THE COMPLETE WORKS | VOLUME 2 | SWAMI VIVEKANANDA
|| SECTION 2 | PRACTICAL VEDANTA & OTHER LECTURES ||
|| PRACTICAL VEDANTA | PART 2 OF 4 ||
I will relate to you a very ancient story from the Chhandogya Upanishad , which tells how knowledge came to a child . The form of the story is very crude , but we shall find that it contains a principle . A young child said to the parent ,
" I am going to study the Vedas . Tell me the name of my other parent and my caste " .
This parent was not married , and in India the child of one who has not been married is considered an outcast ; the child is not recognised by society and is not entitled to study the Vedas . So the poor parent said ,
" My child , I do not know your family name ; I was in service , and served in different places ; I do not know who your other parent is , but my name is Jabala and your name is Satyakama " .
The little child went to a sage and asked to be taken as a student . The sage asked ,
" What is the name of your parent , and what is your caste ? "
The child repeated what was heard from the known parent . The sage at once said ,
" None but a Brahmin could speak such a damaging truth about oneself . You are a Brahmin and I will teach you . You have not swerved from truth " .
So the sage kept and educated Satyakama .
Now come some of the peculiar methods of education in ancient India . This teacher gave Satyakama four hundred lean , weak cows to take care of , and sent Satyakama to the forest , to live for some time . The teacher had said to come back when the herd would increase to the number of one thousand . After a few years , one day Satyakama heard a big cow in the herd saying ,
" We are a thousand now ; take us back to your teacher . I will teach you a little of BRAHMAN " .
" Say on " , said Satyakama .
Then the cow said , " The East is a part of the Lord , so is the West , so is the South , so is the North . The four cardinal points are the four parts of BRAHMAN . Fire will also teach you something of BRAHMAN " .
Fire was a great symbol in those days , and every student had to procure fire and make offerings . So on the following day , Satyakama started for the Guru's house ; and when in the evening had performed oblation , worshipped at the fire , and sitting near it , Satyakama heard a voice come from the fire ,
" O Satyakama " .
" Speak , Lord " , said Satyakama .
( Perhaps you may remember a very similar story in the Old Testament , how Samuel heard a mysterious voice . )
" O Satyakama , I am come to teach you a little of BRAHMAN . This earth is a portion of that BRAHMAN . The sky and the heaven are portions of It . The ocean is a part of that BRAHMAN " .
Then the fire said that a certain bird would also teach something . Satyakama continued the journey and on the next day when Satyakama had performed evening sacrifice , a swan came and said ,
" I will teach you something about BRAHMAN . This fire which you worship , O Satyakama , is a part of that BRAHMAN . The sun is a part , the moon is a part , the lightning is a part of that BRAHMAN . A bird called Madgu will tell you more about it " .
The next evening that bird came , and a similar voice was heard by Satyakama ,
" I will tell you something about BRAHMAN . Breath is a part of BRAHMAN , sight is a part , hearing is a part , the mind is a part " .
Then the child arrived at the teacher's place and presented before the teacher with due reverence . No sooner had the teacher seen this disciple than remarked :
" Satyakama , thy face shines like that of a knower of BRAHMAN ! Who then has taught thee ? "
" Beings other than humans " , replied Satyakama .
" But I wish that you should teach me . For I have heard from those like you that knowledge which is learnt from a Guru alone leads to the supreme good " .
Then the sage taught the same knowledge which had been received from the GODs .
" And nothing was left out , yea , nothing was left out " .
Now , apart from the allegories of what the cow , the fire , and the birds taught , we see the tendency of the thought and the direction in which it was going in those days . The great idea of which we here see the germ is that all these voices are inside ourselves . As we understand these truths better , we find that the voice is in our own heart , and the student understood that all the time the student was hearing the truth ; but the explanation was not correct .
The student was interpreting the voice as coming from the external world , while all the time , it was within . The second idea that we get is that of making the knowledge of the BRAHMAN practical . The world is always seeking the practical possibilities of religion , and we find in these stories how it was becoming more and more practical every day . The truth was shown through everything with which the students were familiar . The fire they were worshipping was BRAHMAN , the earth was a part of BRAHMAN , and so on .
The next story belongs to Upakosala Kamalayana , a disciple of this Satyakama , who went to be taught and dwelt with Satyakama for some time . Now Satyakama went away on a journey , and the student became very downhearted ; and when the teacher's spouse came and asked why the child was not eating , the reply was ,
" I am too unhappy to eat " .
Then a voice came from the fire the child was worshipping , saying
" This life is BRAHMAN , BRAHMAN is the ether , and BRAHMAN is happiness . Know BRAHMAN " .
" I know " , the child replied , " that life is BRAHMAN , but that It is ether and happiness I do not know " .
Then it explained that the two words ether and happiness signified one thing in reality , viz the sentient ether ( pure intelligence ) that resides in the heart . So , it taught BRAHMAN as life and as the ether in the heart . Then the fire taught ,
" This earth , food , fire , and sun whom you worship , are forms of BRAHMAN . The person that is seen in the sun , I am That . One who knows this and meditates on That , all one's sins vanish and one has long life and becomes happy . One who lives in the cardinal points , the moon , the stars , and the water , I am That . One who lives in this life , the ether , the heavens , and the lightning , I am That " .
Here too we see the same idea of practical religion . The things which they were worshipping , such as the fire , the sun , the moon , and so forth , and the voice with which they were familiar , form the subject of the stories which explain them and give them a higher meaning . And this is the real , practical side of Vedanta . It does not destroy the world , but it explains it ; it does not destroy the person , but explains it ; it does not destroy the individuality , but explains it by showing the real individuality . It does not show that this world is vain and does not exist , but it says ,
" Understand what this world is , so that it may not hurt you " .
The voice did not say to Upakosala that the fire which being worshipped , or the sun , or the moon , or the lightning , or anything else , was all wrong , but it showed that the same spirit which was inside the sun , and moon , and lightning , and the fire , and the earth , was in Upakosala , so that everything became transformed , as it were , in the eyes of Upakosala . The fire which was merely a material fire before , in which to make oblations , assumed a new aspect and became the Lord . The earth became transformed , life became transformed , the sun , the moon , the stars , the lightning , everything became transformed and deified . Their real nature was known .
The theme of the Vedanta is to see the Lord in everything , to see things in their real nature , not as they appear to be . Then another lesson is taught in the Upanishads :
" One who shines through the eyes is BRAHMAN ; One is the Beautiful One , One is the Shining One . One shines in all these worlds " .
A certain peculiar light , a commentator says , which comes to the pure , is what is meant by the light in the eyes , and it is said that when one is pure such a light will shine in the eyes , and that light belongs really to the Soul within , which is everywhere . It is the same light which shines in the planets , in the stars , and suns .
I will now read to you some other doctrine of these ancient Upanishads , about birth and death and so on . Perhaps it will interest you .
Shvetaketu went to the ruler of the Panchalas , and the ruler asked ,
" Do you know where people go when they die ?
Do you know how they come back ?
Do you know why the other world does not become full ? "
The child replied about not knowing , and then went to the parent and asked the same questions .
The parent said , " I do not know " , and went to the ruler .
The ruler said that this knowledge was never known to the priests , it was only with the rulers , and that was the reason why rulers ruled the world . Gautama stayed with the ruler for some time , for the ruler promised to teach more .
" The other world , O Gautama , is the fire . The sun is its fuel . The rays are the smoke . The day is the flame . The moon is the embers . And the stars are the sparks . In this fire the gods pour libation of faith and from this libation ruler Soma is born " . So on the ruler goes .
" You need not make oblation to that little fire : the whole world is that fire , and this oblation , this worship , is continually going on . The gods , and the angels , and everybody is worshipping it . The human is the greatest symbol of fire , the body of humans " .
Here also we see the ideal becoming practical and BRAHMAN is seen in everything . The principle that underlies all these stories is that invented symbolism may be good and helpful , but already better symbols exist than any we can invent . You may invent an image through which to worship GOD , but a better image already exists , the living human . You may build a temple in which to worship GOD , and that may be good , but a better one , a much higher one , already exists , the human body .
You remember that the Vedas have two parts , the ceremonial and the knowledge portions . In time ceremonials had multiplied and become so intricate that it was almost hopeless to disentangle them , and so in the Upanishads we find that the ceremonials are almost done away with , but gently , by explaining them . We see that in old times they had these oblations and sacrifices , then the philosophers came , and instead of snatching away the symbols from the hands of the ignorant , instead of taking the negative position , which we unfortunately find so general in modern reforms , they gave them something to take their place .
" Here is the symbol of fire " , they said .
" Very good ! But here is another symbol , the earth . What a grand , great symbol ! Here is this little temple , but the whole universe is a temple ; one can worship anywhere . There are the peculiar figures that people draw on the earth , and there are the altars , but here is the greatest of altars , the living , conscious human body , and to worship at this altar is far higher than the worship of any dead symbols " .
We now come to a peculiar doctrine . I do not understand much of it myself . If you can make something out of it , I will read it to you . When one dies , who has by meditation purified oneself and got knowledge , one first goes to light , then from light to day , from day to the light half of the moon , from that to the six months when the sun goes to the north , from that to the year , from the year to the sun , from the sun to the moon , from the moon to the lightning , and when one comes to the sphere of lightning , one meets a person who is not human , and that person leads one to ( the conditioned ) BRAHMAN . This is the way of the gods . When sages and wise persons die , they go that way and they do not return . What is meant by this month and year , and all these things , no one understands clearly . Each one gives one's own meaning , and some say it is all nonsense .
What is meant by going to the world of the moon and of the sun , and this person who comes to help the soul after it has reached the sphere of lightning , no one knows . There is an idea among the Hindus that the moon is a place where life exists , and we shall see how life has come from there . Those that have not attained to knowledge , but have done good work in this life , first go , when they die , through smoke , then to night , then to the dark fifteen days , then to the six months when the sun goes to the south , and from that they go to the region of their forefathers , then to ether , then to the region of the moon , and there become the food of the gods , and later , are born as gods and live there so long as their good works will permit .
And when the effect of the good work has been finished , they come back to earth by the same route . They first become ether , and then air , and then smoke , and then mist , then cloud , and then fall upon the earth as raindrops ; then they get into food , which is eaten up by human beings , and finally become their children . Those whose works have been very good take birth in good families , and those whose works have been bad take bad births , even in animal bodies . Animals are continually coming to and going from this earth . That is why the earth is neither full nor empty .
Several ideas we can get also from this , and later on , perhaps , we shall be able to understand it better , and we can speculate a little upon what it means . The last part which deals with how those who have been in heaven return , is clearer , perhaps , than the first part ; but the whole idea seems to be this that there is no permanent heaven without realising GOD .
Now some people who have not realised GOD , but have done good work in this world , with the view of enjoying the results , go , when they die , through this and that place , until they reach heaven , and there they are born in the same way as we are here , as children of the gods , and they live there as long as their good works will permit .
Out of this comes one basic idea of the Vedanta that everything which has name and form is transient . This earth is transient , because it has name and form , and so the heavens must be transient , because there also name and form remain . A heaven which is eternal will be contradictory in terms , because everything that has name and form must begin in time , exist in time , and end in time . These are settled doctrines of the Vedanta , and as such the heavens are given up .
We have seen in the Samhita that the idea of heaven was that it was eternal , much the same as is prevalent among Mohammedans and Christians . The Mohammedans concretise it a little more . They say it is a place where there are gardens , beneath which rivers run . In the desert of Arabia water is very desirable , so the Mohammedan always conceives of heaven as containing much water .
I was born in a country where there are six months of rain every year . I should think of heaven , I suppose , as a dry place , and so also would the English people . These heavens in the Samhita are eternal , and the departed have beautiful bodies and live with their forefathers , and are happy ever afterwards . There they meet with their parents , children , and other relatives , and lead very much the same sort of life as here , only much happier .
All the difficulties and obstructions to happiness in this life have vanished , and only its good parts and enjoyments remain . But however comfortable humankind may consider this state of things , truth is one thing and comfort is another . There are cases where truth is not comfortable until we reach its climax . Human nature is very conservative It does something , and having once done that , finds it hard to get out of it . The mind will not receive new thoughts , because they bring discomfort .
In the Upanishads , we see a tremendous departure made . It is declared that these heavens in which people live with the ancestors after death cannot be permanent , seeing that everything which has name and form must die . If there are heavens with forms , these heavens must vanish in course of time ; they may last millions of years , but there must come a time when they will have to go . With this idea came another that these souls must come back to earth , and that heavens are places where they enjoy the results of their good works , and after these effects are finished they come back into this earth life again . One thing is clear from this that humankind had a perception of the philosophy of causation even at the early time .
Later on we shall see how our philosophers bring that out in the language of philosophy and logic , but here it is almost in the language of children . One thing you may remark in reading these books that it is all internal perception . If you ask me if this can be practical , my answer is , it has been practical first , and philosophical next . You can see that first these things have been perceived and realised and then written . This world spoke to the early thinkers . Birds spoke to them , animals spoke to them , the sun and the moon spoke to them ; and little by little they realised things , and got into the heart of nature .
Not by cogitation not by the force of logic , not by picking the brains of others and making a big book , as is the fashion in modern times , not even as I do , by taking up one of their writings and making a long lecture , but by patient investigation and discovery they found out the truth . Its essential method was practice , and so it must be always .
Religion is ever a practical science , and there never was nor will be any theological religion . It is practice first , and knowledge afterwards . The idea that souls come back is already there . Those persons who do good work with the idea of a result , get it , but the result is not permanent . There we get the idea of causation very beautifully put forward , that the effect is only commensurate with the cause . As the cause is , so the effect will be . The cause being finite , the effect must be finite . If the cause is eternal the effect can be eternal , but all these causes , doing good work , and all other things , are only finite causes , and as such cannot produce infinite result .
We now come to the other side of the question . As there cannot be an eternal heaven , on the same grounds , there cannot be an eternal hell . Suppose I am a very wicked person , doing evil every minute of my life . Still , my whole life here , compared with my eternal life , is nothing . If there be an eternal punishment , it will mean that there is an infinite effect produced by a finite cause , which cannot be . If I do good all my life , I cannot have an infinite heaven ; it would be making the same mistake .
But there is a third course which applies to those who have known the Truth , to those who have realised It . This is the only way to get beyond this veil of Maya — to realise what Truth is ; and the Upanishads indicate what is meant by realising the Truth .
It means recognising neither good nor bad , but knowing all as coming from the Self ; Self is in everything . It means denying the universe ; shutting your eyes to it ; seeing the Lord in hell as well as in heaven ; seeing the Lord in death as well as in life . This is the line of thought in the passage I have read to you ; the earth is a symbol of the Lord , the sky is the Lord , the place we fill is the Lord , everything is BRAHMAN . And this is to be seen , realised , not simply talked or thought about .
We can see as its logical consequence that when the soul has realised that everything is full of the Lord , of BRAHMAN , it will not care whether it goes to heaven , or hell , or anywhere else ; whether it be born again on this earth or in heaven . These things have ceased to have any meaning to that soul , because every place is the same , every place is the temple of the Lord , every place has become holy and the presence of the Lord is all that it sees in heaven , or hell , or anywhere else . Neither good nor bad , neither life nor death — only the one infinite BRAHMAN exists .
According to the Vedanta , when one has arrived at that perception , one has become free , and one is the only one who is fit to live in this world . Others are not . How can one live in this world who sees evil ? That life is a mass of misery . The one who sees dangers , that life is a misery ; the one who sees death , that life is a misery .
That person alone can live in this world , who alone can say , " I enjoy this life , and I am happy in this life " , who has seen the Truth , and the Truth in everything .
By the by , I may tell you that the idea of hell does not occur in the Vedas anywhere . It comes with the Puranas much later .
The worst punishment according to the Vedas is coming back to earth , having another chance in this world . From the very first we see the idea is taking the impersonal turn . The ideas of punishment and reward are very material , and they are only consonant with the idea of a human GOD , who loves one and hates another , just as we do . Punishment and reward are only admissible with the existence of such a GOD . They had such a GOD in the Samhita , and there we find the idea of fear entering , but as soon as we come to the Upanishads , the idea of fear vanishes , and the impersonal idea takes its place . It is naturally the hardest thing for one to understand , this impersonal idea , for one is always clinging on to the person .
Even people who are thought to be great thinkers get disgusted at the idea of the Impersonal GOD . But to me it seems so absurd to think of GOD as an embodied human . Which is the higher idea , a living GOD , or a dead GOD ? A GOD whom nobody sees , nobody knows , or a GOD Known ?
The Impersonal GOD is a living GOD , a principle . The difference between personal and impersonal is this , that the personal is only a human , and the impersonal idea is that GOD is the angel , the human , the animal , and yet something more which we cannot see , because impersonality includes all personalities , is the sum total of everything in the universe , and infinitely more besides .
" As the one fire coming into the world is manifesting itself in so many forms , and yet is infinitely more besides " , so is the Impersonal .
We want to worship a living GOD . I have seen nothing but GOD all my life , nor have you . To see this chair you first see GOD , and then the chair in and through GOD , GOD is everywhere saying , " I am " . The moment you feel " I am " , you are conscious of Existence . Where shall we go to find GOD if we cannot see GOD in our own hearts and in every living being ?
" Thou art the adult , Thou art the youth . Thou art the elder tottering with a stick . Thou art the young adult walking in the pride of strength " .
Thou art all that exists , a wonderful living GOD who is the only fact in the universe . This seems to many to be a terrible contradiction to the traditional GOD who lives behind a veil somewhere and whom nobody ever sees . The priests only give us an assurance that if we follow them , listen to their admonitions , and walk in the way they mark out for us — then when we die , they will give us a passport to enable us to see the face of GOD ! What are all these heaven ideas but simply modifications of this nonsensical priestcraft ?
Of course the impersonal idea is very destructive , it takes away all trade from the priests , churches , and temples . In India there is a famine now , but there are temples in each one of which there are jewels worth a king's ransom ! If the priests taught this Impersonal idea to the people , their occupation would be gone . Yet we have to teach it unselfishly , without priestcraft . You are GOD and so am I ; who obeys whom ? Who worships whom ? You are the highest temple of GOD ; I would rather worship you than any temple , image , or Bible .
Why are some people so contradictory in their thought ? They are like fish slipping through our fingers . They say they are hard-headed practical people . Very good . But what is more practical than worshipping here , worshipping you ? I see you , feel you , and I know you are GOD . The Mohammedan says , there is no GOD but Allah .
The Vedanta says , there is nothing that is not GOD . It may frighten many of you , but you will understand it by degrees . The living GOD is within you , and yet you are building churches and temples and believing all sorts of imaginary nonsense . The only GOD to worship is the human soul in the human body . Of course all animals are temples too , but the human is the highest , the Taj Mahal of temples . If I cannot worship in that , no other temple will be of any advantage . The moment I have realised GOD sitting in the temple of every human body , the moment I stand in reverence before every human being and see GOD inside — that moment I am free from bondage , everything that binds vanishes , and I am free .
This is the most practical of all worship . It has nothing to do with theorising and speculation . Yet it frightens many . They say it is not right . They go on theorising about old ideals told them by their grandparents , that a GOD somewhere in heaven had told some one that one was GOD . Since that time we have only theories . This is practicality according to them , and our ideas are impractical !
No doubt , the Vedanta says that each one must have one's own path , but the path is not the goal . The worship of a GOD in heaven and all these things are not bad , but they are only steps towards the Truth and not the Truth itself . They are good and beautiful , and some wonderful ideas are there , but the Vedanta says at every point ,
" My friend , THAT whom you are worshipping as unknown , I worship as thee . THAT whom you are worshipping as unknown and are seeking for , throughout the universe , has been with you all the time . You are living through THAT , and THAT is the Eternal Witness of the universe . "
" That whom all the Vedas worship , nay , more , That who is always present in the eternal ' I ' . That existing , the whole universe exists . That is the light and life of the universe . If the ' I ' were not in you , you would not see the sun , everything would be a dark mass . That shining , you see the world " .
One question is generally asked , and it is this that this may lead to a tremendous amount of difficulty . Everyone of us will think ,
" I am GOD , and whatever I do or think must be good , for GOD can do no evil " .
In the first place , even taking this danger of misinterpretation for granted , can it be proved that on the other side the same danger does not exist ? They have been worshipping a GOD in heaven separate from them , and of whom they are much afraid . They have been born shaking with fear , and all their life they will go on shaking . Has the world been made much better by this ? Those who have understood and worshipped a Personal GOD , and those who have understood and worshipped an Impersonal GOD , on which side have been the great workers of the world — gigantic workers , gigantic moral powers ? Certainly on the Impersonal . How can you expect morality to be developed through fear ? It can never be .
" Where one sees another , where one hears another , that is Maya . When one does not see another , when one does not hear another , when everything has become the Atman , who sees whom , who perceives whom ? "
It is all GOD , and all I , at the same time . The soul has become pure . Then , and then alone we understand what love is . Love cannot come through fear , its basis is freedom . When we really begin to love the world , then we understand what is meant by siblinghood or humankind , and not before .
So , it is not right to say that the Impersonal idea will lead to a tremendous amount of evil in the world , as if the other doctrine never lent itself to works of evil , as if it did not lead to sectarianism deluging the world with blood and causing people to tear each other to pieces .
" My GOD is the greatest GOD , let us decide it by a free fight " .
That is the outcome of dualism all over the world . Come out into the broad open light of day , come out from the little narrow paths , for how can the infinite soul rest content to live and die in small ruts ? Come out into the universe of Light . Everything in the universe is yours , stretch out your arms and embrace it with love . If you ever felt you wanted to do that , you have felt GOD .
You remember that passage in the sermon of Buddha , how Buddha sent a thought of love towards the south , the north , the east , and the west , above and below , until the whole universe was filled with this lose , so grand , great , and infinite . When you have that feeling , you have true personality .
The whole universe is one person ; let go the little things . Give up the small for the Infinite , give up small enjoyments for infinite bliss . It is all yours , for the Impersonal includes the Personal . So GOD is Personal and Impersonal at the same time . And the One , the Infinite , Impersonal One , is manifesting as person . We the infinite have limited ourselves , as it were , into small parts .
The Vedanta says that Infinity is our true nature ; it will never vanish , it will abide for ever . But we are limiting ourselves by our Karma , which like a chain round our necks has dragged us into this limitation . Break that chain and be free . Trample law under your feet . There is no law in human nature , there is no destiny , no fate . How can there be law in infinity ?
Freedom is its watchword . Freedom is its nature , its birthright . Be free , and then have any number of personalities you like . Then we will play like the actor who comes upon the stage and plays the part of a beggar . Contrast the actor with the actual beggar walking in the streets . The scene is , perhaps , the same in both cases , the words are , perhaps , the same , but yet what difference ! The one enjoys beggary while the other is suffering misery from it . And what makes this difference ? The one is free and the other is bound . The actor knows one's beggary is not true , but that one has assumed it for play , while the real beggar thinks that it is one's too familiar state and that one has to bear it whether one wills it or not . This is the law .
So long as we have no knowledge of our real nature , we are beggars , jostled about by every force in nature ; and made slaves of by everything in nature ; we cry all over the world for help , but help never comes to us ; we cry to imaginary beings , and yet it never comes . But still we hope help will come , and thus in weeping , wailing , and hoping , one life is passed , and the same play goes on and on .
Be free ; hope for nothing from anyone . I am sure if you look back upon your lives you will find that you were always vainly trying to get help from others which never came . All the help that has come was from within yourselves . You only had the fruits of what you yourselves worked for , and yet you were strangely hoping all the time for help . A rich person's parlour is always full ; but if you notice , you do not find the same people there . The visitors are always hoping that they will get something from those wealthy people , but they never do . So are our lives spent in hoping , hoping , hoping , which never comes to an end .
Give up hope , says the Vedanta . Why should you hope ? You have everything , nay , you are everything . What are you hoping for ?
If a ruler goes mad , and runs about trying to find the ruler of one's country , one will never find the ruler , because one is the ruler oneself . One may go through every village and city in one's own country , seeking in every house , weeping and wailing , but one will never find the ruler , because one is the ruler oneself .
It is better that we know we are GOD and give up this fool's search after GOD ; and knowing that we are GOD we become happy and contented . Give up all these mad pursuits , and then play your part in the universe , as an actor on the stage .
The whole vision is changed , and instead of an eternal prison this world has become a playground ; instead of a land of competition it is a land of bliss , where there is perpetual spring , flowers bloom and butterflies flit about . This very world becomes heaven , which formerly was hell . To the eyes of the bound it is a tremendous place of torment , but to the eyes of the free it is quite otherwise . This one life is the universal life , heavens and all those places are here . All the gods are here , the prototypes of human . The gods did not create human after their type , but human created gods . And here are the prototypes , here is Indra , here is Varuna , and all the gods of the universe . We have been projecting our little doubles , and we are the originals of these gods , we are the real , the only gods to be worshipped . This is the view of the Vedanta , and this its practicality .
When we have become free , we need not go mad and throw up society and rush off to die in the forest or the cave ; we shall remain where we were , only we shall understand the whole thing . The same phenomena will remain , but with a new meaning . We do not know the world yet ; it is only through freedom that we see what it is , and understand its nature . We shall see then that this so-called law , or fate , or destiny occupied only an infinitesimal part of our nature . It was only one side , but on the other side there was freedom all the time . We did not know this , and that is why we have been trying to save ourselves from evil by hiding our faces in the ground , like the hunted hare .
Through delusion we have been trying to forget our nature , and yet we could not ; it was always calling upon us , and all our search after GOD or gods , or external freedom , was a search after our real nature . We mistook the voice . We thought it was from the fire , or from a GOD or the sun , or moon , or stars , but at last we have found that it was from within ourselves . Within ourselves is this eternal voice speaking of eternal freedom ; its music is eternally going on . Part of this music of the Soul has become the earth , the law , this universe , but it was always ours and always will be . In one word , the ideal of Vedanta is to know the human in reality , and this is its message , that if you cannot worship your kindred human , the manifested GOD , how can you worship a GOD who is unmanifested ?
Do you not remember what the Bible says ,
" If you cannot love your kindred whom you have seen , how can you love GOD whom you have not seen ? "
If you cannot see GOD in the human face , how can you see GOD in the clouds , or in images made of dull , dead matter , or in mere fictitious stories of our brain ? I shall call you religious from the day you begin to see GOD in people , and then you will understand what is meant by turning the left cheek to the one who strikes you on the right . When you see the human as GOD , everything , even the tiger , will be welcome . Whatever comes to you is but the Lord , the Eternal , the Blessed One , appearing to us in various forms , as our parent , and friend , and child — they are our own soul playing with us .
As our human relationships can thus be made divine , so our relationship with GOD may take any of these forms and we can look upon GOD as our parent , or friend , or beloved . Calling GOD Parent is a high ideal ; and to call GOD Friend is still higher ; but the highest is to regard GOD as the Beloved . The highest point of all is to see no difference between lover and beloved . You may remember , perhaps , the old Persian story , of how a lover came and knocked at the door of the beloved and was asked ,
" Who are you ? " The lover answered , " It is I " , and there was no response .
A second time the lover came , and exclaimed , " I am here " , but the door was not opened .
One the third time , the voice asked from inside , " Who is there ? " The reply , " I am thyself , my beloved " , and the door opened .
So is the relation between GOD and ourselves . GOD is in everything , GOD is everything . Every person is the palpable , blissful , living GOD . Who says GOD is unknown ? Who says GOD is to be searched after ? We have found GOD eternally . We have been living in GOD eternally ; everywhere GOD is eternally known , eternally worshipped .
Then comes another idea , that other forms of worship are not errors . This is one of the great points to be remembered , that those who worship GOD through ceremonials and forms , however crude we may think them to be , are not in error . It is the journey from truth to truth , from lower truth to higher truth . Darkness is less light ; evil is less good ; impurity is less purity . It must always be borne in mind that we should see others with eyes of love , with sympathy , knowing that they are going along the same path that we have trodden . If you are free , you must know that all will be so sooner or later , and if you are free , how can you see the impermanent ? If you are really pure , how do you see the impure ? For what is within , is without . We cannot see impurity without having it inside ourselves . This is one of the practical sides of Vedanta , and I hope that we shall all try to carry it into our lives .
Our whole life here is to carry this into practice , but the one great point we gain is that we shall work with satisfaction and contentment , instead of with discontent and dissatisfaction , for we know that Truth is within us , we have It as our birthright , and we have only to manifest It , and make It tangible .
SOURCE | SATYAVEDISM.ORG