Bertrand Russell was tremendously impressed by Gautama the Buddha. Certainly, Gautama the Buddha had a refinement of arguments and the courage to go with his intelligence, not with tradition. Jesus was still believing in God. Gautam Buddha also had the tradition of believing in God but his intelligence did not allow it.
It is a simple argument: if God creates man then there can be no freedom; the choice is between God or freedom. The choice is not between God or no God, the choice is between God or freedom – because if God creates humanity, we are simply puppets, manufactured. And God seems to be whimsical.
For no special reason he created the world at a certain moment – and before that, for eternity, what was he doing? And what was the cause that motivated him to create the world at a certain point? And if he is simply whimsical, crazy – the idea just comes to his mind to create so he creates – if the idea comes to destroy, who is there to prevent him? He can destroy it at this very moment.
Gautam Buddha said, “I cannot accept God because I cannot accept that consciousness is manufactured. I cannot accept that there is a whimsical creator, because that implies a whimsical destroyer. Then what is the point of my being virtuous? If even the creation of the world is whimsical, and all its laws are just in the hands of God, then perhaps up to now good people have been going to paradise and from tomorrow they will start going to hell. What can you do? To whom are you going to protest? God is not visible, not available.”
And Gautam Buddha also said, and he pondered over it – if in the first place it is God who creates man, then he creates anger, sex, greed, jealousy, violence in man. And then there are religious priests and saints and mahatmas who condemn it. Looked at straightforwardly, they are condemning God.
George Gurdjieff used to say that all mahatmas, all saints are against God, because God creates sex and these people teach celibacy. You have not created sex, you have not created ambition, and all the mahatmas of all the religions are together in condemning it. Certainly they are against God.
Gautam Buddha said, “Rather than accepting this position, I choose to reject the very idea of God and his creation.”
Bertrand Russell was immensely impressed. Gautam Buddha lived five hundred years earlier than Jesus Christ, but he had the courage to reject God in favor of freedom, in favor of evolution, in favor of man’s own efforts to transform himself, to bring more consciousness and more being.
That night he thought, “Certainly Gautam Buddha was a far greater human being than Jesus Christ. But can I write this?” He closed his eyes…and then he wrote in his diary, “Rationally I understand that Gautam Buddha is a far superior human being, but my conditioning…although I have rejected Christianity, somehow in the darker corners of my unconscious it is still lingering. I cannot put Gautam Buddha above Jesus Christ. At the most I can put them as equals, understanding clearly that Jesus is just a pygmy before Gautam Buddha. Rationally I understand, but there is the irrational part, which is dominated by thousands of years of conditioning.”