Sometimes Vedanta philosophers go to the other extreme. They say that God is responsible for the evil as well as for the good in this universe. They sometimes go so far as to say that everything here is an expression of divinity; whether it seems to be living or nonliving, good or evil, pleasant or unpleasant everything is an expression of God. To our common sense that seems to be an impossible proposition, and yet that is exactly what they maintain. Another somewhat puzzling idea is that while God is considered to be formless, Vedanta speaks of Him as having form; sometimes in the ancient books the forms of God are even described. How can it be that God, who is infinite and formless, as Vedanta more often says, is at the same time endowed with form?
These are of course great puzzles and have to be explained. And I should tell you here that all these divergent and apparently contradictory ideas of God, which were originally presented in the Vedanta texts, the Upanishads, were confusing even to the ancient students of this philosophy; in fact, we find that great efforts were made by our philosophers and sages to find a harmony among them. So it may be useful if I dwell briefly on the Vedantic ideas of God, and I shall do so later on. But in choosing my subject I had in mind a very particular topic the relationship between God and God-men as it is explained by our philosophy.
Let me first of all define the term God-man as we understand it. You see, in the Hindu religious tradition we believe that many people have become saints, that is to say, actual knowers of God. We have also conceived the knowledge of God to be of different degrees and stages, so that if you have the insight to see into the mind of a spiritual man, you will at once know what degree or stage of spiritual growth he has attained. Some have truly seen God, and to see God is no easy thing. It is said that it takes many lifetimes, many incarnations as human beings, for the soul to reach a state where it craves for God essentially, and that state is only the precondition of spiritual experience. When a person feels within himself that he doesn’t want anything of the outside world, when the greater part of his aspiration is directed towards God, when he is convinced in his heart of hearts that God is the essential truth, that He is the abode of all goodness, and that to find Him is to be fulfilled completely and everlastingly when this condition is reached, one is able to travel towards God. And it is then, after having practised meditation and dwelt upon God with all one’s heart and soul, that one comes so close to Him as to actually see Him. That is the first experience of God we have.
But you see, that is only the beginning, because the soul, not being satisfied with the first glimpse of God, travels further towards Him and becomes, you might say, unified with Him not identified, but unified. The soul still feels itself as distinct from God but very close to Him; there is nothing now between itself and God. We believe that last of all comes complete absorption of the soul in God. In that absorption the soul is not lost but becomes completely identified with God; the divine consciousness becomes his own consciousness, and the two consciousnesses are not separate or even distinct. This is the way the soul travels towards God and has the highest vision of God.