A Lecture delivered, in January, 1903, Golden Gate Hall, San Francisco
The ruler, governor, controller of maya in the form of ladies and gentlemen!
The subject o£ tonight’s discourse is Maya. This is a subject which superficial critics look upon as the weakest point in the Philosophy of the Vedanta. Today we shall take up that weakest point. All those Philosophers and thinkers who have studied the Philosophy of the Vedanta say unanimously that if this Maya could be elucidated, then everything else in the Vedanta would be acceptable, everything else in it was so natural, so plain, so clear, so beneficial and useful. This is the one hitch, the one stumbling block in the way of students of the Vedanta. This is a vast subject. In order that we may exhaust it thoroughly, about ten Lectures ought to be devoted to this subject alone and then can the subject be placed on such a clear, lucid basis that no doubt or question under the Sun or on the face of the Earth would be left unanswered; everything can be made plain, but it requires time. Hurrying readers and hurrying listeners are not expected to understand that thoroughly.
The question is, ‘Why this world, whence this world?’ or to put it in Vedantic language, ‘Why this ignorance in the universe?’ You know the Vedanta preaches that this universe is unreal, merely phenomenal. Ignorance is not eternal. All these phenomena are not real or eternal. The question comes, ‘Why should this ignorance be?’ Why should this ignorance which is the cause of these phenomena, or this Maya which is at the root of all this meum and tuam, difference and differentiation, why should this ignorance overpower the true Self or Atma? Why should this Maya or ignorance be more powerful than God?
In common language, in the language of other philosophers and theologians, the question is, ‘Why should this world exist at all?’ Why should God have created this world?’ The Vedanta says, “No, brother, you have no right to ask that question. There is no answer to this question”. The Vedanta plainly says there is no answer to this question. It says we can prove it to you experimentally and directly that this world that you see is in reality nothing else but God, and we can show to you conclusively through experiment that when you advance high enough in the realization of the Truth, this world will disappear for you; but why does this world exist at all? We desist from answering that question. You have no right to put that question. The Vedanta plainly confesses its inability to answer that question, and herein all the other theologians and dogmatizers and all superficial philosophers come forward and say, “Oh, oh, the Vedanta Philosophy is imperfect, it cannot explain the why and the wherefore of the world.” The Vedanta says, “Brother, examine the answers that you yourself give to this question ‘ the why and wherefore of the world,’ examine them carefully and you will see that your answers are no answers at all. It is mere waste of time to dwell upon that question, sheer waste of time and labour. It is letting go a bird in the hand in search of two in the bush. They will fly away before you reach them and you will lose the bird in your hand. That also will fly away. The Vedanta says all Philosophy and all Science must proceed from, the known to the unknown. Do not put the cart before the horse; do not begin from the unknown and then come to the known.
There was a river flowing, on the banks of which Some people were standing and philosophising as to its origin. One of them said, “This river comes from rocks, from stones, from hills. Out of hills, water gushes in spring, and that is the cause of this river.” Another man said, “Oh, no, impossible. Stones are so hard, so tough and so rigid and water is so liquid and soft. How can soft water come out of hard stones? Impossible! Impossible! Reason cannot believe that hard stones are giving out soft water. If stones could give out water, then let me take up this piece of stone and squeeze it. Out of this no water flows. Thus the statement that this river flowed from those mountains is absurd. I have a very good theory. This river flows from the perspiration of a big giant somewhere. We see every day that when a person perspires, water flows from his body. Here is water flowing; it must have flowed from the body of somebody who is perspiring; that is reasonable, our intellects can accept it. That seems to be plausible; that is all right.” Another man said, “No, no, it is somebody standing somewhere who is spitting and this is the spit.” Another man said, “No, no.”
Now these people said, “Look here, look here, all these theories of ours are feasible, all these theories of the origin of water are practical. Every day we see such things. These theories about the origin of the river are very plausible, seem to be good and grand, but the theory that water flows from stones, the ordinary intellect of a man who has never seen water gushing out from stones, who has never been on the mountains, will not accept, and yet it is true.” And on what does the truth of this theory rest? On experience, on experiment, on direct observation.
Similarly, the origin of the world, why this world and whence this world, the origin of the stream of this world, the origin of the stream of the universe, the river of life, is described differently by different people. The origin of the world according to people of that kind of intellect which ascribed the origin of the river to spittle and to perspiration, is interpreted in much the same way. They say, “Here is a man who makes boots, the boot* could not be made without somebody with some intention or design of making. Here is a man who makes a watch. Now the watch could not be made without somebody with some plan or design of making it. Here is a house. The house could not be made without somebody having the plan and design. They see that every day, and then they say, “Here is the world. The world could not have been made without some kind of person of the same sort as the shoemaker, the watchmaker, the house maker, and so there must be a world maker, who makes this world, and thus they say that there is a personal God, standing upon the clouds, not taking pity upon the poor fellow that he might take cold.’ They say some personal God must have made this world.”
Their argument seems to be very plausible and reasonable, to be of the same sort as the arguments of those people who said that the river flows from perspiration of somebody. The world also must have been made by somebody.
The Vedanta does not propose any theory of that kind. The Vedanta says, see it, make an experiment, observe it, through direct realization you see that the world is not what it appears to be. How is that? The Vedanta says, so far I can explain to you that the water is coming out of those stones. How the water comes out of the stones, 1 may or may not be able to tell you, but I know the water comes out of stones. Follow me to that place and you will see the water gushing out of the stones. If I cannot tell why the water comes out of the stones, do not blame me; blame the water, it is coming out of the stones.
Similarly, the Vedanta says whether or not I am able to tell you why this Maya or ignorance is, it remains a fact. Why it came I may not be able to tell you. This is a fact, an experimental fact. The Vedantic attitude is merely experimental and scientific. It establishes no hypothesis, it puts forth no theory. It does Hot claim to be able to explain the origin of the world; this is beyond the sphere of intellect or comprehension. That is the position of the Vedanta. This is called Maya. Why does the world appear? The Vedanta says because you see it. Why is the world there? The Vedanta simply says because you see it. You do not see, there is no world, flow do you know that the world is there? Because you see it. Do not see, and where is the world? Close your eyes, a fifth of the world is gone; that part of the world which you perceive through your eyes is no longer there. Close your ears and another fifth is gone; close your nose and another fifth is gone. Do not put any of your senses into activity and there is no world. You see the world and you ought to explain why the world is there. You make it there. You should answer yourself. Why do you ask me? You make the world there.
There was a child. It saw in a mirror the image of a little boy, his own image, and somebody told the child that in the mirror there was a very beautiful, dear little child, and when he looked into the mirror, he saw a dear little boy, but the child did not know that it was his own reflection, he took it to be some strange boy in the mirror. Afterwards the mother of the child wanted to persuade him that the boy in the mirror was only his own reflection, not a real boy, but the boy could not – be persuaded, he could not understand that in the mirror there was not really another boy. When the mother said, “Look here, here is a mirror, there is no boy in it,’ the child came up to it and said, ‘O Mamma, O Mamma, why is the boy here?’ When the boy was saying, ‘here is the boy,’ in the very act of saying “here is the boy”, he cast his own reflection in the mirror. Again the mother wanted to persuade him that there was not a real boy in the mirror; then again the boy wanted to have a proof or demonstration. The boy went up to the mirror and said, ‘ Look here, here is the boy,’ but in the very act of proving that there was no object in the mirror, the boy put the object in the mirror.
Similarly when you come up and say, ‘why the world, whence the world, how the world,’ the very moment you begin to investigate the origin and the why and wherefore of the world, that very moment you create the world there. So how can you know the origin and wherefore of the world? How shall we know its origin? How shall we know beyond it? How shall we transcend it? This ought to be made more clear, from both the microcosmic and metaphysical stand – points.
Some say that a mundane god created the world, that there is a creator standing somewhere. If they see a house, they know that it was made by someone; so they say that this world was made by some body. Now the question is, this creator in order to create the world must have stood somewhere. Where did he stand? If he stood somewhere, if he had a resting place, then the world was already present before it was created, because the resting place must be somewhere in the world. The world was present before it was created. When you begin to examine when the world began, you want to separate two ideas, the idea of when, why, and wherefore on one side, and the idea of the world on the other side; and the words why, when, and wherefore, the ideas of time, space, and causation, are they not a part of the world? They are certainly. And here, you mark, you want to know the origin, the why and wherefore of the whole world. Time, space, and causation are also in the world, not beyond the world. The very moment you begin to say when the world began, the world is on one side and the idea of when on the other side. There you keep the world before the world. This is very subtle and very difficult, and you will kindly attend closely, most carefully.
The world began, when? There you want to take away the world from itself; you want to separate the idea of when from the world; you want to measure the world by when and why, but you know that when and why are themselves the world. You want to transcend the world, go beyond the world, and there you place the world.
Once an Inspector came to a school and put this question to the boys, ‘ If a piece of chalk is allowed to fall in air, when will it reach the earth?’ A boy answered, “In so many seconds.” ‘If a piece of stone is allowed to fall from such and such a height, in what time will it fall?’ The boy answered, “In this time.” Then the Inspector said, ‘ If this thing is allowed to fall, what time will it take? ‘The boy answered. Then the examiner put a catch question, “If the earth falls, what time will it take to fall?’ The boys were confounded. One smart boy answered, “First let me know where the earth will fall.’
Similarly we can put the question when this lamp was lighted, when this house was built, and when this floor was set, etc. But when we ask the questions, ‘When was the Earth created, when was the world created,’ this catch question is of the same sort as the question ‘What time will the Earth take to fall? ‘Where will the earth fall? Why, when, and wherefore are themselves a part of the world, and when we are speaking of this why, when, and wherefore of the whole world, then we are arguing in a circle, making a logical fallacy, Could you jump out of yourself? No. Similarly why, when, and wherefore being themselves the world, are part of the world, they cannot explain the world, the whole universe. That is what the Vedanta says.
It will be explained in a different way now.
Here is a man asleep, and in his sleep he sees all sorts of objects. He is the subject and the object; the subject of the dream, I will say, the bewildered subject of the dream and the woods, rivers, mountains and other things. There the object of the dream and the subject make their appearance simultaneously, as was shown the other night. Could the subject in a dream, the traveller in the dream, tell when these rivers, mountains, lakes, and other landscapes came into existence? So long as you are dreaming, could you tell when these objects came into existence? No, never. When you are dreaming, to you the rivers, dales, mountains and landscapes will appear to be eternal, to you all these appear to be natural, as if in existence from eternity. As the dreaming subject, you will never suppose that you ever commenced your dream, you will look upon that to be real, and all those dales, rivers, landscapes will seem to be eternal; you can never know their origin; you can never know the why, when, and wherefore of the dream so long as you are dreaming. Wake up, and the whole is gone, wake up and all disappears.
Similarly in this world you see all sorts of objects; they seem to be real, and there seems to be no end to them, just as in a dream there is no end; you cannot know when the dream began. Can you tell when Time began? This is an antinomy pointed out by Kant also. When did Time begin? When you say Time began at that time, you posit Time. This question is impossible. Where did Space begin? The question is impossible. Beyond where Space began, you place a point where it began; the beginning of Space is surrounded by the idea of ‘where,’ and the idea of ‘where’ includes that of place. The question is impossible. Where did the chain of Causation begin? The question is impossible. Why did the chain of Causation begin? The question is impossible. Oh, if you point out any beginning of the chain of Causation, you see that the idea of why is itself causation. It goes beyond you. This is a question which is unanswerable. There is no end to Time, Space or Causation whether on this side or the other. Schopenhauer proves it; Herbert Spencer proves it; every thinker will show to you that there is no end to it. In dreams also, there is no end to the particular kind of time which you perceive in the dream, whether on this side or the other; in dreams also no end to the particular kind of space which you perceive in your dreams; in dreams there is no end to the particular kind of causation which you see in them.
So it is in the wakeful state. All those people who try to answer this question empirically are losing their way and reasoning in a circle and confounding themselves. Thus all the empirical solutions of the problem are impossible. When the dreaming subject wakes up, the whole problem is solved! And waking up, the dreaming subject says, “Oh, there was no dream, that was all along a reality.’ Similarly, in waking up to a realization of the Truth, on achieving that perfect state of liberation which the Vedanta holds up before everybody, you can see that all this* world was a mere joke, mere plaything, mere illusion, nothing else.
The same question of Maya is put in this way also: “If man is God, why should he forget his real nature?” The Vedanta answers: “The real God in you never forgot its real nature; if the real God in you had forgotten its real nature, it would not have been all the time controlling and ruling this universe; the real God has not forgotten at all. He is still controlling and ruling this universe. Then who has forgotten? Nobody; nobody has forgotten. It is just like a dream. In the dream, when you see different kinds of objects, in reality it is not you that see those things, it is the subject in the dream, which is created along with the other objects in the dream, which finds all that, which sees all those scenes, and dwells in those dales, mountains, and rivers. The real Self, the Atma, the true God, has never forgotten anything. This idea of a false ego is itself the creation of Maya, or an illusion of the same sort as the other objects are. The true Self has not forgotten anything. When you say, ‘ Why did God forget Himself into a man, into a little egotistical self, the Vedanta says, in this question of yours there is what logicians call the fallacy of a circle in the proof. To whom are you putting this question? Are you putting this question to the dreaming subject or to the wakeful subject? To the dreaming subject you should not put the question because the dreaming subject has not forgotten anything. That is a creation like the other subjects it sees, and to the real subject in the wakeful state you cannot put the question. Who will put the question? You know the questioner in the dreams must be in the dream itself, and when the dreaming subject is removed, then who will put the question? All duality of questioning and answering is possible only so long as the dream of Maya continues or lasts. You can put the questions only to the dreaming subject, and the dreaming subject is not responsible for it; let the dreaming subject be removed, and the whole panorama, the whole dream vanishes, and nobody is left to put the question. Who will put the question to whom?
Here is a beautiful boat, and here is the picture of a boatman, who ferries the boat across the river. The boatman is a very good man and he is the master of the boat, only so long as it is looked upon to be real; the master of the boat is master in the same sense as the boat is a boat. In reality the boat is nowhere and the master of the boat is nowhere. Both are unreal. But when we point out to a child, “Come along, come along, what a beautiful master of the boat,” both the master of the boat and the boat are of the same sort. We have no right to call the master of the boat more real than the boat itself.
Similarly according to the Vedanta, the Controller, Governor, Master of the world, or God, the idea of God is related to this world as in that picture the boatman is related to the boat. So long as the boat is there, the boatman is, also there. When you realize the unreality of the boat, the boatman also disappears.
Similarly the idea of a Controller, Governor, Creator, Maker, is real to you so long as the world appears to you to be real. Let the world go, and that idea also goes. The idea of the Creator implies creation, why, when, and wherefore. The question of the why, when, and wherefore of the world is related to this world like the boatman to the boat; both of them are parts of one whole picture. If they are both of the same value, both are illusions. The question l the why, when, and wherefore ‘ also is an illusion. The question – why, when, and wherefore – is the driver, the boatman, or the leader of this world. When you wake up and realize the truth, the whole world becomes to you like the boat drawn upon canvas, and the question why, when, and wherefore, which was the driver or the boatman, disappears. There is no why, when, and wherefore in reality which is beyond Time, beyond Space, beyond Causation. People say that the world is due to one personal Creator. The Vedanta says, nay (Neti). This word ‘Neti‘ appears frequently in Sanskrit and has been corrupted by the Americans to ‘nit,’ not that. The question is unanswerable.
Another man comes and says, “God fell in love with Himself and He made this world, He made this world like a mirror house, and He wanted to see Himself in all these forms and He made the world.” The Vedanta says, ‘Neti’, nit, not that. You have no right to put such a hypothesis here.
Another man comes and says that the world was created so many years ago. The Vedanta says Neti, nit, not that. The real meaning of the ‘why’ is Maya. Ma means not and ya means that, and Maya means not that. The question is such as you cannot answer. Not that. Now the question is, Is the world real? The Vedanta says Neti, Maya, not that, nit. You cannot call it real. Why not? Because reality means something which lasts forever, which remains the same “yesterday, today, and forever. That is reality. Now does the world last forever? It does not last forever; therefore it does not satisfy the definition of reality. In your deep sleep it disappears; in your state of realization, perfection or liberation, it disappears. So it does not last forever, consequently you have no right to call it real. Is the world unreal? The Vedanta says Neti, not that, Maya, nit. This is very strange. The world is not unreal. The Vedanta says, “No, it is not unreal, because unreal means something which never is, according to the definition of the Vedanta, like the horns of a man. Did a man ever possess horns like a cow? Never. That is unreal, and the world is not unreal because it appears to you to be present just now. It appears to you to be present, therefore you have no right to call it unreal. Is the world real? Neti, nit. Is the world unreal? Neti, nit. Then is the world partly real and partly unreal? The Vedanta says Maya, Neti, nit. Not that even. Unreality and reality cannot subsist together. These answers to these questions are called the Maya theory of the Vedanta. Such answers to these questions have another name, ‘Mithya’; it is a word which is cognate with your word mythology. It means something which Ave cannot call real and which we cannot call unreal, and which we cannot call both real and unreal. Such is your world.
Atheists say there is no God. The Vedanta says, Neti, nit, Maya. They are wrong, for they have no argument for saying that there is no God. Some people say there is a personal God. The Vedanta says Neti, nit, not that. You have no right to make a statement of that kind. The Vedanta says here is a realm where you ought not to tread; here is a realm upon which you cannot bring your intellect to bear. Your intellect has work enough to do in this world; let it work there. “Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and render unto God what is God’s.” Your intellect has work enough in the material plane, in the empirical realms, but in the realms of metaphysics you have to come only by one way, and one way only, and that way is the way of realization, that way is the way of love, feeling, faith, rather knowledge. Strange kind of knowledge, strange kind of God – consciousness. When you come to this region through the proper channel, all questions cease, all problems are solved. In the Kena Upanishad of Sama (Veda), we have a passage which translated into English is something like this:
“I cannot say I know it, nor can I say I do not know it; Beyond knowing and not knowing it is.”
This is exactly what the thinkers of today say, Herbert Spencer in the first part of his First Principles, “The Unknowable,” comes to the very same conclusion as that at which the Vedanta arrives. Kama need not read to you what he says, but a small passage might be read. “There must exist some principle which being the basis of Science cannot be established by Science. All reasoned – out conclusions whatever must rest on some postulate. There must be a place where we meet the region of the Unknowable, where intellect ought not to venture, cannot venture to go.”
All the philosophers have something to say to the same effect on this point. Just mark. What a fallacy is committed by the people when they ascribe motives to God, when they say God must have done this, God must have mercy, God must have love, God must have goodness, God must have this attribute or that. What a fallacy is committed by such people, for all classification is limitation. You call God infinite and finite in one breath, you say on the one hand that He is infinite and on the other hand you say, ‘ Oh, He possesses this quality and He possesses that quality. When you say He is good, He is not bad, then He is limited. Wherever there is bad, good is not. When you say He is the Creator, He is not the creature, then you limit Him; there you point out a place where He is not. He is the all. And again when you say God created the world for this and that object, you make God a somebody who can come up and give an account of his doings, just as a man comes before a magistrate and gives an account of his doings. Similarly when you hold God responsible for anything or attribute to Him any motives, designs, or plans, you practically make yourself a magistrate or judge, and God a person who has done certain deeds, who has come before you to give an account of His works. There you limit Him. The Vedanta says you have no right to bring God before your tribunal. Give up this question; it is illegitimate.
The word Vedanta means slavery to no particular individual. The word Mahomedan depends upon the name of Mahomed. Whatever Mahomed has done or said we must believe. The word Christianity is slavery to the name of Christ. The word Buddhism is slavery to a particular name, Buddha. The word Zoroastrianism is slavery to the particular name, Zoroaster. The word Vedanta is no slavery to any particular personality or individuality. The word Vedanta literally means the end or goal of knowledge. The word Vedanta means the Truth and thus it has nothing of sectarianism in it. It is universal. Do not be prejudiced against it, becau,1 e of its being a name which is unfamiliar to you. You might call it the truth as preached and understood by the Hindus. You know ail truth, wherever investigated, whether in Germany, or in America, comes to the same conclusion. Wherever a man looks at the Sun, he sees it to be bright and brilliant. Whoever throws aside his prejudices and frees himself from them will concur with the conclusions of the Vedanta. These are your own conclusions; these are your own arguments and results, if you approach the question freely, literally, waiving all prejudices, predilections and preconceptions.
Now Rama will explain to you this problem of Maya in the way of the Hindus and how they have described and explained it in their old Scriptures. They explain it practically, experimentally. They call this Maya, Anirvachaniya, the limited meaning of which is illusion, and the explanation of which word is something which is indescribable, which cannot be called real and which cannot be called unreal, and which is not a combination of reality and unreality. This whole world is Maya or illusion, and this illusion is of two kinds. We might call it extrinsic and intrinsic illusion.
Suppose you see a snake in the dark; it frightens you to death; you fall down and are hurt. What was the snake? Was the snake real? The Vedanta says the snake is not real, because afterwards when you approach the spot where the snake was, it is not there. But is the snake unreal? The Vedanta says, ‘No, no’. You have no right to say that the snake is unreal. Had the snake been unreal, you would not have received the injury. The snake is an illusion, and an illusion is not a reality, and it is not a non – reality either, because unreal means something which never appears to exist. You see a rainbow. Is the rainbow real? The rainbow is not real, because when we approach the spot, we do not find it, and if we change our position, we will find the position of the rainbow changed. Is it unreal? No, no, because it appears to exist there, it produces some effect on us. It is not unreal either. It is an illusion.
You see in the mirror your picture. Is your picture unreal? The Vedanta says, ‘No, it is not unreal, because it produces an effect on you; you see it.’ Is it real? No, it is not real either. You turn your face this way and it disappears. This is an illusion. Now this illusion is of two kinds, intrinsic and extrinsic; intrinsic illusion as in the case of the snake, seen in the rope. A peculiarity of intrinsic illusion is that when the illusory object is there, the real object is not seen; and when the object is seen, the illusory object is not there. Both cannot co-exist. In an intrinsic illusion the reality and the illusion cannot co-exist. The illusory object which is the snake, and the real object behind it, the rope, we cannot see them together. If the snake is there, the rope is not there; and if the rope is there, the snake is not there. The one or the other must perish. The one or the other must exist.
But in the extrinsic illusion both co – exist; the reality as well as the illusion, both can co – exist as in a mirror; in the mirror, the object, the image is unreal, or, in the terms of Scientists, it is a universal image, unreal image, illusion. The face is the real object. Now the face as well as the image co – exist; the illusory object which is the image and the real object which is the face, co-exist. This is the peculiarity of extrinsic illusion, and we see another thing about extrinsic illusion, a medium is seen, a medium like the mirror. The mirror is the medium and the illusory object is the image and the real object is the face. So in fact in an extrinsic illusion, three things are present for the time being; in an intrinsic illusion, only one thing is present for the time being.
The experiments of Vedantins which prove to you the unity of the whole universe are of the kind which will be pointed out to you. Their experiments, experiences, and their religious development and realization of the truth prove this world to be made up of both kinds of illusions, extrinsic and intrinsic. When a man begins religious life and to realize the Divinity within himself, he overcomes only the extrinsic illusion. All the religions on the face of the Earth, Christianity, Mahomedanism, Buddhism, Zoroastrianism, all these excepting Vedanta, have done a great deal in overcoming the extrinsic illusion. So far as they overcome the extrinsic illusion, the Vedanta says they are all right, but the Vedanta goes one step further. It overcomes the intrinsic illusion also, and other religions as a rule stop short of it. There they say the Vedanta is opposed to us. No, no, it is not opposed; it simply fulfils what they began, it supplements them; it is not in contradiction to them, it is not opposed to them. But you will say this is talking Sanskrit to us, this is talking Greek to us. What do you mean by that?
Now something very subtle is going to be told. So attend most carefully. A rope is mistaken for a snake or a serpent. In the rope there appeared a serpent. To what kind of illusion was the serpent due? The serpent was due to the intrinsic illusion. You know if the serpent is there, the rope is not there; if the rope is there, the serpent is not there. Only one thing is seen at one time. That is intrinsic illusion. Again you mark, this snake or serpent which appeared is an illusory object which owed its existence to intrinsic illusion. This snake serves the same purpose to the underlying rope as a mirror serves to you when you look into it. It is to be proved to you. You know that the mirror serves as a medium to you, and the mirror being the medium, you see in the mirror an illusory object, I say, an image. You have in the case of the mirror an extrinsic illusion. Now it will be shown that in the rope the serpent appeared on account of intrinsic illusion; this serpent will serve as a medium or as a mirror to the underlying reality, or rope and we shall have an extrinsic illusion also on the spot.
A boy comes to you and says, “Papa, papa, I am frightened; there is a snake there.” We ask, “Child, how long was the snake?” and the boy says, “The snake was about two yards long.” Well, how thick was the snake? And the child says, “It was very thick. It was as thick as the cable I saw the other day in the ship which was leaving San Francisco.” We ask, “Well, what was the snake doing?” He said, “The snake had coiled itself round.” You know that the snake was not there; the snake was unreal, only the rope was lying there. The rope was about two yards long, and was as thick as the cable which he saw on the day when the ship was leaving San Francisco. The rope was coiled around on the floor, and there the properties of the rope, – its thickness, length, and position – have, as it were, mirrored themselves in the illusory serpent. There the rope casts its thickness, its width, and its position into the illusory serpent. The serpent was not so long, the length only applied to the rope; the serpent was not of that thickness, the thickness only applied to the rope, the serpent was not in that position, the position only applied to the rope. So you mark that originally we had the serpent as the result of intrinsic illusion, and subsequently we have in the serpent created another kind of illusion, which we might call extrinsic illusion, the properties of one attributed to the other.
This is the second kind of illusion. In order to remove these illusions, what process is to be adopted? We shall remove one illusion first and then the other. The extrinsic illusion will be removed first, and then the intrinsic illusion.
According to the Vedanta, all this universe is in reality nothing else but one indivisible, indescribable reality, which we cannot even call reality, which transcends all language, which is beyond Time, Space, and Causation, beyond everything. In this rope of a reality, in this underlying substratum, substance, or whatever you might call it, appear names, forms, and differentiations, or you might call it energy, activity, or vibrations.
These are like the serpent. There we see that after this intrinsic illusion is completed, the extrinsic illusion comes up, and on account of the extrinsic illusion, we look upon these names and forms, these personalities and these individualities as having a reality of their own, as subsisting by themselves, as existing by themselves, as real on their own account. Here is the second or extrinsic illusion put forth. You will understand it now when we reverse the process.
What have religions done? Be it said to the credit of beloved Christianity, beloved Mahomedanism, be it said to the credit of these religions that they have done a great deal in removing extrinsic illusion, they have shown to mankind that if they live a pure life, a life of universal love, a life of divine ecstasy, if a man lives a life of hope, faith, and charity, unbounded love gushing forth from him in all directions^ filling the whole universe with divinity, then we find God in everything. Just mark. The real saint or sage, the true Christian, the beloved Christian finds God even in the names; he hates not the enemy, but loves the enemy. Oh! “Love your enemy as yourself.” That blessed saying of Jesus 1 He finds the same God in the flowers. Have you ever realized that state? The truly religious people have. Flowers speak to you; and you find sermons in stones, books in the running brooks, the stars speak to you, and the Divinity looks at you through a man’s face. Does Divinity require an intellectual proof? No, it carries its own proof with itself. It rests on a proof which transcends all’ worldly logic and worldly philosophy. A person who feels God everywhere, lives, moves, and has his being in God, through this kind of religious life, through practice and through experience, through experiments, overcomes the extrinsic illusion. How is that? You know you say that God is in all these forms, God is in all these phases and forms and differentiations. All these are like the serpent; still if you look behind them, you see beyond them the underlying rope beneath the serpent. The length, breadth and thickness you attribute not to the serpent but to the underlying rope. There you dispense with one kind of illusion only. You see God behind everything, and when you realize this state of religious life, you do not impute motives to your friends or foes, but you see Divinity in them, and you observe the finger of God, or the finger of Providence behind them, and you say that the one Divinity, or the one All, which is God, is doing all these things and I should not impute motives to my friends. There is one kind of illusion, the extrinsic illusion, overcome. This is one step in your advancement, but the Vedanta goes beyond that, and tells you, “Brother, if you say that God is in all these, that is not the whole truth; go beyond that.” All these forms and all these images and differences or differentiations themselves contain God, but at the same time all these different illusions and forms are unreal and they are like the serpent in the rope; go beyond that, and you reach the state which is beyond all that, beyond all idea, beyond all words. This is unreal even. There you see that the Vedanta is the fulfilment of all religions. It does not contradict any religion in this world.
It will be shown that it is unnecessary to say that this world must have been created by this God or that God. It will be proved that these forms and figures, these different figurations and situations are this world and nothing else.
Here are two triangles and one rectangle.
Both these triangles are isosceles, two sides are equal. The two equal sides are marked 3, and the third side 5. In the rectangle the shorter sides are marked S and the longer sides 5. These figures are cut out of paper or cardboard, or anything. Place them in such a way that they may form one figure, or the base of the triangle may co – exist with the one side of the rectangle. What will that become then? We shall get a hexagon of which all the sides are 3. You know the sides 5 came within the figure and they are no longer sides. How do we get this hexagon? We get this from a different position or a different combination of the triangle and rectangle. What about the properties of these figures and of the resulting figure? The properties of the resulting figure are entirely different from those of the component figures. The component figures have acute angles; the resulting figure has no acute angle whatsoever. One of the component figures has right angles, and the resulting figure has no right angle whatsoever.
The component figures had sides 5 in length; the resulting figure has no side of that length. None of the component figures were equilateral. The resulting figure is equilateral; it has got all its angles obtuse. None of the component parts had its angles obtuse. Here we see a creation, all properties entirely unknown before. Wherefrom have these entirely new properties come? Just mark, these entirely new properties have been created by no creator. These entirely new properties have not come out of the component elements; they are the result of a new form; they are the result of a new position, a new configuration, of what the Vedanta calls Maya. Maya means name and form; they are the result of names and forms, mark that. Again see. Let this triangle be H, hydrogen; this one 2, and a third O; this gives you H2O, water. These original element*, hydrogen and oxygen, had properties of their own, and the resulting compound is an entirely new Something. Hydrogen and oxygen give us water; hydrogen is combustible, but water is not. Water has a property entirely unknown to hydrogen. Oxygen aids combustion, but water does not. It has a property of its own entirely new. We see again that hydrogen is very light, but oxygen does not possess the same lightness. Hydrogen fills balloons and takes you up to the skies; but water, the resulting compound, does not. The properties of the component elements are entirely different from those of the resulting compound. Wherefrom did the resulting compound get its properties? Did it get these properties from the creator or from the component parts? No, they came from form, from new form, from new position, configuration. That is what the Vedanta tells us. It tells you that what you see in this world is simply the result of name and form. You need not posit the existence of a Creator for this and that which are the result of name and form.
Here is before you a piece of charcoal and there is a dazzling, bright diamond. The diamond has properties entirely different from those of the piece of charcoal. The diamond is so hard that it can cut iron; the charcoal is so soft that it leaves its mark upon a piece of paper when you scratch it on the paper. The diamond is so priceless, precious and brilliant, and the piece of charcoal is cheap, ugly, and black. Mark the contrast between the two, and yet in reality they are one and the same thing* Science proves that. Oh, you will say “My intellect will not grasp it.” Whether you accept it or not, it is a fact. Similarly the Vedanta tells you here is something bad and here is something good. The diamond is good and the charcoal is bad. Here is something which you call bad, and here is something which you call good. Here is something which you call friends and here is something which you call foes. But in reality there is one and the same thing underlying them, just as the same carbon appears in charcoal as in diamond. So in reality it is only one and the same divinity that appears in both places. In name and form lies the difference, in nothing else. The Scientists tell you that the atoms of carbon in the diamond are differently situated, have a different form in making molecules from what they are in charcoal. The difference in the diamond and charcoal is due only to name and form, or to what the Hindus call Maya. All these differences are due to name and form.
Similarly the difference between good and bad is due only to Maya, to name and form, nothing else; and these names and forms are not real because they do not last forever. They are unreal because we see them at one time and not at another time. This phenomenon of the Earth is nothing but names and forms, nothing but differentiations, variations, and combinations. And these different variations and combinations are due to what? They are due to intrinsic illusion. In these names and forms which are due to intrinsic illusion, the One Divinity manifests itself. God manifests Himself in these names and forms of the world, which are called Maya. This is due to intrinsic illusion. Get beyond that and you are everything. He sees indeed who sees in all alike; he is a man with eyes open who sees the One Divinity in all alike.
A few lines from the Gita will illustrate this to you:
“I am the sacrifice! I am the prayer!
I am of all this boundless Universe
The Father, Mother, Ancestor and God!
The end of Learning! That which purifies
In lustral water! I am Om! I am
Rig, Sama and Yajur I am
The way, the Fosterer, the Lord, the Judge,
The witness; the abode, the Refuge – house,
The friend, the Fountain and the Sea of Life,
Which sends, and swallows up seed and seed-sower,
Whence endless harvests spring!
Sun’s heat is mine,
Heaven’s rain is mine to grant or to withhold;
Death am I and immortal Life I am! “
The melodious song of the Ganges,the music of the waving pine,
The echoes of the Ocean’s war,
the lowing of the kine,
The liquid drops of dew,
the heavy lowering cloud,
The patter of the tiny feet,
the laughter of the crowd,
The golden beam of the Sun,
the twinkle of the silent star,
The shimmering light of the silvery moon
shedding lustre near and far,
The flash of the flaming sword,
the sparkle of jewels bright,
The gleam of the light – house beacon light
in the dark and foggy night,
The apple – bosomed Earth
and Heaven’s glorious wealth,
The soundless sound, the flameless light,
The darkless dark, and wingless flight,
The mindless thought, the eyeless sight,
The mouthless talk, the handless grasp so tight
Am I, am I, am I.