In Indian philosophy, the nature of ultimate truth has been described as truth, satyam, beauty, sundaram and goodness, shivam. Are these the characteristics of godliness?
These are not the qualities of godliness. Rather, they are our experiences of it. They do not belong to the divine as such; they are our perceptions. The divine, by itself, is unknowable. Either it is every quality, or no quality at all. But as the human mind is constituted, it can experience the divine through three windows: you can have the glimpse either through beauty or through truth or through goodness. These three dimensions belong to the human mind. They are our limitations. The frame is given by us; the divine itself is frameless.
It is like this. We can see the sky through the window. The window looks like a frame around the sky, but the sky itself has no frame around it. It is infinite. Only the window gives it a frame. In the same way, beauty, truth and goodness are the windows through which we can glance into the divine.
Human personality is divided into three layers. If intellect is predominant, then the divine takes the shape of truth. The intellectual approach creates the window of truth, the frame of truth. If the mind is emotional, if one comes to reality not through the head but through the heart, then the divine becomes beauty. The poetic quality is given by you. It is only the frame. Intellect gives it the frame of truth; emotion gives it the frame of beauty. And if the personality is neither emotional nor intellectual – if action is predominant – then the frame becomes goodness.
So here in India we use these three terms for the divine. Bhakti yoga means the way of devotion and is for the emotional type. Godliness is seen as beauty. Gyan yoga is the way of knowledge. Godliness is seen as truth. And karma yoga is the way of action. Godliness is goodness.
The very word god comes from the word good. This word has had the greatest influence because most of humanity is predominantly active, not intellectual or emotional. This does not mean that there is no intellect or emotion, but they are not predominant factors. Very few are intellectual and very few are emotional. The majority of humanity is predominantly active. Through action, God becomes “the good.”
But the opposite pole must exist too, so if God is perceived as the good then the Devil will be perceived as the bad. The active mind will perceive the Devil as the bad; the emotional mind will perceive the Devil as the ugly; and the intellectual mind will perceive the Devil as the untrue, the illusory, the false.