Some branches of Hinduism teach that avidya, or ignorance, hinders the individual self from discerning the non-dual universal nature of pure being (Brahman). Because of the subliminal, all-pervasive influence of maya (illusion), human beings tend to perceive only separate selves and things (all that combines to make up this temporal, materialistic world). This view insists that most people fail to perceive that all separate existences are essentially unreal. This false perception results from maya, the power of illusion mysteriously inherent in and projected from Brahman.
Theoretically, when the veil of maya is lifted, the ‘enlightened’ person realizes that all things are of one essential substance (the doctrine of monism). The falsehood of dualities then becomes apparent, such as the illusory distinction between atman (the human soul) and Brahman (the Oversoul), and the doctrinal barriers that exist between various religious expressions. Those who buy into this interpretation of the creation usually conclude, as the Roman Emperor and Stoic Philosopher, Marcus Aurelius, “The universe is a single life comprising one substance and one soul.”1 Maya is supposedly the result of lila, a cosmic game, a kind of divine ‘trick’ played on the human race. As long as the individual self remains locked in a carnal state, as long as it is devoid of spiritual insight, it will futilely look for fulfillment in the material world with its activities. This spiritual ignorance causes the souls of men to stay trapped within samsara, the continuing cycle of birth, death and rebirth.
Christianity does agree with the futility of living for things in this world. In the Old Testament, Solomon lamented, “Vanity of vanities, all is vanity.” (Ecclesiastes 1:2) Vanity is uselessness, senselessness, and emptiness—the dark cloak that covers all the activities of this realm that are not a part of enduring truth. Insightful persons are quick to acknowledge that all these things will eventually bow to the ravages of time. In the New Testament, John, the apostle, explained, “all that is in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—is not of the Father but is of the world. And the world is passing away, and the lust of it; but he who does the will of God abides forever.” (1 John 2:16–17)
Buddhism teaches the related doctrines of “Emptiness” and “Impermanence.” Admittedly, all inanimate things and many animate things are “empty” of an enduring essence; and they are “impermanent” (such as rocks and plants). The world as it is now is only temporary. However, Christianity teaches an ultimate “New Earth” that will be permanent and those who know the Lord will permanently be a part of it. Buddhism on the other hand teaches that nothing is permanent, not even personal existence.
Christian doctrine does not support the idea of maya: the global grip of illusion supposedly perpetrated by the Absolute (Brahman). In Christianity the world is real; it is a substantive and significant expression of the divine plan, to be enjoyed as part of the human experience of life. Moreover, the lessons learned here are relevant and valuable. However, men misuse the world and abuse themselves and each other because of deception.
God does not author this deception. Rather, three main influences have warped the conduct of the human race since the fall of man: (1) The devil (along with his associate demon spirits); (2) The sin that is so rampant here, and; (3) The fallen nature of our own flesh (which actually makes human beings all the more susceptible to the first two sources of deception mentioned). The Scripture indicts these three as being the real perpetrators of deception, explaining that Satan “deceives the whole world,” that human beings are “hardened through the deceitfulness of sin” and that the unregenerated human heart is “deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked.” (Revelation 12:9, Hebrews 3:13, Jeremiah 17:9)
God removed the human race from conscious fellowship with his divine presence because of the entrance of sin in the beginning. However, God does not purposefully delude men or distort the truth. Because of their separation from him and the fallen state of their flesh, human beings are vulnerable to this darkened state of mind. However, God’s Spirit is titled the “Spirit of truth,” sent forth into this world to guide men into “all truth.” (John 16:13) According to the biblical worldview, there will always be a certain measure of what some would term ‘duality.’ God’s people will never actually become God. We will always exist as separate entities, separate and distinct from each other and separate from the Almighty. Once we are given glorified bodies, believers will enjoy a beautiful, eternal oneness with each other and with God, but not to the degree of losing our individual existence. This oneness with God is symbolized in Paul’s writings by the oneness of a husband and wife in marriage. (See Ephesians 5:23–33.) The mystery is that two persons become one. In the process, however, they never lose their individual identities, though undeniably, there is a uniting of their bodies and a blending of their souls. So it is with the Lord Jesus Christ and his people.
Many ‘dualities’ will cease with the entrance of what Christian theology terms the “New Creation” (like the opposites of life and death, light and darkness, future and past, etc.). Only life, light and eternity will remain. However, one distinction will continue forever (the Bridegroom, the Lord Jesus—separate and distinct from his eternal bride—though enjoying an indescribably deep and holy union with them forever.)
Meher Baba, who claimed to be the Avatar for this age, described creation as a “foolish act” and a “mighty joke.”2 This is much different than the Creator’s assessment of the matter, as recorded in the Bible. After viewing all that he had made in six divine days of creation, God concluded, “Behold, it was very good.” (Genesis 1:31) Of course, Meher Baba’s perspective runs parallel to the Hindu concept of lila— explaining all of this to be some kind of divine game. There is possibly no better response to this than Annie Dillard’s in Pilgrim at Tinker Creek—“Divinity is not playful. The universe was not made in jest, but in solemn incomprehensible earnest by a power that is unfathomably secret and holy and fleet. There is nothing to be done about it but ignore it or see.”3
1 http://www.azquotes.com/quote/1225942 (accessed 9/20/2018).
2. Meher Baba, The Everything and the Nothing, ed. Francis Brabazon. (Sheriar Press Inc., Myrtle Beach, SC, 1995) p.20.
3. Annie Dillard, Pilgrim at Timber Creek (New York: Harper’s Magazine Press, 1974) p. 270.