Are Vedantists and Buddhists Atheists?


Believers in the Vedanta and Buddhism are not unlike atheists regarding end of life: it is dissolution of the self. The 'awareness' is not ours, it is God. I feel that the non-fundamental mind is being violated -- the joke is on us. Your thoughts?

—david snowdon, thailand


Dear David,

Your thoughts have been expressed by others down through ages but it is not that simple.

For starters, I won’t pretend to represent Buddhism, for some Buddhists even claim to BE atheists!

Instead I will speak from the point of view of Vedanta, at least as Paramhansa Yogananda taught it. (How scholars and pundits explain these things is different than how Self-realized masters do.)

The dissolution of the ego is not the destruction of anything real. The ego, Yogananda taught, is the soul identified with the body (or at least ‘to the extent’ identified with the body).

But as Krishna in the Bhagavad Gita propounds, nothing is destroyed. For starters the ego is not real to begin with. But even more than that, and perhaps unlike some Buddhists might put it, the soul, in dissolving its identification with the body and personality, expands into and towards Infinity.

Infinity, by definition, excludes nothing, not even the present tense memory of all past lives and past, including false, identifications. All are included. The soul’s freedom is such that it is released from the past identification with former lives and actions as being separate.

Thus nothing is truly destroyed. And that into which one becomes is eternal, ever conscious bliss. Consciousness can never be obliterated because ultimately that’s all there is: Consciousness.

Consciousness can be limited or consciousness can be Infinite and every place in between. But it cannot be destroyed.

The language often used in teachings refers to the destruction of the ego. But this has to be understood in a broader context. Nor is it wrong, it is simply insufficient.

I hope you will find these concepts helpful.

Blessings in joy and wisdom!
Nayaswami Hriman