NOTES OF LECTURES DELIVERED AT THE VEDANTA SOCIETY, NEW YORK; SUNDAY AFTERNOONS JUNE, 1900.
The different sectarian systems of India all radiate from one central idea of Unity or Dualism. They are all under Vedanta, all interpreted by it. Their final essence is the teaching of Unity. This, which we see as many, is God. We perceive matter, the world, manifold sensation. Yet is there but one existence.
These various names mark only differences of degree in the expression of that One. The worm of to-day is the God of to-morrow. These distinctions which we so love are all parts of one infinite fact, and only differ in the degree of expression. That one infinite fact is the attainment of Freedom.
However mistaken we may be, as to the method, all our struggle is really for Freedom. We seek neither misery nor happiness, but Freedom. This one aim is the secret of the insatiable thirst of man. Man’s thirst, says the Hindu, man’s thirst, says the Buddhist, is a burning, unquenchable thirst, for more and more. You Americans are always looking for more pleasure, more enjoyment. You cannot be satisfied. True, but at bottom what you seek is Freedom.
This vastness of his desire is really the sign of man’s own infinitude. It is because he is infinite, that he can only be satisfied, when his desire is infinite, and its fulfilment infinite.
What then can satisfy man? Not gold. Not joy. Not beauty. One Infinite alone can satisfy him, and that infinite is Himself. When he realises this, then alone comes Freedom.
“This flute, with the sense-organs as its key-holes, with all its sensations, perceptions, and song, is singing only one thing. It longs to go back to the wood whence it was cut!”
“Deliver thou thyself by thyself!
Ah, do not let thyself sink!
For thou art thyself thy greatest friend.
And thou thyself thy greatest enemy.
Who can help the Infinite? Even the hand that comes to you through the darkness will have to be your own.
Fear and desire are the two causes of all this, and who creates them? We ourselves. Our lives are but a passing from dream to dream. Man the infinite dreamer, dreaming finite dreams!
Oh the blessedness of it, that nothing external can be eternal! They little know what they mean, whose hearts quake when they hear that nothing in this relative world can be eternal.
I am the infinite blue sky. Over me pass these clouds of various colours, remain a moment, and vanish. I am the same eternal blue. I am the witness, the same eternal witness, of all. I see, therefore nature exists. I do not see, therefore she does not. Not one of us could see or speak, if this infinite unity were broken for a moment.
WHAT IS RELIGION?
A locomotive, with all its powers, is only a machine; and a little worm is a living being. What is it that makes us differentiate, between the living and the dead?
All over the world is worship, – of ghosts, of serpents, trees, gods. The whole world expects a miracle. We are all running after the curious, the extraordinary.
We dismiss this as ignorance, but the fact remains. I believe nothing to be vain or meaningless. The Jews were not singular: the whole world asks for a sign. Then there is this universal dissatisfaction. We work for an object, or an ideal, and before we reach it, our desire has changed. Man is a born rebel against nature, and nature’s laws.
The first act of our life is one of rebellion against life. The earth, moon, and stars, tremendous as they are, are but machines. Life, from its first twinkling to its highest growth, is above all these. ‘Freedom, oh Freedom!’ is the cry of life. ‘Freedom, oh Freedom!’ is the song of the soul. All worship, all desire for miracles, is, at bottom, this thirst for Freedom. Science on her countless watch-towers signals back to the asking soul, ‘No, not yet! Nature has no freedom. She is all law.’
This is why the idea of God is essential to the Mind. There must be the concept of some being or beings with Freedom.
Religion thus becomes only a question of the materialisation or personification of the idea. Even a plant could not be, without this notion of Freedom. Embodied Freedom, the Master of Nature, is what we call God.
Which of you would come or go or eat, if you did not believe yourself FREE to do or not to do? This may be a false notion, yet it shows the conception, and this is as much a fact as the bondage itself. Freedom must bring the mastery of nature. Omnipotence, Omniscience, and Freedom must go hand in hand, and must be beyond nature. All its dust and mire leaves Him unstained. In us, every little thing produces change. Not so in Him! So SATCHITANANDA alone describes Him.
“He is the Ruler of this universe. Him the sun cannot illumine, nor the moon, nor the stars. The flash of the lightning cannot irradiate Him. How then speak of this mortal fire?”
He depends upon Himself alone. All movement is His Worship. No action, no movement, no throb in the universe, but goes towards Him. Not only all that we call good, but evil also, is from the Lord. “I am the Real: I am the Unreal.” He who gave us life, He is pouring out of His vial, the direst death. ‘He whose shadow is death, whose shadow is immortality!’ We may bury our heads in the sand, like the ostrich. But there is no escape that way!
Once, in Benares, I was pursued by troops of monkeys, and I turned to flee, when suddenly I heard the voice of an old sannyasin behind me call out “Stop! Always face the brute!” So, face nature. Face ignorance. Face illusion. Never fly. You remember the story of the king who saw the vision of an enchanted palace, but he spat upon the ground, and all vanished?
Your own child comes to you masked. A moment of terror, and then – It is the Lord! The world has been ever preaching the God of virtue. I preach to you a God of virtue and of sin. No more looking up and down at each other! The less differentiation, the sooner God. This is the one sin, differentiation. This is the door to hell, differentiation. Only when this is broken, when it is pulverised to atoms, can we attain the goal. Can we, or can we not, see God in all equally?
“Thou art the man, Thou art the woman!
Thou art the youth, in the pride of his youth,
And thou the old man tottering on his crutches.
Thou the sinner, thou the saint!”
Two birds of golden plumage sat on the same tree. One above, and one below. The lower bird was pecking at the berries, some sweet, some bitter, at last he ate one most bitter, and looking up, saw his fellow, calm, majestic, immersed in his own glory. Then he drew nearer and nearer, till the rays of light from the plumage of the upper bird fell on himself; drew nearer, till he found that the upper bird was all. He, the lower, had been only a reflection seen amongst the branches.
The man who is groping his way through sin and misery, the man who has chosen for himself the path that runs through hell, will also reach. But we may choose for ourselves the path that runs through heaven, the path of unselfishness, of purity, of love, and virtue. Let us come consciously, by seeing all beings as identified with ourselves.
We want to move consciously. Let us be rid, then, of all these limited ideas, and see Him, the Ever-Present Self, evident, nearer to us than our own selves! This has to be felt. This has to be realised.
May it please the Lord to grant us soon this ‘knowledge of ourselves as one with the universe. This is the highest development of humility.
“Sharp as the blade of a razor, long, and distant, and the way so hard to find!
So the sages have declared.
Yet do not despond! Awake! Arise!
Struggle on! And stop not, till the goal is reached!”
“Giving up all these paths and struggles do thou take refuge in Me! I will take thee unto the other shore. Be not afraid! Be not afraid!” Say all the scriptures of the world.
Either say: ‘I am thou, O Lord!’ thus killing the lower I; or, ‘I am nothing. Thou art all. Thy will be done on earth!’ This last is a little easier. But we slip, and we stretch out the hand to the Mother! It has all been done. Well said an Indian philosopher, “who says, Thy will be done!’ twice, commits a sin.” Manu says salvation is for all, save only for a traitor. We all stand condemned as traitors, traitors against our own selves, against the majesty of Mother.
For Thine is the Kingdom and the power the glory! For ever and ever!