(Notes of a lecture delivered in London on November 16, 1895)
Just as it is necessary for a man to go through symbols and ceremonies first in order to arrive at the depth of realisation, so we say in India, “It is good to be born in a church, but bad to die in one”. A sapling must be hedged about for protection, but when it becomes a tree, a hedge would be a hindrance. So there is no need to criticise and condemn the old forms. We forget that in religion there must be growth.
At first we think of a Personal God, and call Him Creator, Omnipotent, Omniscient, and so forth. But when loves comes, God is only love. The loving worshipper does not care what God is, because he wants nothing from Him. Says an Indian saint, “I am no beggar!” Neither does he fear. God is loved as a human being.
Here are some of the systems founded on love. (1) Shânta, a common, peaceful love, with such thoughts as those of fatherhood and help; (2) Dâsya, the ideal of service; God as master or general or sovereign, giving punishments and rewards; (3) Vâtsalya, God as mother or child. In India the mother never punishes. In each of these stages, the worshipper forms an ideal of God and follows it. Then (4) Sakhya, God as friend. There is here no fear. There is also the feeling of equality and familiarity. There are some Hindus who worship God as friend and playmate. Next comes (5) Madhura, sweetest love, the love of husband and wife. Of this St. Teresa and the ecstatic saints have been examples. Amongst the Persians, God has been looked upon as the wife, amongst the Hindus as the husband. We may recall the great queen Mirâ Bâi, who preached that the Divine Spouse was all. Some carry this to such an extreme that to call God “mighty” or “father” seems to them blasphemy. The language of this worship is erotic. Some even use that of illicit passion. To this cycle belongs the story of Krishna and the Gopi-girls. All this probably seems to you to entail great degeneration on the worshipper. And so it does. Yet many great saints have been developed by it. And no human institution is beyond abuse. Would you cook nothing because there are beggars? Would you possess nothing because there are thieves? “O Beloved, one kiss of Thy lips, once tasted, hath made me mad!”
The fruit of this idea is that one can no longer belong to any sect, or endure ceremonial. Religion in India culminates in freedom. But even this comes to be given up, and all is love for love’s sake.
Last of all comes love without distinction, the Self. There is a Persian poem that tells how a lover came to the door of his beloved, and knocked. She asked, “Who art thou?” and he replied, “I am so and so, thy beloved!” and she answered only, “Go! I know none such!” But when she had asked for the fourth time, he said, “I am thyself, O my Beloved, therefore open thou to me!” And the door was opened.
A great saint said, using the language of a girl, describing love: “Four eyes met. There were changes in two souls. And now I cannot tell whether he is a man and I am a woman, or he is a woman and I a man. This only I remember, two souls were. Love came, and there was one.”
In the highest love, union is only of the spirit. All love of any other kind is quickly evanescent. Only the spiritual lasts, and this grows.
Love sees the Ideal. This is the third angle of the triangle. God has been Cause, Creator, Father. Love is the culmination. The mother regrets that her child is humpbacked, but when she has nursed him for a few days, she loves him and thinks him most beautiful. The lover sees the beauty of Helen in the brow of Ethiopia. We do not commonly realise what happens. The brow of Ethiopia is merely a suggestion: the man sees Helen. His ideal is thrown upon the suggestion and covers it, as the oyster makes sand into a pearl. God is this ideal, through which man may see all.
Hence we come to love love itself. This love cannot be expressed. No words can utter it. We are dumb about it.
The senses become very much heightened in love. Human love, we must remember, is mixed up with attributes. It is dependent, too, on the other’s attitude. Indian languages have words to describe this interdependence of love. The lowest love is selfish; it consists in pleasure of being loved. We say in India, “One gives the cheek, the other kisses.” Above this is mutual love. But this also ceases mutually. True love is all giving. We do not even want to see the other, or to do anything to express our feeling. It is enough to give. It is almost impossible to love a human being like this, but it is possible to love God.
In India there is no idea of blasphemy if boys fighting in the street use the name of God. We say, “Put your hand into the fire, and whether you feel it or not, you will be burnt. So to utter the name of God can bring nothing but good.”
The notion of blasphemy comes from the Jews, who were impressed by the spectacle of Persian loyalty. The ideas that God is judge and punisher are not in themselves bad, but they are low and vulgar. The three angles of the triangle are: Love begs not; Love knows no fear; Love is always the ideal.
“Who would be able to live one second,
Who would be able to breathe one moment,
If the Loving one had not filled the universe?”
Most of us will find that we were born for service. We must leave the results to God. The work was done only for love of God. If failure comes, there need be no sorrow. The work was done only for love of God.
In women, the mother-nature is much developed. They worship God as the child. They ask nothing, and will do anything.
The Catholic Church teaches many of these deep things, and though it is narrow, it is religious in the highest sense. In modern society, Protestantism is broad but shallow. To judge truth by what good it does is as bad as to question the value of a scientific discovery to a baby.
Society must be outgrown. We must crush law and become outlaws. We allow nature, only in order to conquer her. Renunciation means that none can serve both God and Mammon.
Deepen your own power of thought and love. Bring your own lotus to blossom: the bees will come of themselves. Believe first in yourself, then in God. A handful of strong men will move the world. We need a heart to feel, a brain to conceive, and a strong arm to do the work. Buddha gave himself for the animals. Make yourself a fit agent to work. But it is God who works, not you. One man contains the whole universe. One particle of matter has all the energy of the universe at its back. In a conflict between the heart and the brain follow your heart.
Yesterday, competition was the law. Today, cooperation is the law. Tomorrow there is no law. Let sages praise thee, or let the world blame. Let fortune itself come, or let poverty and rags stare thee in the face. Eat the herbs of the forest, one day, for food; and the next, share a banquet of fifty courses. Looking neither to right hand nor to the left, follow thou on!
The Swami began by telling, in answer to questions, the story of how Pavhâri Bâbâ snatched up his own vessels and ran after the thief, only to fall at his feet and say:
“O Lord, I knew not that Thou wert there! Take them! They are Thine! Pardon me, Thy child!”
Again he told how the same saint was bitten by a cobra, and when, towards nightfall he recovered, he said, “A messenger came to me from the Beloved.”