Religion is not a science… Religion is not a science in the sense physics, mathematics and chemistry are sciences. But still it is a science because it is the ultimate knowing: the word science means knowing. And if religion is not a science, what else can be? It is the highest knowing, it is the purest knowing. Ordinary science is knowledge, not knowing: religion knows itself. Ordinary science is object-oriented — it knows something, hence it is knowledge. Religion is not object-oriented; it has no object, it knows nothing. Knowing knows itself, as if the mirror is reflecting itself. It is utterly pure of all content. Hence religion is not knowledge but knowing. Science is a lower kind of knowing, religion is a higher kind. Religion is PHILOSOPHIA ULTIMA: the ultimate knowing. The difference between the two is not of the spirit — the spirit is the same — but the difference is certainly of purity.
Science is mixed with much mud. Religion is pure essence, pure fragrance. The mud has disappeared, the lotus has appeared. And at the ultimate stage even the lotus has disappeared, only the fragrance abides. These are the three stages of knowing: the mud, the lotus and the fragrance. Religion cannot be grasped, because there is no object in it. But still it can be understood. It cannot be explained, but it can be experienced. There is no way of informing you about religion, because it cannot be reduced to information. But you can be shown the way, the path to it — fingers pointing to the moon. The fingers are not the moon, obviously, but the fingers can point to the moon.
These “Seven Points of Mind Training” of the great master Atisha, are fingers, seven fingers pointing to the moon. Don’t be caught by the fingers; don’t become too much obsessed with the fingers. That is not the point that will be missing the point. Use the fingers and forget them, and look where the fingers are pointing. And when you see the moon, which bothers about the fingers? Who remembers them? They automatically become nonessential; they disappear. That’s why for those who have experienced religion, all the scriptures become utterly useless, all methods become nonessential. When the goal is achieved, the path is forgotten. Atisha is one of the rare masters, rare in the sense that he was taught by three enlightened masters. It has never happened before, and never since. To be a disciple of three enlightened masters is simply unbelievable — because one enlightened master is enough. But this story that he was taught by three enlightened masters has a metaphorical significance also. And it is true, it is historical too.
The three masters that Atisha remained with for many years were: first, Dharmakirti, a great Buddhist mystic. He taught him no-mind, he taught him emptiness, he taught him how to be thoughtless, he taught him how to drop all content from the mind and be contentless. The second master was Dharmarakshita, another Buddhist mystic. He taught him love, compassion. And the third master was Yogin Maitreya, another Buddhist mystic. He taught him the art of taking the suffering of others and absorbing it into your own heart: love in action.
This could happen because all these three masters were great friends. They had started their search together; while they were on the way they had remained together, and when they attained they were still together. Atisha became a disciple of Dharmakirti. Dharmakirti said to him, “I will teach you the first principle. And for the second you go to Dharmarakshita, and for the third to Yogin Maitreya. This way you will know all the three faces of the ultimate reality, the three faces of God — the trinity, the TRIMURTI. And this way you will learn each face from the person who is the most perfect in it.” These are the three ways people reach to the ultimate. If you reach through emptiness you attain the other two also, but your path remains basically that of emptiness — you know more about emptiness, so emptiness will be emphasized in whatsoever you teach.
That’s what happened in Buddha’s case. He had attained through emptiness, hence his whole teaching became emptiness-oriented. There is no God in Buddha’s teaching, because God is a thought, content, an object — God is the other, and Buddha had attained by dropping the other. Buddha had attained by emptying his mind totally, hence there is no place for God, no place for anything at all. His path is the purest VIA NEGATIVA. That was also the case with Dharmakirti. He was the perfect master of emptiness, a master par excellence of emptiness. And when Atisha had learned how to be empty, the master said, “It will be better for you to go to Dharmarakshita for the next step, because he has attained from a totally different path. Just as you can reach Everest from different sides, he has reached from a totally different path, the path of compassion. I can also teach you the path of compassion, but my knowing about that path is only known from the top.
“I have reached through the path of emptiness. Once you reach the top, you can look down at all the paths, they are all available to your vision. But to follow a path in its different dimensions, to follow a path in all its details, small details, is a totally different thing.” And to look at it from a helicopter or from the mountain-top is certainly a different vision; it is a bird’s-eye view. And Dharmakirti said, “If there had been nobody available here, I would have taught you the other too. But when a man like Dharmarakshita is just here, my neighbor, living in another cave just nearby, it is better you go to him.” First one has to become empty, utterly empty.
But you have not to cling to emptiness; otherwise your life will never know the positive expression of religion. Your life will miss the poetry, the joy of sharing; you will remain empty. You will have a kind of freedom, but your freedom will be only freedom from, it will not be freedom FOR. And unless a freedom is both — freedom from and freedom for — something is missing, something is lacking; your freedom will be poor. Just to be free from is a poor kind of freedom.