First and foremost, we do not even remember that we are within a prison. How many kinds of prison houses we go through from birth to death! Everywhere there are walls – the walls of the prison. When a Hindu says: “I am a Hindu” and when a Muslim asserts that he is a Muslim, they both do not say they are imprisoned within their respective walls. They assert with such conceit, as if to be a Hindu or a Muslim or a Jaina is a matter of great pride. When a man declares “I am an Indian” or “I am a Chinese” it is a matter of great pride for him. Little does he know that these are walls that prevent all men from merging into one mankind.
Whatever obstructs, is a barrier. If I refrain from meeting you, whatever stands between us is a barrier. If the Hindu fails to meet a Muslim, it is this wall that comes in the way; and it is the same between the Indian and the Chinese; the outcaste and the brahmin. Whether this barrier is visible or invisible, whatever stands in the way of union is a wall – and how many walls there are between man and man!
These walls as exist between a Hindu and a Muslim, defy detection and we are not even aware of their presence. This is why they are dangerous, for we can see through them but we cannot extend our hand in friendship because of them. If a Hindu tries to extend his hand toward a Muslim, the wall stands between and the hand turns back. So is the case between the low caste sudra and the high caste brahmin. Therefore there is no meeting ground and we do not realize that it is due entirely to the fact that each of us is enclosed within the walls of his own concepts and dogmas, and is incapable of seeing beyond them.
In Russia it is taught that there is no God. The children there grow up with this concept. An irrevocable line is drawn around his soul – there is no God. Now this child will pass through life within the boundaries of this concept; and he will view the world only through this concept – that there is no God. Now all his actions will be oriented by this concept.
If a man has to be held captive, he has to be enclosed within the walls of the prison, but these prison houses of the soul are very strange. They encircle you and go along with you wherever you go. Now when the idea of nonexistence of God is implanted in the mind of a person from childhood, he will live his entire life within this concept. Then he will not find God anywhere; for we are only capable of seeing that for which we are ready. And the person whose capacity of observation is stunted, is closed, comes to the conclusion that there is no God, he will be incapable of seeing anything.
You may turn around and say: “Then we are better off for we believe in the existence of God.” It is not so. We are in an equal, if not worse, peril than they are. A man has taken for granted that there is God. He is convinced and so he will take no trouble to find him. He believes, that is enough – there is nothing more to do. He believes – and his belief that God is becomes his prison wall. He who believes that God is not, gets bound within the boundary of his denial of God. So one is closed in theism and the other in atheism. Both are enclosed in their own sheaths. But only he can progress in the quest of truth who refuses to be bound within any of these walls. He will say, ‘‘I do not know yet whether God is or is not, but I will set no wall around me. I shall not lean on any scriptures or dogmas. for these only serve to bind the person and make it difficult for him to find truth.”