So, what gives meaning to a symbol is the who behind the symbol, not the what behind the symbol. I would request all of you not to be fascinated by these explanations of symbols, because while Reality can be expressed in symbolic form, a symbol cannot lead you to Reality. Otherwise, everybody who worshipped the cross should have been liberated long ago. You know, the Hindu temple-goer is often criticized as an ignorant idol worshipper. I don’t see how a Christian is less of an idol worshipper. What are you worshipping? A cross? Is it not an idol?
So, when we put an idea into a material object, that becomes idolatry. Whereas if you remove the object or the essence from its material bondage, that is liberation. So for a soul, liberation is release from the travails of space and time. Please also remember that if you continue with this thinking, one cannot see God, because He is the creator of space and time, but one can experience God. Therefore we have the presence of God, but not the vision of God. Therefore be suspicious of anybody who tells you that he saw God. Be very suspicious! Also, be suspicious of qualities of God – “God is kind. God is benevolent. God is generous.” – because if He were these things, He would also be cruel, un-generous, and unkind. Because where one quality exists, its opposite must exist… Therefore, God cannot have qualities. Therefore God cannot even have a mind, because if He had a mind, He would be subject to good thoughts and bad thoughts.
Now, I think Christianity, somewhere along the way, you know, blundered into this mistake of not only putting God somewhere in heaven, creating a permanent duality between heaven, earth, and hell, but also of attributing qualities to the divine. We are also prisoners of those qualities. You have only to look at abhyasis who say, “Oh, sometimes Master is kind, sometimes he is cruel.”, forgetting this fact, that if you are kind you must be cruel too. No doctor can help you without giving you pain. Does such a doctor exist? I don’t think so.
So you see, when we symbolize life, and say that a pleasurable life is a good life, and a life of pain is a bad life, we are bound to make terrible mistakes. So you see, symbols can be misconstrued, wrongly created, and wrongly used. Symbols are only good for the wise people, like anything else. Money in the hands of a wise man is good. Power in the hands of a wise man is good.
The common people should avoid symbols even more than they should avoid money or power.
You see, we keep coming back to this idea of pain. It is inevitable… Liberation and pain are bound together, until we realize this fact, that pain is a sign of liberation. We are going to avoid pain , therefore we are going to avoid liberation. And the more we go towards pleasure, the more we are going into bondage and suffering.
So, pain is different from suffering. This is you must kindly remember, that there can be suffering without pain, and one can have a great deal of pain without suffering. It is unfortunate that the two have come to be mixed up. That pain is suffering and suffering is pain is a mistake. We suffer more from our pleasures than from our pain. -Chariji Maharaj, The Role of the Master in Human Evolution