It is not easy for students to realize that to ask, as they often do, whether God exists and is merciful, just, good, or wrathful, is simply to project anthropomorphic concepts into a sphere to which they do not pertain. As the Upaniṣads declare: 'There, words do not reach.' Such queries fall short of the question. And yet—as the student must also understand—although that mystery is regarded in the Orient as transcendent of all thought and naming, it is also to be recognized as the reality of one’s own being and mystery. That which is transcendent is also immanent. And the ultimate function of Oriental myths, philosophies, and social forms, therefore, is to guide the individual to an actual experience of his identity with that; tat tvam asi ('Thou art that') is the ultimate word in this connection.
By contrast, in the Western sphere—in terms of the orthodox traditions, at any rate, in which our students have been raised—God is a person, the person who has created this world. God and his creation are not of the same substance. Ontologically, they are separate and apart. We, therefore, do not find in the religions of the West, as we do in those of the East, mythologies and cult disciplines devoted to the yielding of an experience of one’s identity with divinity. That, in fact, is heresy. Our myths and religions are concerned, rather, with establishing and maintaining an experience of relationship—and this is quite a different affair. Hence it is, that though the same mythological images can appear in a Western context and an Eastern, it will always be with a totally different sense. This point I regard as fundamental.