Most serious seekers of the Divine long ago left behind the idea that God is a an Old Man in the Sky. Yet we still, at least in the predominantly Christian world, often hear the expression “The Man Upstairs” in reference to God in Heaven.
Speaking for myself, as a Hindu I know God is not a man. Not because God is also depicted as a woman. And a child. And a monkey. Etcetera. But because these are merely representations calculated to suit various temperaments.
Nor is God “upstairs.” I have long held the belief – and this needs not necessarily hold any water with anyone, but I’ll relate it to paint a picture of where I am coming from – that the reason that from time out of mind people have looked “to the sky” in prayer, is because that is where the third eye is located. Just above our eyes. God is not in the sky. “He” does not live on a cloud. We all know that on some level. But we have to identify God with a “place” somehow, to help make sense of things. We live in what we perceive as an orderly world. Though if you took a tour around the galaxy you’d probably come back with a better sense of the chaos that lies beyond what we see in our every day lives. Yet, beyond even that, is an inherent order that we cannot comprehend. So, long story short, we say God is “above”, or, even more metaphorically, “upstairs.”
So, I’ve already taken issue with two thirds of the expression “The Man Upstairs”. But I have come to wonder if the word “the” is not similarly suspect. A few definitions of the word “the” will illustrate. To wit:
1. denoting one or more people or things already mentioned or assumed to be common knowledge.
– No two people have common knowledge of God. Not really. At least they don’t think they do. We as humans trust what our intellect tells us it perceives more than we trust what actually is. No two people’s intellect perceive the ultimate, unchangeable reality in the same ways, though It is, by definition, ever the same. It is, to be sure, beyond an intellectual endeavor, perception of God. But the very pursuit of the perception is also an experience very often clouded and colored by the intellect.
2. used to refer to a person place or thing that is unique.
– To be unique, something must be one amongst many which stands out as singular. But, to Hindus all there IS, is God. There is no “otherness”. To believe there IS, is delusion. God is not “one amongst many” but rather ONE that appears as many.
3. used to point forward in a sentence to a following qualifying or defining clause or phrase.
– When it comes down to it, what many call God is the ultimate reality in its purest form. Brahman. And Brahman has no defining characteristics.
So you can see, the expression “The Man Upstairs” is a complete and utter misnomer. And “the” might be the most misplaced part of it. But the idea of a “man upstairs” watching over us is a starting point for understanding Eternal and Indivisible.
Jai Hari Aum