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Essays

Why I wrote a book about G**



Let’s face it, “God” is an awkward topic for most westerners. God is rarely spoken of outside a house of worship and rarely, among friends or even family. As a society we are more comfortable discussing our sex life than we are God. On the rare occasion the G-word does slip out, our knee-jerk reaction is to shuffle, duck and dodge. In short, God is now a private affair best kept to oneself in fear of offending the neighbors. So, then, why did I write a book about God, especially when the source for it—the ancient and venerable tradition of Vedanta—isn't even a religion???

Because without talking about God it's really hard to discuss unity with existence or, for that matter, the mahavakya (great phrase): tat tvam asi ("You are that"). It also makes it really hard to come to peace with our worldly experience as individuals sitting somewhere in an infinite universe. Furthermore, although Vedanta is not a religion, it does have theistic qualities. And while Vedanta doesn't teach belief in God, it does teach God knowledge—which, at the end of the day, is really just Self-knowledge.

A paradox, you say?

Vedanta is full of paradoxes. Unknown to many, traditional Advaita Vedanta labels God in two different ways. There is God 1 defined in Sanskrit as nirguna Brahman (“God without attributes”) and God 2 or saguna Brahman (“God with attributes”). God 1 is the formless principle or pure consciousness, while God 2 is the creative principle—that is, the matter and intelligence that make up the empirical world. What's missing from the equation is the idea that there is a "Big Daddy" up in the sky doling out rewards and punishments to the imperfect individuals below.

At this point, you might be thinking, "Wait, this doesn't sound like advaita.” And you'd be right! That’s because you have to learn to walk before you can run, and traditional Advaita Vedanta starts with duality as a provisional step to understanding and realizing non-duality. One criticism about the Neo-Advaita movement is that it has no real teaching method and instead, conveniently jumps to the end. It's the equivalent of showing the answer to a math problem without ever demonstrating how you got it. It's no wonder so few outside the spiritual world take such proclamations as "all is consciousness" seriously.


And while jumping to the answer without knowing the formula may seem like a boon to hungry seekers just wanting to get to the truth, it actually hinders one's spiritual progress. because there is no "enlightenment drive-thru" when it comes to revealing the actual nature of our experience. In other words, there is a process to gaining spiritual enlightenment, which is why "the secret knowledge” still remains mostly hidden—even after centuries.

But back to the book...A Conversation with an Atheist starts out with a contentious dialog between an atheist and sage who shares a vision of God that isn't in conflict with reality. Throughout the book, I approach God (God 1 and God 2) using logic, inference and good old common sense. I also take inspiration from the Bhagavad Gita (literally, "The Song of God"), the Upanishads and other texts in order to show God’s two-fold nature.

As an aside, in many ways A Conversation with an Atheist is a follow-up to an earlier book of mine, The Teachings of the Bhagavad Gita, where, with the aid of various Advaita Vedanta masters, I was able to unlock the meaning of the Gita. A Conversation with an Atheist takes that knowledge and attempts to describe it in more detail using additional sources, while also introducing new perspectives, such as God as one great order, God and the question of free will, and whether or not God is love. I have also included a section in the addendum that answers questions that are not specifically covered in the book’s chapters.

Lastly, the objective of A Conversation with an Atheist isn’t to help the reader become a God-believer but instead, a God-knower. God has become unpopular these days because for many of us, God simply doesn’t make sense anymore. It’s my hope that A Conversation with an Atheist in some small way helps one to reconsider God—not as another veiled attempt to making you feel guilty about being an imperfect being (I promise, it won’t do that), but to better understand our experience and place in the cosmos.

So, without further ado, I'm pleased to announce, A Conversation with an Atheist, published by Mantra Books, will be made available as eBook or paperback, June 1. Pre-orders are already being accepted on most online book stores.

Read the prologue to A Conversation with an Atheist at https://www.thebrokentusk.com/conversation-with-an-atheist


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