Delivered at the Golden Gate flail on Jan 15, 1903
The immortal, true object of all religions, in the form of ladies and gentlemen,
So far the Lectures delivered in this Hall have been very hard, the subjects were abstruse. But tonight’s discourse is comparatively easy.
A few years ago when Rama was in East India, a book by a Reverend Doctor, an American gentleman, a Professor in a University in East India, came into Rama’s hands. The subject of this book was “After Death.” By a very beautiful allegory it was shown that this world is like one station and the other world is like another station, beyond the bay, beyond the seas, and all those who have to go beyond this bay have to purchase tickets. Those who do not possess the right kind of tickets will be thrown overboard into the deep abyss. Those who have the right kind of tickets will be allowed to pass on to the destination. Tickets are of several kinds, first class, second class, third class, etc. Then there are some counterfeit tickets. They are white, black, yellow, green, etc., but the right kind of tickets which have to take you to the destination are red, besmeared with the blood of Jesus, the Christ. Those alone who have such tickets, will be allowed to reach the destination successfully; others never, never. The white, black, yellow, and other kinds of tickets were the tickets of other religions, so to say, and the red tickets bore the blood of Christ; they were the Christian tickets. This was the subject of the book, and it was very beautifully brought out. The Reverend Doctor had lavished all his ingenuity and all his knowledge of English literature in writing that book.
Something like this is the belief, not only of Christians but of men of all other religions. Mahomedans say that after death, the ticket collector, the great Station Master, or examiner of accounts, is Mohammet, and those who do not bear the sign of Mohammet will be cast into hell. Other religions also have ideas of the same sort, and they say that all the dead, whether they died in America, Europe, Africa, Australia, or Asia, will be subjected to the disposal of a single man, let it be Christ, Mohammet, Buddha, Zoroaster, Krishna, or anybody; and this is the cause of all the strife and struggle between religions. This superstition, this dogmatic view, is the cause of most of the bloodshed in this world, the bloodshed that has been carried on in the name of religion.
The view of the Vedanta Philosophy on this subject is to be laid before you. The Vedanta reconciles all these religions, and tells them that each of them may be right without encroaching upon the rights of others. In order that you may be right, it is not necessary that you should wrong your brethren. This is a vast subject, and in the short space of an hour or so, we can only dwell upon the most salient features of the subject as treated by the Vedanta Philosophy.
All progress in this world is in a line of beauty; all the evolution and progress in the universe is in a rhythmic line; all vibration in this world is harmonic; we have rise and fall, ups and downs, in regular order. As Mathematics shows, for every maximum there must be a minimum; maximum and minimum points alternate; day and night we have rhythmic motion. When you have to move, you move one foot and then the other. The seasons of the year follow in regular succession, the same seasons over and over again; periodic motion as it is called. We have periodic motion in this world; every day you wake up and go to bed, you go to sleep and you rise. Just as sleep and wakefulness succeed each other in regular succession, similarly according to the Vedanta, life and death, death and life also succeed each other in regular order. In this whole universe, we had never an abrupt stoppage at any place. Time, does it ever stop? No. Do you know where Time began? Does Space ever stop anywhere? No. There is no end. Do rivers ever stop? You say they do. No, they do not. The rivers that enter the ocean rise up in the form of vapour, go back to the mountains, and again they flow to the sea, and from the sea go back to the mountains. Suppose here is a candle; it burns away in an hour or so; wick and all. You say it dies; no, it does not. Chemistry shows that it does not die. It simply undergoes change. The carbon dioxide and water that are produced out of it appear again in vegetables. Nothing dies. All progress is in a circle, or rather spherical, in this world. See here, you are alive, you die. Will this state after death continue forever? You have no right to say that; to make a statement of that kind is against the laws of nature. You begin to defy the most stringent laws which govern the world when you say that after death there is eternal damnation, and no more life; you have no right to speak that way. If after a man is dead, God casts him to eternal damnation, then what a revengeful God He is. A man works for his three score and ten years and dies; poor fellow, he did not have the opportunities of receiving the right kind of education, he did not get the right means to elevate himself, he was born of poor parents who could not impart to him education, who could take him to no Church, and he died. This man did not possess a ticket besmeared with the blood of Christ. Now this man is to be cast into hell forever and ever. Oh, is that not a most revengeful God. Who does that? In the name of justice you have no right to make a statement of that kind. According to the Vedanta, when a man dies, he should not remain dead forever. After every death there is life, and after every life there is death, and in reality death is a mere name. It is a big mistake when we make a great bugaboo of it; there is nothing terrible or abominable in it, it is simply a change of state.
Well, so long as you are alive in this world, suppose for 70 or 80 years, you are enjoying a long, long wakeful state; the life in this world is a long, continued wakeful state, and after life the so – called death is, according to the Vedanta, simply a proportionately long sleep. This death according to the Vedanta is a long sleep. Just as in every 24 hours, after enjoying some three or four hours of sleep, you get up again, so after enjoying the rest of death, you have to be born again into this world, you are reincarnated or reborn. Rebirth or reincarnation is like waking up again after enjoying a nap.
According to the Vedanta, after a man dies, he is not reincarnated on the spot, at once. When a seed falls from a tree, the seed does not spring up into a new tree all at once, it takes some time. When a man leaves one house, he does not immediately enter another; it takes him some time. Similarly after a man is dead, he is not reincarnated immediately. He passes through an intermediate state which we call the state of ‘death,’ or the state of long sleep. Now what about this state? What kind of state is this, the state between death and the second birth? It is a state of sleep, and it has all the properties of sleep. You know that when a man goes to sleep, in his dreams he sees the same sort of things which he has seen in his wakeful state. That is the common rule. There are sometimes apparent exceptions to it, but usually a man in his dreams sees the same sort of things as he does in his wakeful state. The people who study in Universities for Examinations will bear Rama out in this statement, that when their Examination is very near and they are preparing for it most laboriously, in their dreams they often see the same sort of things and they keep doing the same sort of work as kept them busy in the daytime. After they have gone through the Examination, and are expecting the results, and wish that they shall come out successful and head the list of successful Graduates, in those days when they are in a state of suspense, they keep dreaming about the result of the Examination. The people who love a particular subject or object, cannot but dream about it at night.
When Rama was a student preparing for the Bachelor of Arts Examination, a fellow – student used to live in the same room with him. This fellow-student was a very playful young man. He used to while away his time in singing, dancing, and playing. One day a gentleman asked this friend how many hours he used to devote to his studies. He smilingly said, “Full 18 hours.” The friend said, “What does that mean? You waste four or five hours in my presence, before my eyes; I know that you sleep about 8 or 9 hours out of the 24; and that leaves you only 10 or 12 hours, and yet you say that you read for full 18 hours.” The young man said, “You have not studied Mathematics. 1 can prove that I read for full 18 hours.” The gentleman said, “Well, how is that?” The young man said, “I and this Rama live in the same room; as a matter of fact I read for 12 hours and he reads for 24 hours, that makes up 36; strike the average; 18 falls to his share and 18 to mine.” The gentleman said, “Well, admit that you read for 12 hours, but I cannot admit that Rama reads for full 24 hours. How is that possible? I know that Rama is a very hardworking student, I know he is preparing so many subjects, and he is not only doing the University work, he is doing four times as much work extra and preparing many other subjects, and doing all sorts of work, but still the laws of nature will not allow him to work for 24 hours.” This fellow student began to explain. He said, “I can show you that when he is taking his dinner, he never allows his mind to idle away a single second; I can show you that he always has with him a paper on which there is some scientific problem to reflect upon, some mathematical or philosophical subject, or some book or poem which he may commit to memory; he may be writing a poem or doing some sort of work or other, he never wastes a moment when he is taking his meals. When he is in the toilet room, he is drawing, with a piece of chalk figures on the wall; when he goes to sleep, he is working at some problem or other, he is always dreaming of the same subjects which occupy his mind during the day. Thus his 24 hours are devoted to study.”
Well, there was some truth in his statement. The man who devotes full 18 hours of his time to study, in his dreams can do nothing else but the same kind of work which he has been doing in the daytime. Sometimes people say that they see in their dreams such things as they never saw before. The Vedanta says, “No.” Here comes a man; he says that he saw in his dream a monster. He had the head of a lion, the back of a camel, the tail of a serpent, the feet of a frog. He says that he never saw an animal of that kind before. The Vedanta tells him, ‘ Brother, you have seen a man, you have seen a serpent, you have seen a camel, you have seen a frog; arid the tail of the serpent, the head of the lion, the back of the camel, and the feet of the frog you have united together in the dream and made a new object. So in reality everything that you see in your dream, this apparently new kind of monstrous animal, even this you have seen in your wakeful state.’
A man who has never been in Russia, and has never heard about it never finds himself in his dreams in St. Petersburg. Never, never. Does a philosopher in his dream do the work of a cobbler? Even if he lives next door to a cobbler and sees the cobbler frequently in his dreams he never finds himself engaged in that work of cobbling or mending shoes.
This being the case, in your long sleep of death, what should you expect; the period between the death and the next birth, the period of long sleep, how is that to pass? The Vedanta says this will pass in your hells or heavens, this will pass in your paradises or in your purgatories. What are these paradises, these hells and heavens? These are the dreamlands which pass between one death and the next birth. Here is a man, a true Christian, who has been living a most pious and devout life, who has been attending Church every Sunday, who has been offering his prayers every evening. He has been invoking the grace of God at every meal that he has taken, and has been keeping the Cross of Christ on his breast all his life, he has been meditating upon Christ all the while that he was awake, from his birth until his death; he was all the while living, moving, and having his being in the holy presence of Jesus the Christ. This man has devoted his wakeful state of 80 or 90 years to the love of Christ, he has devoted all his thought to Christ, he has been expecting after death to find himself seated on the right hand side of Jesus the Christ, and he has been dreaming and thinking all his life about the angels, seraphims, and cherubims that will greet him after death. According to the Vedanta, a devout Christian of this kind will find himself after death on the right hand side of Jesus the Christ. Verily, verily after death, during that long, long sleep, between this death and the next birth, he will find himself surrounded by the cherubims, the seraphims, and the angels who are singing hallelujas all the while. There is no reason why he should not find himself in their midst. The Vedanta says,’ O Christians, if you are devout, if you are really in earnest and faithful, you will get the promises in your books fulfilled. But find no fault with the Mahomedans and Hindus. (These Mahomedans are very earnest, most zealous, and you might even say, sometimes bigoted fanatics.) But a Mahomedan is a true Mahomedan, if he has been devoting all his wakeful state of 70 or 80 years of his life in the same way as prescribed by Mohammet, and has been thinking of and looking up to him and been offering prayers five times a day in the name of Mahomet and if he was always ready to lay down his life for Mahomet. Then what will become of a Mahomedan of this kind, the dream of whose life has been to serve the cause of Mohammedanism, to make the name of Mohamet resound from one end of the world to the other? Nothing will happen to him which is contrary to the Laws of Nature. The Law of Nature is that what we are dreaming in our wakeful state, the same we shall dream when we go to sleep. He has been dreaming of Mohammet, of the Paradise, of beautiful gardens and damsels; the rivers of wine that are promised by their Prophet after death; he has been dreaming of magnificent palaces and objects of luxury in heaven, after death. The Vedanta says there is not a law or force in nature, which can prevent his enjoying the kind of heaven about which he was dreaming. He must; see a heaven of the same sort, he must find himself in a paradise of the kind promised by his Prophet.
But the Vedanta says, “O Mahomedans, you have no right to place all the people in this world, after death, at the disposal of your own prophet, at the mercy of one Mahomed only. Let Christians enjoy their thoughts; make them free, do not want to subject all these, whether they die in Europe, America, East India, Japan, or China, to the mercy of Mohammet. You have no right to say if they believe in Mohammet, it is right; otherwise they are damned. For that is cruel. If you are a follower of Mohammet, you will have a heaven of the kind which you desire, and so with all religions. If you are true to your dogmas or creed, after death you will have a heaven of the same sort as you are expecting. In reality, hell or heaven after death is dependent upon yourselves. You make the heaven after death and you make the hell after death. In reality the heaven and hell are simply your dreams, nothing more, dreams which appear to you to be real at that time. You know dreams appear to be real when we are dreaming. So these hells or heavens will appear to you to be real after death, but as a matter of fact, in reality, are nothing more than dreams.
One thing more might be said. People say that if the promises held out to us by our Scriptures, are to be true after death, we shall have Eternal Happiness. Our Scriptures hold out the promise either of eternal happiness or of eternal damnation after death. What about that? The Vedanta says, what is Eternity? You know Eternity is something pertaining to time, infinite time. You know that the time of the wakeful state is different from that of the dreamland. In your wakeful state time is of one kind and in your dream state time is of another kind. In your dream state, sometimes an object appears before you which you look upon as being of 5,000 years’ standing. Suppose in your dreams you see a mountain; that mountain has been posited by you on the spot, instantaneously, from the standpoint of the wakeful state, but from the standpoint of the dreaming state, it was posited 5,000 years ago. The Vedanta says that in your dreams, you find yourself in your paradise from eternity; you will live in heaven or hell from eternity, from the standpoint of the dreaming subject, but not from that of the wakeful subject.
It is true that you will find the promises held out to you by the Bible to be right, because in that state you will think that you have been living in that state forever and ever. It will be eternal to you. That which is eternal from the standpoint of the dreaming self is nothing from the standpoint of the wakeful self.
This gives you some idea of how the Vedanta reconciles different religions after death.
But what about Transmigration? What about the people who are called Mukta Purushas, or’ liberated souls? The Vedanta says that it is not everybody who after death has to undergo these stages of heaven and hell, or who is reborn after death. It is not everybody. These are what are called liberated souls. Who are they? These are not to be subjected to reincarnation; they are free; these are not to find themselves imprisoned in hells or heavens; all hells or heavens are in them; all the worlds are in them. A few words must be spoken about these.
In your dreams you have two sorts of phenomena, the subject and the object. All these rivers, mountains, hills, by which you find yourself hemmed in are the object; this dreaming self which finds itself hemmed in, this traveller, this pilgrim, is the subject. In your dreams you know there are many things. One of them is what you call ‘myself,’ and the other things are what you call the objects, different from me. This which you call ‘myself is the subject, and the other things which you call ” not self ” are the object; usually in your dreams there is this division, the subject and the object The Vedanta says that the subject as well as the object are your creation, the creation of the real Self, the creation of the wakeful Self. Dr. Johnson, the lexicographer who, you know, was called the Prince of talkers, could not suffer himself to be defeated in argument; he would always have the last word on his side. Somebody said about him that if his pistol missed fire, he knocked you down with the butt end of it. He must always have the victory on his side, and if anybody ever got the better of him in an argument, he would move heaven and earth to avenge himself. He dreamed once that Edmund Burke, the orator, had defeated him in an argument. For a man of Johnson’s nature, this dream was like a nightmare; it startled him, it woke him up, he was in a state of restlessness, and did not know how to get to sleep again. You know the property of mind is that it always seeks rest and wants peace. When it is disturbed, it hankers after rest, the reason being that real peace is its home, it must seek its home. He must seek peace somehow or other. He consoled himself with this thought: If I go to Edmund Burke and say, “Burke, Burke, by what argument did you defeat me in my dream,” Burke will not be able to reproduce the argument. I know the strong arguments he advanced when I was asleep and I know the weak arguments which brought about my defeat. I know both, I know the victorious as well as the defeated side; but Edmund Burke does not know anything about it. Thus it is my own brain that furbished the arguments on both sides, it is I myself that appeared as Edmund Burke on one side and as the defeated Johnson on the other.
So the Vedanta tells you that in your dreams, it is you yourself that appear as the object on one side and as the subject on the other side. It is you yourself, it is the real Self in you that appears as mountains, rivers, forests, as birds, beasts and animals on one side and as the bewildered pilgrim on the other. You are the subject and you are the object.
So, according to the Vedanta, in your long sleep of death, you are hell and heaven, and you are the man who is enjoying heaven or suffering in hell. Realize that and you become free.
There was a woman who possessed this knowledge of the Vedanta. She was going through the streets with fire in one hand and cool water in the other. People came up to her and asked, “What do you mean by carrying cool water in one hand and fire in the other?” The man who put this question was a great Missionary. She said, “With this fire I am going to set your paradise and heaven on fire, and with this water I am going to cool down your hell.” To a man who possess s this knowledge that he himself is hell or he himself is heaven, to him your heaven and hell lose all their attractions and fears. He stands above them. What about this world of yours, what about this wakeful state which you enjoy so much? The Vedanta proves that even this solid seeming world, this rigid, stern world, is unreal, not different from your dreams. There is a difference only of degree and not of kind. Your wakeful world is also a dream, a solidified dream, and in this solid seeming world of yours, the Vedanta says that the object as well as the subject are the creation of your real Self and nothing more. It is your real Atma that becomes cities, towns, rivers, and mountains on the one side, and the forlorn traveller, a pilgrim in this world on the other side. The same that appears as the subject is the object, and the same that appears as the object is the subject, even in your wakeful state.
Death means only the subsiding of the subject and not of the object. You are dreaming. Suppose in your dreaming state, you find yourself in Berkeley, but in reality you are asleep in San Francisco. There in your dream, what was Berkeley and what were all the scenes connected with it? They were the object and you that were in Berkeley were the subject. Now you know that sometimes we have double sleep, sometimes we sleep in sleep, just as we have compound interest, and so here is dream in dream or double dream. If you go to sleep in Berkeley, then this is an example of double sleep. What happens? You wake up again. Sometimes in dreams we fall asleep at one place and get up again in one continuous dream, so here you were lying down and in the dream you find yourself in Berkeley. Berkeley was the object and you were the subject. The subject fell asleep, the object Berkeley remained the same, the subject subsided and got up again. You found yourself again in Berkeley but your sleep continued just the same; from Berkeley you went to Los Angeles. In Los Angeles you put up at the house of one of your dear friends and went to sleep again. There Los Angeles, the house of your friend, etc., were the object and you were the subject; there the subject subsides or goes to sleep and gets up again. After enjoying a nap in Los Angeles, you go up to the Lick Observatory. There at the Lick Observatory you enjoy a nap; the Lick Observatory was the object and you were the subject. The subject subsides for a time and gets up again. From the Lick Observatory you go to some summer resort, and while there, someone of your family comes and wakes you up. Here you were the summer resort as well as the man who was enjoying the summer resort. When you wake up, the subject as well as the object go away, both of them disappear; the subject as well as the object both disappear, but when you were dreaming, the subject alone subsided and the object remained; you were not really awake.
Now for the application of this illustration. According to the Vedanta, this universe, this wide world, is also a dream. In this dream of a wide world, all time, space, and causation, all this universe which you see outside is the object, and what you call “my body,” my little self, is also the object. When an ordinary man dies, what happens? The long dream of Maya or Ignorance is not destroyed, but remains just the same. He dies. Death simply means the subsiding of the subject, the object remaining the same, unaltered; so #when a man dies here, he wakes up again in the next birth. He finds the same world around him as he loved when he died; suppose in the second birth he lives for a period of 80 or 90 years, and then dies again. Then again we see that in the second birth which was like Berkeley or Los Angeles, the object remained the same and the subject only subsided for a while; the result is that after a time he is reborn. In the third life he lives for a period of 70 or 80 years, then again he dies. The object which was like the Lick Observatory, remains the same, the subject subsides and makes its appearance again. In this way it is birth and death, birth and death, which will continue until the subject and object subside together. So long as the world appears to you to be different from you, you are an imprisoned personality in this world, you will always remain bound to this wheel of transmigration, birth and death; it will go on revolving around you and crushing you down, bringing you up and taking you down. You will never find any rest or peace.
Now the Vedanta says. He who escapes, finds the subject as well as the object in himself. When we wake up like Dr. Johnson to the realization that we are the subject and the object of the dream, we are free. The world is my body and he who can say the whole universe is my body is free from transmigration. Where can he go? Where can he come? There is no space which is not already filled with him; he is the infinite one. Where will he go? Where will he come? The universe is in him; he is the Lord, of lords, free from transmigration. The one desire which is sucked in with the mother’s milk by every child in East India, is to get himself to such a realization that he may no longer remain subject to transmigration, that he may escape, and in God-consciousness find perfect happiness and full bliss.
In Milton’s life there is a very beautiful story told about a lady who was his wife. In her dream she saw her husband, and her heart was leaping in her bosom for him. She embraced him and said, “My lord, I am wholly yours.” Just at that moment she woke up and found that a dog that had been sleeping in the name bed with her had been pressing its body to her; that dog leaped out of the bed to the floor, and in reality it was the pressure of the dog that appeared to her in her dream to be her lord. Had the dog pressed its body more and more, she would have felt a mighty Himalaya on her breast. And the Vedanta says, as long as the dog of ignorance, the dog of Maya remains pressing you down, your dreams are continually changing from good to bad, and from bad to good, sometimes a husband and sometimes a mighty Himalaya presses on you. You will be always like a pendulum oscillating between a tear and a smile; the world will weigh heavily upon your heart, there will be no rest for you. The Vedanta says, “Get rid of this dog of ignorance, make yourself God Almighty, make yourself that, realize that and you are free.”
In thousand forms must thou attend surprise,
Yet all beloved one, straight know I thee,
Thou mayest with magic veil thy face, etc.