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Dear all,


The following text is being offered at no charge in it's entirety. 


This is a classical text that looks at who we are as spiritual beings and brings peace to the heart in troubling times.


Enjoy with peace.


Love, Love, Love,





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Rabindranath Tagore

Author of 'Gitanjali'



Ernest Rhys


Author's Preface

Perhaps it is well for me to explain that the subject-matter of
the papers published in this book has not been philosophically
treated, nor has it been approached from the scholar's point of
view. The writer has been brought up in a family where texts of
the Upanishads are used in daily worship; and he has had before
him the example of his father, who lived his long life in the
closest communion with God, while not neglecting his duties to
the world, or allowing his keen interest in all human affairs to
suffer any abatement. So in these papers, it may be hoped,
western readers will have an opportunity of coming into touch
with the ancient spirit of India as revealed in our sacred texts
and manifested in the life of to-day.

All the great utterances of man have to be judged not by the
letter but by the spirit--the spirit which unfolds itself with
the growth of life in history. We get to know the real meaning
of Christianity by observing its living aspect at the present
moment--however different that may be, even in important
respects, from the Christianity of earlier periods.

For western scholars the great religious scriptures of India seem
to possess merely a retrospective and archŠlogical interest; but
to us they are of living importance, and we cannot help thinking
that they lose their significance when exhibited in labelled
cases--mummied specimens of human thought and aspiration,
preserved for all time in the wrappings of erudition.

The meaning of the living words that come out of the experiences
of great hearts can never be exhausted by any one system of
logical interpretation. They have to be endlessly explained by
the commentaries of individual lives, and they gain an added
mystery in each new revelation. To me the verses of the
Upanishads and the teachings of Buddha have ever been things of
the spirit, and therefore endowed with boundless vital growth;
and I have used them, both in my own life and in my preaching, as
being instinct with individual meaning for me, as for others, and
awaiting for their confirmation, my own special testimony, which
must have its value because of its individuality.

I should add perhaps that these papers embody in a connected
form, suited to this publication, ideas which have been culled
from several of the Bengali discourses which I am in the habit of
giving to my students in my school at Bolpur in Bengal; and I
have used here and there translations of passages from these done
by my friends, Babu Satish Chandra Roy and Babu Ajit Kumar
Chakravarti. The last paper of this series, "Realisation in
Action," has been translated from my Bengali discourse on "Karma-
yoga" by my nephew, Babu Surendra Nath Tagore.

I take this opportunity of expressing my gratitude to Professor
James H. Woods, of Harvard University, for his generous
appreciation which encouraged me to complete this series of
papers and read most of them before the Harvard University. And
I offer my thanks to Mr. Ernest Rhys for his kindness in helping
me with suggestions and revisions, and in going through the

A word may be added about the pronouncing of Sādhanā: the accent
falls decisively on the first ā, which has the broad sound of the





The civilisation of ancient Greece was nurtured within city
walls. In fact, all the modern civilisations have their cradles
of brick and mortar.

These walls leave their mark deep in the minds of men. They set
up a principle of "divide and rule" in our mental outlook, which
begets in us a habit of securing all our conquests by fortifying
them and separating them from one another. We divide nation and
nation, knowledge and knowledge, man and nature. It breeds in us
a strong suspicion of whatever is beyond the barriers we have
built, and everything has to fight hard for its entrance into our

When the first Aryan invaders appeared in India it was a vast
land of forests, and the new-comers rapidly took advantage of
them. These forests afforded them shelter from the fierce heat
of the sun and the ravages of tropical storms, pastures for
cattle, fuel for sacrificial fire, and materials for building
cottages. And the different Aryan clans with their patriarchal
heads settled in the different forest tracts which had some
special advantage of natural protection, and food and water in

Thus in India it was in the forests that our civilisation had its
birth, and it took a distinct character from this origin and
environment. It was surrounded by the vast life of nature, was
fed and clothed by her, and had the closest and most constant
intercourse with her varying aspects.

Such a life, it may be thought, tends to have the effect of
dulling human intelligence and dwarfing the incentives to
progress by lowering the standards of existence. But in ancient
India we find that the circumstances of forest life did not
overcome man's mind, and did not enfeeble the current of his
energies, but only gave to it a particular direction. Having
been in constant contact with the living growth of nature, his
mind was free from the desire to extend his dominion by erecting
boundary walls around his acquisitions. His aim was not to
acquire but to realise, to enlarge his consciousness by growing
with and growing into his surroundings. He felt that truth is
all-comprehensive, that there is no such thing as absolute
isolation in existence, and the only way of attaining truth is
through the interpenetration of our being into all objects. To
realise this great harmony between man's spirit and the spirit of
the world was the endeavour of the forest-dwelling sages of
ancient India.

In later days there came a time when these primeval forests gave
way to cultivated fields, and wealthy cities sprang up on all
sides. Mighty kingdoms were established, which had
communications with all the great powers of the world. But even
in the heyday of its material prosperity the heart of India ever
looked back with adoration upon the early ideal of strenuous
self-realisation, and the dignity of the simple life of the
forest hermitage, and drew its best inspiration from the wisdom
stored there.

The west seems to take a pride in thinking that it is subduing
nature; as if we are living in a hostile world where we have to
wrest everything we want from an unwilling and alien arrangement
of things. This sentiment is the product of the city-wall habit
and training of mind. For in the city life man naturally directs
the concentrated light of his mental vision upon his own life and
works, and this creates an artificial dissociation between
himself and the Universal Nature within whose bosom he lies.

But in India the point of view was different; it included the
world with the man as one great truth. India put all her
emphasis on the harmony that exists between the individual and
the universal. She felt we could have no communication whatever
with our surroundings if they were absolutely foreign to us.
Man's complaint against nature is that he has to acquire most of
his necessaries by his own efforts. Yes, but his efforts are not
in vain; he is reaping success every day, and that shows there is
a rational connection between him and nature, for we never can
make anything our own except that which is truly related to us.

We can look upon a road from two different points of view. One
regards it as dividing us from the object of our desire; in that
case we count every step of our journey over it as something
attained by force in the face of obstruction. The other sees it
as the road which leads us to our destination; and as such it is
part of our goal. It is already the beginning of our attainment,
and by journeying over it we can only gain that which in itself
it offers to us. This last point of view is that of India with
regard to nature. For her, the great fact is that we are in
harmony with nature; that man can think because his thoughts are
in harmony with things; that he can use the forces of nature for
his own purpose only because his power is in harmony with the
power which is universal, and that in the long run his purpose
never can knock against the purpose which works through nature.

In the west the prevalent feeling is that nature belongs
exclusively to inanimate things and to beasts, that there is a
sudden unaccountable break where human-nature begins. According
to it, everything that is low in the scale of beings is merely
nature, and whatever has the stamp of perfection on it,
intellectual or moral, is human-nature. It is like dividing the
bud and the blossom into two separate categories, and putting
their grace to the credit of two different and antithetical
principles. But the Indian mind never has any hesitation in
acknowledging its kinship with nature, its unbroken relation with

The fundamental unity of creation was not simply a philosophical
speculation for India; it was her life-object to realise this
great harmony in feeling and in action. With mediation and
service, with a regulation of life, she cultivated her
consciousness in such a way that everything had a spiritual
meaning to her. The earth, water and light, fruits and flowers,
to her were not merely physical phenomena to be turned to use and
then left aside. They were necessary to her in the attainment of
her ideal of perfection, as every note is necessary to the
completeness of the symphony. India intuitively felt that the
essential fact of this world has a vital meaning for us; we have
to be fully alive to it and establish a conscious relation with
it, not merely impelled by scientific curiosity or greed of
material advantage, but realising it in the spirit of sympathy,
with a large feeling of joy and peace.

The man of science knows, in one aspect, that the world is not
merely what it appears to be to our senses; he knows that earth
and water are really the play of forces that manifest themselves
to us as earth and water--how, we can but partially apprehend.
Likewise the man who has his spiritual eyes open knows that the
ultimate truth about earth and water lies in our apprehension of
the eternal will which works in time and takes shape in the
forces we realise under those aspects. This is not mere
knowledge, as science is, but it is a preception of the soul by
the soul. This does not lead us to power, as knowledge does, but
it gives us joy, which is the product of the union of kindred
things. The man whose acquaintance with the world does not lead
him deeper than science leads him, will never understand what it
is that the man with the spiritual vision finds in these natural
phenomena. The water does not merely cleanse his limbs, but it
purifies his heart; for it touches his soul. The earth does not
merely hold his body, but it gladdens his mind; for its contact
is more than a physical contact--it is a living presence. When a
man does not realise his kinship with the world, he lives in a
prison-house whose walls are alien to him. When he meets the
eternal spirit in all objects, then is he emancipated, for then
he discovers the fullest significance of the world into which he
is born; then he finds himself in perfect truth, and his harmony
with the all is established. In India men are enjoined to be
fully awake to the fact that they are in the closest relation to
things around them, body and soul, and that they are to hail the
morning sun, the flowing water, the fruitful earth, as the
manifestation of the same living truth which holds them in its
embrace. Thus the text of our everyday meditation is the
_Gayathri_, a verse which is considered to be the epitome of all
the Vedas. By its help we try to realise the essential unity of
the world with the conscious soul of man; we learn to perceive
the unity held together by the one Eternal Spirit, whose power
creates the earth, the sky, and the stars, and at the same time
irradiates our minds with the light of a consciousness that moves
and exists in unbroken continuity with the outer world.

It is not true that India has tried to ignore differences of
value in different things, for she knows that would make life
impossible. The sense of the superiority of man in the scale of
creation has not been absent from her mind. But she has had her
own idea as to that in which his superiority really consists. It
is not in the power of possession but in the power of union.
Therefore India chose her places of pilgrimage wherever there was
in nature some special grandeur or beauty, so that her mind could
come out of its world of narrow necessities and realise its place
in the infinite. This was the reason why in India a whole
people who once were meat-eaters gave up taking animal food to
cultivate the sentiment of universal sympathy for life, an event
unique in the history of mankind.

India knew that when by physical and mental barriers we violently
detach ourselves from the inexhaustible life of nature; when we
become merely man, but not man-in-the-universe, we create
bewildering problems, and having shut off the source of their
solution, we try all kinds of artificial methods each of which
brings its own crop of interminable difficulties. When man
leaves his resting-place in universal nature, when he walks on
the single rope of humanity, it means either a dance or a fall
for him, he has ceaselessly to strain every nerve and muscle to
keep his balance at each step, and then, in the intervals of his
weariness, he fulminates against Providence and feels a secret
pride and satisfaction in thinking that he has been unfairly
dealt with by the whole scheme of things.

But this cannot go on for ever. Man must realise the wholeness
of his existence, his place in the infinite; he must know that
hard as he may strive he can never create his honey within the
cells of his hive; for the perennial supply of his life food is
outside their walls. He must know that when man shuts himself
out from the vitalising and purifying touch of the infinite, and
falls back upon himself for his sustenance and his healing, then
he goads himself into madness, tears himself into shreds, and
eats his own substance. Deprived of the background of the whole,
his poverty loses its one great quality, which is simplicity, and
becomes squalid and shamefaced. His wealth is no longer
magnanimous; it grows merely extravagant. His appetites do not
minister to his life, keeping to the limits of their purpose;
they become an end in themselves and set fire to his life and
play the fiddle in the lurid light of the conflagration. Then it
is that in our self-expression we try to startle and not to
attract; in art we strive for originality and lose sight of truth
which is old and yet ever new; in literature we miss the complete
view of man which is simple and yet great, but he appears as a
psychological problem or the embodiment of a passion that is
intense because abnormal and because exhibited in the glare of a
fiercely emphatic light which is artificial. When man's
consciousness is restricted only to the immediate vicinity of his
human self, the deeper roots of his nature do not find their
permanent soil, his spirit is ever on the brink of starvation,
and in the place of healthful strength he substitutes rounds of
stimulation. Then it is that man misses his inner perspective
and measures his greatness by its bulk and not by its vital link
with the infinite, judges his activity by its movement and not by
the repose of perfection--the repose which is in the starry
heavens, in the ever-flowing rhythmic dance of creation.

The first invasion of India has its exact parallel in the
invasion of America by the European settlers. They also were
confronted with primeval forests and a fierce struggle with
aboriginal races. But this struggle between man and man, and man
and nature lasted till the very end; they never came to any
terms. In India the forests which were the habitation of the
barbarians became the sanctuary of sages, but in America these
great living cathedrals of nature had no deeper significance to
man. The brought wealth and power to him, and perhaps at times
they ministered to his enjoyment of beauty, and inspired a
solitary poet. They never acquired a sacred association in the
hearts of men as the site of some great spiritual reconcilement
where man's soul has its meeting-place with the soul of the

I do not for a moment wish to suggest that these things should
have been otherwise. It would be an utter waste of opportunities
if history were to repeat itself exactly in the same manner in
every place. It is best for the commerce of the spirit that
people differently situated should bring their different products
into the market of humanity, each of which is complementary and
necessary to the others. All that I wish to say is that India at
the outset of her career met with a special combination of
circumstances which was not lost upon her. She had, according to
her opportunities, thought and pondered, striven and suffered,
dived into the depths of existence, and achieved something which
surely cannot be without its value to people whose evolution in
history took a different way altogether. Man for his perfect
growth requires all the living elements that constitute his
complex life; that is why his food has to be cultivated in
different fields and brought from different sources.

Civilisation is a kind of mould that each nation is busy making
for itself to shape its men and women according to its best
ideal. All its institutions, its legislature, its standard of
approbation and condemnation, its conscious and unconscious
teachings tend toward that object. The modern civilisation of
the west, by all its organised efforts, is trying to turn out men
perfect in physical, intellectual, and moral efficiency. There
the vast energies of the nations are employed in extending man's
power over his surroundings, and people are combining and
straining every faculty to possess and to turn to account all
that they can lay their hands upon, to overcome every obstacle on
their path of conquest. They are ever disciplining themselves to
fight nature and other races; their armaments are getting more
and more stupendous every day; their machines, their appliances,
their organisations go on multiplying at an amazing rate. This
is a splendid achievement, no doubt, and a wonderful
manifestation of man's masterfulness which knows no obstacle, and
which has for its object the supremacy of himself over everything

The ancient civilisation of India had its own ideal of perfection
towards which its efforts were directed. Its aim was not
attaining power, and it neglected to cultivate to the utmost its
capacities, and to organise men for defensive and offensive
purposes, for co-operation in the acquisition of wealth and for
military and political ascendancy. The ideal that India tried to
realise led her best men to the isolation of a contemplative
life, and the treasures that she gained for mankind by
penetrating into the mysteries of reality cost her dear in the
sphere of worldly success. Yet, this also was a sublime
achievement,--it was a supreme manifestation of that human
aspiration which knows no limit, and which has for its object
nothing less than the realisation of the Infinite.

There were the virtuous, the wise, the courageous; there were the
statesmen, kings and emperors of India; but whom amongst all
these classes did she look up to and choose to be the
representative of men?

They were the rishis. What were the rishis? _They who having
attained the supreme soul in knowledge were filled with wisdom,
and having found him in union with the soul were in perfect
harmony with the inner self; they having realised him in the
heart were free from all selfish desires, and having experienced
him in all the activities of the world, had attained calmness.
The rishis were they who having reached the supreme God from all
sides had found abiding peace, had become united with all, had
entered into the life of the Universe._ [Footnote:
Samprāpyainam rishayo j˝ānatripatāh
Kritātmānō vītarāgāh prašantāh
tē sarvagam sarvatah prāpya dhīrāh
Yuktātmānah sarvamēvāvišanti.

Thus the state of realising our relationship with all, of
entering into everything through union with God, was considered
in India to be the ultimate end and fulfilment of humanity.

Man can destroy and plunder, earn and accumulate, invent and
discover, but he is great because his soul comprehends all. It
is dire destruction for him when he envelopes his soul in a dead
shell of callous habits, and when a blind fury of works whirls
round him like an eddying dust storm, shutting out the horizon.
That indeed kills the very spirit of his being, which is the
spirit of comprehension. Essentially man is not a slave either
of himself or of the world; but he is a lover. His freedom and
fulfilment is in love, which is another name for perfect
comprehension. By this power of comprehension, this permeation
of his being, he is united with the all-pervading Spirit, who is
also the breath of his soul. Where a man tries to raise himself
to eminence by pushing and jostling all others, to achieve a
distinction by which he prides himself to be more than everybody
else, there he is alienated from that Spirit. This is why the
Upanishads describe those who have attained the goal of human
life as "_peaceful_" [Footnote: Prašantāh] and as "_at-one-with-
God_," [Footnote: Yuktātmānah] meaning that they are in perfect
harmony with man and nature, and therefore in undisturbed union
with God.

We have a glimpse of the same truth in the teachings of Jesus
when he says, "It is easier for a camel to pass through the eye
of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of Heaven"--
which implies that whatever we treasure for ourselves separates
us from others; our possessions are our limitations. He who is
bent upon accumulating riches is unable, with his ego continually
bulging, to pass through the gates of comprehension of the
spiritual world, which is the world of perfect harmony; he is
shut up within the narrow walls of his limited acquisitions.

Hence the spirit of the teachings of Upanishad is: In order to
find him you must embrace all. In the pursuit of wealth you
really give up everything to gain a few things, and that is not
the way to attain him who is completeness.

Some modern philosophers of Europe, who are directly or
indirectly indebted to the Upanishads, far from realising their
debt, maintain that the Brahma of India is a mere abstraction, a
negation of all that is in the world. In a word, that the
Infinite Being is to be found nowhere except in metaphysics. It
may be, that such a doctrine has been and still is prevalent with
a section of our countrymen. But this is certainly not in accord
with the pervading spirit of the Indian mind. Instead, it is the
practice of realising and affirming the presence of the infinite
in all things which has been its constant inspiration.

We are enjoined to see _whatever there is in the world as being
enveloped by God._
[Footnote: Išāvāsyamidam sarvam yat ki˝cha jagatyā˝ jagat.]

_I bow to God over and over again who is in fire and in water, who
permeates the whole world, who is in the annual crops as well as
in the perennial trees._ [Footnote: Yo dēvō'gnau y'ōpsu y'ō
višvambhuvanamāvivēša ya ōshadhishu yō vanaspatishu tasmai dēvāya

Can this be God abstracted from the world? Instead, it signifies
not merely seeing him in all things, but saluting him in all the
objects of the world. The attitude of the God-conscious man of
the Upanishad towards the universe is one of a deep feeling of
adoration. His object of worship is present everywhere. It is
the one living truth that makes all realities true. This truth
is not only of knowledge but of devotion. '_Namonamah_,'--we bow
to him everywhere, and over and over again. It is recognised in
the outburst of the Rishi, who addresses the whole world in a
sudden ecstasy of joy: _Listen to me, ye sons of the immortal
spirit, ye who live in the heavenly abode, I have known the
Supreme Person whose light shines forth from beyond the darkness._
[Footnote: ărinvantu višve amritasya putrā ā ye divya dhāmāni
tasthuh vedāhametam purusham mahāntam āditya varņam tamasah
parastāt.] Do we not find the overwhelming delight of a direct
and positive experience where there is not the least trace of
vagueness or passivity?

Buddha who developed the practical side of the teaching of
Upanishads, preached the same message when he said, _With
everything, whether it is above or below, remote or near, visible
or invisible, thou shalt preserve a relation of unlimited love
without any animosity or without a desire to kill. To live in
such a consciousness while standing or walking, sitting or lying
down till you are asleep, is Brahma vihāra, or, in other words,
is living and moving and having your joy in the spirit of

What is that spirit? The Upanishad says, _The being who is in
his essence the light and life of all, who is world-conscious, is
Brahma._ [Footnote: Yašchāyamasminnākāšē tējōmayō'mritamayah
purushah sarvānubhūh.] To feel all, to be conscious of
everything, is his spirit. We are immersed in his consciousness
body and soul. It is through his consciousness that the sun
attracts the earth; it is through his consciousness that the
light-waves are being transmitted from planet to planet.

Not only in space, but _this light and life, this all-feeling
being is in our souls._ [Footnote: Yašchāyamasminnātmani
tējōmayō'mritamayah purushah sarvānubhūh.] He is all-conscious
in space, or the world of extension; and he is all-conscious in
soul, or the world of intension.

Thus to attain our world-consciousness, we have to unite our
feeling with this all-pervasive infinite feeling. In fact, the
only true human progress is coincident with this widening of the
range of feeling. All our poetry, philosophy, science, art and
religion are serving to extend the scope of our consciousness
towards higher and larger spheres. Man does not acquire rights
through occupation of larger space, nor through external conduct,
but his rights extend only so far as he is real, and his reality
is measured by the scope of his consciousness.

We have, however, to pay a price for this attainment of the
freedom of consciousness. What is the price? It is to give
one's self away. Our soul can realise itself truly only by
denying itself. The Upanishad says, _Thou shalt gain by giving
away_ [Footnote: Tyaktēna bhu˝jīthāh], _Thou shalt not covet._
[Footnote: Mā gridhah]

In Gita we are advised to work disinterestedly, abandoning all
lust for the result. Many outsiders conclude from this teaching
that the conception of the world as something unreal lies at the
root of the so-called disinterestedness preached in India. But
the reverse is true.

The man who aims at his own aggrandisement underrates everything
else. Compared to his ego the rest of the world is unreal. Thus
in order to be fully conscious of the reality of all, one has to
be free himself from the bonds of personal desires. This
discipline we have to go through to prepare ourselves for our
social duties--for sharing the burdens of our fellow-beings.
Every endeavour to attain a larger life requires of man "to gain
by giving away, and not to be greedy." And thus to expand
gradually the consciousness of one's unity with all is the
striving of humanity.

The Infinite in India was not a thin nonentity, void of all
content. The Rishis of India asserted emphatically, "To know him
in this life is to be true; not to know him in this life is the
desolation of death." [Footnote: Iha chēt avēdit atha
satyamasti, nachēt iha avēdit mahatī vinashtih.] How to know him
then? "By realising him in each and all." [Footnote: Bhūtēshu
bhūtēshu vichintva.] Not only in nature but in the family, in
society, and in the state, the more we realise the World-
conscious in all, the better for us. Failing to realise it, we
turn our faces to destruction.

It fills me with great joy and a high hope for the future of
humanity when I realise that there was a time in the remote past
when our poet-prophets stood under the lavish sunshine of an
Indian sky and greeted the world with the glad recognition of
kindred. It was not an anthropomorphic hallucination. It was
not seeing man reflected everywhere in grotesquely exaggerated
images, and witnessing the human drama acted on a gigantic scale
in nature's arena of flitting lights and shadows. On the
contrary, it meant crossing the limiting barriers of the
individual, to become more than man, to become one with the All.
It was not a mere play of the imagination, but it was the
liberation of consciousness from all the mystifications and
exaggerations of the self. These ancient seers felt in the
serene depth of their mind that the same energy which vibrates
and passes into the endless forms of the world manifests itself
in our inner being as consciousness; and there is no break in
unity. For these seers there was no gap in their luminous vision
of perfection. They never acknowledged even death itself as
creating a chasm in the field of reality. They said, _His
reflection is death as well as immortality._ [Footnote: Yasya
chhāyāmritam yasya mrityuh.] They did not recognise any
essential opposition between life and death, and they said with
absolute assurance, "It is life that is death." [Footnote: Prāno
mrityuh.] They saluted with the same serenity of gladness "life
in its aspect of appearing and in its aspect of departure"--
_That which is past is hidden in life, and that which is to come._
[Footnote: Namō astu āyatē namō astu parāyatē. Prānē ha bhūtam
bhavya˝cha.] They knew that mere appearance and disappearance are
on the surface like waves on the sea, but life which is permanent
knows no decay or diminution.

_Everything has sprung from immortal life and is vibrating with
life_, [Footnote: Yadidan ki˝cha praņa ejati nihsritam.] _for life
is immense._ [Footnote: Prāno virāt.]

This is the noble heritage from our forefathers waiting to be
claimed by us as our own, this ideal of the supreme freedom of
consciousness. It is not merely intellectual or emotional, it
has an ethical basis, and it must be translated into action. In
the Upanishad it is said, _The supreme being is all-pervading,
therefore he is the innate good in all._ [Footnote: Sarvavyāpī
sa bhagavān tasmāt sarvagatah šivah.] To be truly united in
knowledge, love, and service with all beings, and thus to
realise one's self in the all-pervading God is the essence of
goodness, and this is the keynote of the teachings of the
Upanishads: _Life is immense!_ [Footnote: Prāņo virāt.]



We have seen that it was the aspiration of ancient India to live
and move and have its joy in Brahma, the all-conscious and all-
pervading Spirit, by extending its field of consciousness over
all the world. But that, it may be urged, is an impossible task
for man to achieve. If this extension of consciousness be an
outward process, then it is endless; it is like attempting to
cross the ocean after ladling out its water. By beginning to try
to realise all, one has to end by realising nothing.

But, in reality, it is not so absurd as it sounds. Man has every
day to solve this problem of enlarging his region and adjusting
his burdens. His burdens are many, too numerous for him to
carry, but he knows that by adopting a system he can lighten the
weight of his load. Whenever they feel too complicated and
unwieldy, he knows it is because he has not been able to hit upon
the system which would have set everything in place and
distributed the weight evenly. This search for system is really
a search for unity, for synthesis; it is our attempt to harmonise
the heterogeneous complexity of outward materials by an inner
adjustment. In the search we gradually become aware that to find
out the One is to possess the All; that there, indeed, is our
last and highest privilege. It is based on the law of that unity
which is, if we only know it, our abiding strength. Its living
principle is the power that is in truth; the truth of that unity
which comprehends multiplicity. Facts are many, but the truth is
one. The animal intelligence knows facts, the human mind has
power to apprehend truth. The apple falls from the tree, the
rain descends upon the earth--you can go on burdening your memory
with such facts and never come to an end. But once you get hold
of the law of gravitation you can dispense with the necessity of
collecting facts _ad infinitum_. You have got at one truth
which governs numberless facts. This discovery of truth is pure
joy to man--it is a liberation of his mind. For, a mere fact is
like a blind lane, it leads only to itself--it has no beyond.
But a truth opens up a whole horizon, it leads us to the
infinite. That is the reason why, when a man like Darwin
discovers some simple general truth about Biology, it does not
stop there, but like a lamp shedding its light far beyond the
object for which it was lighted, it illumines the whole region of
human life and thought, transcending its original purpose. Thus
we find that truth, while investing all facts, is not a mere
aggregate of facts--it surpasses them on all sides and points to
the infinite reality.

As in the region of knowledge so in that of consciousness, man
must clearly realise some central truth which will give him an
outlook over the widest possible field. And that is the object
which the Upanishad has in view when it says, _Know thine own
Soul_. Or, in other words, realise the one great principal of
unity that there is in every man.

All our egoistic impulses, our selfish desires, obscure our true
vision of the soul. For they only indicate our own narrow self.
When we are conscious of our soul, we perceive the inner being
that transcends our ego and has its deeper affinity with the All.

Children, when they begin to learn each separate letter of the
alphabet, find no pleasure in it, because they miss the real
purpose of the lesson; in fact, while letters claim our attention
only in themselves and as isolated things, they fatigue us. They
become a source of joy to us only when they combine into words
and sentences and convey an idea.

Likewise, our soul when detached and imprisoned within the narrow
limits of a self loses its significance. For its very essence is
unity. It can only find out its truth by unifying itself with
others, and only then it has its joy. Man was troubled and he
lived in a state of fear so long as he had not discovered the
uniformity of law in nature; till then the world was alien to
him. The law that he discovered is nothing but the perception of
harmony that prevails between reason which is of the soul of man
and the workings of the world. This is the bond of union through
which man is related to the world in which he lives, and he feels
an exceeding joy when he finds this out, for then he realises
himself in his surroundings. To understand anything is to find
in it something which is our own, and it is the discovery of
ourselves outside us which makes us glad. This relation of
understanding is partial, but the relation of love is complete.
In love the sense of difference is obliterated and the human soul
fulfils its purpose in perfection, transcending the limits of
itself and reaching across the threshold of the infinite.
Therefore love is the highest bliss that man can attain to, for
through it alone he truly knows that he is more than himself, and
that he is at one with the All.

This principal of unity which man has in his soul is ever active,
establishing relations far and wide through literature, art, and
science, society, statecraft, and religion. Our great Revealers
are they who make manifest the true meaning of the soul by giving
up self for the love of mankind. They face calumny and
persecution, deprivation and death in their service of love.
They live the life of the soul, not of the self, and thus they
prove to us the ultimate truth of humanity. We call them
_Mahātmās,_ "the men of the great soul."

It is said in one of the Upanishads: _It is not that thou lovest
thy son because thou desirest him, but thou lovest thy son
because thou desirest thine own soul._ [Footnote: Na vā arē
putrasya kāmāya putrah priyō bhavati, ātmanastu kāmāya putrah
priyō bhavati.] The meaning of this is, that whomsoever we love,
in him we find our own soul in the highest sense. The final
truth of our existence lies in this. _Paramātmā_, the supreme
soul, is in me, as well as in my son, and my joy in my son is the
realisation of this truth. It has become quite a commonplace
fact, yet it is wonderful to think upon, that the joys and
sorrows of our loved ones are joys and sorrows to us--nay they
are more. Why so? Because in them we have grown larger, in
them we have touched that great truth which comprehends the whole

It very often happens that our love for our children, our
friends, or other loved ones, debars us from the further
realisation of our soul. It enlarges our scope of consciousness,
no doubt, yet it sets a limit to its freest expansion.
Nevertheless, it is the first step, and all the wonder lies in
this first step itself. It shows to us the true nature of our
soul. From it we know, for certain, that our highest joy is in
the losing of our egoistic self and in the uniting with others.
This love gives us a new power and insight and beauty of mind to
the extent of the limits we set around it, but ceases to do so if
those limits lose their elasticity, and militate against the
spirit of love altogether; then our friendships become exclusive,
our families selfish and inhospitable, our nations insular and
aggressively inimical to other races. It is like putting a
burning light within a sealed enclosure, which shines brightly
till the poisonous gases accumulate and smother the flame.
Nevertheless it has proved its truth before it dies, and made
known the joy of freedom from the grip of darkness, blind and
empty and cold.

According to the Upanishads, the key to cosmic consciousness, to
God-consciousness, is in the consciousness of the soul. To know
our soul apart from the self is the first step towards the
realisation of the supreme deliverance. We must know with
absolute certainty that essentially we are spirit. This we can
do by winning mastery over self, by rising above all pride and
greed and fear, by knowing that worldly losses and physical death
can take nothing away from the truth and the greatness of our
soul. The chick knows when it breaks through the self-centered
isolation of its egg that the hard shell which covered it so long
was not really a part of its life. That shell is a dead thing,
it has no growth, it affords no glimpse whatever of the vast
beyond that lies outside it. However pleasantly perfect and
rounded it may be, it must be given a blow to, it must be burst
through and thereby the freedom of light and air be won, and the
complete purpose of bird life be achieved. In Sanskrit, the bird
has been called the twice-born. So too the man who has gone
through the ceremony of the discipline of self-restraint and high
thinking for a period of at least twelve years; who has come out
simple in wants, pure in heart, and ready to take up all the
responsibilities of life in a disinterested largeness of spirit.
He is considered to have had his rebirth from the blind
envelopment of self to the freedom of soul life; to have come
into living relation with his surroundings; to have become at one
with the All.

I have already warned my hearers, and must once more warn them
against the idea that the teachers of India preached a
renunciation of the world and of self which leads only to the
blank emptiness of negation. Their aim was the realisation of
the soul, or, in other words, gaining the world in perfect truth.
When Jesus said, "Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit
the earth," he meant this. He proclaimed the truth that when man
gets rid of his pride of self then he comes into his true
inheritance. No more has he to fight his way into his position
in the world; it is secure for him everywhere by the immortal
right of his soul. Pride of self interferes with the proper
function of the soul which is to realise itself by perfecting its
union with the world and the world's God.

In his sermon to Sßdhu Simha Buddha says, _It is true, Simha,
that I denounce activities, but only the activities that lead to
the evil in words, thoughts, or deeds. It is true, Simha, that I
preach extinction, but only the extinction of pride, lust, evil
thought, and ignorance, not that of forgiveness, love, charity,
and truth._

The doctrine of deliverance that Buddha preached was the freedom
from the thraldom of _Avidyā_. _Avidyā_ is the ignorance that
darkens our consciousness, and tends to limit it within the
boundaries of our personal self. It is this _Avidyā_, this
ignorance, this limiting of consciousness that creates the hard
separateness of the ego, and thus becomes the source of all
pride and greed and cruelty incidental to self-seeking. When a
man sleeps he is shut up within the narrow activities of his
physical life. He lives, but he knows not the varied relations
of his life to his surroundings,--therefore he knows not
himself. So when a man lives the life of _Avidyā_ he is
confined within his self. It is a spiritual sleep; his
consciousness is not fully awake to the highest reality that
surrounds him, therefore he knows not the reality of his own
soul. When he attains _Bodhi_, i.e. the awakenment from the
sleep of self to the perfection of consciousness, he becomes

Once I met two ascetics of a certain religious sect in a village
of Bengal. "Can you tell me," I asked them, "wherein lies the
special features of your religion?" One of them hesitated for a
moment and answered, "It is difficult to define that." The other
said, "No, it is quite simple. We hold that we have first of all
to know our own soul under the guidance of our spiritual teacher,
and when we have done that we can find him, who is the Supreme
Soul, within us." "Why don't you preach your doctrine to all the
people of the world?" I asked. "Whoever feels thirsty will of
himself come to the river," was his reply. "But then, do you
find it so? Are they coming?" The man gave a gentle smile, and
with an assurance which had not the least tinge of impatience or
anxiety, he said, "They must come, one and all."

Yes, he is right, this simple ascetic of rural Bengal. Man is
indeed abroad to satisfy needs which are more to him than food
and clothing. He is out to find himself. Man's history is the
history of his journey to the unknown in quest of the realisation
of his immortal self--his soul. Through the rise and fall of
empires; through the building up gigantic piles of wealth and the
ruthless scattering of them upon the dust; through the creation
of vast bodies of symbols that give shape to his dreams and
aspirations, and the casting of them away like the playthings of
an outworn infancy; through his forging of magic keys with which
to unlock the mysteries of creation, and through his throwing
away of this labour of ages to go back to his workshop and work
up afresh some new form; yes, through it all man is marching from
epoch to epoch towards the fullest realisation of his soul,--the
soul which is greater than the things man accumulates, the deeds
he accomplishes, the theories he builds; the soul whose onward
course is never checked by death or dissolution. Man's mistakes
and failures have by no means been trifling or small, they have
strewn his path with colossal ruins; his sufferings have been
immense, like birth-pangs for a giant child; they are the prelude
of a fulfilment whose scope is infinite. Man has gone through
and is still undergoing martyrdoms in various ways, and his
institutions are the altars he has built whereto he brings his
daily sacrifices, marvellous in kind and stupendous in quantity.
All this would be absolutely unmeaning and unbearable if all
along he did not feel that deepest joy of the soul within him,
which tries its divine strength by suffering and proves its
exhaustless riches by renunciation. Yes, they are coming, the
pilgrims, one and all--coming to their true inheritance of the
world; they are ever broadening their consciousness, ever seeking
a higher and higher unity, ever approaching nearer to the one
central Truth which is all-comprehensive.

Man's poverty is abysmal, his wants are endless till he becomes
truly conscious of his soul. Till then, the world to him is in a
state of continual flux-- a phantasm that is and is not. For a
man who has realised his soul there is a determinate centre of
the universe around which all else can find its proper place, and
from thence only can he draw and enjoy the blessedness of a
harmonious life.

There was a time when the earth was only a nebulous mass whose
particles were scattered far apart through the expanding force of
heat; when she had not yet attained her definiteness of form and
had neither beauty nor purpose, but only heat and motion.
Gradually, when her vapours were condensed into a unified rounded
whole through a force that strove to bring all straggling matters
under the control of a centre, she occupied her proper place
among the planets of the solar system, like an emerald pendant in
a necklace of diamonds. So with our soul. When the heat and
motion of blind impulses and passions distract it on all sides,
we can neither give nor receive anything truly. But when we find
our centre in our soul by the power of self-restraint, by the
force that harmonises all warring elements and unifies those that
are apart, then all our isolated impressions reduce themselves to
wisdom, and all our momentary impulses of heart find their
completion in love; then all the petty details of our life reveal
an infinite purpose, and all our thoughts and deeds unite
themselves inseparably in an internal harmony.

The Upanishads say with great emphasis, _Know thou the One, the
Soul._ [Footnote: Tamēvaikam jānatha ātmānam.] _It is the bridge
leading to the immortal being._ [Footnote: Amritasyaisha sētuh.]

This is the ultimate end of man, to find the _One_ which is in
him; which is his truth, which is his soul; the key with which he
opens the gate of the spiritual life, the heavenly kingdom. His
desires are many, and madly they run after the varied objects of
the world, for therein they have their life and fulfilment. But
that which is _one_ in him is ever seeking for unity--unity in
knowledge, unity in love, unity in purposes of will; its highest
joy is when it reaches the infinite one within its eternal unity.
Hence the saying of the Upanishad, _Only those of tranquil minds,
and none else, can attain abiding joy, by realising within their
souls the Being who manifests one essence in a multiplicity of
forms._ [Footnote: Ēkam rūpam bahudhā yah karōti * * tam
ātmastham yē anupašyanti dīhrāh, tēshām sukham šāšvatam

[Transcriber's note: The above footnote contains the * mark in
the original printed version. This has been retained as is.]

Through all the diversities of the world the one in us is
threading its course towards the one in all; this is its nature
and this is its joy. But by that devious path it could never
reach its goal if it had not a light of its own by which it could
catch the sight of what it was seeking in a flash. The vision of
the Supreme One in our own soul is a direct and immediate
intuition, not based on any ratiocination or demonstration at
all. Our eyes naturally see an object as a whole, not by
breaking it up into parts, but by bringing all the parts together
into a unity with ourselves. So with the intuition of our Soul-
consciousness, which naturally and totally realises its unity in
the Supreme One.

Says the Upanishad: _This deity who is manifesting himself in the
activities of the universe always dwells in the heart of man as
the supreme soul. Those who realise him through the immediate
perception of the heart attain immortality._ [Footnote: Ēsha
dēvō vishvakarmā mahātmā sadā janānām hridayē sannivishtah.
Hridā manīsha manasābhiklriptō ya ētad viduramritāstē bhavanti.]

He is _Vishvakarma_; that is, in a multiplicity of forms and
forces lies his outward manifestation in nature; but his inner
manifestation in our soul is that which exists in unity. Our
pursuit of truth in the domain of nature therefore is through
analysis and the gradual methods of science, but our apprehension
of truth in our soul is immediate and through direct intuition.
We cannot attain the supreme soul by successive additions of
knowledge acquired bit by bit even through all eternity, because
he is one, he is not made up of parts; we can only know him as
heart of our hearts and soul of our soul; we can only know him in
the love and joy we feel when we give up our self and stand
before him face to face.

The deepest and the most earnest prayer that has ever risen from
the human heart has been uttered in our ancient tongue: _O thou
self-revealing one, reveal thyself in me._ [Footnote:
Āvirāvīrmayēdhi.] We are in misery because we are creatures of
self--the self that is unyielding and narrow, that reflects no
light, that is blind to the infinite. Our self is loud with its
own discordant clamour--it is not the tuned harp whose chords
vibrate with the music of the eternal. Sighs of discontent and
weariness of failure, idle regrets for the past and anxieties for
the future are troubling our shallow hearts because we have not
found our souls, and the self-revealing spirit has not been
manifest within us. Hence our cry, _O thou awful one, save me
with thy smile of grace ever and evermore._ [Footnote: Rudra
yat tē dakshinam mukham tēna mām pāhi nityam.] It is a stifling
shroud of death, this self-gratification, this insatiable greed,
this pride of possession, this insolent alienation of heart.
_Rudra, O thou awful one, rend this dark cover in twain and let
the saving beam of thy smile of grace strike through this night
of gloom and waken my soul._

_From unreality lead me to the real, from darkness to the light,
from death to immortality._ [Footnote: Asatōmā sadgamaya,
tamasōmā jyōtirgamaya, mrityōrma mritangamaya.] But how can one
hope to have this prayer granted? For infinite is the distance
that lies between truth and untruth, between death and
deathlessness. Yet this measureless gulf is bridged in a moment
when the self revealing one reveals himself in the soul. There
the miracle happens, for there is the meeting-ground of the
finite and infinite. _Father, completely sweep away all my
sins!_ [Footnote: Vishvānidēva savitar duratāni parāsuva.] For
in sin man takes part with the finite against the infinite that
is in him. It is the defeat of his soul by his self. It is a
perilously losing game, in which man stakes his all to gain a
part. Sin is the blurring of truth which clouds the purity of
our consciousness. In sin we lust after pleasures, not because
they are truly desirable, but because the red light of our
passions makes them appear desirable; we long for things not
because they are great in themselves, but because our greed
exaggerates them and makes them appear great. These
exaggerations, these falsifications of the perspective of things,
break the harmony of our life at every step; we lose the true
standard of values and are distracted by the false claims of the
varied interests of life contending with one another. It is this
failure to bring all the elements of his nature under the unity
and control of the Supreme One that makes man feel the pang of
his separation from God and gives rise to the earnest prayer,
_O God, O Father, completely sweep away all our sins._
[Footnote: Vishvāni dēva savitar duritāni parāsuva.] _Give
unto us that which is good_ [Footnote: Yad bhadram tanna
āsuva.], the good which is the daily bread of our souls. In our
pleasures we are confined to ourselves, in the good we are freed
and we belong to all. As the child in its mother's womb gets its
sustenance through the union of its life with the larger life of
its mother, so our soul is nourished only through the good which
is the recognition of its inner kinship, the channel of its
communication with the infinite by which it is surrounded and
fed. Hence it is said, "Blessed are they which do hunger and
thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled." For
righteousness is the divine food of the soul; nothing but this
can fill him, can make him live the life of the infinite, can
help him in his growth towards the eternal. _We bow to thee
from whom come the enjoyments of our life._ [Footnote: Namah
sambhavāya.] _We bow also to thee from whom comes the good of
our soul._ [Footnote: Namah šankarāyacha.] _We bow to thee
who art good, the highest good [Footnote: Namah šivāyacha,
šivatarāya cha.], in whom we are united with everything, that is,
in peace and harmony, in goodness and love.

Man's cry is to reach his fullest expression. It is this desire
for self-expression that leads him to seek wealth and power. But
he has to discover that accumulation is not realisation. It is
the inner light that reveals him, not outer things. When this
light is lighted, then in a moment he knows that Man's highest
revelation is God's own revelation in him. And his cry is for
this--the manifestation of his soul, which is the manifestation
of God in his soul. Man becomes perfect man, he attains his
fullest expression, when his soul realises itself in the Infinite
being who is _Āvih_ whose very essence is expression.

The real misery of man is in the fact that he has not fully come
out, that he is self-obscured, lost in the midst of his own
desires. He cannot feel himself beyond his personal
surroundings, his greater self is blotted out, his truth is
unrealised. The prayer that rises up from his whole being is
therefore, _Thou, who art the spirit of manifestation, manifest
thyself in me._ [Footnote: Āvirāvīrmayēdhi.] This longing for
the perfect expression of his self is more deeply inherent in
man than his hunger and thirst for bodily sustenance, his lust
for wealth and distinction. This prayer is not merely one born
individually of him; it is in depth of all things, it is the
ceaseless urging in him of the _Āvih_, of the spirit of eternal
manifestation. The revealment of the infinite in the finite,
which is the motive of all creation, is not seen in its
perfection in the starry heavens, in the beauty of flowers. It
is in the soul of man. For there will seeks its manifestation in
will, and freedom turns to win its final prize in the freedom of

Therefore, it is the self of man which the great King of the
universe has not shadowed with his throne--he has left it free.
In his physical and mental organism, where man is related with
nature, he has to acknowledge the rule of his King, but in his
self he is free to disown him. There our God must win his
entrance. There he comes as a guest, not as a king, and
therefore he has to wait till he is invited. It is the man's
self from which God has withdrawn his commands, for there he
comes to court our love. His armed force, the laws of nature,
stand outside its gate, and only beauty, the messenger of his
love, finds admission within its precincts.

It is only in this region of will that anarchy is permitted; only
in man's self that the discord of untruth and unrighteousness
hold its reign; and things can come to such a pass that we may
cry out in our anguish, "Such utter lawlessness could never
prevail if there were a God!" Indeed, God has stood aside from
our self, where his watchful patience knows no bounds, and where
he never forces open the doors if shut against him. For this
self of ours has to attain its ultimate meaning, which is the
soul, not through the compulsion of God's power but through love,
and thus become united with God in freedom.

He whose spirit has been made one with God stands before man as
the supreme flower of humanity. There man finds in truth what he
is; for there the _Āvih_ is revealed to him in the soul of man as
the most perfect revelation for him of God; for there we see the
union of the supreme will with our will, our love with the love

Therefore, in our country he who truly loves God receives such
homage from men as would be considered almost sacrilegious in the
west. We see in him God's wish fulfilled, the most difficult of
all obstacles to his revealment removed, and God's own perfect
joy fully blossoming in humanity. Through him we find the whole
world of man overspread with a divine homeliness. His life,
burning with God's love, makes all our earthly love resplendent.
All the intimate associations of our life, all its experience of
pleasure and pain, group themselves around this display of the
divine love, and from the drama that we witness in him. The
touch of an infinite mystery passes over the trivial and the
familiar, making it break out into ineffable music. The trees
and the stars and the blue hills appear to us as symbols aching
with a meaning which can never be uttered in words. We seem to
watch the Master in the very act of creation of a new world when
a man's soul draws her heavy curtain of self aside, when her veil
is lifted and she is face to face with her eternal lover.

But what is this state? It is like a morning of spring, varied
in its life and beauty, yet one and entire. When a man's life
rescued from distractions finds its unity in the soul, then the
consciousness of the infinite becomes at once direct and natural
to it as the light is to the flame. All the conflicts and
contradictions of life are reconciled; knowledge, love and action
harmonized; pleasure and pain become one in beauty, enjoyment and
renunciation equal in goodness; the breach between the finite and
the infinite fills with love and overflows; every moment carries
its message of the eternal; the formless appears to us in the
form of the flower, of the fruit; the boundless takes us up in
his arms as a father and walks by our side as a friend. It is
only the soul, the One in man which by its very nature can
overcome all limits, and finds its affinity with the Supreme One.
While yet we have not attained the internal harmony, and the
wholeness of our being, our life remains a life of habits. The
world still appears to us as a machine, to be mastered where it
is useful, to be guarded against where it is dangerous, and never
to be known in its full fellowship with us, alike in its physical
nature and in its spiritual life and beauty.



The question why there is evil in existence is the same as why
there is imperfection, or, in other words, why there is creation
at all. We must take it for granted that it could not be
otherwise; that creation must be imperfect, must be gradual, and
that it is futile to ask the question, Why we are?

But this is the real question we ought to ask: Is this
imperfection the final truth, is evil absolute and ultimate? The
river has its boundaries, its banks, but is a river all banks? or
are the banks the final facts about the river? Do not these
obstructions themselves give its water an onward motion? The
towing rope binds a boat, but is the bondage its meaning? Does
it not at the same time draw the boat forward?

The current of the world has its boundaries, otherwise it could
have no existence, but its purpose is not shown in the boundaries
which restrain it, but in its movement, which is towards
perfection. The wonder is not that there should be obstacles and
sufferings in this world, but that there should be law and order,
beauty and joy, goodness and love. The idea of God that man has
in his being is the wonder of all wonders. He has felt in the
depths of his life that what appears as imperfect is the
manifestation of the perfect; just as a man who has an ear for
music realises the perfection of a song, while in fact he is only
listening to a succession of notes. Man has found out the great
paradox that what is limited is not imprisoned within its limits;
it is ever moving, and therewith shedding its finitude every
moment. In fact, imperfection is not a negation of perfectness;
finitude is not contradictory to infinity: they are but
completeness manifested in parts, infinity revealed within

Pain, which is the feeling of our finiteness, is not a fixture in
our life. It is not an end in itself, as joy is. To meet with
it is to know that it has no part in the true permanence of
creation. It is what error is in our intellectual life. To go
through the history of the development of science is to go
through the maze of mistakes it made current at different times.
Yet no one really believes that science is the one perfect mode
of disseminating mistakes. The progressive ascertainment of
truth is the important thing to remember in the history of
science, not its innumerable mistakes. Error, by its nature,
cannot be stationary; it cannot remain with truth; like a tramp,
it must quit its lodging as soon as it fails to pay its score to
the full.

As in intellectual error, so in evil of any other form, its
essence is impermanence, for it cannot accord with the whole.
Every moment it is being corrected by the totality of things and
keeps changing its aspect. We exaggerate its importance by
imagining it as a standstill. Could we collect the statistics of
the immense amount of death and putrefaction happening every
moment in this earth, they would appal us. But evil is ever
moving; with all its incalculable immensity it does not
effectually clog the current of our life; and we find that the
earth, water, and air remain sweet and pure for living beings.
All statistics consist of our attempts to represent statistically
what is in motion; and in the process things assume a weight in
our mind which they have not in reality. For this reason a man,
who by his profession is concerned with any particular aspect of
life, is apt to magnify its proportions; in laying undue stress
upon facts he loses his hold upon truth. A detective may have
the opportunity of studying crimes in detail, but he loses his
sense of their relative places in the whole social economy. When
science collects facts to illustrate the struggle for existence
that is going on in the kingdom of life, it raises a picture in
our minds of "nature red in tooth and claw." But in these mental
pictures we give a fixity to colours and forms which are really
evanescent. It is like calculating the weight of the air on each
square inch of our body to prove that it must be crushingly heavy
for us. With every weight, however, there is an adjustment, and
we lightly bear our burden. With the struggle for existence in
nature there is reciprocity. There is the love for children and
for comrades; there is the sacrifice of self, which springs from
love; and this love is the positive element in life.

If we kept the search-light of our observation turned upon the
fact of death, the world would appear to us like a huge charnel-
house; but in the world of life the thought of death has, we
find, the least possible hold upon our minds. Not because it is
the least apparent, but because it is the negative aspect of
life; just as, in spite of the fact that we shut our eyelids
every second, it is the openings of the eye that count. Life as
a whole never takes death seriously. It laughs, dances and
plays, it builds, hoards and loves in death's face. Only when we
detach one individual fact of death do we see its blankness and
become dismayed. We lose sight of the wholeness of a life of
which death is part. It is like looking at a piece of cloth
through a microscope. It appears like a net; we gaze at the big
holes and shiver in imagination. But the truth is, death is not
the ultimate reality. It looks black, as the sky looks blue; but
it does not blacken existence, just as the sky does not leave its
stain upon the wings of the bird.

When we watch a child trying to walk, we see its countless
failures; its successes are but few. If we had to limit our
observation within a narrow space of time, the sight would be
cruel. But we find that in spite of its repeated failures there
is an impetus of joy in the child which sustains it in its
seemingly impossible task. We see it does not think of its falls
so much as of its power to keep its balance though for only a

Like these accidents in a child's attempts to walk, we meet with
sufferings in various forms in our life every day, showing the
imperfections in our knowledge and our available power, and in
the application of our will. But if these revealed our weakness
to us only, we should die of utter depression. When we select
for observation a limited area of our activities, our individual
failures and miseries loom large in our minds; but our life leads
us instinctively to take a wider view. It gives us an ideal of
perfection which ever carries us beyond our present limitations.
Within us we have a hope which always walks in front of our
present narrow experience; it is the undying faith in the
infinite in us; it will never accept any of our disabilities as a
permanent fact; it sets no limit to its own scope; it dares to
assert that man has oneness with God; and its wild dreams become
true every day.

We see the truth when we set our mind towards the infinite. The
ideal of truth is not in the narrow present, not in our immediate
sensations, but in the consciousness of the whole which give us a
taste of what we _should_ have in what we _do_ have. Consciously
or unconsciously we have in our life this feeling of Truth which
is ever larger than its appearance; for our life is facing the
infinite, and it is in movement. Its aspiration is therefore
infinitely more than its achievement, and as it goes on it finds
that no realisation of truth ever leaves it stranded on the
desert of finality, but carries it to a region beyond. Evil
cannot altogether arrest the course of life on the highway and
rob it of its possessions. For the evil has to pass on, it has
to grow into good; it cannot stand and give battle to the All.
If the least evil could stop anywhere indefinitely, it would sink
deep and cut into the very roots of existence. As it is, man
does not really believe in evil, just as he cannot believe that
violin strings have been purposely made to create the exquisite
torture of discordant notes, though by the aid of statistics it
can be mathematically proved that the probability of discord is
far greater than that of harmony, and for one who can play the
violin there are thousands who cannot. The potentiality of
perfection outweighs actual contradictions. No doubt there have
been people who asserted existence to be an absolute evil, but
man can never take them seriously. Their pessimism is a mere
pose, either intellectual or sentimental; but life itself is
optimistic: it wants to go on. Pessimism is a form of mental
dipsomania, it disdains healthy nourishment, indulges in the
strong drink of denunciation, and creates an artificial dejection
which thirsts for a stronger draught. If existence were an evil,
it would wait for no philosopher to prove it. It is like
convicting a man of suicide, while all the time he stands before
you in the flesh. Existence itself is here to prove that it
cannot be an evil.

An imperfection which is not all imperfection, but which has
perfection for its ideal, must go through a perpetual
realisation. Thus, it is the function of our intellect to
realise the truth through untruths, and knowledge is nothing but
the continually burning up of error to set free the light of
truth. Our will, our character, has to attain perfection by
continually overcoming evils, either inside or outside us, or
both; our physical life is consuming bodily materials every
moment to maintain the life fire; and our moral life too has its
fuel to burn. This life process is going on--we know it, we have
felt it; and we have a faith which no individual instances to the
contrary can shake, that the direction of humanity is from evil
to good. For we feel that good is the positive element in man's
nature, and in every age and every clime what man values most is
his ideals of goodness. We have known the good, we have loved
it, and we have paid our highest reverence to men who have shown
in their lives what goodness is.

The question will be asked, What is goodness; what does our moral
nature mean? My answer is, that when a man begins to have an
extended vision of his self, when he realises that he is much
more than at present he seems to be, he begins to get conscious
of his moral nature. Then he grows aware of that which he is yet
to be, and the state not yet experienced by him becomes more real
than that under his direct experience. Necessarily, his
perspective of life changes, and his will takes the place of his
wishes. For will is the supreme wish of the larger life, the
life whose greater portion is out of our present reach, most of
whose objects are not before our sight. Then comes the conflict
of our lesser man with our greater man, of our wishes with our
will, of the desire for things affecting our senses with the
purpose that is within our heart. Then we begin to distinguish
between what we immediately desire and what is good. For good is
that which is desirable for our greater self. Thus the sense of
goodness comes out of a truer view of our life, which is the
connected view of the wholeness of the field of life, and which
takes into account not only what is present before us but what is
not, and perhaps never humanly can be. Man, who is provident,
feels for that life of his which is not yet existent, feels much
more that than for the life that is with him; therefore he is
ready to sacrifice his present inclination for the unrealised
future. In this he becomes great, for he realises truth. Even
to be efficiently selfish one has to recognise this truth, and
has to curb his immediate impulses--in other words, has to be
moral. For our moral faculty is the faculty by which we know
that life is not made up of fragments, purposeless and
discontinuous. This moral sense of man not only gives him the
power to see that the self has a continuity in time, but it also
enables him to see that he is not true when he is only restricted
to his own self. He is more in truth than he is in fact. He
truly belongs to individuals who are not included in his own
individuality, and whom he is never even likely to know. As he
has a feeling for his future self which is outside his present
consciousness, so he has a feeling for his greater self which is
outside the limits of his personality. There is no man who has
not this feeling to some extent, who has never sacrificed his
selfish desire for the sake of some other person, who has never
felt a pleasure in undergoing some loss or trouble because it
pleased somebody else. It is a truth that man is not a detached
being, that he has a universal aspect; and when he recognises
this he becomes great. Even the most evilly-disposed selfishness
has to recognise this when it seeks the power to do evil; for it
cannot ignore truth and yet be strong. So in order to claim the
aid of truth, selfishness has to be unselfish to some extent. A
band of robbers must be moral in order to hold together as a
band; they may rob the whole world but not each other. To make
an immoral intention successful, some of its weapons must be
moral. In fact, very often it is our very moral strength which
gives us most effectively the power to do evil, to exploit other
individuals for our own benefit, to rob other people of their
rights. The life of an animal is unmoral, for it is aware only
of an immediate present; the life of a man can be immoral, but
that only means that it must have a moral basis. What is immoral
is imperfectly moral, just as what is false is true to a small
extent, or it cannot even be false. Not to see is to be blind,
but to see wrongly is to see only in an imperfect manner. Man's
selfishness is a beginning to see some connection, some purpose
in life; and to act in accordance with its dictates requires
self-restraint and regulation of conduct. A selfish man
willingly undergoes troubles for the sake of the self, he suffers
hardship and privation without a murmur, simply because he knows
that what is pain and trouble, looked at from the point of view
of a short space of time, are just the opposite when seen in a
larger perspective. Thus what is a loss to the smaller man is a
gain to the greater, and _vice versa_.

To the man who lives for an idea, for his country, for the good
of humanity, life has an extensive meaning, and to that extent
pain becomes less important to him. To live the life of goodness
is to live the life of all. Pleasure is for one's own self, but
goodness is concerned with the happiness of all humanity and for
all time. From the point of view of the good, pleasure and pain
appear in a different meaning; so much so, that pleasure may be
shunned, and pain be courted in its place, and death itself be
made welcome as giving a higher value to life. From these higher
standpoints of a man's life, the standpoints of the good,
pleasure and pain lose their absolute value. Martyrs prove it in
history, and we prove it every day in our life in our little
martyrdoms. When we take a pitcherful of water from the sea it
has its weight, but when we take a dip into the sea itself a
thousand pitchersful of water flow above our head, and we do not
feel their weight. We have to carry the pitcher of self with our
strength; and so, while on the plane of selfishness pleasure and
pain have their full weight, on the moral plane they are so much
lightened that the man who has reached it appears to us almost
superhuman in his patience under crushing trails, and his
forbearance in the face of malignant persecution.

To live in perfect goodness is to realise one's life in the
infinitive. This is the most comprehensive view of life which we
can have by our inherent power of the moral vision of the
wholeness of life. And the teaching of Buddha is to cultivate
this moral power to the highest extent, to know that our field of
activities is not bound to the plane of our narrow self. This is
the vision of the heavenly kingdom of Christ. When we attain to
that universal life, which is the moral life, we become freed
from the bonds of pleasure and pain, and the place vacated by our
self becomes filled with an unspeakable joy which springs from
measureless love. In this state the soul's activity is all the
more heightened, only its motive power is not from desires, but
in its own joy. This is the _Karma-yoga_ of the _Gita_, the way
to become one with the infinite activity by the exercise of the
activity of disinterested goodness.

When Buddha mentioned upon the way of realising mankind from the
grip of misery he came to this truth: that when man attains his
highest end by merging the individual in the universal, he
becomes free from the thraldom of pain. Let us consider this
point more fully.

A student of mine once related to me his adventure in a storm,
and complained that all the time he was troubled with the feeling
that this great commotion in nature behaved to him as if he were
no more than a mere handful of dust. That he was a distinct
personality with a will of his own had not the least influence
upon what was happening.

I said, "If consideration for our individuality could sway nature
from her path, then it would be the individuals who would suffer

But he persisted in his doubt, saying that there was this fact
which could not be ignored--the feeling that I am. The "I" in us
seeks for a relation which is individual to it.

I replied that the relation of the "I" is with something which is
"not-I." So we must have a medium which is common to both, and
we must be absolutely certain that it is the same to the "I" as
it is to the "not-I."

This is what needs repeating here. We have to keep in mind that
our individuality by its nature is impelled to seek for the
universal. Our body can only die if it tries to eat its own
substance, and our eye loses the meaning of its function if it
can only see itself.

Just as we find that the stronger the imagination the less is it
merely imaginary and the more is it in harmony with truth, so we
see the more vigorous our individuality the more does it widen
towards the universal. For the greatness of a personality is not
in itself but in its content, which is universal, just as the
depth of a lake is judged not by the size of its cavity but by
the depth of its water.

So, if it is a truth that the yearning of our nature is for
reality, and that our personality cannot be happy with a
fantastic universe of its own creation, then it is clearly best
for it that our will can only deal with things by following their
law, and cannot do with them just as it pleases. This unyielding
sureness of reality sometimes crosses our will, and very often
leads us to disaster, just as the firmness of the earth
invariably hurts the falling child who is learning to walk.
Nevertheless it is the same firmness that hurts him which makes
his walking possible. Once, while passing under a bridge, the
mast of my boat got stuck in one of its girders. If only for a
moment the mast would have bent an inch or two, or the bridge
raised its back like a yawning cat, or the river given in, it
would have been all right with me. But they took no notice of my
helplessness. That is the very reason why I could make use of
the river, and sail upon it with the help of the mast, and that
is why, when its current was inconvenient, I could rely upon the
bridge. Things are what they are, and we have to know them if we
would deal with them, and knowledge of them is possible because
our wish is not their law. This knowledge is a joy to us, for
the knowledge is one of the channels of our relation with the
things outside us; it is making them our own, and thus widening
the limit of our self.

At every step we have to take into account others than ourselves.
For only in death are we alone. A poet is a true poet when he
can make his personal idea joyful to all men, which he could not
do if he had not a medium common to all his audience. This
common language has its own law which the poet must discover and
follow, by doing which he becomes true and attains poetical

We see then that man's individuality is not his highest truth;
there is that in him which is universal. If he were made to live
in a world where his own self was the only factor to consider,
then that would be the worst prison imaginable to him, for man's
deepest joy is in growing greater and greater by more and more
union with the all. This, as we have seen, would be an
impossibility if there were no law common to all. Only by
discovering the law and following it, do we become great, do we
realise the universal; while, so long as our individual desires
are at conflict with the universal law, we suffer pain and are

There was a time when we prayed for special concessions, we
expected that the laws of nature should be held in abeyance for
our own convenience. But now we know better. We know that law
cannot be set aside, and in this knowledge we have become strong.
For this law is not something apart from us; it is our own. The
universal power which is manifested in the universal law is one
with our own power. It will thwart us where we are small, where
we are against the current of things; but it will help us where
we are great, where we are in unison with the all. Thus, through
the help of science, as we come to know more of the laws of
nature, we gain in power; we tend to attain a universal body.
Our organ of sight, our organ of locomotion, our physical
strength becomes world-wide; steam and electricity become our
nerve and muscle. Thus we find that, just as throughout our
bodily organisation there is a principle of relation by virtue of
which we can call the entire body our own, and can use it as
such, so all through the universe there is that principle of
uninterrupted relation by virtue of which we can call the whole
world our extended body and use it accordingly. And in this age
of science it is our endeavour fully to establish our claim to
our world-self. We know all our poverty and sufferings are owing
to our inability to realise this legitimate claim of ours.
Really, there is no limit to our powers, for we are not outside
the universal power which is the expression of universal law. We
are on our way to overcome disease and death, to conquer pain and
poverty; for through scientific knowledge we are ever on our way
to realise the universal in its physical aspect. And as we make
progress we find that pain, disease, and poverty of power are not
absolute, but that is only the want of adjustment of our
individual self to our universal self which gives rise to them.

It is the same with our spiritual life. When the individual man
in us chafes against the lawful rule of the universal man we
become morally small, and we must suffer. In such a condition
our successes are our greatest failures, and the very fulfilment
of our desires leaves us poorer. We hanker after special gains
for ourselves, we want to enjoy privileges which none else can
share with us. But everything that is absolutely special must
keep up a perpetual warfare with what is general. In such a
state of civil war man always lives behind barricades, and in any
civilisation which is selfish our homes are not real homes, but
artificial barriers around us. Yet we complain that we are not
happy, as if there were something inherent in the nature of
things to make us miserable. The universal spirit is waiting to
crown us with happiness, but our individual spirit would not
accept it. It is our life of the self that causes conflicts and
complications everywhere, upsets the normal balance of society
and gives rise to miseries of all kinds. It brings things to
such a pass that to maintain order we have to create artificial
coercions and organised forms of tyranny, and tolerate infernal
institutions in our midst, whereby at every moment humanity is

We have seen that in order to be powerful we have to submit to
the laws of the universal forces, and to realise in practice that
they are our own. So, in order to be happy, we have to submit
our individual will to the sovereignty of the universal will, and
to feel in truth that it is our own will. When we reach that
state wherein the adjustment of the finite in us to the infinite
is made perfect, then pain itself becomes a valuable asset. It
becomes a measuring rod with which to gauge the true value of our

The most important lesson that man can learn from his life is not
that there _is_ pain in this world, but that it depends upon him
to turn it into good account, that it is possible for him to
transmute it into joy. The lesson has not been lost altogether
to us, and there is no man living who would willingly be deprived
of his right to suffer pain, for that is his right to be a man.
One day the wife of a poor labourer complained bitterly to me
that her eldest boy was going to be sent away to a rich relative's
house for part of the year. It was the implied kind intention of
trying to relieve her of her trouble that gave her the shock, for
a mother's trouble is a mother's own by her inalienable right of
love, and she was not going to surrender it to any dictates of
expediency. Man's freedom is never in being saved troubles, but
it is the freedom to take trouble for his own good, to make the
trouble an element in his joy. It can be made so only when we
realise that our individual self is not the highest meaning of our
being, that in us we have the world-man who is immortal, who is
not afraid of death or sufferings, and who looks upon pain as only
the other side of joy. He who has realised this knows that it is
pain which is our true wealth as imperfect beings, and has made us
great and worthy to take our seat with the perfect. He knows that
we are not beggars; that it is the hard coin which must be paid
for everything valuable in this life, for our power, our wisdom,
our love; that in pain is symbolised the infinite possibility of
perfection, the eternal unfolding of joy; and the man who loses all
pleasure in accepting pain sinks down and down to the lowest depth
of penury and degradation. It is only when we invoke the aid of
pain for our self-gratification that she becomes evil and takes her
vengeance for the insult done to her by hurling us into misery.
For she is the vestal virgin consecrated to the service of the
immortal perfection, and when she takes her true place before the
altar of the infinite she casts off her dark veil and bares her
face to the beholder as a revelation of supreme joy.



At one pole of my being I am one with stocks and stones. There I
have to acknowledge the rule of universal law. That is where the
foundation of my existence lies, deep down below. Its strength
lies in its being held firm in the clasp of comprehensive world,
and in the fullness of its community with all things.

But at the other pole of my being I am separate from all. There
I have broken through the cordon of equality and stand alone as
an individual. I am absolutely unique, I am I, I am
incomparable. The whole weight of the universe cannot crush out
this individuality of mine. I maintain it in spite of the
tremendous gravitation of all things. It is small in appearance
but great in reality. For it holds its own against the forces
that would rob it of its distinction and make it one with the

This is the superstructure of the self which rises from the
indeterminate depth and darkness of its foundation into the open,
proud of its isolation, proud of having given shape to a single
individual idea of the architect's which has no duplicate in the
whole universe. If this individuality be demolished, then though
no material be lost, not an atom destroyed, the creative joy
which was crystallised therein is gone. We are absolutely
bankrupt if we are deprived of this specialty, this
individuality, which is the only thing we can call our own; and
which, if lost, is also a loss to the whole world. It is most
valuable because it is not universal. And therefore only through
it can we gain the universe more truly than if we were lying
within its breast unconscious of our distinctiveness. The
universal is ever seeking its consummation in the unique. And
the desire we have to keep our uniqueness intact is really the
desire of the universe acting in us. It is our joy of the
infinite in us that gives us our joy in ourselves.

That this separateness of self is considered by man as his most
precious possession is proved by the sufferings he undergoes and
the sins he commits for its sake. But the consciousness of
separation has come from the eating of the fruit of knowledge.
It has led man to shame and crime and death; yet it is dearer to
him than any paradise where the self lies, securely slumbering in
perfect innocence in the womb of mother nature.

It is a constant striving and suffering for us to maintain the
separateness of this self of ours. And in fact it is this
suffering which measures its value. One side of the value is
sacrifice, which represents how much the cost has been. The
other side of it is the attainment, which represents how much has
been gained. If the self meant nothing to us but pain and
sacrifice, it could have no value for us, and on no account would
we willingly undergo such sacrifice. In such case there could be
no doubt at all that the highest object of humanity would be the
annihilation of self.

But if there is a corresponding gain, if it does not end in a
void but in a fullness, then it is clear that its negative
qualities, its very sufferings and sacrifices, make it all the
more precious. That it is so has been proved by those who have
realised the positive significance of self, and have accepted its
responsibilities with eagerness and undergone sacrifices without

With the foregoing introduction it will be easy for me to answer
the question once asked by one of my audience as to whether the
annihilation of self has not been held by India as the supreme
goal of humanity?

In the first place we must keep in mind the fact that man is
never literal in the expression of his ideas, except in matters
most trivial. Very often man's words are not a language at all,
but merely a vocal gesture of the dumb. They may indicate, but
do not express his thoughts. The more vital his thoughts the
more have his words to be explained by the context of his life.
Those who seek to know his meaning by the aid of the dictionary
only technically reach the house, for they are stopped by the
outside wall and find no entrance to the hall. This is the
reason why the teachings of our greatest prophets give rise to
endless disputations when we try to understand them by following
their words and not be realising them in our own lives. The men
who are cursed with the gift of the literal mind are the
unfortunate ones who are always busy with their nets and neglect
the fishing.

It is not only in Buddhism and the Indian religions, but in
Christianity too, that the ideal of selflessness is preached with
all fervour. In the last the symbol of death has been used for
expressing the idea of man's deliverance from the life which is
not true. This is the same as Nirvnāna, the symbol of the
extinction of the lamp.

In the typical thought of India it is held that the true
deliverance of man is the deliverance from _avidyā_, from
ignorance. It is not in destroying anything that is positive and
real, for that cannot be possible, but that which is negative,
which obstructs our vision of truth. When this obstruction,
which is ignorance, is removed, then only is the eyelid drawn up
which is no loss to the eye.

It is our ignorance which makes us think that our self, as self,
is real, that it has its complete meaning in itself. When we
take that wrong view of self then we try to live in such a manner
as to make self the ultimate object of our life. Then we are
doomed to disappointment like the man who tries to reach his
destination by firmly clutching the dust of the road. Our self
has no means of holding us, for its own nature is to pass on; and
by clinging to this thread of self which is passing through the
loom of life we cannot make it serve the purpose of the cloth
into which it is being woven. When a man, with elaborate care,
arranges for an enjoyment of the self, he lights a fire but has
no dough to make his bread with; the fire flares up and consumes
itself to extinction, like an unnatural beast that eats its own
progeny and dies.

In an unknown language the words are tyrannically prominent.
They stop us but say nothing. To be rescued from this fetter of
words we must rid ourselves of the _avidyā_, our ignorance, and
then our mind will find its freedom in the inner idea. But it
would be foolish to say that our ignorance of the language can
be dispelled only by the destruction of the words. No, when the
perfect knowledge comes, every word remains in its place, only
they do not bind us to themselves, but let us pass through them
and lead us to the idea which is emancipation.

Thus it is only _avidyā_ which makes the self our fetter by
making us think that it is an end in itself, and by preventing
our seeing that it contains the idea that transcends its limits.
That is why the wise man comes and says, "Set yourselves free
from the _avidyā_; know your true soul and be saved from the
grasp of the self which imprisons you."

We gain our freedom when we attain our truest nature. The man
who is an artist finds his artistic freedom when he finds his
ideal of art. Then is he freed from laborious attempts at
imitation, from the goadings of popular approbation. It is the
function of religion not to destroy our nature but to fulfil it.

The Sanskrit word _dharma_ which is usually translated into
English as religion has a deeper meaning in our language.
_Dharma_ is the innermost nature, the essence, the implicit
truth, of all things. _Dharma_ is the ultimate purpose that
is working in our self. When any wrong is done we say that
_dharma_ is violated, meaning that the lie has been given to
our true nature.

But this _dharma_, which is the truth in us, is not apparent,
because it is inherent. So much so, that it has been held that
sinfulness is the nature of man, and only by the special grace
of God can a particular person be saved. This is like saying
that the nature of the seed is to remain enfolded within its
shell, and it is only by some special miracle that it can be
grown into a tree. But do we not know that the _appearance_ of
the seed contradicts its true nature? When you submit it to
chemical analysis you may find in it carbon and proteid and a
good many other things, but not the idea of a branching tree.
Only when the tree begins to take shape do you come to see its
_dharma_, and then you can affirm without doubt that the seed
which has been wasted and allowed to rot in the ground has been
thwarted in its _dharma_, in the fulfilment of its true nature.
In the history of humanity we have known the living seed in us
to sprout. We have seen the great purpose in us taking shape
in the lives of our greatest men, and have felt certain that
though there are numerous individual lives that seem ineffectual,
still it is not their _dharma_ to remain barren; but it is for
them to burst their cover and transform themselves into a
vigorous spiritual shoot, growing up into the air and light, and
branching out in all directions.

The freedom of the seed is in the attainment of its
_dharma_, its nature and destiny of becoming a tree; it is the
non-accomplishment which is its prison. The sacrifice by which
a thing attains its fulfilment is not a sacrifice which ends in
death; it is the casting-off of bonds which wins freedom.

When we know the highest ideal of freedom which a man has, we
know his _dharma_, the essence of his nature, the real meaning of
his self. At first sight it seems that man counts that as
freedom by which he gets unbounded opportunities of self
gratification and self-aggrandisement. But surely this is not
borne out by history. Our revelatory men have always been those
who have lived the life of self-sacrifice. The higher nature in
man always seeks for something which transcends itself and yet is
its deepest truth; which claims all its sacrifice, yet makes this
sacrifice its own recompense. This is man's _dharma_, man's
religion, and man's self is the vessel which is to carry this
sacrifice to the altar.

We can look at our self in its two different aspects. The self
which displays itself, and the self which transcends itself and
thereby reveals its own meaning. To display itself it tries to
be big, to stand upon the pedestal of its accumulations, and to
retain everything to itself. To reveal itself it gives up
everything it has; thus becoming perfect like a flower that has
blossomed out from the bud, pouring from its chalice of beauty
all its sweetness.

The lamp contains its oil, which it holds securely in its close
grasp and guards from the least loss. Thus is it separate from
all other objects around it and is miserly. But when lighted it
finds its meaning at once; its relation with all things far and
near is established, and it freely sacrifices its fund of oil to
feed the flame.

Such a lamp is our self. So long as it hoards its possessions it
keeps itself dark, its conduct contradicts its true purpose.
When it finds illumination it forgets itself in a moment, holds
the light high, and serves it with everything it has; for therein
is its revelation. This revelation is the freedom which Buddha
preached. He asked the lamp to give up its oil. But purposeless
giving up is a still darker poverty which he never could have
meant. The lamp must give up its oil to the light and thus set
free the purpose it has in its hoarding. This is emancipation.
The path Buddha pointed out was not merely the practice of self-
abnegation, but the widening of love. And therein lies the true
meaning of Buddha's preaching.

When we find that the state of _Nirvāna_ preached by Buddha is
through love, then we know for certain that _Nirvāna_ is the
highest culmination of love. For love is an end unto itself.
Everything else raises the question "Why?" in our mind, and we
require a reason for it. But when we say, "I love," then there
is no room for the "why"; it is the final answer in itself.

Doubtless, even selfishness impels one to give away. But the
selfish man does it on compulsion. That is like plucking fruit
when it is unripe; you have to tear it from the tree and bruise
the branch. But when a man loves, giving becomes a matter of joy
to him, like the tree's surrender of the ripe fruit. All our
belongings assume a weight by the ceaseless gravitation of our
selfish desires; we cannot easily cast them away from us. They
seem to belong to our very nature, to stick to us as a second
skin, and we bleed as we detach them. But when we are possessed
by love, its force acts in the opposite direction. The things
that closely adhered to us lose their adhesion and weight, and we
find that they are not of us. Far from being a loss to give them
away, we find in that the fulfilment of our being.

Thus we find in perfect love the freedom of our self. That only
which is done for love is done freely, however much pain it may
cause. Therefore working for love is freedom in action. This is
the meaning of the teaching of disinterested work in the _Gīta_.

The _Gīta_ says action we must have, for only in action do we
manifest our nature. But this manifestation is not perfect so
long as our action is not free. In fact, our nature is obscured
by work done by the compulsion of want or fear. The mother
reveals herself in the service of her children, so our true
freedom is not the freedom _from_ action but freedom _in_ action,
which can only be attained in the work of love.

God's manifestation is in his work of creation and it is said in
the Upanishad, _Knowledge, power, and action are of his nature_
[Footnote: "Svābhāvikī jnāna bala kriyācha."]; they are not
imposed upon him from outside. Therefore his work is his
freedom, and in his creation he realises himself. The same thing
is said elsewhere in other words: _From joy does spring all this
creation, by joy is it maintained, towards joy does it progress,
and into joy does it enter_. [Footnote: Ānandādhyēva khalvimāni
bhūtāni jāyantē, ānandēna jātāni jīvanti,
ānandamprayantyabhisamvišanti.] It means that God's creation has
not its source in any necessity; it comes from his fullness of
joy; it is his love that creates, therefore in creation is his
own revealment.

The artist who has a joy in the fullness of his artistic idea
objectifies it and thus gains it more fully by holding it afar.
It is joy which detaches ourselves from us, and then gives it
form in creations of love in order to make it more perfectly our
own. Hence there must be this separation, not a separation of
repulsion but a separation of love. Repulsion has only the one
element, the element of severance. But love has two, the element
of severance, which is only an appearance, and the element of
union which is the ultimate truth. Just as when the father
tosses his child up from his arms it has the appearance of
rejection but its truth is quite the reverse.

So we must know that the meaning of our self is not to be found
in its separateness from God and others, but in the ceaseless
realisation of _yoga_, of union; not on the side of the canvas
where it is blank, but on the side where the picture is being

This is the reason why the separateness of our self has been
described by our philosophers as _māyā_, as an illusion, because
it has no intrinsic reality of its own. It looks perilous; it
raises its isolation to a giddy height and casts a black shadow
upon the fair face of existence; from the outside it has an
aspect of a sudden disruption, rebellious and destructive; it is
proud, domineering and wayward; it is ready to rob the world of
all its wealth to gratify its craving of a moment; to pluck with
a reckless, cruel hand all the plumes from the divine bird of
beauty to deck its ugliness for a day; indeed man's legend has it
that it bears the black mark of disobedience stamped on its
forehead for ever; but still all this _māyā_, envelopment of
_avidyā_; it is the mist, it is not the sun; it is the black
smoke that presages the fire of love.

Imagine some savage who, in his ignorance, thinks that it is the
paper of the banknote that has the magic, by virtue of which the
possessor of it gets all he wants. He piles up the papers, hides
them, handles them in all sorts of absurd ways, and then at last,
wearied by his efforts, comes to the sad conclusion that they are
absolutely worthless, only fit to be thrown into the fire. But
the wise man knows that the paper of the banknote is all _māyā_,
and until it is given up to the bank it is futile. It is only
_avidyā_, our ignorance, that makes us believe that the
separateness of our self like the paper of the banknote is
precious in itself, and by acting on this belief our self is
rendered valueless. It is only when the _avidyā_ is removed that
this very self comes to us with a wealth which is priceless. For
_He manifests Himself in forms which His joy assumes_. [Footnote:
Ānandarūpamamritam yadvibhāti.] These forms are separate from
Him, and the value that these forms have is only what his joy has
imparted to them. When we transfer back these forms into that
original joy, which is love, then we cash them in the bank and we
find their truth.

When pure necessity drives man to his work it takes an accidental
and contingent character, it becomes a mere makeshift
arrangement; it is deserted and left in ruins when necessity
changes its course. But when his work is the outcome of joy, the
forms that it takes have the elements of immortality. The
immortal in man imparts to it its own quality of permanence.

Our self, as a form of God's joy, is deathless. For his joy is
_amritham_, eternal. This it is in us which makes us sceptical of
death, even when the fact of death cannot be doubted. In
reconcilement of this contradiction in us we come to the truth that
in the dualism of death and life there is a harmony. We know that
the life of a soul, which is finite in its expression and infinite
in its principle, must go through the portals of death in its
journey to realise the infinite. It is death which is monistic, it
has no life in it. But life is dualistic; it has an appearance as
well as truth; and death is that appearance, that _māyā_, which is
an inseparable companion to life. Our self to live must go through
a continual change and growth of form, which may be termed a
continual death and a continual life going on at the same time. It
is really courting death when we refuse to accept death; when we
wish to give the form of the self some fixed changelessness; when
the self feels no impulse which urges it to grow out of itself;
when it treats its limits as final and acts accordingly. Then comes
our teacher's call to die to this death; not a call to annihilation
but to eternal life. It is the extinction of the lamp in the
morning light; not the abolition of the sun. It is really asking us
consciously to give effect to the innermost wish that we have in the
depths of our nature.

We have a dual set of desires in our being, which it should be
our endeavour to bring into a harmony. In the region of our
physical nature we have one set of which we are conscious always.
We wish to enjoy our food and drink, we hanker after bodily
pleasure and comfort. These desires are self-centered; they are
solely concerned with their respective impulses. The wishes of
our palate often run counter to what our stomach can allow.

But we have another set, which is the desire of our physical
system as a whole, of which we are usually unconscious. It is
the wish for health. This is always doing its work, mending and
repairing, making new adjustments in cases of accident, and
skilfully restoring the balance wherever disturbed. It has no
concern with the fulfilment of our immediate bodily desires, but
it goes beyond the present time. It is the principle of our
physical wholeness, it links our life with its past and its
future and maintains the unity of its parts. He who is wise
knows it, and makes his other physical wishes harmonise with it.

We have a greater body which is the social body. Society is an
organism, of which we as parts have our individual wishes. We
want our own pleasure and license. We want to pay less and gain
more than anybody else. This causes scramblings and fights. But
there is that other wish in us which does its work in the depths
of the social being. It is the wish for the welfare of the
society. It transcends the limits of the present and the
personal. It is on the side of the infinite.

He who is wise tries to harmonise the wishes that seek for self-
gratification with the wish for the social good, and only thus
can he realise his higher self.

In its finite aspect the self is conscious of its separateness,
and there it is ruthless in its attempt to have more distinction
than all others. But in its infinite aspect its wish is to gain
that harmony which leads to its perfection and not its mere

The emancipation of our physical nature is in attaining health,
of our social being in attaining goodness, and of our self in
attaining love. This last is what Buddha describes as
extinction--the extinction of selfishness--which is the function
of love, and which does not lead to darkness but to illumination.
This is the attainment of _bodhi_, or the true awakening; it is
the revealing in us of the infinite joy by the light of love.

The passage of our self is through its selfhood, which is
independent, to its attainment of soul, which is harmonious.
This harmony can never be reached through compulsion. So our
will, in the history of its growth, must come through
independence and rebellion to the ultimate completion. We must
have the possibility of the negative form of freedom, which is
licence, before we can attain the positive freedom, which is

This negative freedom, the freedom of self-will, can turn its
back upon its highest realisation, but it cannot cut itself away
from it altogether, for then it will lose its own meaning. Our
self-will has freedom up to a certain extent; it can know what it
is to break away from the path, but it cannot continue in that
direction indefinitely. For we are finite on our negative side.
We must come to an end in our evil doing, in our career of
discord. For evil is not infinite, and discord cannot be an end
in itself. Our will has freedom in order that it may find out
that its true course is towards goodness and love. For goodness
and love are infinite, and only in the infinite is the perfect
realisation of freedom possible. So our will can be free not
towards the limitations of our self, not where it is _māyā_ and
negation, but towards the unlimited, where is truth and love.
Our freedom cannot go against its own principle of freedom and
yet be free; it cannot commit suicide and yet live. We cannot
say that we should have infinite freedom to fetter ourselves, for
the fettering ends the freedom.

So in the freedom of our will, we have the same dualism of
appearance and truth--our self-will is only the appearance of
freedom and love is the truth. When we try to make this
appearance independent of truth, then our attempt brings misery
and proves its own futility in the end. Everything has this
dualism of _māyā_ and _satyam_, appearance and truth. Words are
_māyā_ where they are merely sounds and finite, they are _satyam_
where they are ideas and infinite. Our self is _māyā_ where it
is merely individual and finite, where it considers its
separateness as absolute; it is _satyam_ where it recognises its
essence in the universal and infinite, in the supreme self, in
_paramātman_. This is what Christ means when he says, "Before
Abraham was I am." This is the eternal _I am_ that speaks
through the _I am_ that is in me. The individual _I am_ attains
its perfect end when it realises its freedom of harmony in the
infinite _I am_. Then is it _mukti_, its deliverance from the
thraldom of _māyā_, of appearance, which springs from _avidyā_,
from ignorance; its emancipation in _šāntam šivam advaitam_, in
the perfect repose in truth, in the perfect activity in goodness,
and in the perfect union in love.

Not only in our self but also in nature is there this
separateness from God, which has been described as _māyā_ by our
philosophers, because the separateness does not exist by itself,
it does not limit God's infinity from outside. It is his own
will that has imposed limits to itself, just as the chess-player
restricts his will with regard to the moving of the chessmen.
The player willingly enters into definite relations with each
particular piece and realises the joy of his power by these very
restrictions. It is not that he cannot move the chessmen just as
he pleases, but if he does so then there can be no play. If God
assumes his r˘le of omnipotence, then his creation is at an end
and his power loses all its meaning. For power to be a power must
act within limits. God's water must be water, his earth can never
be other than earth. The law that has made them water and earth
is his own law by which he has separated the play from the player,
for therein the joy of the player consists.

As by the limits of law nature is separated from God, so it is
the limits of its egoism which separates the self from him. He
has willingly set limits to his will, and has given us mastery
over the little world of our own. It is like a father's settling
upon his son some allowance within the limit of which he is free
to do what he likes. Though it remains a portion of the father's
own property, yet he frees it from the operation of his own will.
The reason of it is that the will, which is love's will and
therefore free, can have its joy only in a union with another
free will. The tyrant who must have slaves looks upon them as
instruments of his purpose. It is the consciousness of his own
necessity which makes him crush the will out of them, to make his
self-interest absolutely secure. This self-interest cannot brook
the least freedom in others, because it is not itself free. The
tyrant is really dependent on his slaves, and therefore he tries
to make them completely useful by making them subservient to his
own will. But a lover must have two wills for the realisation of
his love, because the consummation of love is in harmony, the
harmony between freedom and freedom. So God's love from which
our self has taken form has made it separate from God; and it is
God's love which again establishes a reconciliation and unites
God with our self through the separation. That is why our self
has to go through endless renewals. For in its career of
separateness it cannot go on for ever. Separateness is the
finitude where it finds its barriers to come back again and again
to its infinite source. Our self has ceaselessly to cast off its
age, repeatedly shed its limits in oblivion and death, in order
to realise its immortal youth. Its personality must merge in the
universal time after time, in fact pass through it every moment,
ever to refresh its individual life. It must follow the eternal
rhythm and touch the fundamental unity at every step, and thus
maintain its separation balanced in beauty and strength.

The play of life and death we see everywhere--this transmutation
of the old into the new. The day comes to us every morning,
naked and white, fresh as a flower. But we know it is old. It
is age itself. It is that very ancient day which took up the
newborn earth in its arms, covered it with its white mantle of
light, and sent it forth on its pilgrimage among the stars.

Yet its feet are untired and its eyes undimmed. It carries the
golden amulet of ageless eternity, at whose touch all wrinkles
vanish from the forehead of creation. In the very core of the
world's heart stands immortal youth. Death and decay cast over
its face momentary shadows and pass on; they leave no marks of
their steps--and truth remains fresh and young.

This old, old day of our earth is born again and again every
morning. It comes back to the original refrain of its music. If
its march were the march of an infinite straight line, if it had
not the awful pause of its plunge in the abysmal darkness and its
repeated rebirth in the life of the endless beginning, then it
would gradually soil and bury truth with its dust and spread
ceaseless aching over the earth under its heavy tread. Then
every moment would leave its load of weariness behind, and
decrepitude would reign supreme on its throne of eternal dirt.

But every morning the day is reborn among the newly-blossomed
flowers with the same message retold and the same assurance
renewed that death eternally dies, that the waves of turmoil are
on the surface, and that the sea of tranquillity is fathomless.
The curtain of night is drawn aside and truth emerges without a
speck of dust on its garment, without a furrow of age on its

We see that he who is before everything else is the same to-day.
Every note of the song of creation comes fresh from his voice.
The universe is not a mere echo, reverberating from sky to sky,
like a homeless wanderer--the echo of an old song sung once for
all in the dim beginning of things and then left orphaned. Every
moment it comes from the heart of the master, it is breathed in
his breath.

And that is the reason why it overspreads the sky like a thought
taking shape in a poem, and never has to break into pieces with
the burden of its own accumulating weight. Hence the surprise of
endless variations, the advent of the unaccountable, the
ceaseless procession of individuals, each of whom is without a
parallel in creation. As at the first so to the last, the
beginning never ends--the world is ever old and ever new.

It is for our self to know that it must be born anew every moment
of its life. It must break through all illusions that encase it
in their crust to make it appear old, burdening it with death.

For life is immortal youthfulness, and it hates age that tries to
clog its movements--age that belongs not to life in truth, but
follows it as the shadow follows the lamp.

Our life, like a river, strikes its banks not to find itself
closed in by them, but to realise anew every moment that it has
its unending opening towards the sea. It is a poem that strikes
its metre at every step not to be silenced by its rigid
regulations, but to give expression every moment to the inner
freedom of its harmony.

The boundary walls of our individuality thrust us back within our
limits, on the one hand, and thus lead us, on the other, to the
unlimited. Only when we try to make these limits infinite are we
launched into an impossible contradiction and court miserable

This is the cause which leads to the great revolutions in human
history. Whenever the part, spurning the whole, tries to run a
separate course of its own, the great pull of the all gives it a
violent wrench, stops it suddenly, and brings it to the dust.
Whenever the individual tries to dam the ever-flowing current of
the world-force and imprison it within the area of his particular
use, it brings on disaster. However powerful a king may be, he
cannot raise his standard or rebellion against the infinite
source of strength, which is unity, and yet remain powerful.

It has been said, _By unrighteousness men prosper, gain what they
desire, and triumph over their enemies, but at the end they are
cut off at the root and suffer extinction._ [Footnote:
Adharmēnaidhatē tāvat tatō bahdrāņi pašyati tatah sapatnān jayati
samūlastu vinašyati.] Our roots must go deep down into the
universal if we would attain the greatness of personality.

It is the end of our self to seek that union. It must bend its
head low in love and meekness and take its stand where great and
small all meet. It has to gain by its loss and rise by its
surrender. His games would be a horror to the child if he could
not come back to his mother, and our pride of personality will be
a curse to us if we cannot give it up in love. We must know that
it is only the revelation of the Infinite which is endlessly new
and eternally beautiful in us, and which gives the only meaning
to our self.



We come now to the eternal problem of co-existence of the
infinite and the finite, of the supreme being and our soul.
There is a sublime paradox that lies at the root of existence.
We never can go round it, because we never can stand outside the
problem and weigh it against any other possible alternative. But
the problem exists in logic only; in reality it does not offer us
any difficulty at all. Logically speaking, the distance between
two points, however near, may be said to be infinite because it
is infinitely divisible. But we _do_ cross the infinite at every
step, and meet the eternal in every second. Therefore some of our
philosophers say there is no such thing as finitude; it is but a
_māyā_, an illusion. The real is the infinite, and it is only
_māyā_, the unreality, which causes the appearance of the finite.
But the word _māyā_ is a mere name, it is no explanation. It is
merely saying that with truth there is this appearance which is
the opposite of truth; but how they come to exist at one and the
same time is incomprehensible.

We have what we call in Sanskrit _dvandva_, a series of opposites
in creation; such as, the positive pole and the negative, the
centripetal force and the centrifugal, attraction and repulsion.
These are also mere names, they are no explanations. They are
only different ways of asserting that the world in its essence is
a reconciliation of pairs of opposing forces. These forces, like
the left and the right hands of the creator, are acting in
absolute harmony, yet acting from opposite directions.

There is a bond of harmony between our two eyes, which makes them
act in unison. Likewise there is an unbreakable continuity of
relation in the physical world between heat and cold, light and
darkness, motion and rest, as between the bass and treble notes
of a piano. That is why these opposites do not bring confusion
in the universe, but harmony. If creation were but a chaos, we
should have to imagine the two opposing principles as trying to
get the better of each other. But the universe is not under
martial law, arbitrary and provisional. Here we find no force
which can run amok, or go on indefinitely in its wild road, like
an exiled outlaw, breaking all harmony with its surroundings;
each force, on the contrary, has to come back in a curved line to
its equilibrium. Waves rise, each to its individual height in a
seeming attitude of unrelenting competition, but only up to a
certain point; and thus we know of the great repose of the sea to
which they are all related, and to which they must all return in
a rhythm which is marvellously beautiful.

In fact, these undulations and vibrations, these risings and
fallings, are not due to the erratic contortions of disparate
bodies, they are a rhythmic dance. Rhythm never can be born of
the haphazard struggle of combat. Its underlying principle must
be unity, not opposition.

This principle of unity is the mystery of all mysteries. The
existence of a duality at once raises a question in our minds,
and we seek its solution in the One. When at last we find a
relation between these two, and thereby see them as one in
essence, we feel that we have come to the truth. And then we
give utterance to this most startling of all paradoxes, that the
One appears as many, that the appearance is the opposite of truth
and yet is inseparably related to it.

Curiously enough, there are men who lose that feeling of mystery,
which is at the root of all our delights, when they discover the
uniformity of law among the diversity of nature. As if
gravitation is not more of a mystery than the fall of an apple,
as if the evolution from one scale of being to the other is not
something which is even more shy of explanation than a succession
of creations. The trouble is that we very often stop at such a
law as if it were the final end of our search, and then we find
that it does not even begin to emancipate our spirit. It only
gives satisfaction to our intellect, and as it does not appeal to
our whole being it only deadens in us the sense of the infinite.

A great poem, when analysed, is a set of detached sounds. The
reader who finds out the meaning, which is the inner medium that
connects these outer sounds, discovers a perfect law all through,
which is never violated in the least; the law of the evolution of
ideas, the law of the music and the form.

But law in itself is a limit. It only shows that whatever is can
never be otherwise. When a man is exclusively occupied with the
search for the links of causality, his mind succumbs to the
tyranny of law in escaping from the tyranny of facts. In
learning a language, when from mere words we reach the laws of
words we have gained a great deal. But if we stop at that point,
and only concern ourselves with the marvels of the formation of a
language, seeking the hidden reason of all its apparent caprices,
we do not reach the end--for grammar is not literature, prosody
is not a poem.

When we come to literature we find that though it conforms to
rules of grammar it is yet a thing of joy, it is freedom itself.
The beauty of a poem is bound by strict laws, yet it transcends
them. The laws are its wings, they do not keep it weighed down,
they carry it to freedom. Its form is in law but its spirit is
in beauty. Law is the first step towards freedom, and beauty is
the complete liberation which stands on the pedestal of law.
Beauty harmonises in itself the limit and the beyond, the law and
the liberty.

In the world-poem, the discovery of the law of its rhythms, the
measurement of its expansion and contraction, movement and pause,
the pursuit of its evolution of forms and characters, are true
achievements of the mind; but we cannot stop there. It is like a
railway station; but the station platform is not our home. Only
he has attained the final truth who knows that the whole world is
a creation of joy.

This leads me to think how mysterious the relation of the human
heart with nature must be. In the outer world of activity nature
has one aspect, but in our hearts, in the inner world, it
presents an altogether different picture.

Take an instance--the flower of a plant. However fine and dainty
it may look, it is pressed to do a great service, and its colours
and forms are all suited to its work. It must bring forth the
fruit, or the continuity of plant life will be broken and the
earth will be turned into a desert ere long. The colour and the
smell of the flower are all for some purpose therefore; no sooner
is it fertilised by the bee, and the time of its fruition
arrives, than it sheds its exquisite petals and a cruel economy
compels it to give up its sweet perfume. It has no time to
flaunt its finery, for it is busy beyond measure. Viewed from
without, necessity seems to be the only factor in nature for
which everything works and moves. There the bud develops into
the flower, the flower into the fruit, the fruit into the seed,
the seed into a new plant again, and so forth, the chain of
activity running on unbroken. Should there crop up any
disturbance or impediment, no excuse would be accepted, and the
unfortunate thing thus choked in its movement would at once be
labelled as rejected, and be bound to die and disappear post-
haste. In the great office of nature there are innumerable
departments with endless work going on, and the fine flower that
you behold there, gaudily attired and scented like a dandy, is by
no means what it appears to be, but rather, is like a labourer
toiling in sun and shower, who has to submit a clear account of
his work and has no breathing space to enjoy himself in playful

But when this same flower enters the heart of men its aspect of
busy practicality is gone, and it becomes the very emblem of
leisure and repose. The same object that is the embodiment of
endless activity without is the perfect expression of beauty and
peace within.

Science here warns us that we are mistaken, that the purpose of a
flower is nothing but what is outwardly manifested, and that the
relation of beauty and sweetness which we think it bears to us is
all our own making, gratuitous and imaginary.

But our heart replies that we are not in the least mistaken. In
the sphere of nature the flower carries with it a certificate
which recommends it as having immense capacity for doing useful
work, but it brings an altogether different letter of
introduction when it knocks at the door of our hearts. Beauty
becomes its only qualification. At one place it comes as a
slave, and at another as a free thing. How, then, should we give
credit to its first recommendation and disbelieve the second one?
That the flower has got its being in the unbroken chain of
causation is true beyond doubt; but that is an outer truth. The
inner truth is: _Verily from the everlasting joy do all objects
have their birth._ [Footnote: Ānandādhyēva khalvimāni bhūtāni

A flower, therefore, has not its only function in nature, but has
another great function to exercise in the mind of man. And what
is that function? In nature its work is that of a servant who
has to make his appearance at appointed times, but in the heart
of man it comes like a messenger from the King. In the
_Rāmāyana_, when _Sītā,_ forcibly separated from her husband, was
bewailing her evil fate in _Ravana's_ golden palace, she was met
by a messenger who brought with him a ring of her beloved
_Rāmachandra_ himself. The very sight of it convinced _Sītā_ of
the truth of tidings he bore. She was at once reassured that he
came indeed from her beloved one, who had not forgotten her and
was at hand to rescue her.

Such a messenger is a flower from our great lover. Surrounded
with the pomp and pageantry of worldliness, which may be linked
to Ravana's golden city, we still live in exile, while the
insolent spirit of worldly prosperity tempts us with allurements
and claims us as its bride. In the meantime the flower comes
across with a message from the other shore, and whispers in our
ears, "I am come. He has sent me. I am a messenger of the
beautiful, the one whose soul is the bliss of love. This island
of isolation has been bridged over by him, and he has not
forgotten thee, and will rescue thee even now. He will draw thee
unto him and make thee his own. This illusion will not hold thee
in thraldom for ever."

If we happen to be awake then, we question him: "How are we to
know that thou art come from him indeed?" The messenger says,
"Look! I have this ring from him. How lovely are its hues and

Ah, doubtless it is his--indeed, it is our wedding ring. Now all
else passes into oblivion, only this sweet symbol of the touch of
the eternal love fills us with a deep longing. We realise that
the palace of gold where we are has nothing to do with us--our
deliverance is outside it--and there our love has its fruition
and our life its fulfilment.

What to the bee in nature is merely colour and scent, and the
marks or spots which show the right track to the honey, is to the
human heart beauty and joy untrammelled by necessity. They bring
a love letter to the heart written in many-coloured inks.

I was telling you, therefore, that however busy our active nature
outwardly may be, she has a secret chamber within the heart where
she comes and goes freely, without any design whatsoever. There
the fire of her workshop is transformed into lamps of a festival,
the noise of her factory is heard like music. The iron chain of
cause and effect sounds heavily outside in nature, but in the
human heart its unalloyed delight seems to sound, as it were,
like the golden strings of a harp.

It indeed seems to be wonderful that nature has these two aspects
at one and the same time, and so antithetical--one being of
thraldom and the other of freedom. In the same form, sound,
colour, and taste two contrary notes are heard, one of necessity
and the other of joy. Outwardly nature is busy and restless,
inwardly she is all silence and peace. She has toil on one side
and leisure on the other. You see her bondage only when you see
her from without, but within her heart is a limitless beauty.

Our seer says, "From joy are born all creatures, by joy they are
sustained, towards joy they progress, and into joy they enter."

Not that he ignores law, or that his contemplation of this
infinite joy is born of the intoxication produced by an
indulgence in abstract thought. He fully recognises the
inexorable laws of nature, and says, "Fire burns for fear of him
(i.e. by his law); the sun shines by fear of him; and for fear of
him the wind, the clouds, and death perform their offices." It
is a reign of iron rule, ready to punish the least transgression.
Yet the poet chants the glad song, "From joy are born all
creatures, by joy they are sustained, towards joy they progress,
and into joy they enter."

_The immortal being manifests himself in joy-form._ [Footnote:
Ānandarūpamamritam yad vibhāti.] His manifestation in creation
is out of his fullness of joy. It is the nature of this
abounding joy to realise itself in form which is law. The joy,
which is without form, must create, must translate itself into
forms. The joy of the singer is expressed in the form of a song,
that of the poet in the form of a poem. Man in his r˘le of a
creator is ever creating forms, and they come out of his
abounding joy.

This joy, whose other name is love, must by its very nature have
duality for its realisation. When the singer has his inspiration
he makes himself into two; he has within him his other self as
the hearer, and the outside audience is merely an extension of
this other self of his. The lover seeks his own other self in
his beloved. It is the joy that creates this separation, in
order to realise through obstacles of union.

The _amritam_, the immortal bliss, has made himself into two.
Our soul is the loved one, it is his other self. We are
separate; but if this separation were absolute, then there would
have been absolute misery and unmitigated evil in this world.
Then from untruth we never could reach truth, and from sin we
never could hope to attain purity of heart; then all opposites
would ever remain opposites, and we could never find a medium
through which our differences could ever tend to meet. Then we
could have no language, no understanding, no blending of hearts,
no co-operation in life. But on the contrary, we find that the
separateness of objects is in a fluid state. Their
individualities are even changing, they are meeting and merging
into each other, till science itself is turning into metaphysics,
matter losing its boundaries, and the definition of life becoming
more and more indefinite.

Yes, our individual soul has been separated from the supreme
soul, but this has not been from alienation but from the fullness
of love. It is for that reason that untruths, sufferings, and
evils are not at a standstill; the human soul can defy them, can
overcome them, nay, can altogether transform them into new power
and beauty.

The singer is translating his song into singing, his joy into
forms, and the hearer has to translate back the singing into the
original joy; then the communion between the singer and the
hearer is complete. The infinite joy is manifesting itself in
manifold forms, taking upon itself the bondage of law, and we
fulfil our destiny when we go back from forms to joy, from law to
the love, when we untie the knot of the finite and hark back to
the infinite.

The human soul is on its journey from the law to love, from
discipline to liberation, from the moral plane to the spiritual.
Buddha preached the discipline of self-restraint and moral life;
it is a complete acceptance of law. But this bondage of law
cannot be an end by itself; by mastering it thoroughly we acquire
the means of getting beyond it. It is going back to Brahma, to
the infinite love, which is manifesting itself through the finite
forms of law. Buddha names it _Brahma-vihāra_, the joy of living
in Brahma. He who wants to reach this stage, according to Buddha,
"shall deceive none, entertain no hatred for anybody, and never
wish to injure through anger. He shall have measureless love for
all creatures, even as a mother has for her only child, whom she
protects with her own life. Up above, below, and all around him
he shall extend his love, which is without bounds and obstacles,
and which is free from all cruelty and antagonism. While
standing, sitting, walking, lying down, till he fall asleep, he
shall keep his mind active in this exercise of universal goodwill."

Want of love is a degree of callousness; for love is the
perfection of consciousness. We do not love because we do not
comprehend, or rather we do not comprehend because we do not
love. For love is the ultimate meaning of everything around us.
It is not a mere sentiment; it is truth; it is the joy that is at
the root of all creation. It is the white light of pure
consciousness that emanates from Brahma. So, to be one with this
_sarvānubhūh_, this all-feeling being who is in the external sky,
as well as in our inner soul, we must attain to that summit of
consciousness, which is love: _Who could have breathed or moved
if the sky were not filled with joy, with love?_ [Footnote: Ko
hyēvānyāt kah prānyāt yadēsha ākāša ānandō na syāt.] It is
through the heightening of our consciousness into love, and
extending it all over the world, that we can attain
_Brahma-vihāra,_ communion with this infinite joy.

Love spontaneously gives itself in endless gifts. But these
gifts lose their fullest significance if through them we do not
reach that love, which is the giver. To do that, we must have
love in our own heart. He who has no love in him values the
gifts of his lover only according to their usefulness. But
utility is temporary and partial. It can never occupy our whole
being; what is useful only touches us at the point where we have
some want. When the want is satisfied, utility becomes a burden
if it still persists. On the other hand, a mere token is of
permanent worth to us when we have love in our heart. For it is
not for any special use. It is an end in itself; it is for our
whole being and therefore can never tire us.

The question is, In what manner do we accept this world, which is
a perfect gift of joy? Have we been able to receive it in our
heart where we keep enshrined things that are of deathless value
to us? We are frantically busy making use of the forces of the
universe to gain more and more power; we feed and we clothe
ourselves from its stores, we scramble for its riches, and it
becomes for us a field of fierce competition. But were we born
for this, to extend our proprietary rights over this world and
make of it a marketable commodity? When our whole mind is bent
only upon making use of this world it loses for us its true
value. We make it cheap by our sordid desires; and thus to the
end of our days we only try to feed upon it and miss its truth,
just like the greedy child who tears leaves from a precious book
and tries to swallow them.

In the lands where cannibalism is prevalent man looks upon man as
his food. In such a country civilisation can never thrive, for
there man loses his higher value and is made common indeed. But
there are other kinds of cannibalism, perhaps not so gross, but
not less heinous, for which one need not travel far. In
countries higher in the scale of civilisation we find sometimes
man looked upon as a mere body, and he is bought and sold in the
market by the price of his flesh only. And sometimes he gets his
sole value from being useful; he is made into a machine, and is
traded upon by the man of money to acquire for him more money.
Thus our lust, our greed, our love of comfort result in
cheapening man to his lowest value. It is self deception on a
large scale. Our desires blind us to the _truth_ that there is
in man, and this is the greatest wrong done by ourselves to our
own soul. It deadens our consciousness, and is but a gradual
method of spiritual suicide. It produces ugly sores in the body
of civilisation, gives rise to its hovels and brothels, its
vindictive penal codes, its cruel prison systems, its organised
method of exploiting foreign races to the extent of permanently
injuring them by depriving them of the discipline of self-
government and means of self-defence.

Of course man is useful to man, because his body is a marvellous
machine and his mind an organ of wonderful efficiency. But he is
a spirit as well, and this spirit is truly known only by love.
When we define a man by the market value of the service we can
expect of him, we know him imperfectly. With this limited
knowledge of him it becomes easy for us to be unjust to him and
to entertain feelings of triumphant self-congratulation when, on
account of some cruel advantage on our side, we can get out of
him much more than we have paid for. But when we know him as a
spirit we know him as our own. We at once feel that cruelty to
him is cruelty to ourselves, to make him small is stealing from
our own humanity, and in seeking to make use of him solely for
personal profit we merely gain in money or comfort what we pay in

One day I was out in a boat on the Ganges. It was a beautiful
evening in autumn. The sun had just set; the silence of the sky
was full to the brim with ineffable peace and beauty. The vast
expanse of water was without a ripple, mirroring all the changing
shades of the sunset glow. Miles and miles of a desolate
sandbank lay like a huge amphibious reptile of some antediluvian
age, with its scales glistening in shining colours. As our boat
was silently gliding by the precipitous river-bank, riddled with
the nest-holes of a colony of birds, suddenly a big fish leapt up
to the surface of the water and then disappeared, displaying on
its vanishing figure all the colours of the evening sky. It drew
aside for a moment the many-coloured screen behind which there
was a silent world full of the joy of life. It came up from the
depths of its mysterious dwelling with a beautiful dancing motion
and added its own music to the silent symphony of the dying day.
I felt as if I had a friendly greeting from an alien world in its
own language, and it touched my heart with a flash of gladness.
Then suddenly the man at the helm exclaimed with a distinct note
of regret, "Ah, what a big fish!" It at once brought before his
vision the picture of the fish caught and made ready for his
supper. He could only look at the fish through his desire, and
thus missed the whole truth of its existence. But man is not
entirely an animal. He aspires to a spiritual vision, which is
the vision of the whole truth. This gives him the highest
delight, because it reveals to him the deepest harmony that
exists between him and his surroundings. It is our desires that
limit the scope of our self-realisation, hinder our extension of
consciousness, and give rise to sin, which is the innermost
barrier that keeps us apart from our God, setting up disunion and
the arrogance of exclusiveness. For sin is not one mere action,
but it is an attitude of life which takes for granted that our
goal is finite, that our self is the ultimate truth, and that we
are not all essentially one but exist each for his own separate
individual existence.

So I repeat we never can have a true view of man unless we have a
love for him. Civilisation must be judged and prized, not by the
amount of power it has developed, but by how much it has evolved
and given expression to, by its laws and institutions, the love
of humanity. The first question and the last which it has to
answer is, Whether and how far it recognises man more as a spirit
than a machine? Whenever some ancient civilisation fell into
decay and died, it was owing to causes which produced callousness
of heart and led to the cheapening of man's worth; when either
the state or some powerful group of men began to look upon the
people as a mere instrument of their power; when, by compelling
weaker races to slavery and trying to keep them down by every
means, man struck at the foundation of his greatness, his own
love of freedom and fair-play. Civilisation can never sustain
itself upon cannibalism of any form. For that by which alone man
is true can only be nourished by love and justice.

As with man, so with this universe. When we look at the world
through the veil of our desires we make it small and narrow, and
fail to perceive its full truth. Of course it is obvious that
the world serves us and fulfils our needs, but our relation to it
does not end there. We are bound to it with a deeper and truer
bond than that of necessity. Our soul is drawn to it; our love
of life is really our wish to continue our relation with this
great world. This relation is one of love. We are glad that we
are in it; we are attached to it with numberless threads, which
extend from this earth to the stars. Man foolishly tries to
prove his superiority by imagining his radical separateness from
what he calls his physical world, which, in his blind fanaticism,
he sometimes goes to the extent of ignoring altogether, holding
it at his direst enemy. Yet the more his knowledge progresses,
the more it becomes difficult for man to establish this
separateness, and all the imaginary boundaries he had set up
around himself vanish one after another. Every time we lose some
of our badges of absolute distinction by which we conferred upon
our humanity the right to hold itself apart from its surroundings,
it gives us a shock of humiliation. But we have to submit to
this. If we set up our pride on the path of our self-realisation
to create divisions and disunion, then it must sooner or later
come under the wheels of truth and be ground to dust. No, we are
not burdened with some monstrous superiority, unmeaning in its
singular abruptness. It would be utterly degrading for us to
live in a world immeasurably less than ourselves in the quality of
soul, just as it would be repulsive and degrading to be surrounded
and served by a host of slaves, day and night, from birth to the
moment of death. On the contrary, this world is our compeer, nay,
we are one with it.

Through our progress in science the wholeness of the world and
our oneness with it is becoming clearer to our mind. When this
perception of the perfection of unity is not merely intellectual,
when it opens out our whole being into a luminous consciousness
of the all, then it becomes a radiant joy, an overspreading love.
Our spirit finds its larger self in the whole world, and is
filled with an absolute certainty that it is immortal. It dies a
hundred times in its enclosures of self; for separateness is
doomed to die, it cannot be made eternal. But it never can die
where it is one with the all, for there is its truth, its joy.
When a man feels the rhythmic throb of the soul-life of the whole
world in his own soul, then is he free. Then he enters into the
secret courting that goes on between this beautiful world-bride,
veiled with the veil of the many-coloured finiteness, and the
_paramatmam_, the bridegroom, in his spotless white. Then he
knows that he is the partaker of this gorgeous love festival, and
he is the honoured guest at the feast of immortality. Then he
understands the meaning of the seer-poet who sings, "From love the
world is born, by love it is sustained, towards love it moves, and
into love it enters."

In love all the contradictions of existence merge themselves and
are lost. Only in love are unity and duality not at variance.
Love must be one and two at the same time.

Only love is motion and rest in one. Our heart ever changes its
place till it finds love, and then it has its rest. But this
rest itself is an intense form of activity where utter quiescence
and unceasing energy meet at the same point in love.

In love, loss and gain are harmonised. In its balance-sheet,
credit and debit accounts are in the same column, and gifts are
added to gains. In this wonderful festival of creation, this
great ceremony of self-sacrifice of God, the lover constantly
gives himself up to gain himself in love. Indeed, love is what
brings together and inseparably connects both the act of
abandoning and that of receiving.

In love, at one of its poles you find the personal, and at the
other the impersonal. At one you have the positive assertion--
Here I am; at the other the equally strong denial--I am not.
Without this ego what is love? And again, with only this ego how
can love be possible?

Bondage and liberation are not antagonistic in love. For love is
most free and at the same time most bound. If God were
absolutely free there would be no creation. The infinite being
has assumed unto himself the mystery of finitude. And in him who
is love the finite and the infinite are made one.

Similarly, when we talk about the relative values of freedom and
non-freedom, it becomes a mere play of words. It is not that we
desire freedom alone, we want thraldom as well. It is the high
function of love to welcome all limitations and to transcend
them. For nothing is more independent than love, and where else,
again, shall we find so much of dependence? In love, thraldom is
as glorious as freedom.

The _Vaishnava_ religion has boldly declared that God has bound
himself to man, and in that consists the greatest glory of human
existence. In the spell of the wonderful rhythm of the finite he
fetters himself at every step, and thus gives his love out in
music in his most perfect lyrics of beauty. Beauty is his wooing
of our heart; it can have no other purpose. It tells us
everywhere that the display of power is not the ultimate meaning
of creation; wherever there is a bit of colour, a note of song, a
grace of form, there comes the call for our love. Hunger compels
us to obey its behests, but hunger is not the last word for a man.
There have been men who have deliberately defied its commands to
show that the human soul is not to be led by the pressure of wants
and threat of pain. In fact, to live the life of man we have to
resist its demands every day, the least of us as well as the
greatest. But, on the other hand, there is a beauty in the world
which never insults our freedom, never raises even its little
finger to make us acknowledge its sovereignty. We can absolutely
ignore it and suffer no penalty in consequence. It is a call to
us, but not a command. It seeks for love in us, and love can
never be had by compulsion. Compulsion is not indeed the final
appeal to man, but joy is. Any joy is everywhere; it is in the
earth's green covering of grass; in the blue serenity of the sky;
in the reckless exuberance of spring; in the severe abstinence of
grey winter; in the living flesh that animates our bodily frame;
in the perfect poise of the human figure, noble and upright; in
living; in the exercise of all our powers; in the acquisition of
knowledge; in fighting evils; in dying for gains we never can
share. Joy is there everywhere; it is superfluous, unnecessary;
nay, it very often contradicts the most peremptory behests of
necessity. It exists to show that the bonds of law can only be
explained by love; they are like body and soul. Joy is the
realisation of the truth of oneness, the oneness of our soul with
the world and of the world-soul with the supreme lover.



It is only those who have known that joy expresses itself through
law who have learnt to transcend the law. Not that the bonds of
law have ceased to exist for them--but that the bonds have become
to them as the form of freedom incarnate. The freed soul
delights in accepting bonds, and does not seek to evade any of
them, for in each does it feel the manifestation of an infinite
energy whose joy is in creation.

As a matter of fact, where there are no bonds, where there is the
madness of license, the soul ceases to be free. There is its
hurt; there is its separation from the infinite, its agony of
sin. Whenever at the call of temptation the soul falls away from
the bondage of law, then, like a child deprived of the support of
its mother's arms, it cries out, _Smite me not!_ [Footnote: Mā mā
himsīh.] "Bind me," it prays, "oh, bind me in the bonds of thy
law; bind me within and without; hold me tight; let me in the clasp
of thy law be bound up together with thy joy; protect me by thy
firm hold from the deadly laxity of sin."

As some, under the idea that law is the opposite of joy, mistake
intoxication for joy, so there are many in our country who
imagine action to be opposed to freedom. They think that
activity being in the material plane is a restriction of the free
spirit of the soul. But we must remember that as joy expresses
itself in law, so the soul finds its freedom in action. It is
because joy cannot find expression in itself alone that it
desires the law which is outside. Likewise it is because the
soul cannot find freedom within itself that it wants external
action. The soul of man is ever freeing itself from its own
folds by its activity; had it been otherwise it could not have
done any voluntary work.

The more man acts and makes actual what was latent in him, the
nearer does he bring the distant Yet-to-be. In that
actualisation man is ever making himself more and yet more
distinct, and seeing himself clearly under newer and newer
aspects in the midst of his varied activities, in the state, in
society. This vision makes for freedom.

Freedom is not in darkness, nor in vagueness. There is no
bondage so fearful as that of obscurity. It is to escape from
this obscurity that the seed struggles to sprout, the bud to
blossom. It is to rid itself of this envelope of vagueness that
the ideas in our mind are constantly seeking opportunities to
take on outward form. In the same way our soul, in order to
release itself from the mist of indistinctness and come out into
the open, is continually creating for itself fresh fields of
action, and is busy contriving new forms of activity, even such
as are not needful for the purposes of its earthly life. And
why? Because it wants freedom. It wants to see itself, to
realise itself.

When man cuts down the pestilential jungle and makes unto himself
a garden, the beauty that he thus sets free from within its
enclosure of ugliness is the beauty of his own soul: without
giving it this freedom outside, he cannot make it free within.
When he implants law and order in the midst of the waywardness of
society, the good which he sets free from the obstruction of the
bad is the goodness of his own soul: without being thus made free
outside it cannot find freedom within. Thus is man continually
engaged in setting free in action his powers, his beauty, his
goodness, his very soul. And the more he succeeds in so doing,
the greater does he see himself to be, the broader becomes the
field of his knowledge of self.

The Upanishad says: _In the midst of activity alone wilt thou
desire to live a hundred years._ [Footnote: Kurvannēvēha
karmāni jijīvishet šatam samāh.] It is the saying of those who
had amply tasted of the joy of the soul. Those who have fully
realised the soul have never talked in mournful accents of the
sorrowfulness of life or of the bondage of action. They are not
like the weakling flower whose stem-hold is so light that it
drops away before attaining fruition. They hold on to life with
all their might and say, "never will we let go till the fruit is
ripe." They desire in their joy to express themselves
strenuously in their life and in their work. Pain and sorrow
dismay them not, they are not bowed down to the dust by the
weight of their own heart. With the erect head of the victorious
hero they march through life seeing themselves and showing
themselves in increasing resplendence of soul through both joys
and sorrows. The joy of their life keeps step with the joy of
that energy which is playing at building and breaking throughout
the universe. The joy of the sunlight, the joy of the free air,
mingling with the joy of their lives, makes one sweet harmony
reign within and without. It is they who say, _In the midst of
activity alone wilt thou desire to live a hundred years._

This joy of life, this joy of work, in man is absolutely true.
It is no use saying that it is a delusion of ours; that unless we
cast it away we cannot enter upon the path of self-realisation.
It will never do the least good to attempt the realisation of the
infinite apart from the world of action.

It is not the truth that man is active on compulsion. If there
is compulsion on one side, on the other there is pleasure; on the
one hand action is spurred on by want, on the other it hies to
its natural fulfilment. That is why, as man's civilisation
advances, he increases his obligations and the work that he
willingly creates for himself. One should have thought that
nature had given him quite enough to do to keep him busy, in fact
that it was working him to death with the lash of hunger and
thirst,--but no. Man does not think that sufficient; he cannot
rest content with only doing the work that nature prescribes for
him in common with the birds and beasts. He needs must surpass
all, even in activity. No creature has to work so hard as man;
he has been impelled to contrive for himself a vast field of
action in society; and in this field he is for every building up
and pulling down, making and unmaking laws, piling up heaps of
material, and incessantly thinking, seeking and suffering. In
this field he has fought his mightiest battles, gained continual
new life, made death glorious, and, far from evading troubles,
has willingly and continually taken up the burden of fresh
trouble. He has discovered the truth that he is not complete in
the cage of his immediate surroundings, that he is greater than
his present, and that while to stand still in one place may be
comforting, the arrest of life destroys his true function and the
real purpose of his existence.

This _mahatī vinashtih--this great destruction_ he cannot bear,
and accordingly he toils and suffers in order that he may gain in
stature by transcending his present, in order to become that
which he yet is not. In this travail is man's glory, and it is
because he knows it, that he has not sought to circumscribe his
field of action, but is constantly occupied in extending the
bounds. Sometimes he wanders so far that his work tends to lose
its meaning, and his rushings to and fro create fearful eddies
round different centres--eddies of self-interest, of pride of
power. Still, so long as the strength of the current is not lost,
there is no fear; the obstructions and the dead accumulations of
his activity are dissipated and carried away; the impetus corrects
its own mistakes. Only when the soul sleeps in stagnation do its
enemies gain overmastering strength, and these obstructions become
too clogging to be fought through. Hence have we been warned by
our teachers that to work we must live, to live we must work; that
life and activity are inseparably connected.

It is very characteristic of life that it is not complete within
itself; it must come out. Its truth is in the commerce of the
inside and the outside. In order to live, the body must maintain
its various relations with the outside light and air--not only to
gain life-force, but also to manifest it. Consider how fully
employed the body is with its own inside activities; its heart-
beat must not stop for a second, its stomach, its brain, must be
ceaselessly working. Yet this is not enough; the body is
outwardly restless all the while. Its life leads it to an
endless dance of work and play outside; it cannot be satisfied
with the circulations of its internal economy, and only finds the
fulfilment of joy in its outward excursions.

The same with the soul. It cannot live on its own internal
feelings and imaginings. It is ever in need of external objects;
not only to feed its inner consciousness but to apply itself in
action, not only to receive but also to give.

The real truth is, we cannot live if we divide him who is truth
itself into two parts. We must abide in him within as well as
without. In whichever aspect we deny him we deceive ourselves
and incur a loss. _Brahma has not left me, let me not leave
Brahma._ [Footnote: Māham brahma nirākuryyām mā mā brahma
nirākarōt.] If we say that we would realise him in introspection
alone and leave him out of our external activity, that we would
enjoy him by the love in our heart, but not worship him by
outward ministrations; or if we say the opposite, and overweight
ourselves on one side in the journey of our life's quest, we
shall alike totter to our downfall.

In the great western continent we see that the soul of man is
mainly concerned with extending itself outwards; the open field
of the exercise of power is its field. Its partiality is
entirely for the world of extension, and it would leave aside--
nay, hardly believe in--that field of inner consciousness which
is the field of fulfilment. It has gone so far in this that the
perfection of fulfilment seems to exist for it nowhere. Its
science has always talked of the never-ending evolution of the
world. Its metaphysic has now begun to talk of the evolution of
God himself. They will not admit that he _is_; they would have
it that he also is _becoming._

They fail to realise that while the infinite is always greater
than any assignable limit, it is also complete; that on the one
hand Brahma is evolving, on the other he is perfection; that in
the one aspect he is essence, in the other manifestation--both
together at the same time, as is the song and the act of singing.
This is like ignoring the consciousness of the singer and saying
that only the singing is in progress, that there is no song.
Doubtless we are directly aware only of the singing, and never at
any one time of the song as a whole; but do we not all the time
know that the complete song is in the soul of the singer?

It is because of this insistence on the doing and the becoming
that we perceive in the west the intoxication of power. These
men seem to have determined to despoil and grasp everything by
force. They would always obstinately be doing and never be done--
they would not allow to death its natural place in the scheme of
things--they know not the beauty of completion.

In our country the danger comes from the opposite side. Our
partiality is for the internal world. We would cast aside with
contumely the field of power and of extension. We would realise
Brahma in mediation only in his aspect of completeness, we have
determined not to see him in the commerce of the universe in his
aspect of evolution. That is why in our seekers we so often find
the intoxication of the spirit and its consequent degradation.
Their faith would acknowledge no bondage of law, their
imagination soars unrestricted, their conduct disdains to offer
any explanation to reason. Their intellect, in its vain attempts
to see Brahma inseparable from his creation, works itself stone-
dry, and their heart, seeking to confine him within its own
outpourings, swoons in a drunken ecstasy of emotion. They have
not even kept within reach any standard whereby they can measure
the loss of strength and character which manhood sustains by thus
ignoring the bonds of law and the claims of action in the
external universe.

But true spirituality, as taught in our sacred lore, is calmly
balanced in strength, in the correlation of the within and the
without. The truth has its law, it has its joy. On one side of
it is being chanted the _Bhayādasyāgnistapati_ [Footnote: "For
fear of him the fire doth burn," etc], on the other the
_Ānandādhyeva khalvimāni bhūtāni jāyante._ [Footnote: "From Joy
are born all created things," etc.] Freedom is impossible of
attainment without submission to law, for Brahma is in one aspect
bound by his truth, in the other free in his joy.

As for ourselves, it is only when we wholly submit to the bonds
of truth that we fully gain the joy of freedom. And how? As
does the string that is bound to the harp. When the harp is
truly strung, when there is not the slightest laxity in the
strength of the bond, then only does music result; and the string
transcending itself in its melody finds at every chord its true
freedom. It is because it is bound by such hard and fast rules
on the one side that it can find this range of freedom in music
on the other. While the string was not true, it was indeed
merely bound; but a loosening of its bondage would not have been
the way to freedom, which it can only fully achieve by being
bound tighter and tighter till it has attained the true pitch.

The bass and treble strings of our duty are only bonds so long as
we cannot maintain them steadfastly attuned according to the law
of truth; and we cannot call by the name of freedom the loosening
of them into the nothingness of inaction. That is why I would
say that the true striving in the quest of truth, of _dharma_,
consists not in the neglect of action but in the effort to attune
it closer and closer to the eternal harmony. The text of this
striving should be, _Whatever works thou doest, consecrate them
to Brahma._ [Footnote: Yadyat karma prakurvīta tadbrahmani
samarpayet.] That is to say, the soul is to dedicate itself to
Brahma through all its activities. This dedication is the song
of the soul, in this is its freedom. Joy reigns when all work
becomes the path to the union with Brahma; when the soul ceases
to return constantly to its own desires; when in it our self-
offering grows more and more intense. Then there is completion,
then there is freedom, then, in this world, comes the kingdom of

Who is there that, sitting in his corner, would deride this grand
self-expression of humanity in action, this incessant self-
consecration? Who is there that thinks the union of God and man
is to be found in some secluded enjoyment of his own imaginings,
away from the sky-towering temple of the greatness of humanity,
which the whole of mankind, in sunshine and storm, is toiling to
erect through the ages? Who is there that thinks this secluded
communion is the highest form of religion?

O thou distraught wanderer, thou _Sannyasin_, drunk in the wine of
self-intoxication, dost thou not already hear the progress of the
human soul along the highway traversing the wide fields of
humanity--the thunder of its progress in the car of its
achievements, which is destined to overpass the bounds that
prevent its expansion into the universe? The very mountains are
cleft asunder and give way before the march of its banners waving
triumphantly in the heavens; as the mist before the rising sun,
the tangled obscurities of material things vanish at its
irresistible approach. Pain, disease, and disorder are at every
step receding before its onset; the obstructions of ignorance are
being thrust aside; the darkness of blindness is being pierced
through; and behold, the promised land of wealth and health, of
poetry and art, of knowledge and righteousness is gradually being
revealed to view. Do you in your lethargy desire to say that
this car of humanity, which is shaking the very earth with the
triumph of its progress along the mighty vistas of history, has
no charioteer leading it on to its fulfilment? Who is there who
refuses to respond to his call to join in this triumphal progress?
Who so foolish as to run away from the gladsome throng and seek
him in the listlessness of inaction? Who so steeped in untruth as
to dare to call all this untrue--this great world of men, this
civilisation of expanding humanity, this eternal effort of man,
through depths of sorrow, through heights of gladness, through
innumerable impediments within and without, to win victory for his
powers? He who can think of this immensity of achievement as an
immense fraud, can he truly believe in God who is the truth? He
who thinks to reach God by running away from the world, when and
where does he expect to meet him? How far can he fly--can he fly
and fly, till he flies into nothingness itself? No, the coward
who would fly can nowhere find him. We must be brave enough to
be able to say: We are reaching him here in this very spot, now
at this very moment. We must be able to assure ourselves that as
in our actions we are realising ourselves, so in ourselves we are
realising him who is the self of self. We must earn the right to
say so unhesitatingly by clearing away with our own effort all
obstruction, all disorder, all discords from our path of activity;
we must be able to say, "In my work is my joy, and in that joy
does the joy of my joy abide."

Whom does the Upanishad call _The chief among the knowers of
Brahma?_ [Footnote: Brahmavidāmvaristhah.] He is defined as _He
whose joy is in Brahma, whose play is in Brahma, the active one._
[Footnote: Ātmakrīrha ātmaratih kriyāvān.] Joy without the play
of joy is no joy at all--play without activity is no play.
Activity is the play of joy. He whose joy is in Brahma, how can
he live in inaction? For must he not by his activity provide
that in which the joy of Brahma is to take form and manifest
itself? That is why he who knows Brahma, who has his joy in
Brahma, must also have all his activity in Brahma--his eating
and drinking, his earning of livelihood and his beneficence.
Just as the joy of the poet in his poem, of the artist in his
art, of the brave man in the output of his courage, of the wise
man in his discernment of truths, ever seeks expression in their
several activities, so the joy of the knower of Brahma, in the
whole of his everyday work, little and big, in truth, in beauty,
in orderliness and in beneficence, seeks to give expression to
the infinite.

Brahma himself gives expression to his joy in just the same way.
_By his many-sided activity, which radiates in all directions,
does he fulfil the inherent want of his different creatures._
[Footnote: Bahudhā šakti yogāt varņānanekān nihitārtho dadhāti.]
That inherent want is he himself, and so he is in so many ways,
in so many forms, giving himself. He works, for without working
how could he give himself. His joy is ever dedicating itself in
the dedication which is his creation.

In this very thing does our own true meaning lie, in this is our
likeness to our father. We must also give up ourselves in many-
sided variously aimed activity. In the Vedas he is called _the
giver of himself, the giver of strength._ [Footnote: Ātmadā
baladā.] He is not content with giving us himself, but he gives
us strength that we may likewise give ourselves. That is why the
seer of the Upanishad prays to him who is thus fulfilling our
wants, _May he grant us the beneficent mind_ [Footnote: Sa no
buddhya šubhayā samyunaktu.], may he fulfil that uttermost want
of ours by granting us the beneficent mind. That is to say, it
is not enough he should alone work to remove our want, but he
should give us the desire and the strength to work with him in
his activity and in the exercise of the goodness. Then, indeed,
will our union with him alone be accomplished. The beneficent
mind is that which shows us the want (_swārtha_) of another self
to be the inherent want (_nihitārtha_) of our own self; that
which shows that our joy consists in the varied aiming of our
many-sided powers in the work of humanity. When we work under
the guidance of this beneficent mind, then our activity is
regulated, but does not become mechanical; it is action not
goaded on by want, but stimulated by the satisfaction of the
soul. Such activity ceases to be a blind imitation of that of
the multitude, a cowardly following of the dictates of fashion.
Therein we begin to see that _He is in the beginning and in the
end of the universe_ [Footnote: Vichaiti chāntē višvamādau.],
and likewise see that of our own work is he the fount and the
inspiration, and at the end thereof is he, and therefore that all
our activity is pervaded by peace and good and joy.

The Upanishad says: _Knowledge, power, and action are of his
nature._ [Footnote: Svābhāvikījnāna bala kriyā cha.] It is
because this naturalness has not yet been born in us that we tend
to divide joy from work. Our day of work is not our day of joy--
for that we require a holiday; for, miserable that we are, we
cannot find our holiday in our work. The river finds its holiday
in its onward flow, the fire in its outburst of flame, the scent
of the flower in its permeation of the atmosphere; but in our
everyday work there is no such holiday for us. It is because we
do not let ourselves go, because we do not give ourselves
joyously and entirely up to it, that our work overpowers us.

O giver of thyself! at the vision of thee as joy let our souls
flame up to thee as the fire, flow on to thee as the river,
permeate thy being as the fragrance of the flower. Give us
strength to love, to love fully, our life in its joys and
sorrows, in its gains and losses, in its rise and fall. Let us
have strength enough fully to see and hear thy universe, and to
work with full vigour therein. Let us fully live the life thou
hast given us, let us bravely take and bravely give. This is our
prayer to thee. Let us once for all dislodge from our minds the
feeble fancy that would make out thy joy to be a thing apart from
action, thin, formless, and unsustained. Wherever the peasant
tills the hard earth, there does thy joy gush out in the green of
the corn, wherever man displaces the entangled forest, smooths
the stony ground, and clears for himself a homestead, there does
thy joy enfold it in orderliness and peace.

O worker of the universe! We would pray to thee to let the
irresistible current of thy universal energy come like the
impetuous south wind of spring, let it come rushing over the vast
field of the life of man, let it bring the scent of many flowers,
the murmurings of many woodlands, let it make sweet and vocal the
lifelessness of our dried-up soul-life. Let our newly awakened
powers cry out for unlimited fulfilment in leaf and flower and



Things in which we do not take joy are either a burden upon our
minds to be got rid of at any cost; or they are useful, and
therefore in temporary and partial relation to us, becoming
burdensome when their utility is lost; or they are like wandering
vagabonds, loitering for a moment on the outskirts of our
recognition, and then passing on. A thing is only completely our
own when it is a thing of joy to us.

The greater part of this world is to us as if it were nothing.
But we cannot allow it to remain so, for thus it belittles our
own self. The entire world is given to us, and all our powers
have their final meaning in the faith that by their help we are
to take possession of our patrimony.

But what is the function of our sense of beauty in this process
of the extension of our consciousness? Is it there to separate
truth into strong lights and shadows, and bring it before us in
its uncompromising distinction of beauty and ugliness? If that
were so, then we would have had to admit that this sense of
beauty creates a dissension in our universe and sets up a wall of
hindrance across the highway of communication that leads from
everything to all things.

But that cannot be true. As long as our realisation is
incomplete a division necessarily remains between things known
and unknown, pleasant and unpleasant. But in spite of the dictum
of some philosophers man does not accept any arbitrary and
absolute limit to his knowable world. Every day his science is
penetrating into the region formerly marked in his map as
unexplored or inexplorable. Our sense of beauty is similarly
engaged in ever pushing on its conquests. Truth is everywhere,
therefore everything is the object of our knowledge. Beauty is
omnipresent, therefore everything is capable of giving us joy.

In the early days of his history man took everything as a
phenomenon of life. His science of life began by creating a
sharp distinction between life and non-life. But as it is
proceeding farther and farther the line of demarcation between
the animate and inanimate is growing more and more dim. In the
beginning of our apprehension these sharp lines of contrast are
helpful to us, but as our comprehension becomes clearer they
gradually fade away.

The Upanishads have said that all things are created and
sustained by an infinite joy. To realise this principle of
creation we have to start with a division--the division into the
beautiful and the non-beautiful. Then the apprehension of beauty
has to come to us with a vigorous blow to awaken our
consciousness from its primitive lethargy, and it attains its
object by the urgency of the contrast. Therefore our first
acquaintance with beauty is in her dress of motley colours, that
affects us with its stripes and feathers, nay, with its
disfigurements. But as our acquaintance ripens, the apparent
discords are resolved into modulations of rhythm. At first we
detach beauty from its surroundings, we hold it apart from the
rest, but at the end we realise its harmony with all. Then the
music of beauty has no more need of exciting us with loud noise;
it renounces violence, and appeals to our heart with the truth
that it is meekness inherits the earth.

In some stage of our growth, in some period of our history, we
try to set up a special cult of beauty, and pare it down to a
narrow circuit, so as to make it a matter of pride for a chosen
few. Then it breeds in its votaries affections and
exaggerations, as it did with the Brahmins in the time of the
decadence of Indian civilisation, when the perception of the
higher truth fell away and superstitions grew up unchecked.

In the history of Šsthetics there also comes an age of
emancipation when the recognition of beauty in things great and
small become easy, and when we see it more in the unassuming
harmony of common objects than in things startling in their
singularity. So much so, that we have to go through the stages
of reaction when in the representation of beauty we try to avoid
everything that is obviously pleasing and that has been crowned
by the sanction of convention. We are then tempted in defiance
to exaggerate the commonness of commonplace things, thereby
making them aggressively uncommon. To restore harmony we create
the discords which are a feature of all reactions. We already
see in the present age the sign of this Šsthetic reaction, which
proves that man has at last come to know that it is only the
narrowness of perception which sharply divides the field of his
Šsthetic consciousness into ugliness and beauty. When he has the
power to see things detached from self-interest and from the
insistent claims of the lust of the senses, then alone can he
have the true vision of the beauty that is everywhere. Then only
can he see that what is unpleasant to us is not necessarily
unbeautiful, but has its beauty in truth.

When we say that beauty is everywhere we do not mean that the
word ugliness should be abolished from our language, just as it
would be absurd to say that there is no such thing as untruth.
Untruth there certainly is, not in the system of the universe,
but in our power of comprehension, as its negative element. In
the same manner there is ugliness in the distorted expression of
beauty in our life and in our art which comes from our imperfect
realisation of Truth. To a certain extent we can set our life
against the law of truth which is in us and which is in all, and
likewise we can give rise to ugliness by going counter to the
eternal law of harmony which is everywhere.

Through our sense of truth we realise law in creation, and
through our sense of beauty we realise harmony in the universe.
When we recognise the law in nature we extend our mastery over
physical forces and become powerful; when we recognise the law in
our moral nature we attain mastery over self and become free. In
like manner the more we comprehend the harmony in the physical
world the more our life shares the gladness of creation, and our
expression of beauty in art becomes more truly catholic. As we
become conscious of the harmony in our soul, our apprehension of
the blissfulness of the spirit of the world becomes universal,
and the expression of beauty in our life moves in goodness and
love towards the infinite. This is the ultimate object of our
existence, that we must ever know that "beauty is truth, truth
beauty"; we must realise the whole world in love, for love gives
it birth, sustains it, and takes it back to its bosom. We must
have that perfect emancipation of heart which gives us the power
to stand at the innermost centre of things and have the taste of
that fullness of disinterested joy which belongs to Brahma.

Music is the purest form of art, and therefore the most direct
expression of beauty, with a form and spirit which is one and
simple, and least encumbered with anything extraneous. We seem
to feel that the manifestation of the infinite in the finite
forms of creation is music itself, silent and visible. The
evening sky, tirelessly repeating the starry constellations,
seems like a child struck with wonder at the mystery of its own
first utterance, lisping the same word over and over again, and
listening to it in unceasing joy. When in the rainy night of
July the darkness is thick upon the meadows and the pattering
rain draws veil upon veil over the stillness of the slumbering
earth, this monotony of the rain patter seems to be the darkness
of sound itself. The gloom of the dim and dense line of trees,
the thorny bushes scattered in the bare heath like floating heads
of swimmers with bedraggled hair, the smell of the damp grass and
the wet earth, the spire of the temple rising above the undefined
mass of blackness grouped around the village huts--everything
seems like notes rising from the heart of the night, mingling and
losing themselves in the one sound of ceaseless rain filling the

Therefore the true poets, they who are seers, seek to express the
universe in terms of music.

They rarely use symbols of painting to express the unfolding of
forms, the mingling of endless lines and colours that goes on
every moment on the canvas of the blue sky.

They have their reason. For the man who paints must have canvas,
brush and colour-box. The first touch of his brush is very far
from the complete idea. And then when the work is finished the
artist is gone, the windowed picture stands alone, the incessant
touches of love of the creative hand are withdrawn.

But the singer has everything within him. The notes come out
from his very life. They are not materials gathered from
outside. His idea and his expression are brother and sister;
very often they are born as twins. In music the heart reveals
itself immediately; it suffers not from any barrier of alien

Therefore though music has to wait for its completeness like any
other art, yet at every step it gives out the beauty of the
whole. As the material of expression even words are barriers,
for their meaning has to be constructed by thought. But music
never has to depend upon any obvious meaning; it expresses what
no words can ever express.

What is more, music and the musician are inseparable. When the
singer departs, his singing dies with him; it is in eternal union
with the life and joy of the master.

This world-song is never for a moment separated from its singer.
It is not fashioned from any outward material. It is his joy
itself taking never-ending form. It is the great heart sending
the tremor of its thrill over the sky.

There is a perfection in each individual strain of this music,
which is the revelation of completion in the incomplete. No one of
its notes is final, yet each reflects the infinite.

What does it matter if we fail to derive the exact meaning of
this great harmony? Is it not like the hand meeting the string
and drawing out at once all its tones at the touch? It is the
language of beauty, the caress, that comes from the heart of the
world straightway reaches our heart.

Last night, in the silence which pervaded the darkness, I stood
alone and heard the voice of the singer of eternal melodies.
When I went to sleep I closed my eyes with this last thought in
my mind, that even when I remain unconscious in slumber the dance
of life will still go on in the hushed arena of my sleeping body,
keeping step with the stars. The heart will throb, the blood
will leap in the veins, and the millions of living atoms of my
body will vibrate in tune with the note of the harp-string that
thrills at the touch of the master.



The Upanishads say: "Man becomes true if in this life he can
apprehend God; if not, it is the greatest calamity for him."

But what is the nature of this attainment of God? It is quite
evident that the infinite is not like one object among many, to
be definitely classified and kept among our possessions, to be
used as an ally specially favouring us in our politics, warfare,
money-making, or in social competitions. We cannot put our God
in the same list with our summer-houses, motor-cars, or our
credit at the bank, as so many people seem to want to do.

We must try to understand the true character of the desire that a
man has when his soul longs for his God. Does it consist of his
wish to make an addition, however valuable, to his belongings?
Emphatically no! It is an endlessly wearisome task, this
continual adding to our stores. In fact, when the soul seeks God
she seeks her final escape from this incessant gathering and
heaping and never coming to an end. It is not an additional
object the she seeks, but it is the _nityo 'nityānām_, the
permanent in all that is impermanent, the _rasānām rasatamah_,
the highest abiding joy unifying all enjoyments. Therefore when
the Upanishads teach us to realise everything in Brahma, it is
not to seek something extra, not to manufacture something new.

_Know everything that there is in the universe as enveloped by
God._ [Footnote: Īšhāvāsyamdiam sarvam yat kincha
jagatyānjagat.] _Enjoy whatever is given by him and harbour not
in your mind the greed for wealth which is not your own._
[Footnoe: Tēna tyaktēna bhunjīţhā mā gŗidhah kasyasviddhanam.]

When you know that whatever there is is filled by him and
whatever you have is his gift, then you realise the infinite in
the finite, and the giver in the gifts. Then you know that all
the facts of the reality have their only meaning in the
manifestation of the one truth, and all your possessions have
their only significance for you, not in themselves but in the
relation they establish with the infinite.

So it cannot be said that we can find Brahma as we find other
objects; there is no question of searching from him in one thing
in preference to another, in one place instead of somewhere else.
We do not have to run to the grocer's shop for our morning light;
we open our eyes and there it is; so we need only give ourselves
up to find that Brahma is everywhere.

This is the reason why Buddha admonished us to free ourselves
from the confinement of the life of the self. If there were
nothing else to take its place more positively perfect and
satisfying, then such admonition would be absolutely unmeaning.
No man can seriously consider the advice, much less have any
enthusiasm for it, of surrendering everything one has for gaining
nothing whatever.

So our daily worship of God is not really the process of gradual
acquisition of him, but the daily process of surrendering
ourselves, removing all obstacles to union and extending our
consciousness of him in devotion and service, in goodness and in

The Upanishads say: _Be lost altogether in Brahma like an arrow
that has completely penetrated its target._ Thus to be conscious
of being absolutely enveloped by Brahma is not an act of mere
concentration of mind. It must be the aim of the whole of our
life. In all our thoughts and deeds we must be conscious of the
infinite. Let the realisation of this truth become easier every
day of our life, that _none could live or move if the energy of
the all-pervading joy did not fill the sky._ [Footnote: Ko
hyevānyāt kah prānyāt yadesha ākāšha ānando na syāt.] In all our
actions let us feel that impetus of the infinite energy and be

It may be said that the infinite is beyond our attainment, so it
is for us as if it were naught. Yes, if the word attainment
implies any idea of possession, then it must be admitted that the
infinite is unattainable. But we must keep in mind that the
highest enjoyment of man is not in the having but in a getting,
which is at the same time not getting. Our physical pleasures
leave no margin for the unrealised. They, like the dead
satellite of the earth, have but little atmosphere around them.
When we take food and satisfy our hunger it is a complete act of
possession. So long as the hunger is not satisfied it is a
pleasure to eat. For then our enjoyment of eating touches at
every point the infinite. But, when it attains completion, or in
other words, when our desire for eating reaches the end of the
stage of its non-realisation, it reaches the end of its pleasure.
In all our intellectual pleasures the margin is broader, the
limit is far off. In all our deeper love getting and non-getting
run ever parallel. In one of our Vaishnava lyrics the lover says
to his beloved: "I feel as if I have gazed upon the beauty of thy
face from my birth, yet my eyes are hungry still: as if I have
kept thee pressed to my heart for millions of years, yet my heart
is not satisfied."

This makes it clear that it is really the infinite whom we seek
in our pleasures. Our desire for being wealthy is not a desire
for a particular sum of money but it is indefinite, and the most
fleeting of our enjoyments are but the momentary touches of the
eternal. The tragedy of human life consists in our vain attempts
to stretch the limits of things which can never become
unlimited,--to reach the infinite by absurdly adding to the rungs
of the ladder of the finite.

It is evident from this that the real desire of our soul is to
get beyond all our possessions. Surrounded by things she can
touch and feel, she cries, "I am weary of getting; ah, where is
he who is never to be got?"

We see everywhere in the history of man that the spirit of
renunciation is the deepest reality of the human soul. When the
soul says of anything, "I do not want it, for I am above it," she
gives utterance to the highest truth that is in her. When a
girl's life outgrows her doll, when she realises that in every
respect she is more than her doll is, then she throws it away.
By the very act of possession we know that we are greater than
the things we possess. It is a perfect misery to be kept bound
up with things lesser than ourselves. This it is that Maitreyī
felt when her husband gave her his property on the eve of leaving
home. She asked him, "Would these material things help one to
attain the highest?"--or, in other words, "Are they more than my
soul to me?" When her husband answered, "They will make you rich
in worldly possessions," she said at once, "then what am I to do
with these?" It is only when a man truly realises what his
possessions are that he has no more illusions about them; then he
knows his soul is far above these things and he becomes free from
their bondage. Thus man truly realises his soul by outgrowing
his possessions, and man's progress in the path of eternal life
is through a series of renunciations.

That we cannot absolutely possess the infinite being is not a
mere intellectual proposition. It has to be experienced, and
this experience is bliss. The bird, while taking its flight in
the sky, experiences at every beat of its wings that the sky is
boundless, that its wings can never carry it beyond. Therein
lies its joy. In the cage the sky is limited; it may be quite
enough for all the purposes of the bird's life, only it is not
more than is necessary. The bird cannot rejoice within the
limits of the necessary. It must feel that what it has is
immeasurably more than it ever can want or comprehend, and then
only can it be glad.

Thus our soul must soar in the infinite, and she must feel every
moment that in the sense of not being able to come to the end of
her attainment is her supreme joy, her final freedom.

Man's abiding happiness is not in getting anything but in giving
himself up to what is greater than himself, to ideas which are
larger than his individual life, the idea of his country, of
humanity, of God. They make it easier for him to part with all
that he has, not expecting his life. His existence is miserable
and sordid till he finds some great idea which can truly claim
his all, which can release him from all attachment to his
belongings. Buddha and Jesus, and all our great prophets,
represent such great ideas. They hold before us opportunities
for surrendering our all. When they bring forth their divine
alms-bowl we feel we cannot help giving, and we find that in
giving is our truest joy and liberation, for it is uniting
ourselves to that extent with the infinite.

Man is not complete; he is yet to be. In what he _is_ he is
small, and if we could conceive him stopping there for eternity
we should have an idea of the most awful hell that man can
imagine. In his _to be_ he is infinite, there is his heaven,
his deliverance. His _is_ is occupied every moment with what it
can get and have done with; his _to be_ is hungering for
something which is more than can be got, which he never can lose
because he never has possessed.

The finite pole of our existence has its place in the world of
necessity. There man goes about searching for food to live,
clothing to get warmth. In this region--the region of nature--it
is his function to get things. The natural man is occupied with
enlarging his possessions.

But this act of getting is partial. It is limited to man's
necessities. We can have a thing only to the extent of our
requirements, just as a vessel can contain water only to the
extent of its emptiness. Our relation to food is only in
feeding, our relation to a house is only in habitation. We call
it a benefit when a thing is fitted only to some particular want
of ours. Thus to get is always to get partially, and it never
can be otherwise. So this craving for acquisition belongs to our
finite self.

But that side of our existence whose direction is towards the
infinite seeks not wealth, but freedom and joy. There the reign
of necessity ceases, and there our function is not to get but to
be. To be what? To be one with Brahma. For the region of the
infinite is the region of unity. Therefore the Upanishads say:
_If man apprehends God he becomes true._ Here it is becoming,
it is not having more. Words do no gather bulk when you know
their meaning; they become true by being one with the idea.

Though the West has accepted as its teacher him who boldly
proclaimed his oneness with his Father, and who exhorted his
followers to be perfect as God, it has never been reconciled to
this idea of our unity with the infinite being. It condemns, as
a piece of blasphemy, any implication of man's becoming God.
This is certainly not the idea that Christ preached, nor perhaps
the idea of the Christian mystics, but this seems to be the idea
that has become popular in the Christian west.

But the highest wisdom in the East holds that it is not the
function of our soul to _gain_ God, to utilise him for any
special material purpose. All that we can ever aspire to is to
become more and more one with God. In the region of nature,
which is the region of diversity, we grow by acquisition; in the
spiritual world, which is the region of unity, we grow by losing
ourselves, by uniting. Gaining a thing, as we have said, is by
its nature partial, it is limited only to a particular want; but
_being_ is complete, it belongs to our wholeness, it springs not
from any necessity but from our affinity with the infinite, which
is the principle of perfection that we have in our soul.

Yes, we must become Brahma. We must not shrink to avow this.
Our existence is meaningless if we never can expect to realise
the highest perfection that there is. If we have an aim and yet
can never reach it, then it is no aim at all.

But can it then be said that there is no difference between
Brahma and our individual soul? Of course the difference is
obvious. Call it illusion or ignorance, or whatever name you may
give it, it is there. You can offer explanations but you cannot
explain it away. Even illusion is true an illusion.

Brahma is Brahma, he is the infinite ideal of perfection. But we
are not what we truly are; we are ever to become true, ever to
become Brahma. There is the eternal play of love in the relation
between this being and the becoming; and in the depth of this
mystery is the source of all truth and beauty that sustains the
endless march of creation.

In the music of the rushing stream sounds the joyful assurance,
"I shall become the sea." It is not a vain assumption; it is
true humility, for it is the truth. The river has no other
alternative. On both sides of its banks it has numerous fields
and forests, villages and towns; it can serve them in various
ways, cleanse them and feed them, carry their produce from place
to place. But it can have only partial relations with these, and
however long it may linger among them it remains separate; it
never can become a town or a forest.

But it can and does become the sea. The lesser moving water has
its affinity with the great motionless water of the ocean. It
moves through the thousand objects on its onward course, and its
motion finds its finality when it reaches the sea.

The river can become the sea, but she can never make the sea part
and parcel of herself. If, by some chance, she has encircled
some broad sheet of water and pretends that she has made the sea
a part of herself, we at once know that it is not so, that her
current is still seeking rest in the great ocean to which it can
never set boundaries.

In the same manner, our soul can only become Brahma as the river
can become the sea. Everything else she touches at one of her
points, then leaves and moves on, but she never can leave Brahma
and move beyond him. Once our soul realises her ultimate object
of repose in Brahma, all her movements acquire a purpose. It is
this ocean of infinite rest which gives significance to endless
activities. It is this perfectness of being that lends to the
imperfection of becoming that quality of beauty which finds its
expression in all poetry, drama and art.

There must be a complete idea that animates a poem. Every
sentence of the poem touches that idea. When the reader realises
that pervading idea, as he reads on, then the reading of the poem
is full of joy to him. Then every part of the poem becomes
radiantly significant by the light of the whole. But if the poem
goes on interminably, never expressing the idea of the whole,
only throwing off disconnected images, however beautiful, it
becomes wearisome and unprofitable in the extreme. The progress
of our soul is like a perfect poem. It has an infinite idea
which once realised makes all movements full of meaning and joy.
But if we detach its movements from that ultimate idea, if we do
not see the infinite rest and only see the infinite motion, then
existence appears to us a monstrous evil, impetuously rushing
towards an unending aimlessness.

I remember in our childhood we had a teacher who used to make us
learn by heart the whole book of Sanskrit grammer, which is
written in symbols, without explaining their meaning to us. Day
after day we went toiling on, but on towards what, we had not the
least notion. So, as regards our lessons, we were in the
position of the pessimist who only counts the breathless
activities of the world, but cannot see the infinite repose of
the perfection whence these activities are gaining their
equilibrium every moment in absolute fitness and harmony. We
lose all joy in thus contemplating existence, because we miss the
truth. We see the gesticulations of the dancer, and we imagine
these are directed by a ruthless tyranny of chance, while we are
deaf to the eternal music which makes every one of these gestures
inevitably spontaneous and beautiful. These motions are ever
growing into that music of perfection, becoming one with it,
dedicating to that melody at every step the multitudinous forms
they go on creating.

And this is the truth of our soul, and this is her joy, that she
must ever be growing into Brahma, that all her movements should
be modulated by this ultimate idea, and all her creations should
be given as offerings to the supreme spirit of perfection.

There is a remarkable saying in the Upanishads: _I think not that
I know him well, or that I know him, or even that I know him not._
[Footnote: Nāham manye suvedeti no na vedeti vedacha.]

By the process of knowledge we can never know the infinite being.
But if he is altogether beyond our reach, then he is absolutely
nothing to us. The truth is that we know him not, yet we know

This has been explained in another saying of the Upanishads:
_From Brahma words come back baffled, as well as the mind, but he
who knows him by the joy of him is free from all fears._
[Footnote: Yato vācho nivartante aprāpya manasā saha ānandam
brahmaņo vidvān na vibheti kutašchana.]

Knowledge is partial, because our intellect is an instrument, it
is only a part of us, it can give us information about things
which can be divided and analysed, and whose properties can be
classified part by part. But Brahma is perfect, and knowledge
which is partial can never be a knowledge of him.

But he can be known by joy, by love. For joy is knowledge in its
completeness, it is knowing by our whole being. Intellect sets
us apart from the things to be known, but love knows its object
by fusion. Such knowledge is immediate and admits no doubt. It
is the same as knowing our own selves, only more so.

Therefore, as the Upanishads say, mind can never know Brahma,
words can never describe him; he can only be known by our soul,
by her joy in him, by her love. Or, in other words, we can only
come into relation with him by union--union of our whole being.
We must be one with our Father, we must be perfect as he is.

But how can that be? There can be no grade in infinite
perfection. We cannot grow more and more into Brahma. He is the
absolute one, and there can be no more or less in him.

Indeed, the realisation of the _paramātman_, the supreme soul,
within our _antarātman_, our inner individual soul, is in a
state of absolute completion. We cannot think of it as non-
existent and depending on our limited powers for its gradual
construction. If our relation with the divine were all a thing
of our own making, how should we rely on it as true, and how
should it lend us support?

Yes, we must know that within us we have that where space and
time cease to rule and where the links of evolution are merged in
unity. In that everlasting abode of the _ātaman_, the soul, the
revelation of the _paramātman_, the supreme soul, is already
complete. Therefore the Upanishads say: _He who knows Brahman,
the true, the all-conscious, and the infinite as hidden in the
depths of the soul, which is the supreme sky (the inner sky of
consciousness), enjoys all objects of desire in union with the
all-knowing Brahman._ [Footnote: Satyam j˝ānam anantam brahma yo
veda nihitam guhāyām paramo vyoman so'šnute sarvān kāmān saha
brahmaņa vipasšhite.]

The union is already accomplished. The _paramātman_, the supreme
soul, has himself chosen this soul of ours as his bride and the
marriage has been completed. The solemn _mantram_ has been
uttered: _Let thy heart be even as my heart is._ [Footnote:
Yadetat hŗidayam mama tadastu hŗidayan tava.] There is no room
in this marriage for evolution to act the part of the master of
ceremonies. The _eshah_, who cannot otherwise be described than
as _This_, the nameless immediate presence, is ever here in our
innermost being. "This _eshah_, or _This_, is the supreme end of
the other this"; [Footnote: Eshāsya paramā gatih] "this _This_ is
the supreme treasure of the other this"; [Footnote: Eshāsya paramā
sampat.] "this _This_ is the supreme dwelling of the other this";
[Footnote: Eshāsya paramo lokah] "this _This_ is the supreme joy
of the other this." [Footnote: Eshāsya parama ānandah] Because
the marriage of supreme love has been accomplished in timeless
time. And now goes on the endless _līlā_, the play of love. He
who has been gained in eternity is now being pursued in time and
space, in joys and sorrows, in this world and in the worlds beyond.
When the soul-bride understands this well, her heart is blissful
and at rest. She knows that she, like a river, has attained the
ocean of her fulfilment at one end of her being, and at the other
end she is ever attaining it; at one end it is eternal rest and
completion, at the other it is incessant movement and change.
When she knows both ends as inseparably connected, then she knows
the world as her own household by the right of knowing the master
of the world as her own lord. Then all her services becomes
services of love, all the troubles and tribulations of life come
to her as trials triumphantly borne to prove the strength of her
love, smilingly to win the wager from her lover. But so long as
she remains obstinately in the dark, lifts not her veil, does not
recognise her lover, and only knows the world dissociated from
him, she serves as a handmaid here, where by right she might
reign as a queen; she sways in doubt, and weeps in sorrow and
dejection. _She passes from starvation to starvation, from
trouble to trouble, and from fear to fear._ [Footnote:
Daurbhikshāt yāti daurbhiksham klešāt klešam bhayāt bhayam.]

I can never forget that scrap of a song I once heard in the early
dawn in the midst of the din of the crowd that had collected for
a festival the night before: "Ferryman, take me across to the
other shore!"

In the bustle of all our work there comes out this cry, "Take me
across." The carter in India sings while driving his cart, "Take
me across." The itinerant grocer deals out his goods to his
customers and sings, "Take me across".

What is the meaning of this cry? We feel we have not reached our
goal; and we know with all our striving and toiling we do not
come to the end, we do not attain our object. Like a child
dissatisfied with its dolls, our heart cries, "Not this, not
this." But what is that other? Where is the further shore?

Is it something else than what we have? Is it somewhere else
than where we are? Is it to take rest from all our works, to be
relieved from all the responsibilities of life?

No, in the very heart of our activities we are seeking for our
end. We are crying for the across, even where we stand. So,
while our lips utter their prayer to be carried away, our busy
hands are never idle.

In truth, thou ocean of joy, this shore and the other shore are
one and the same in thee. When I call this my own, the other
lies estranged; and missing the sense of that completeness which
is in me, my heart incessantly cries out for the other. All my
this, and that other, are waiting to be completely reconciled in
thy love.

This "I" of mine toils hard, day and night, for a home which it
knows as its own. Alas, there will be no end of its sufferings
so long as it is not able to call this home thine. Till then it
will struggle on, and its heart will ever cry, "Ferryman, lead me
across." When this home of mine is made thine, that very moment
is it taken across, even while its old walls enclose it. This
"I" is restless. It is working for a gain which can never be
assimilated with its spirit, which it never can hold and retain.
In its efforts to clasp in its own arms that which is for all, it
hurts others and is hurt in its turn, and cries, "Lead me across".
But as soon as it is able to say, "All my work is thine," everything
remains the same, only it is taken across.

Where can I meet thee unless in this mine home made thine? Where
can I join thee unless in this my work transformed into thy work?
If I leave my home I shall not reach thy home; if I cease my work
I can never join thee in thy work. For thou dwellest in me and I
in thee. Thou without me or I without thee are nothing.

Therefore, in the midst of our home and our work, the prayer
rises, "Lead me across!" For here rolls the sea, and even here
lies the other shore waiting to be reached--yes, here is this
everlasting present, not distant, not anywhere else.






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