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Who or What is God?

When someone asks me who they are or what God is,
I smile inside and whisper to the Light: "There you go
again pretending."

Adyashanti

Inner Light In his best-selling book, 'The Power of Now', Eckhart Tolle writes: "The word God has become empty of meaning through thousands of years of misuse. I use it sometimes, but I do so sparingly.

By misuse, I mean that people who have never even glimpsed the realm of the sacred, the infinite vastness behind that word, use it with great conviction, as if they knew what they are talking about. Or they argue against it, as if they knew what it is that they are denying.

This misuse gives rise to absurd beliefs, assertions, and egoic delusions, such as "My or our God is the only true God, and your God is false," or Nietzsche's famous statement "God is dead."

The word God has become a closed concept. The moment the word is uttered, a mental image is created, no longer, perhaps, of an old man with a white beard, but still a mental representation of someone or something outside you, and, yes, almost inevitably a male someone or something.

Neither God nor Being nor any other word can define or explain the ineffable reality behind the word, so the only important question is whether the word is a help or a hindrance in enabling you to experience That toward which it points. Does it point beyond itself to that transcendental reality, or does it lend itself too easily to becoming no more than an idea in your head that you believe in, a mental idol?"

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Some synonyms for 'God' -- Consciousness, Awareness, Beingness, Emptiness, Spaceousness, No-thing-ness, Is-ness, Such-ness, Spirit, Source, The Christ within, The Tao, The Now, The Void, The One, The Infinite, The Absolute etc.

These pointers also indicate our own true identity so one comes to understand or see oneself as, for instance, the Consciousness-I-am, the Awareness-I-am, the Beingness-I-am etc. What one really is has also been referred to as the essential or unborn Nature, the true Self etc.

When there is an abiding in the conscious awareness of our true identity, God is directly experienced, to a greater or lesser degree, as Tranquillity, Peace, Joy, Unconditional Love, Compassion, Happiness, Sufficiency, Energy, Detachment, Absence of Fear (of death etc.), Absence of Judgment, Absence of Resistance, Absence of Reactivity, etc.

The place within where God is experienced has been referred to in some sacred writings as The Center, The Heart, The Presence, The Light, The Secret Place of the Most High, The Holy or Holies, The Shekinah, The Kingdom of Heaven etc.

So what is God? Can we describe it? What are the attributes of the Absolute? The One has no attributes whatever. The indescribable cannot be described, but the great teachers have done their best, and if you poke around the literature of enlightenment you'll find a number of attributes consistently being assigned to God, to the One. According to those claiming to know first hand, God is ...

     
  • Empty
    Immaculate. Pure. Clear. Transparent. Void. No-Thing.
  • Unbounded
    Has neither size nor boundaries. Is neither infinitely big nor infinitesimal, nor both of these nor neither. Occupies no space.
  • All-encompassing
    Totality. Everything. Capacity. There is nothing outside It. There is nothing It is not.
  • Indivisible
    Inseparable. Unity or Unicity.
  • Here
    The answer given to "Where is God?" Always here. Never elsewhere.
  • Timeless
    Beyond the concepts of past, present, future and eternity. The present moment -- the Now.
  • Intelligent
    Prior to mind, yet all knowing (without a knower nor anything needing to be known). Pure intelligence.
  • Aware
    Alive. Vital. Alert. Wide awake Self-aware.
    "A No-Thing aware of itself as No-Thing is really quite Something." (Harding)
  • Mysterious
    i.e. It is: Unexaminable. Inscrutable, Inexplicable. Ineffable. Pure mystery. It just IS.
Again, the mind finds questions in the answers, like: "Where is Here?" "Here is wherever I am," we say. "I am here, in this chair." Closer, though, where is the center of my experience of Here? Where is ground zero, the innermost Here? What do I find at zero inches? Is anyone home?

As many of you know, Douglas Harding has a series of experiments aimed at triggering a startling experience of Here he calls Headlessness. The most widely known of these is the pointing experiment.

Point at anything. Everywhere you point out you point at things. You can only point at things, things with names and shapes and apparent substance. Now point directly into your point of view -- right between the eyes. What does the finger point to now? Is there a thing there? Or does it point to no-thing?

Stop imagining a face. Can you see your face right now? For just a moment don't explain to yourself why there really is a face there but you can't see it because of anatomical anomalies or whatever. Use only your immediate experience, only the huge single-eye view you have right now -- not a memory of your face in the mirror, or imaginings based on what you see on other people's shoulders. Using only this view now, describe what your finger points in to.

If you're at a loss for words, you can refer to the list of God's attributes above. Are you not pointing to emptiness? An aware emptiness of unknown size that encompasses all? Are you not, in truth, That which has been described?

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"That which is aware of you right now, is God. That which is your own innermost awareness, right now, is God. That which sees but is never seen, is God. That Witness in you right now, ever present as pure Presence, is God. That vast Freedom, that great Emptiness, that primordial Purity, your own present state of awareness, right now, is God. And thus, most fundamentally and forever, it is God who speaks with your tongue and listens with your ears, and sees with your eyes, this God who is closer to you than you are to yourself, this God who has never abandoned you and never could, this God who is every breath you take, the very beat of your tender heart, who beholds the entire majesty before your eyes, yet is never, never seen."

~ Ken Wilber -- The Simple Feeling of Being

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Beyond The Name

The concept of the name of God is one which has fascinated scholars and philosophers from the dawn of time. God reportedly revealed 'His' name to Moses via the burning-bush; as recorded in the book of Exodus 3:14. The name Moses heard was, Ehyeh Asher Ehyeh. Actually, it's a phrase rather than a name, so what does it mean, and does it have any significance for us today?

In biblical Hebrew, Ehyeh Asher Ehyeh is a deceptively simple phrase consisting of the relative pronoun asher sandwiched between two instances of the first person singular of the verb hayah -- to be. Ehyeh is most commonly translated as "I am." Asher is a remarkable Hebrew word that can mean, that, who, which or where, but in this context, is most often translated as that.

Therefore, generally speaking, Ehyeh Asher Ehyeh, or I am that I am, can be taken to indicate the self-existence and infinite eternality of God as the Source of all. It indicates the unity between the formless Divine Nature and the essence of all forms.

As Abhayananda comments in his illuminating book, 'The Supreme Self': "I am is an immediately evident fact -- perhaps the most evident of all facts. It is not necessary to think in order to be aware I am -- Descartes' assertion to the contrary notwithstanding. I am is self-evident and logically prior to thought, for it is the I of I think.

This I am (Sanskrit: Aham; Hebrew: Ehyeh) is synonymous with consciousness in humankind. It is the constant underlying background, which serves as witness as well as substratum to all possible mental states....

Consciousness is the immutable, static witness; what it witnesses is its own projection in the form of thoughts, feelings and images, as well as the impressions registered by the senses.

Consciousness is the subject, the seer, and everything else is the object, the seen.

Consciousness never vanishes; it is the one unfailing constant witness to all the various mental states: for example, in the waking state, consciousness is the witness of two simultaneous levels of activity: the internal one of thoughts, imaginations, etc., and an external one of sense-data from the "objective" world.

In the dream state, consciousness witnesses only on the internal level, viewing the effusive activity of the imagination known as dreams. And in the deep-sleep state, consciousness finally gets a break, as there is nothing at all to witness -- but Itself....

There is yet another state of consciousness besides these three already mentioned: that is the state wherein consciousness transcends the Self-imposed limitation of a separate ego-identity -- the illusion of being confined to one particular body -- and recognizes Itself as universal.

The I experienced in this state is not a different I from the one which has always been experienced; it is the same I, but happily divested of the wrong notion of who I is.

We may call this state nirvana, samadhi, satori, the mystic marriage, oneness with God or whatever we like, it is more precisely however, the startling experience of the expansion of one's consciousness from its limited personal identification to an unimaginably pure and lucid awareness that knows: I am the one Consciousness of the universe! All this is my Self!"

Surely, it was this same lucid awareness that prompted Jesus of Nazareth to declare: "Before Abraham was, I am." thus symbolically proclaiming the unity of the Divine Nature (Divine Light) with the consciousness of existence we all experience -- a recognition that apparently was quite misunderstood by his hearers and only inspired antagonism.

This can only be seen by grace. Abhayananda continues: "One begins to begrudge the mind any thought save the thoought directed to God. And with the aim of centering the mind continually on Him, one begins to sing His name in the inner recesses of the mind....

It doesn't matter which name is used; Christians call Him, "Father," Muslims call Him, "Rahim," Jews call Him, "Adonai," Buddhists call Him, "Buddha," and Hindus call Him, "Hari"; love responds to whatever name is called with love....

Since there is nothing else but that infinite Being wherever one may look, as one begins to sing the name of God, that awareness dawns, and the bliss of recognizing one's own Self both without and within begins to well up.

The more one sings His name, the more one revels in that bliss, and the more clearly one perceives His continual presence. Inherent in that perception is all mercy, all right-judgment, all tenderness, all loving-kindness. It is the natural devotion by which a person's heart is transformed, and by which he or she becomes fit for the vision of God."

But the Jewish scholar and mystic, -- Philo, in the 1st century BCE, has God as saying, "At first say unto them, I am that I am, that, when they have learnt that there is a difference between Him that is and him that is not, they may be further taught that there is no name whatever that can properly be assigned to Me, who am the only being to whom existence belongs."

Centuries before, the Chinese sage, Lao Tsu, expressed the same truth in the opening verse of his sublime little book, The Tao Teh Ching...

    The Tao (Consciousness) that can be told is not the eternal Tao.
    The name that can be named is not the eternal name.
    The nameless is the beginning of heaven and earth.
    The named is the mother of ten thousand things.
    Ever desireless, one can see the mystery
    Ever desiring, one can see the manifestations.
    These two spring from the same source but differ in name;
    This appears as darkness.
    Darkness within darkness.
    The gate to all mystery.

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