A man may believe in all the churches in the world, he may carry in his head all the sacred books ever written, he may baptize himself in all the rivers of the earth–still, if he has no perception of God, I would class him with the rankest atheist.
And a man may have never entered a church or a mosque, nor performed any ceremony, but if he feels God within himself and is thereby lifted above the vanities of the world, that man is a holy man, a saint, call him what you will.
(New Discoveries, Vol. 2, pp. 411-26.)
The following lecture was delivered at Cambridge, December 17, 1894, and recorded by Miss Frances Willard’s stenographer.
Swami Vivekananda faced bigotry in America on several issues of Indian culture — one was the Indian woman. Naturally he sought to correct Western misconceptions. When he lectured in his own country, however, there was no greater advocate for improving the life of Indian women than the Swami.
In speaking about the women of India, ladies and gentlemen, I feel that I am going to talk about my mothers and sisters in India to the women of another race, many of whom have been like mothers and sisters to me. But though, unfortunately, within very recent times there have been mouths only to curse the women of our country, I have found that there are some who bless them too. I have found such noble souls in this nation as Mrs. [Ole] Bull and Miss [Sarah] Farmer and Miss [Frances] Willard, and that wonderful representative of the highest aristocracy of the world, whose life reminds me of that man of India, six hundred years before the birth of Christ, who gave up his throne to mix with the people. Lady Henry Somerset has been a revelation to me. I become bold when I find such noble souls who will not curse, whose mouths are full of blessing for me, my country, our men and women, and whose hands and hearts are ever ready to do service to humanity.
I first intend to take a glimpse into times past of Indian history, and we will find something unique. All of you are aware, perhaps, that you Americans and we Hindus and this lady from Iceland [Mrs. Sigrid Magnusson] are the descendants of one common ancestry known as Aryans. Above all, we find three ideas wherever the Aryans go: the village community, the rights of women and a joyful religion.
The first [idea] is the system of village communities — as we have just heard from Mrs. Bull concerning the North. Each man was his own [lord?] and owned the land. All these political institutions of the world we now see, are the developments of those village systems. As the Aryans went over to different countries and settled, certain circumstances developed this institution, others that.
The next idea of the Aryans is the freedom of women. It is in the Aryan literature that we find women in ancient times taking the same share as men, and in no other literature of the world.
Going back to our Vedas — they are the oldest literature the world possesses and are composed by your and my common ancestors (they were not written in India — perhaps on the coast of the Baltic, perhaps in Central Asia — we do not know).
Their oldest portion is composed of hymns, and these hymns are to the gods whom the Aryans worshipped. I may be pardoned for using the word gods; the literal translation is “the bright ones”. These hymns are dedicated to Fire, to the Sun, to Varuna and other deities. The titles run: “such-and-such a sage composed this verse, dedicated to such-and-such a deity”.
In the tenth chapter comes a peculiar hymn — for the sage is a woman — and it is dedicated to the one God who is at the background of all these gods. All the previous hymns are spoken in the third person, as if someone were addressing the deities. But this hymn takes a departure: God [as the Devi] is speaking for herself. The pronoun used is “I”. “I am the Empress of the Universe, the Fulfiller of all prayers.” (Vide “Devi Sukta”, Rig-Veda 10.125)
This is the first glimpse of women’s work in the Vedas. As we go on, we find them taking a greater share — even officiating as priests. There is not one passage throughout the whole mass of literature of the Vedas which can be construed even indirectly as signifying that woman could never be a priest. In fact, there are many examples of women officiating as priests.
Then we come to the last portion of these Vedas — which is really the religion of India — the concentrated wisdom of which has not been surpassed even in this century. There, too, we find women preeminent. A large portion of these books are words which have proceeded from the mouths of women. It is there — recorded with their names and teachings.
There is that beautiful story of the great sage Yâjnavalkya, the one who visited the kingdom of the great king Janaka. And there in that assembly of the learned, people came to ask him questions. One man asked him, “How am I to perform this sacrifice?” Another asked him, “How am I to perform the other sacrifice?”
And after he had answered them, there arose a woman who said, “These are childish questions. Now, have a care: I take these two arrows, my two questions. Answer them if you can, and we will then call you a sage. The first is: What is the soul? The second is: What is God?” ( Brihadâranyaka Upanishad 3.8.1.-12.)
Thus arose in India the great questions about the soul and God, and these came from the mouth of a woman. The sage had to pass an examination before her, and he passed well.
Coming to the next stratum of literature, our epics, we find that education has not degenerated. Especially in the caste of princes this ideal was most wonderfully held.
In the Vedas we find this idea of marrying — the girls chose for themselves; so the boys. In the next stratum they are married by their parents, except in one caste.
Even here I would ask you to look at another side. Whatever may be said of the Hindus, they are one of the most learned races the world has ever produced. The Hindu is the metaphysician; he applies everything to his intellect. Everything has to be settled by astrological calculation.
The idea was that the stars govern the fate of every man and woman. Even today when a child is born, a horoscope is cast. That determines the character of the child. One child is born of a divine nature, another of a human, others of lower character.
The difficulty was: If a child who was of a monster-character was united with a child of a god-character, would they not have a tendency to degenerate each other?
The next difficulty was: Our laws did not allow marriage within the same clans. Not only may one not marry within his own family — or even one of his cousins — but one must not marry into the clan of his father or even of his mother.
A third difficulty was: If there had been leprosy or phthisis or any such incurable disease within six generations of either bride or bridegroom, then there must not be a marriage.
Now taking [into account] these three difficulties, the Brahmin says: “If I leave it to the choice of the boy or girl to marry, the boy or girl will be fascinated with a beautiful face. And then very likely all these circumstances will bring ruin to the family”. This is the primary idea that governs our marriage laws, as you will find. Whether right or wrong, there is this philosophy at the background. Prevention is better than cure.
That misery exists in this world is because we give birth to misery. So the whole question is how to prevent the birth of miserable children. How far the rights of a society should extend over the individual is an open question. But the Hindus say that the choice of marriage should not be left in the hands of the boy or girl.
I do not mean to say that this is the best thing to do. Nor do I see that leaving it in their hands is at all a perfect solution. I have not found a solution yet in my own mind; nor do I see that any country has one.
We come next to another picture. I told you that there was another peculiar form of marriage (generally among the royalty) where the father of the girl invited different princes and noblemen and they had an assembly. The young lady, the daughter of the king, was borne on a sort of chair before each one of the princes in turn. And the herald would repeat: “This is Prince So-and-so, and these are his qualifications”. The young girl would either wait or say, “Move on”. And before the next prince, the crier would also give a description, and the girl would say, “Move on”. (All this would be arranged beforehand; she already had the liking for somebody before this.) Then at last she would ask one of the servants to throw the garland over the head of the man, and it would be thrown to show he was accepted. (The last of these marriages was the cause of the Mohammedan invasion of India.) (Vide prince, who became the Queen of Delhi.) These marriages were specially reserved for the prince caste.
The oldest Sanskrit poem in existence, the Râmâyana, has embodied the loftiest Hindu ideal of a woman in the character of Sitâ. We have not time to go through her life of infinite patience and goodness. We worship her as God incarnate, and she is named before her husband, Râma. We say not “Mr. and Mrs.”, but “Mrs. and Mr.” and so on, with all the gods and goddesses, naming the woman first.
There is another peculiar conception of the Hindu. Those who have been studying with me are aware that the central conception of Hindu philosophy is of the Absolute; that is the background of the universe. This Absolute Being, of whom we can predicate nothing, has Its powers spoken of as She — that is, the real personal God in India is She. This Shakti of the Brahman is always in the feminine gender.
Rama is considered the type of the Absolute, and Sita that of Power. We have no time to go over all the life of Sita, but I will quote a passage from her life that is very much suited to the ladies of this country.
The picture opens when she was in the forest with her husband, whither they were banished. There was a female sage whom they both went to see. Her fasts and devotions had emaciated her body.
Sita approached this sage and bowed down before her. The sage placed her hand on the head of Sita and said: “It is a great blessing to possess a beautiful body; you have that. It is a greater blessing to have a noble husband; you have that. It is the greatest blessing to be perfectly obedient to such a husband; you are that. You must be happy”.
Sita replied, “Mother, I am glad that God has given me a beautiful body and that I have so devoted a husband. But as to the third blessing, I do not know whether I obey him or he obeys me. One thing alone I remember, that when he took me by the hand before the sacrificial fire — whether it was a reflection of the fire or whether God himself made it appear to me — I found that I was his and he was mine. And since then, I have found that I am the complement of his life, and he of mine”.
Portions of this poem have been translated into the English language. Sita is the ideal of a woman in India and worshipped as God incarnate.
58. Loud speech consisting of a shower of words,the skill in expounding the scriptures,and likewise erudition – these merely bring on a mere personal enjoyment to the scholar,but are no good for liberation.
377. Sever thy craving for the sense-objects,which are like poison,for it is the very image of death,and giving up thy pride of caste,family and order of life,fling actions to a distance.Give up thy identification with such unreal things as the body,and fix thy mind on the Atman.For thou art really the Witness,Brahman,unshackled by the mind,the One without a second and Supreme.
– The Song of God(Bhagavad Gita) , Swami Venkatesananda
link for download(mention if unable to download)
What is of extraordinary beauty in the first few verses of the second chapter is that Kṛṣṇa seems to look at things from all angles. If you have a problem, it need not always have a single simple solution or answer. For instance if you are aggressive, the problem may be psychological, physiological, social, cultural or spiritual. How do you find the truth then? It is not possible for anyone to have a total view of life. For instance, you are taking a bath in the Gaṅgā in Rishikesh; someone is taking a bath about fifty miles upstream; another is drowning in Calcutta. Is anyone taking a bath in the Gaṅgā? Yes.The total Gaṅgā? No. Can we say that no one is taking a bath in the (total) Gaṅgā? That also is not right! Then is it not possible for us to come to grips with the totality of things which is the truth? Is that only a speculation of philosophers? Are we bound to fragmentation, is there no way out of this? Yes, there is, and it is extremely simple. It is the fact that each one can only look at the truth from his own point of view. You cannot look at any problem from anyone else’s point of view. The recognition that ‘this is only my point of view – not the whole truth – and that there are other points of view’, is the whole truth! There is the clear understanding that as long as the mind functions it can only comprehend a fraction of this truth.
If you do not understand that, it creates a twofold problem. One, you think you have isolated yourself from the totality, and two, you think that a fragment of the totality is the totality. The moment this understanding arises in your heart you become humble,simple, adaptable and universal.
All confusion arises on account of fragmented thought. Thought can only be fragmented,it is the source of fragmentation. It is not possible for the thought process to comprehend the whole truth. So, whilst you attack the problem from several angles you do not pretend that that alone is sufficient. This is precisely why Kṛṣṇa advances several arguments. No one solution is adequate to any problem. When you realise that as long as thought functions it can only function fragmentarily, then you immediately understand the whole truth. This realisation is the very basis of humility and sincerity and non-fanaticism and an exploring spirit; you are free from vehemence or fanaticism.These are the qualities I noticed in Gurudev Sivananda.Kṛṣṇa uses several arguments to make Arjuna ‘fight’, that is – to do what had to be done.Kṛṣṇa insists that you have to do something. Never mind what you like to do and what you do not like to do, find out who it is that determines what has to be done. Then Kṛṣṇa suggests several ways of looking at the problem of death. Death is inevitable. Why do you worry and bring high philosophical arguments into this problem which is so simple?
If you think you are the body, the body will die. If you think you are not only the body,that you dwell in this body, then you will not die.
There is another remarkable argument in the course of the first few verses of the second chapter:
The unreal has no being, there is no non-being of the real. The truth about both has been seen by knowers of the truth.
Fantastic! ‘You are worried that these people are going to be killed.’ What is going to be killed is the body, and the body (the form) is condemned to die. But that which is is not destroyed. You cannot possibly wipe out that which exists. That which does not exist does not exist; you cannot create something which does not exist! The mind indulges in a peculiar double trick. Looking for reality it somehow thinks it is different from the
reality. That is precisely why you are looking! You are looking for the truth because you think that you are different from the truth. If you honestly and totally believe that,probably yo u will get somewhere, but having mentally dissected yourself from reality,suddenly you think that you are the body. This is what they call ‘māyā’ – illusion. Merely look at this and you will see that that which is is, there is no illusion. If this thing called illusion is thus disposed of, then you begin the correct investigation of the truth. You suddenly realise that illusion is not the perception of a non-existent object (like the mathematical zero) but that because you wanted to see something you assumed must exist, you failed to see what IS! Total emptying of assumptions is the immediate realisation of what is – the reality.
Enjoyments of embodied beings are fleeting like the quick play of lightning within a mass of clouds;life is as insecure as a drop of water attached to the edge of a lotus leaf and dispersed by the wind;the desires of youth are unsteady;realising these quickly,let the wise firmly fix their minds in yoga,easily attainable by patience and equanimity.
Life is chaging like a big wave,beauty of youth abides for a few days;earthly possessions are as transient as thought;the whole series of our enjoyments are like(occasional) flashes of lightning during the monsoons;the embrace round the neck given by our beloved one lingers only for a while.To cross the ocean (of the fear) of the world,attach your mind to Brahman.
[ bhavabhaya– the great fear of finding yourself bound by the world attended with so many afflictions and yet finding no way out of it.]
The analysis of the Sânkhyas stops with the duality of existence — Nature and souls. There are an infinite number of souls, which, being simple, cannot die, and must therefore be separate from Nature. Nature in itself changes and manifests all these phenomena; and the soul, according to the Sankhyas, is inactive. It is a simple by itself, and Nature works out all these phenomena for the liberation of the soul; and liberation consists in the soul discriminating that it is not Nature. At the same time we have seen that the Sankhyas were bound to admit that every soul was omnipresent. Being a simple, the soul cannot be limited, because all limitation comes either through time, space, or causation. The soul being entirely beyond these cannot have any limitation. To have limitation one must be in space, which means the body; and that which is body must be in Nature. If the soul had form, it would be identified with Nature; therefore the soul is formless, and that which is formless cannot be said to exist here, there, or anywhere. It must be omnipresent. Beyond this the Sankhya philosophy does not go.
The first argument of the Vedantists against this is that this analysis is not a perfect one. If their Nature be absolute and the soul be also absolute, there will be two absolutes, and all the arguments that apply in the case of the soul to show that it is omnipresent will apply in the case of Nature, and Nature too will be beyond all time, space, and causation, and as the result there will be no change or manifestation. Then will come the difficulty of having two absolutes, which is impossible. What is the solution of the Vedantist? His solution is that, just as the Sankhyas say, it requires some sentient Being as the motive power behind, which makes the mind think and Nature work, because Nature in all its modifications, from gross matter up to Mahat (Intelligence), is simply insentient. Now, says the Vedantist, this sentient Being which is behind the whole universe is what we call God, and consequently this universe is not different from Him. It is He Himself who has become this universe. He not only is the instrumental cause of this universe, but also the material cause. Cause is never different from effect, the effect is but the cause reproduced in another form. We see that every day. So this Being is the cause of Nature. All the forms and phases of Vedanta, either dualistic, or qualified-monistic, or monistic, first take this position that God is not only the instrumental, but also the material cause of this universe, that everything which exists is He. The second step in Vedanta is that these souls are also a part of God, one spark of that Infinite Fire. “As from a mass of fire millions of small particles fly, even so from this Ancient One have come all these souls.” So far so good, but it does not yet satisfy. What is meant by a part of the Infinite? The Infinite is indivisible; there cannot be parts of the Infinite. The Absolute cannot be divided. What is meant, therefore, by saying that all these sparks are from Him? The Advaitist, the non-dualistic Vedantist, solves the problem by maintaining that there is really no part; that each soul is really not a part of the Infinite, but actually is the Infinite Brahman. Then how can there be so many? The sun reflected from millions of globules of water appears to be millions of suns, and in each globule is a miniature picture of the sun-form; so all these souls are but reflections and not real. They are not the real “I” which is the God of this universe, the one undivided Being of the universe. And all these little different beings, men and animals etc. are but reflections, and not real. They are simply illusory reflections upon Nature. There is but one Infinite Being in the universe, and that Being appears as you and as I; but this appearance of divisions is after all a delusion. He has not been divided, but only appears to be divided. This apparent division is caused by looking at Him through the network of time, space, and causation. When I look at God through the network of time, space, and causation, I see Him as the material world. When I look at Him from a little higher plane, yet through the same network, I see Him as an animal, a little higher as a man, a little higher as a god, but yet He is the One Infinite Being of the universe, and that Being we are. I am That, and you are That. Not parts of It, but the whole of It. “It is the Eternal Knower standing behind the whole phenomena; He Himself is the phenomena.” He is both the subject and the object, He is the “I” and the “You”. How is this? “How to know the Knower? The Knower cannot know Himself; I see everything but cannot see myself. The Self, the Knower, the Lord of all, the Real Being, is the cause of all the vision that is in the universe, but it is impossible for Him to see Himself or know Himself, excepting through reflection. You cannot see your own face except in a mirror, and so the Self cannot see Its own nature until It is reflected, and this whole universe therefore is the Self trying to realise Itself. This reflection is thrown back first from the protoplasm, then from plants and animals, and so on and on from better and better reflectors, until the best reflector, the perfect man, is reached — just as a man who, wanting to see his face, looks first in a little pool of muddy water, and sees just an outline; then he comes to clear water, and sees a better image; then to a piece of shining metal, and sees a still better image; and at last to a looking-glass, and sees himself reflected as he is. Therefore the perfect man is the highest reflection of that Being who is both subject and object. You now find why man instinctively worships everything, and how perfect men are instinctively worshipped as God in every country. You may talk as you like, but it is they who are bound to be worshipped. That is why men worship Incarnations, such as Christ or Buddha. They are the most perfect manifestations of the eternal Self. They are much higher than all the conceptions of God that you or I can make. A perfect man is much higher than such conceptions. In him the circle becomes complete; the subject and the object become one. In him all delusions go away and in their place comes the realisation that he has always been that perfect Being. How came this bondage then? How was it possible for this perfect Being to degenerate into the imperfect? How was it possible that the free became bound? The Advaitist says, he was never bound, but was always free. Various clouds of various colours come before the sky. They remain there a minute and then pass away. It is the same eternal blue sky stretching there for ever. The sky never changes: it is the cloud that is changing. So you are always perfect, eternally perfect. Nothing ever changes your nature, or ever will. All these ideas that I am imperfect, I am a man, or a woman, or a sinner, or I am the mind, I have thought, I will think — all are hallucinations; you never think, you never had a body; you never were imperfect. You are the blessed Lord of this universe, the one Almighty ruler of everything that is and ever will be, the one mighty ruler of these suns and stars and moons and earths and planets and all the little bits of our universe. It is through you that the sun shines and the stars shed their lustre, and the earth becomes beautiful. It is through your blessedness that they all love and are attracted to each other. You are in all, and you are all. Whom to avoid, and whom to take? You are the all in all. When this knowledge comes delusion immediately vanishes.
I was once travelling in the desert in India. I travelled for over a month and always found the most beautiful landscapes before me, beautiful lakes and all that. One day I was very thirsty and I wanted to have a drink at one of these lakes; but when I approached that lake it vanished. Immediately with a blow came into my brain the idea that this was a mirage about which I had read all my life; and then I remembered and smiled at my folly, that for the last month all the beautiful landscapes and lakes I had been seeing were this mirage, but I could not distinguish them then. The next morning I again began my march; there was the lake and the landscape, but with it immediately came the idea, “This is a mirage.” Once known it had lost its power of illusion. So this illusion of the universe will break one day. The whole of this will vanish, melt away. This is realization. Philosophy is no joke or talk. It has to be realised; this body will vanish, this earth and everything will vanish, this idea that I am the body or the mind will for some time vanish, or if the Karma is ended it will disappear, never to come back; but if one part of the Karma remains, then as a potter’s wheel, after the potter has finished the pot, will sometimes go on from the past momentum, so this body, when the delusion has vanished altogether, will go on for some time. Again this world will come, men and women and animals will come, just as the mirage came the next day, but not with the same force; along with it will come the idea that I know its nature now, and it will cause no bondage, no more pain, nor grief, nor misery. Whenever anything miserable will come, the mind will be able to say, “I know you as hallucination.” When a man has reached that state, he is called Jivanmukta, living-free”, free even while living. The aim and end in this life for the Jnâna-Yogi is to become this Jivanmukta, “living-free”. He is Jivanmukta who can live in this world without being attached. He is like the lotus leaves in water, which are never wetted by the water. He is the highest of human beings, nay, the highest of all beings, for he has realised his identity with the Absolute, he has realised that he is one with God. So long as you think you have the least difference from God, fear will seize you, but when you have known that you are He, that there is no difference, entirely no difference, that you are He, all of Him, and the whole of Him, all fear ceases. “There, who sees whom? Who worships whom? Who talks to whom? Who hears whom? Where one sees another, where one talks to another, where one hears another, that is little. Where none sees none, where none speaks to none, that is the highest, that is the great, that is the Brahman.” Being That, you are always That. What will become of the world then? What good shall we do to the world? Such questions do not arise “What becomes of my gingerbread if I become old?” says the baby! “What becomes of my marbles if I grow? So I will not grow,” says the boy! “What will become of my dolls if I grow old?” says the little child! It is the same question in connection with this world, it has no existence in the past, present, or future. If we have known the Âtman as It is, if we have known that there is nothing else but this Atman, that everything else is but a dream, with no existence in reality, then this world with its poverties, its miseries, its wickedness, and its goodness will cease to disturb us. If they do not exist, for whom and for what shall we take trouble? This is what the Jnana-Yogis teach. Therefore, dare to be free, dare to go as far as your thought leads, and dare to carry that out in your life. It is very hard to come to Jnâna. It is for the bravest and most daring, who dare to smash all idols, not only intellectual, but in the senses. This body is not I; it must go. All sorts of curious things may come out of this. A man stands up and says, “I am not the body, therefore my headache must be cured”; but where is the headache if not in his body? Let a thousand headaches and a thousand bodies come and go. What is that to me? I have neither birth nor death; father or mother I never had; friends and foes I have none, because they are all I. I am my own friend, and I am my own enemy. I am Existence-Knowledge-Bliss Absolute. I am He, I am He. If in a thousand bodies I am suffering from fever and other ills, in millions of bodies I am healthy. If in a thousand bodies I am starving, in other thousand bodies I am feasting. If in thousands of bodies I am suffering misery, in thousands of bodies I am happy. Who shall blame whom, who praise whom? Whom to seek, whom to avoid? I seek none, nor avoid any, for I am all the universe. I praise myself, I blame myself, I suffer for myself, I am happy at my own will, I am free. This is the Jnâni, the brave and daring. Let the whole universe tumble down; he smiles and says it never existed, it was all a hallucination. He sees the universe tumble down. Where was it! Where has it gone!
Before going into the practical part, we will take up one more intellectual question. So far the logic is tremendously rigorous. If man reasons, there is no place for him to stand until he comes to this, that there is but One Existence, that everything else is nothing. There is no other way left for rational mankind but to take this view. But how is it that what is infinite, ever perfect, ever blessed, Existence-Knowledge-Bliss Absolute, has come under these delusions? It is the same question that has been asked all the world over. In the vulgar form the question becomes, “How did sin come into this world?” This is the most vulgar and sensuous form of the question, and the other is the most philosophic form, but the answer is the same. The same question has been asked in various grades and fashions, but in its lower forms it finds no solution, because the stories of apples and serpents and women do not give the explanation. In that state, the question is childish, and so is the answer. But the question has assumed very high proportions now: “How did this illusion come?” And the answer is as fine. The answer is that we cannot expect any answer to an impossible question. The very question is impossible in terms. You have no right to ask that question. Why? What is perfection? That which is beyond time, space, and causation — that is perfect. Then you ask how the perfect became imperfect. In logical language the question may be put in this form: “How did that which is beyond causation become caused?” You contradict yourself. You first admit it is beyond causation, and then ask what causes it. This question can only be asked within the limits of causation. As far as time and space and causation extend, so far can this question be asked. But beyond that it will be nonsense to ask it, because the question is illogical. Within time, space, and causation it can never be answered, and what answer may lie beyond these limits can only be known when we have transcended them; therefore the wise will let this question rest. When a man is ill, he devotes himself to curing his disease without insisting that he must first learn how he came to have it.
There is another form of this question, a little lower, but more practical and illustrative: What produced this delusion? Can any reality produce delusion? Certainly not. We see that one delusion produces another, and so on. It is delusion always that produces delusion. It is disease that produces disease, and not health that produces disease. The wave is the same thing as the water, the effect is the cause in another form. The effect is delusion, and therefore the cause must be delusion. What produced this delusion? Another delusion. And so on without beginning. The only question that remains for you to ask is: Does not this break your monism, because you get two existences in the universe, one yourself and the other the delusion? The answer is: Delusion cannot be called an existence. Thousands of dreams come into your life, but do not form any part of your life. Dreams come and go; they have no existence. To call delusion existence will be sophistry. Therefore there is only one individual existence in the universe, ever free, and ever blessed; and that is what you are. This is the last conclusion reached by the Advaitists.
It may then be asked: What becomes of all these various forms of worship? They will remain; they are simply groping in the dark for light, and through this groping light will come. We have just seen that the Self cannot see Itself. Our knowledge is within the network of Mâyâ (unreality), and beyond that is freedom. Within the network there is slavery, it is all under law; beyond that there is no law. So far as the universe is concerned, existence is ruled by law, and beyond that is freedom. As long as you are in the network of time, space, and causation, to say you are free is nonsense, because in that network all is under rigorous law, sequence, and consequence. Every thought that you think is caused, every feeling has been caused; to say that the will is free is sheer nonsense. It is only when the infinite existence comes, as it were, into this network of Maya that it takes the form of will. Will is a portion of that being, caught in the network of Maya, and therefore “free will” is a misnomer. It means nothing — sheer nonsense. So is all this talk about freedom. There is no freedom in Maya.
Every one is as much bound in thought, word, deed, and mind, as a piece of stone or this table. That I talk to you now is as rigorous in causation as that you listen to me. There is no freedom until you go beyond Maya. That is the real freedom of the soul. Men, however sharp and intellectual, however clearly they see the force of the logic that nothing here can be free, are all compelled to think they are free; they cannot help it. No work can go on until we begin to say we are free. It means that the freedom we talk about is the glimpse of the blue sky through the clouds and that the real freedom — the blue sky itself— is behind. True freedom cannot exist in the midst of this delusion, this hallucination, this nonsense of the world, this universe of the senses, body, and mind. All these dreams, without beginning or end, uncontrolled and uncontrollable, ill-adjusted, broken, inharmonious, form our idea of this universe. In a dream, when you see a giant with twenty heads chasing you, and you are flying from him, you do not think it is inharmonious; you think it is proper and right. So is this law. All that you call law is simply chance without meaning. In this dream state you call it law. Within Maya, so far as this law of time, space and causation exists, there is no freedom; and all these various forms of worship are within this Maya. The idea of God and the ideas of brute and of man are within this Maya, and as such are equally hallucinations; all of them are dreams. But you must take care not to argue like some extraordinary men of whom we hear at the present time. They say the idea of God is a delusion, but the idea of this world is true. Both ideas stand or fall by the same logic. He alone has the right to be an atheist who denies this world, as well as the other. The same argument is for both. The same mass of delusion extends from God to the lowest animal, from a blade of grass to the Creator. They stand or fall by the same logic. The same person who sees falsity in the idea of God ought also to see it in the idea of his own body or his own mind. When God vanishes, then also vanish the body and mind; and when both vanish, that which is the Real Existence remains for ever. “There the eyes cannot go, nor the speech, nor the mind. We cannot see it, neither know it.” And we now understand that so far as speech and thought and knowledge and intellect go, it is all within this Maya within bondage. Beyond that is Reality. There neither thought, nor mind, nor speech, can reach.
So far it is intellectually all right, but then comes the practice. The real work is in the practice. Are any practices necessary to realise this Oneness? Most decidedly. It is not that you become this Brahman. You are already that. It is not that you are going to become God or perfect; you are already perfect; and whenever you think you are not, it is a delusion. This delusion which says that you are Mr. So-and-so or Mrs. So-and-so can be got rid of by another delusion, and that is practice. Fire will eat fire, and you can use one delusion to conquer another delusion. One cloud will come and brush away another cloud, and then both will go away. What are these practices then? We must always bear in mind that we are not going to be free, but are free already. Every idea that we are bound is a delusion. Every idea that we are happy or unhappy is a tremendous delusion; and another delusion will come — that we have got to work and worship and struggle to be free — and this will chase out the first delusion, and then both will stop.
The fox is considered very unholy by the Mohammedans and by the Hindus. Also, if a dog touches any bit of food, it has to be thrown out, it cannot be eaten by any man. In a certain Mohammedan house a fox entered and took a little bit of food from the table, ate it up, and fled. The man was a poor man, and had prepared a very nice feast for himself, and that feast was made unholy, and he could not eat it. So he went to a Mulla, a priest, and said, “This has happened to me; a fox came and took a mouthful out of my meal. What can be done? I had prepared a feast and wanted so much to eat it, and now comes this fox and destroys the whole affair.” The Mulla thought for a minute and then found only one solution and said, “The only way for you is to get a dog and make him eat a bit out of the same plate, because dogs and foxes are eternally quarrelling. The food that was left by the fox will go into your stomach, and that left by the dog will go there too, and both will be purified.” We are very much in the same predicament. This is a hallucination that we are imperfect; and we take up another, that we have to practice to become perfect. Then one will chase the other, as we can use one thorn to extract another and then throw both away. There are people for whom it is sufficient knowledge to hear, “Thou art That”. With a flash this universe goes away and the real nature shines, but others have to struggle hard to get rid of this idea of bondage.
The first question is: Who are fit to become Jnana-Yogis? Those who are equipped with these requisites: First, renunciation of all fruits of work and of all enjoyments in this life or another life. If you are the creator of this universe, whatever you desire you will have, because you will create it for yourself. It is only a question of time. Some get it immediately; with others the past Samskâras (impressions) stand in the way of getting their desires. We give the first place to desires for enjoyment, either in this or another life. Deny that there is any life at all; because life is only another name for death. Deny that you are a living being. Who cares for life? Life is one of these hallucinations, and death is its counterpart. Joy is one part of these hallucinations, and misery the other part, and so on. What have you to do with life or death ? These are all creations of the mind. This is called giving up desires of enjoyment either in this life or another.
Then comes controlling the mind, calming it so that it will not break into waves and have all sorts of desires, holding the mind steady, not allowing it to get into waves from external or internal causes, controlling the mind perfectly, just by the power of will. The Jnana-Yogi does not take any one of these physical helps or mental helps: simply philosophic reasoning, knowledge, and his own will, these are the instrumentalities he believes in. Next comes Titikshâ, forbearance, bearing all miseries without murmuring, without complaining. When an injury comes, do not mind it. If a tiger comes, stand there. Who flies? There are men who practice Titiksha, and succeed in it. There are men who sleep on the banks of the Ganga in the midsummer sun of India, and in winter float in the waters of the Ganga for a whole day; they do not care. Men sit in the snow of the Himalayas, and do not care to wear any garment. What is heat? What is cold? Let things come and go, what is that to me, I am not the body. It is hard to believe this in these Western countries, but it is better to know that it is done. Just as your people are brave to jump at the mouth of a cannon, or into the midst of the battlefield, so our people are brave to think and act out their philosophy. They give up their lives for it. “I am Existence-Knowledge-Bliss Absolute; I am He, I am He.” Just as the Western ideal is to keep up luxury in practical life, so ours is to keep up the highest form of spirituality, to demonstrate that religion is riot merely frothy words, but can be carried out, every bit of it, in this life. This is Titiksha, to bear everything, not to complain of anything. I myself have seen men who say, “I am the soul; what is the universe to me? Neither pleasure nor pain, nor virtue nor vice, nor heat nor cold is anything to me.” That is Titiksha; not running after the enjoyments of the body. What is religion? To pray, “Give me this and that”? Foolish ideas of religion! Those who believe them have no true idea of God and soul. My Master used to say, “The vulture rise higher and higher until he becomes a speck, but his eye is always on the piece of rotten carrion on the earth.” After all, what is the result of your ideas of religion? To cleanse the streets and have more bread and clothes? Who cares for bread and clothes? Millions come and go every minute. Who cares? Why care for the joys and vicissitudes of this little world? Go beyond that if you dare; go beyond law, let the whole universe vanish, and stand alone. “I am Existence-Absolute, Knowledge-Absolute, Bliss-Absolute; I am He, I am He.”
A nation is building in India today before the eyes of
the world so swiftly, so palpably that all can watch the
process and those who have sympathy and intuition distinguish
the forces at work, the materials in use, the lines of
the divine architecture. This nation is not a new race raw from
the workshop of Nature or created by modern circumstances.
One of the oldest races and greatest civilisations on this earth,
the most indomitable in vitality, the most fecund in greatness,
the deepest in life, the most wonderful in potentiality, after
taking into itself numerous sources of strength from foreign
strains of blood and other types of human civilisation, is now
seeking to lift itself for good into an organised national unity.
Formerly a congeries of kindred nations with a single life and
a single culture, always by the law of this essential oneness
tending to unity, always by its excess of fecundity engendering
fresh diversities and divisions, it has never yet been able
to overcome permanently the almost insuperable obstacles to
the organisation of a continent. The time has now come when
those obstacles can be overcome. The attempt which our race
has been making throughout its long history, it will now make
under entirely new circumstances. A keen observer would predict
its success because the only important obstacles have been
or are in the process of being removed. But we go farther and
believe that it is sure to succeed because the freedom, unity and
greatness of India have now become necessary to the world.
This is the faith in which the Karmayogin
puts its hand to the work and will persist in it, refusing to be discouraged by
difficulties however immense and apparently insuperable. We
believe that God is with us and in that faith we shall conquer.
We believe that humanity needs us and it is the love
and service of humanity, of our country, of the race, of our
religion that will purify our heart and inspire our action in the
The task we set before ourselves is not mechanical but moral
and spiritual. We aim not at the alteration of a form of government
but at the building up of a nation. Of that task politics
is a part, but only a part. We shall devote ourselves not to
politics alone, nor to social questions alone, nor to theology or
philosophy or literature or science by themselves, but we include
all these in one entity which we believe to be all-important,
the dharma, the national religion which we also believe to be
universal. There is a mighty law of life, a great principle of
human evolution, a body of spiritual knowledge and experience
of which India has always been destined to be guardian, exemplar
and missionary. This is the sanatana dharma, the eternal religion.
Under the stress of alien impacts she has largely lost
hold not of the structure of that dharma, but of its living reality.
For the religion of India is nothing if it is not lived. It has to be
applied not only to life, but to the whole of life; its spirit has
to enter into and mould our society, our politics, our literature,
our science, our individual character, affections and aspirations.
To understand the heart of this dharma, to experience it as a
truth, to feel the high emotions to which it rises and to express
and execute it in life is what we understand by Karmayoga. We
believe that it is to make the yoga the ideal of human life that
India rises today; by the yoga she will get the strength to realise
her freedom, unity and greatness, by the yoga
she will keep the strength to preserve it. It is a spiritual revolution we foresee and
the material is only its shadow and reflex.
The European sets great store by machinery. He seeks to
renovate humanity by schemes of society and systems of government;
he hopes to bring about the millennium by an act of
Parliament. Machinery is of great importance, but only as a
working means for the spirit within, the force behind. The nineteenth
century in India aspired to political emancipation, social
renovation, religious vision and rebirth, but it failed because
it adopted Western motives and methods, ignored the spirit,
history and destiny of our race and thought that by taking over
European education, European machinery, European organisation
and equipment we should reproduce in ourselves European
prosperity, energy and progress. We of the twentieth century
reject the aims, ideals and methods of the Anglicised nineteenth
precisely because we accept its experience. We refuse to make
an idol of the present; we look before and after, backward to the
mighty history of our race, forward to the grandiose destiny for
which that history has prepared it.
We do not believe that our political salvation can be attained
by enlargement of Councils, introduction of the elective principle,
colonial self-government or any other formula of European
politics. We do not deny the use of some of these things as
instruments, as weapons in a political struggle, but we deny
their sufficiency whether as instruments or ideals and look beyond
to an end which they do not serve except in a trifling
degree. They might be sufficient if it were our ultimate destiny
to be an outlying province of the British Empire or a dependent
adjunct of European civilisation. That is a future which
we do not think it worth making any sacrifice to accomplish.
We believe on the other hand that India is destined to work
out her own independent life and civilisation, to stand in the
forefront of the world and solve the political, social, economical
and moral problems which Europe has failed to solve, yet the
pursuit of whose solution and the feverish passage in that pursuit
from experiment to experiment, from failure to failure she calls
her progress. Our means must be as great as our ends and the
strength to discover and use the means so as to attain the end
can only be found by seeking the eternal source of strength in
We do not believe that by changing the machinery so as to
make our society the ape of Europe we shall effect social renovation.
Widow-remarriage, substitution of class for caste, adult
marriage, intermarriages, interdining and the other nostrums
of the social reformer are mechanical changes which, whatever
their merits or demerits, cannot by themselves save the soul of
the nation alive or stay the course of degradation and decline.
It is the spirit alone that saves, and only by becoming great and
free in heart can we become socially and politically great and
We do not believe that by multiplying new sects limited
within the narrower and inferior ideas of religion imported from
the West or by creating organisations for the perpetuation of the
mere dress and body of Hinduism we can recover our spiritual
health, energy and greatness. The world moves through an indispensable
interregnum of free thought and materialism to a new
synthesis of religious thought and experience, a new religious
world-life free from intolerance, yet full of faith and fervour,
accepting all forms of religion because it has an unshakable
faith in the One. The religion which embraces Science and faith,
Theism, Christianity, Mahomedanism and Buddhism and yet is
none of these, is that to which the World-Spirit moves. In our
own, which is the most sceptical and the most believing of all,
the most sceptical because it has questioned and experimented
the most, the most believing because it has the deepest experience
and the most varied and positive spiritual knowledge, —
that wider Hinduism which is not a dogma or combination of
dogmas but a law of life, which is not a social framework but
the spirit of a past and future social evolution, which rejects
nothing but insists on testing and experiencing everything and
when tested and experienced turning it to the soul’s uses, in this
Hinduism we find the basis of the future world-religion. This
sanatana dharma has many scriptures, Veda, Vedanta, Gita,
Upanishad, Darshana, Purana, Tantra, nor could it reject the
Bible or the Koran; but its real, most authoritative scripture is in
the heart in which the Eternal has His dwelling. It is in our inner
spiritual experiences that we shall find the proof and source of
the world’s Scriptures, the law of knowledge, love and conduct,
the basis and inspiration of Karmayoga.
Our aim will therefore be to help in building up India for the
sake of humanity — this is the spirit of the Nationalism which
we profess and follow. We say to humanity, “The time has come
when you must take the great step and rise out of a material
existence into the higher, deeper and wider life towards which
humanity moves. The problems which have troubled mankind
can only be solved by conquering the kingdom within, not by
harnessing the forces of Nature to the service of comfort and
luxury, but by mastering the forces of the intellect and the spirit,
by vindicating the freedom of man within as well as without
and by conquering from within external Nature. For that work
the resurgence of Asia is necessary, therefore Asia rises. For that
work the freedom and greatness of India is essential, therefore
she claims her destined freedom and greatness, and it is to the
interest of all humanity, not excluding England, that she should
wholly establish her claim.”
We say to the nation, “It is God’s will that we should be
ourselves and not Europe. We have sought to regain life by
following the law of another being than our own. We must
return and seek the sources of life and strength within ourselves.
We must know our past and recover it for the purposes of our
future. Our business is to realise ourselves first and to mould
everything to the law of India’s eternal life and nature. It will
therefore be the object of the Karmayogin
to read the heart of
our religion, our society, our philosophy, politics, literature, art,
jurisprudence, science, thought, everything that was and is ours,
so that we may be able to say to ourselves and our nation, ‘This
is our dharma.’ We shall review European civilisation entirely
from the standpoint of Indian thought and knowledge and seek
to throw off from us the dominating stamp of the Occident;
what we have to take from the West we shall take as Indians.
And the dharma
once discovered we shall strive our utmost not
only to profess but to live, in our individual actions, in our social
life, in our political endeavours.”
We say to the individual and especially to the young who are
now arising to do India’s work, the world’s work, God’s work,
“You cannot cherish these ideals, still less can you fulfil them if
you subject your minds to European ideas or look at life from the
material standpoint. Materially you are nothing, spiritually you
are everything. It is only the Indian who can believe everything,
dare everything, sacrifice everything. First therefore become Indians.
Recover the patrimony of your forefathers. Recover the
Aryan thought, the Aryan discipline, the Aryan character, the
Aryan life. Recover the Vedanta, the Gita, the Yoga. Recover
them not only in intellect or sentiment but in your lives. Live
them and you will be great and strong, mighty, invincible and
fearless. Neither life nor death will have any terrors for you.
Difficulty and impossibility will vanish from your vocabularies.
For it is in the spirit that strength is eternal and you must win
back the kingdom of yourselves, the inner Swaraj, before you can
win back your outer empire. There the Mother dwells and She
waits for worship that She may give strength. Believe in Her,
serve Her, lose your wills in Hers, your egoism in the greater
ego of the country, your separate selfishness in the service of
humanity. Recover the source of all strength in yourselves and
all else will be added to you, social soundness, intellectual preeminence,
political freedom, the mastery of human thought, the
hegemony of the world.”