ten or so I overheard my parents talking about an aunt of mine who had taken up Theosophy. "She believes that people gain salvation by coming back to earth again and again in different bodies — imagine!"
"Capital," I thought, like a light going on.
Theories of reincarnation and karma tie in with science and explain individual differences wonderfully: all results have a cause; my present condition is the result of what I have been, what I have really wished for; and I may govern my own future by what I am, by what I wish for now. Thus responsibility is placed on the individual instead of others, on God, or on some ambiguous fate.
And you have, with reincarnation and karma, a reasonable basis for social theory. We may say that all men are born free and equal; but the evidence of our eyes demonstrates that they are not. Still, the idealistic man is repelled by class, desires to be equalitarian in outlook. Where reincarnation and karma are accepted, he can be. The criterion of rank is spiritual unfoldment. Divinity is manifested more completely in some than in others, and that man is most estimable in whom it is unfolded most. The real aristocrat is the saint, the plebian the person of minor spiritual evolution. This is where the emphasis of class should be. But every man is equally a repository of the identical indwelling spirit, and must be respected as such.
Fourth, about religion and history.
Nearly everyone will admit now that we have come to a queer time — of vulgarity, of disillusionment, of social and psychological dislocation. After fifteen hundred years of attempting to built Augustine's City of God, Western man has reached a point where he can see that he has done nothing of the kind, and perhaps question at last the familiar straight-line theory of history.
Yet there seems to have been for a while a kind of kingdom of heaven on earth in the West, a social-spiritual youth and flowering. This is frequently and appropriately called the Age of Faith.
But that was long ago. By the time of the Renaissance the tide had reached its crest and was beginning to fall back, to run away in a thousand rivulets which no one could ever rechannel into one stream again. The Catholic Church tried. But religion had become institutionalized and dogmatic — unable to adapt itself to changing needs. As more screens of time and human interpretation came down between man and the original Christ, spiritual ardor lessened. The effect of Christianity in shaping faith and morals diminished almost to the vanishing point. The Church split up, philosophy went off in various directions, and eventually naturalism appeared as the prevailing viewpoint. Organized Christianity went firmly on, as though nothing had happened; but actually religion in the West by the sixteenth or seventeenth century had come to have very little influence on life. Most thought which really impelled action stemmed, as it does today, from naturalistic assumptions.
This was the way I saw what had occurred, and the concept of historical cycles seemed far more logical to me than any theory of straight-line progress. It was clear that a scheme of rise and fall was the law of life. The cyclical theory was prominent in Greek thought. Some good historians had supported it in the modern period: Giambattista Vico in the early eighteenth century, and Brooks Adams, Oswald Spengler, and Arnold Toynbee in our time. The configuration of a culture's life may be compared to an oblique 5. There is the commencement, a deliberate rise, the rapid ascent to a height, then a long tapering off. This cyclic view of history explained where we are today and how we got here. It also explained the mystery of the many earlier civilizations which have been but are no more: the glory that was Rome — and Greece — and Egypt — and Vedic India — and ancient China — and probably countless more.
This was how, by the time I reached Vedanta, I had come to view history. All that was needed was for Vedanta to supply the missing modus operandi — what makes a new culture rise in the first place. This became apparent at once. The massive unifying force which produces a new culture is the revelation, the life on earth, of a son of God. It is the advent of a saint or Incarnation which inspires a new flowering.
It was always understood in India, and is clearly stated in the Bhagavad-Gita, that God reappears on earth at those sterile times when goodness grows weak and evil increases. Then he makes himself a body and returns, to reestablish righteousness and deliver the God-seeker. To an agrarian culture God came as a charming shepherd boy, in the form of Krishna. The hard-shelled formalism of the day was broken, as ecstatic love for God flowered once again. In a civilization of feudalism he appeared as an ideal young prince, who renounced to become the ascetic Rama. His preaching as Buddha, at a period when faith had become strangled by a decadent priestcraft, was: Be a lamp unto yourself. Up and down the Judea of Caesar's age he walked as a familiar kind of prophet, called Jesus, but with a new message that was to replace obedience with charity, a shopkeeping ethics with love. Many more appearances have been recorded. It is even said that in times far gone by, when life was all aquatic, the Lord swam the world's oceans as a superb, exemplary fish!
Considering the modern state of Christian culture, I was prepared to believe that it was time for God to come anew. Again Vedanta supplied the needed ingredient. It said that he had. Around the time when Abraham Lincoln was President of the United States, God, this time having assumed the form of a temple priest named Ramakrishna, was giving out a message which would start a new civilization. He was here, in one of his innumerable second comings, living just north of Calcutta. Just on the eve of the development of instantaneous communication and speedy transportation — when the world was becoming one in time and space and must become one in spirit — he had introduced the new motif of harmony.
I congratulated myself that I was in on it. Somehow I had been lucky enough, in rejecting the last fragments of the final tapering off of the old curve, to have landed astride the rising stroke of the brand-new S. A most entrancing moment in which to be alive! To know where one is in history is good. To be able to visualize what is going to happen next is also good. And to be alive at one of the turning points of man's fate — that is best of all.
And fifth, about my old problem of good and evil.
When Christopher Isherwood was living at the Hollywood Vedanta Society, and editing the Society's magazine, he wrote a fanciful little piece — I suspect to fill some last-minute gap in an issue — on the Kalpataru or wish-fulfilling tree of Indian fable.
Some children are gathered on a lawn with their uncle. He tells them of this magic tree: "If you speak to it and tell it a wish; or if you lie down under it and think, or even dream a wish, then that wish will be granted. It is over there. It is called a Kalpataru."
So the children try out the magic of the tree. They run to the Kalpataru and, looking up into its serene branches, address to it all their desires. Most of the wishes are very unwise. Many of them end, Isherwood tells us, "in indigestion or tears". But the wishing tree fulfills them just the same; it is not interested in giving good advice.
Years pass. The children are all men and women now. They have long since forgotten the Kalpataru in their uncle's garden. They have found new wishes and are trying to fulfill them. At first the aim of their lives is to get these wishes granted; but later on it is just the opposite. The whole effort finally is to find wishes which will be very hard — even impossible — to fulfill.
What we are to understand is that the whole Creation is a giant Wishing Tree. A branch extends into every heart. Whatever longing rises there, some force, some justice, operates so that some time or other — in this life or another — it will be granted. Granted, yes — along with its attendant retinue of consequences, life's indigestions and tears.
As I studied Vedanta I found this idea just, practical, and intellectually satisfying. We may — we must — have everything we want. In fact, this creation is nothing but our desires in substantial form; and one's own condition in it something one oneself has ordained — a vehicle one's soul has fashioned best capable of traveling the trails his dreams have laid down, qualified, of course, by the consequences.
The universe we see is relative. It is not good or bad; it is just relative. The Indian term for it is maya. It is built up of pairs of opposites: pleasure and pain, joy and sorrow, fulfillment and frustration. To claim the pleasant is to gain, equally, the painful; to grasp joy is, as well, to hold sorrow. We find this out; we have disappointment after disappointment. Yet we go on seeking; we go on wishing. We cannot do otherwise, for something in us will not give up; something in us goes on commanding us to persist aso as to gain the perfect joy.
The motivation, Vedanta told me, is the longing to know God, to discover the real Ground of our being. We don't know that's what attracts us, for maya has obscured that real self. But it is the hunger to know God which produces this restless search through many lives. Every movement of the heart is an obscured wish for God. We don't know it, but that's what it is. The drunkard's search for bliss in a bottle is a search for God. Human love is would-be mystic union. The famine for delight, for experience, for meaning, the pursuit of beauty — all the fluttering of the bird that would escape to a larger air. We keep trying to reach the sun by shinnying up every lamp-post.
Eventually you catch on to the swindle. Finally, after you have tried everything an achieved the same sense of frustration for perhaps the hundredth or the thousandth time, in sheer exhaustion you give up attempting to find the absolute in the relative. That is what, I learned, is called the dawning of discrimination. You perceive at last what bad is, if there is such a thing; it is the ignorant hunt for light in the shadows; it is confusion of the relative with the Real; it is false identification. You grasp at last — again if there is such a thing — what good is too: anything which helps to break the hallucination; anything which shatters the apparent so that the Real may shine forth. Then you reach out to catch the mind and wrestle with it, and hold it back from its running. That is what renunciation is. And the way you get the strength to reverse the direction of your mind, and the skill to do it, is through meditation and allied spiritual practices. Meditation is creation in reverse — a dehypnotizing process.
That was Swami Prabhavananda's immediate advice to me when I met him for the first time in November of 1948. I had asked it of others, now I asked it of him — in effect: "Lord, what must I do to be saved?"
"Meditate, meditate, meditate," was the Swami's response.
Once, when upset about some terrible and seemingly meaningless trouble that had come into another's life, I spat out to Prabhavananda: "What a mess! How poorly God designed this universe. The most debased of us could have done it better."
Swami's response was: "No. He designed it very well; because the way he designed it brings us to him."
All life is struggling upward. The vulture tearing at dead flesh, the liar trying to improve his situation through falsehood, the highwayman robbing to get comforts for his family — each is aspiring to something better than he has known; and each of these I have been. So with the madman, the murderer, the philanderer. One cannot apologize, nor should one regret, because it is this sort of error which makes one turn from error.
Why does the world exist? That is like asking why the first acts of a play exist: to make possible the perfect ending. This world drama was composed to provide a meeting at last between lover and beloved. The scenes of comedy and joy; the stretches of stupid melodrama; the episodes of tragedy; the sub-plots and false climaxes — all are necessary to built up suspense and create a crashing climax.
God thus, according to Vedanta, does not decree good and evil. He has nothing to do with such matters. Where relativity is, there he is not. Where he is, relativity is not. Take your choice; if you choose relativity, do not try to involve God in it. If you choose God — and in time each man shall — you will wring your hands a good deal less about the problem of good and evil.
This seemed to me to be satisfactory and logical.
Vedanta appealed to the Devotee as inquirer after Truth, hence, because it is so attractive rationally; it allows one to be cosmopolitan, permissive, broad. It furnishes a psychologically sound program for personal growth and developemnt. Its tenets square with discoveries of modern science — as a veritable cascade of new books on physics as mysticism and mysticism as physics demonstrates — and furnishes a basis for equitable social practice. Vedanta illuminates history. And Vedanta copes successfully — or as successfully as anything can — with the problem of good and evil.
This, then, is what Vedanta means, or has come to mean, to me.