Chapter 16: There Is Only the One
So that the oneness can be realized in all dimensions of life, this sutra says:
I am the creator of the many Vedas, and it is I who teaches them. I have created Vedanta, the culmination of the Vedas, which are the Upanishads. All the Vedas speak of me. I am beyond birth and beyond death. Sin and virtue cannot touch me. I am without body, senses and intellect.
“Sin and virtue cannot touch me..” You will not find such a statement anywhere else in any religious scripture. All religious scriptures have identified God with virtue and have denied sin. Because of this denial, they had to create the Devil; otherwise where would you send a sinner, under whose charge? There is evil in the world and the good you attribute to God - but what to do with evil?
Christianity has always had this difficulty: there is evil in the world so what to do about it, whom to make responsible for it? They don’t dare to make God responsible for it, because if God himself is creating all this evil, then there seems to be no way out of it. And if God himself is creating evil, then what kind of god is he? In the English language, the words god and good come from the same root. Good and God are the same. So it is not right to translate the word ishvar, the universal reality, as God, because here this universal reality says, “Sin and virtue cannot touch me” - I am in both and I am also beyond both.
It will be good to understand one more point here: “.cannot touch me” does not mean that you are far away from sin and virtue. If you are far away, then there can be no question of touching. The meaning is clear: “I am at the center of the two, and yet they cannot touch me; I pass through the river and yet the water does not touch me; I pass through the dark cave full of coal dust and yet no black stain marks me.” Yes, if you never pass through the dark cave, then the very question of being or of not being stained would never arise. This sutra, “Sin and virtue cannot touch me,” implies that I am in both the sin and in the virtue, but they cannot touch me. Even though I am present in both, I am beyond both.
This view of a transcendental God who is beyond both good and evil is a unique insight. In the East, we don’t identify God with good, so we don’t need to create a Devil either. But then this God becomes a complex phenomenon because both good and evil come from him. He gives health as well as sickness. He is birth and he is also death. Rama comes from him and Ravana also comes from him. Poison comes out of him and nectar also comes out of him. Then this Indian concept of God becomes very complex.