Class Lecture delivered on February 15, 1903

The question put the other day was:”Can a man realize Vedanta in this age?”And it was suggested by someone that a man must leave this or that in order to realize Vedanta, and retire to the forest of the Himalayas. But Rama says,”No, no, you need not retire into the forests.”

In these days the common complaint is lack of time. They say,”We have got no time, we have to attend to all sorts of business, our relatives and friends take up our time.”There is a prayer:”O God! Save me from my enemies,”but the prayer which the modern man should offer more properly would be,”O God! Save me from my friends.”Friends rob us of all our time; then anxieties, worries, troubles take away our time. Then we have to attend to our children and our helpmates; we have to receive visits and pay visits, we have to read things; how can we spare time for spiritual advancement? Oh, duties! They take away our time. We cannot spare time even to take dinner easily. In the name of duties all your life is being frittered away. But let us ask wherefrom these duties come. Who imposes these duties upon you? You yourselves. In fact it is you who make your duties. Duties should not come upon you as a cruel master. You regard it your duty to attend to the office work, but who put that office work on you? It is you yourself. So, if you ultimately realize the nature of duties, you will see that you are your own master, and that all these duties which absolutely enslave you, are created by yourself. If you once feel that, there is nothing in this world that binds you. Everything originally comes from you. You can be very happy, and you can adjust your position most smoothly.

Once a man came to Dr. Johnson, and said,”Doctor, I am undone, undone. I am unfit for any work; I cannot do anything. What can a man do in this world?”Dr. Johnson inquired what was the matter with him. He ought to lay down reasons for his complaint, and this man began to state his argument in this way.”Man lives in this world for a period of a hundred years at the utmost, and what are a hundred years compared with infinity, eternity. Half of this age is passed in sleep. You know we sleep every day and our period of childhood is one long sleep, and our period of old age is also a time of debility and helplessness, when we can do nothing; again our period of youth is misspent in evil thoughts, in all sorts of temptations. Again what is left to us is spent in sporting about. We play a great deal, and what is left out of that is wasted away in attending to nature’s calls, and in eating, drinking, etc, and what is left out of that goes in anger, envy, anxiety, troubles, and worries. These are also natural for everyman. What remains still, what little is left to us, is taken up by attending to our children, to our friends and relatives. What can a man do in this world? We must weep for those that die, and we must rejoice at the birth of new arrivals. All our time must be wasted in this way. How can a man do anything solid, anything real? How can a man spare time for realizing his God-head? We cannot. Away with these churches, away with these religious teachers and preachers! Tell them that people in this world cannot spare time for religion; they have no time for realizing their God-head. That is too much for us.”Dr. Johnson did not smile at these words; he did not reproach this man, but only began to weep and to sympathise with him. He said,”Men ought to commit suicide, because they have no time for godly professions. Brother! To this complaint of yours, I have another complaint to add, I have a worse complaint to add.”This man asked Dr. Johnson to state his complaint. Dr. Johnson began to cry a mock cry, and said,”Look here! There is left no soil or earth for me; there is left no soil or earth which will grow corn enough to feed me, I am undone, undone.””Well,”he said,”Doctor, how could that be? I admit that you eat too much, you eat as much as ten men do, vet there is soil enough on the earth to produce food for your stomach; there is earth enough to produce corn or vegetable for your body. Why do you complain?”Dr. Johnson said,”Look here, what is this Earth of yours? This Earth is nothing, this Earth is looked upon as a mathematical point in astronomical calculations. When we are calculating the distances of stars and suns, we regard this Earth as nil, as a cipher, and three-fourths of this cipher or world is occupied by water, and what is left out of that? Mark. A great deal is taken up by barren sands, and a considerable part is taken up by barren hills and stones, and a considerable part is taken up by lakes and rivers; again a considerable part of this Earth is occupied by sites of big cities like London; again roads, railroads, streets take up a great deal of this Earth. What is there in this Earth left for man? We will suppose that there is something left for man out of all that. But how many living beings are there, who want to take advantage of the insignificant part of the soil that is left? There are many birds, so many ants, so many horses, so many elephants, all of these want to keep themselves on the Earth that is left and is capable of producing anything; very little falls to the lot of man. How many men are there in this world? Look at London, full of millions and millions of men; look at this enormous population. All these wane to feed upon the insignificant part of this big cipher or this world. How can the Earth produce food enough for my satisfaction? My logic leads me to this desperation, to this sad conclusion that I should die, because I can find no earth which can produce food to feed me.”Now the man said,”Doctor, your argument is not right; your logic seems to be right, but still despite this logic of yours, this Earth can keep you.”And Dr. Johnson said,”Sir, if this complaint of mine is groundless, your complaint that you have got no time to supply yourself with spiritual food is also groundless. If the earth is sufficient to supply me with material food, time also is sufficient for your purpose; it can also supply you with spiritual food.”Thus Rama makes the same answer to this question that the present civilization does not allow us time to get any spiritual food. This question Rama answers in the same way as Dr. Johnson answered that question many years ago. You have got time enough even under these cricumstances to advance spiritually; you have time enough, if you make proper use of it.

There was a man on horse-back going to a distant place. He happened to pass by a Persian wheel in India. You know that in India water is drawn out of the well by a kind of arrangement which we call a Persian-wheel. When water is pumped out of a well by a Persian-wheel, there is a noise. Now this man brought his mare or horse to drink from the water that was coming out of the well by the Persian-wheel. The horse not being accustomed to hear that kind of noise, was startled a little and did not drink that water. The horseman asked the pea>ants who were working that Persian wheel to stop that noise. The peasants stopped that noise by stopping the Persian wheel; the noise was stopped, but with the stopping of the noise the coming of the water also stopped. Now the horse had no water to drink; the horse advanced towards the cistern, where the water was to be found, but there was no water at all. Now this horseman turned to the farmers and complained to them,”O queer farmers! I asked you to stop the noise; I did not ask you to stop the water, strange fellows you are; you will not show kindness to a stranger to allow his horse a drink of water.”The farmers said,”Sir, we wish from the bottom of our heart to serve you, to treat you and to serve your horse with water, but your request is beyond our powder to comply with. We cannot comply with your request. If you want to have water, if you want to water your horse, you ought to coax him to drink when the noise is going on; because when we stop the noise, no water will be supplied; water comes always alongside of this noise”. Similarly Rama says,”If you want to realize Vedanta, realize it even in the midst of all sorts of noise, even in the heat of all sorts of troubles. In this world you can never, never get yourself in a state where there will be no noise or no botherations from without. Live on the heights of the Himalayas; there also you will have troubles around. Live as savages, there also you will have botherations around you. Go wherever you please, botherations and troubles-will never leave you; they are always with you. If you want to realize Vedanta, realize it when the noise of the Persian-wheel is going on all around you. All the great men have been produced despite discouraging environments and circumstances; in fact the harder these circumstances, the more trying the environments, the stronger are the men, who come out of those circumstances. So welcome all these outside troubles and anxieties. Live Vedanta even in these surroundings, and when you live Vedanta, you will see that the surroundings and circumstances will succumb to you, will yield to you, they will become subservient to you; you will become their master. Is it society that weighs us down? Is it this world that keeps us down? You do not live in this world. Everybody lives in a tiny little world of his own creation. How few are the men who live in this world I In the wide world very few live indeed; you live in small worlds of your own creation.

You have made your worlds around your small selves. There are people who do not know anything beyond the small domestic circle, there are people who do not know anything beyond the small world of their own caste. There are people who do not know anything beyond the small world formed by their wives, husbands, or children. Live in this wide world at least; rise above the little petty worlds. It is not the broad world that keeps you down; it is the small world of your own creation that keeps you down; if you can rise above it, the whole world will yield to you.

Now, this small world of our own creation will be illustrated by referring to what work really is. You say you are kept very busy, and Rama has observed in this country people complaining of time, though Rama is amused to see here that they are trying all their lives to kill time, and yet they complain of it. They get time enough to hang heavy on their hands as well as heads, and yet they say they have no time. You are driving out time by your desires, you are killing time, and yet you say you have no time. How is that? The cause of your complaint is a misunderstanding of the nature of work. You call that work which is not in reality work. Work is defined differently by different people. Science or writers of mechanics define work in one way, and we in another way. According to them you are doing no work if you are walking on a plane, or if a ball is moving on a smooth plane, it is doing no work. You work only when you are going uphill; you are doing no work when you are moving horizontally; that is a peculiar way of defining work. Psychology defines work in another way. According to Psychology you are working only when your mind is engaged in it; if you are doing a thing and your mind is not engaged in it, you are not working at all. You are breathing, but this breathing is no work according to Psychology; your blood is flowing in your veins, and this is also work from one standpoint, but this is no work according to Psychologists who give a very remarkable illustration to show what work really is.

There was a man, a retired veteran, who had been accustomed to military discipline and drill to such a degree that the performance of those feats of drill was automatic for him. This man was walking through the street with a heavy pitcher of milk, or some other eatable in his hands. He carried a heavy pitcher on his hands or shoulders. There appeared a practical joker in the street; he wanted that all this milk or other delicious food should be spilled into the gutter. This man stood aside and just ejaculated”Attention! Attention!”You know when we say”Attention”the hands ought to be dropped down. As soon as this veteran soldier heard that word”Attention,”his hands dropped down and all the milk or other thing that he had, fell into the gutter. All the by-standers and shop-keepers in the street had a very pleasant time of it. You will see that when he heard the word”Attention,”he dropped down his hands, but Psychology says he did no work; that is what is called a reflex action. Reflex action is no work, because the mind is not engaged.

Now, Rama simply asks,”Please state how much work you do in twenty-four hours?”When you are eating, is that work? No. When you are doing many other things, are you working in the same sense in which Psychology defines work? When you are walking, are you working? When you are doing many other things Rama need not mention all, are you working? No, no. Your mind or attention was not engaged. If your mind or attention is not occupied with what you have got in your hands, then you are not working; here you are idling away your time. Could you not spare that, could you not utilize that? In some work our mind is thoroughly engaged, and while doing some other work, our mind is half occupied. In work where your mind is half occupied, you are doing half work; the other half of your attention you might utilize, and when your attention is entirely idle then you might utilize your full attention. Thus by utilizing your mind’s attention you may increase your lives. You can do more work in one day than you could do by not utilizing the unengaged attention.

This will be illustrated by another story. Two boys met each other in the streets. They were friends. One of them urged his fellow to go with him to a church, and there hear a sermon or say some music or something. The other pleaded play. Now, what was the use of wasting time in going to church and hearing a monotonous sermon? They had better play. They did not come to an agreement, so one went to the church and the other went out seeking play. But when the boy who went to church found himself face to face with the preacher, he could not understand or enjoy the sermon at all; he repented of his having gone to the church. Then he began to think of the play-ground. He began to think of the boy who was being joined by his friends at play. Two long hours he spent in the church, but all the time his mind was in the play-ground. Now, the boy who went to the play-ground did not find any congenial company, did not find any other boy who might come and play with him. He found himself alone, and he felt very lonely. He thought of the church, and then he thought within himself that it was too late to go to the church. He remained in the play-ground, but his mind was all the time in the church, he was all the while in the church. After two hours those two boys met each other again in the streets. One said he was sorry for not going to the church, and the other said he was sorry for not going to the play-ground. This is what is happening everywhere with men. Your minds are not where your bodies are, How many are there that heard the lecture to-day; very few can manage to remain in the hall; the mind flits away; the mind is there with the child or with some other friends; the mind wanders away from place to place, from topic to topic. According to Psychology you do a thing when the mind does a thing. Sometimes when your body is doing a particular action, you have not done that action. When your body is in the church, when you are offering prayers, when you are attending lectures, you are not attending lectures; and sometimes when your body is in the streets, when your body is taking walks, there you are in reality with God. Your mind is with God. Oftentimes people, who were accused of faults and crimes, were in reality godly and pious: their minds were with God. Sometimes people who are looked upon as pious and holy, have filthy minds. Sometimes we see that the absolutely wicked prosper. Vedanta says, it is not their wickedness that brings prosperity. They in their hearts have been living with God; so do not draw any inferences from the external actions of people. If a man commits murder or theft, you ought not to look down upon him.

Rama will now tell you a story told by a very notorious thief in India. Rama was a child at that time and he heard that big thief relate this story to one of his friends. He happened to be at that time present on the occasion. Rama happened to be in the village forest. He was then a small child. The thief made it no secret to tell it in the presence of the little boy of whom he thought nothing, and he freely told the story. Now, that story will let you into the secret of the whole affair. This thief related the way he once managed to break into the house of a rich man, and steal away the jewellery of the house. He said that he came to know about the jewellery that this rich man had got recently into his house by some means. He went to break into the house, but could not devise any method or means of doing it. By thinking and thinking again he made a plan; he saw that near the house there was a gigantic tree growing, and he saw that this tree was opposite the window of the third story of the house. Then he devised the plan to put a swing at night, when it was dark to put a ,rope at the top of the tree, and he made a kind of a trapeze and he began to swing upon that trapeze, went on swinging, swinging, in that hot country. It was summer, and he had come to know that the people of the house slept on the fifth story, they were not on the third story. When the trapeze reached the window, he gave it a kick and he kicked it a second time, and at the third kick the window sash flew back. Now in the seventh or eighth attempt, by making the window sash or door fall down he entered the house, and there he had some ropes with him, he let down the ropes and drew up two or three of his companions. Then he began to think within himself of the place where the jewellery was expected to be found. He concentrated his mind; his mind was all merged in concentration. There he said that the people did not keep their jewellery at such places where the thieves might expect to find it; the people keep their jewellery where it is least expected to be found. Then he began to dig at a place where the jewellery was least expected to be found. It was buried in the ground. That is the way people did in those days, and some do so to-day in India, but now they are beginning to put their money in banks. The people used to keep their money buried under ground. He got the money and then he heard a sound upstairs. Rama cannot forget the descriptions he gave of his state of mind then. He said that he and his companions, after they had got the money, heard that sound, and that sound sent a thrill throughout their body. Their whole being was throbbing, shaking, quivering, shivering; they were trembling from head to foot. Then he said that that was a time of death. They found themselves dead, and there they said that even a small rat might come and kill them. The sound, in fact, was the sound of rats only. There he said that he repented, he prayed to God, he gave up his body and resigned himself entirely to God. There he resigned himself, repented and asked God to forgive him, and there he was in a state of samadhi in which the mind was no mind, all selfish interests were gone. Here he was in a very queer, wonderful state of mind, he and all his companions. There he prayed,”O God, save me and I shall become a hermit, I shall become a Sannyasi, I shall become a monk, I shall devote my life entirely to your service, O Lord! Save me, save me.”Here was offered a most fervent, heartfelt prayer, a most sincere prayer that came from the bottom of his heart and soul. Here was a prayer that sounded through the depth of his whole being; merged in God he was at that time. What was the result? All sound subsided, and he and his companions came out of the house safe. Now mark. Judge not things from the external actions; man is not what his actions are; man is what his thoughts are. A man who lives in a house of ill-fame may be a saint. We know that Lord Buddha went to the house of a courtesan, Buddha was pious. We know that Lord Christ lived in the house of Mary Magdalene, the woman whom people were going to pelt, but Christ is God. We know that there have been saviours even in India like Christ. They lived in the company of people of ill-fame. They were really God. Judge not a man by his company; judge not a man by his acts. Judge nobody. A man is what his thoughts are. People who live in jails often live in heaven. Bunyan wrote his”Pilgrim’s Progress”in a jail. Milton’s great work came out when he was in jail and when he was also blind. Daniel De Foe wrote Robinson Crusoe while in jail. Sir Walter Raleigh wrote his History of the World in a jail. We wish that our surroundings may be of this kind or that; we are living where our thoughts are living. Now, we come to interpret the story of that death, i.e., death-in-life. Just mark. Kama says that success comes to you as a result of your unison with the All. Success is always the result of goodness in you; the result of your absorption and immersion in the Divinity. That is always the case. Here was this thief; he succeeded. You all will succeed. The success of the thief was the consequence of that real, sincere, earnest, prayerful mood in which he was. He found out where the treasure lay by immersion and absorption in the Deity, in the All. He succeeded, and even the success of a thief is the result of Vedanta put in practice. Now, the success of each and all is always due to that. There we see again he was a thief; he committed theft, that was wrong. Robbing others is a sin; robbing others will, of course, at the right time bring punishment upon him, and this money that he gets by theft, this crime that he commits, this breaking of the Divine harmony will bring desolation upon him, but we see that the success of the thief was the consequence of his feeling in harmony and unison with the All, his absorption in the Divinity; his giving up the body, his rising above the body for that small moment; his crucifying the body, his crushing the flesh. His overcoming all bodily interest is what brought to him success; but the thieving or scheming tendency which is employed brought upon him the fear of punishment, the terror and the awe. We make a mistake when we expect a man to be entirely bad. Even a thief has got some prayerful mood and divinity in him. Even Christs, missionaries, swamis, or teachers have got some bad tendencies in them. Every man has got a queer mixture in him. We make a mistake when we worship personalities in not accepting the wrong side of a man along with his good side; so try to sift out the truth from error always.

How can a man in the present circumstances achieve realization of the Spirit? The answer will be dependent upon the nature of the man himself. Men in this world may be broadly divided as possessing three kinds of tempers, three kinds of mind. There are some whose minis are of the nature of unstable equilibrium; there are others whose concentration or peace of mind may be of the nature of stable equilibrium; there are others who are always in neutral equilibrium. What is unstable equilibrium? Place the pencil vertically upon the palm of the hand, it never stays (here the Swami put the pencil on his palm in a vertical position), for a second or so it may be at rest; every whiff of wind will throw it down. This is called unstable equilibrium. Hold the pencil by one end (here the Swami held the pencil between his fingers and kept it hanging like a pendulum). It is at rest, but being a pendulum, it will go on oscillating sometime, but after a while it will stop again. The equilibrium may be disturbed but it may be regained soon. In the first position of the pencil, the equilibrium may not be regained. Hut there is a third kind of equilibrium. Place the pencil horizontally (here he laid down the pencil on the table), it is at rest. Place it like that; it is at rest. In this position wherever you place the pencil, it is at rest. It is in equilibrium all the time. Just so, there are some people whose minds are all the time disturbed, all the time distracted; they cannot be in equilibrium: they cannot rest. External circumstances bring them rest, but they are distracted again. There are other people whose minds are usually calm, collected and quiet, but being once disturbed they go on oscillating for a long, long time, and the majority of men in this world are of that nature. You are walking through the streets; somebody comes and shakes hands with you, and makes some remark which is not complimentary, but critical, cynical. He goes away, but the act is done; he made the remark, and went away. The effect of that disturbance continues for hours and hours, sometimes for days and days, for weeks and weeks, for months and months, sometimes for years. The effect of that remark remains and the mind keeps on oscillating; being once disturbed, it goes on oscillating; goes on moving up and down; and this state of mind, this oscillating state of mind ruins your life; it takes away all your time. Now just mark! The acts or the facts did not take much time. The act was the first motion which was given, but the after effects, or, say, the oscillations of your mind take away your life. If you could prevent those peculiar oscillations, if you could overcome that inner disturbance, if you resist or bring under control that meditation or that continuous vibration of the mind, that palpitation; if you could overcome it, your life would be the life of millions of men. Even your thirty years of life may be equivalent to hundreds and hundreds of years. Mark the disease of your mind, the psychological disease from which you are suffering. Know that disease and cure it. The disease of your mind is the oscillating tendency; when the thing is done, the mind keeps oscillating between a fear and a smile. These are only pendulum-men. Now, the third kind of men are the heroes, the liberated souls. These are men whose minds cannot be disturbed by any circumstances; let anything come to pass, they are undisturbed, they are at rest. Place them in the surging waves of the rolling ocean, the same; place them in war, the same. You are friends, you will talk to them to-day, you make all sorts of remarks, the remarks are unanswered. The very moment you go away, the mind is as fresh and as pure as ever. Remain with a free man for a thousand years, go away, and you have left no disturbance there. The mirror shows your face back to you. You know the mirror does not exactly portray your face. If you have an ear-ring in the left ear, you will find the ear-ring in the right ear of the mirror, and so the right becomes the left, and the left becomes the right. You remain before the mirror for a hundred years, and for a hundred years the mirror goes on answering you. Leave the mirror, the mirror is just the same; so is the case with a liberated soul, or a man of wisdom. He is one upon whom the outside stain can leave no tainting spot, whom nothing can pollute, and who remains as free as ever. You may come and praise him all the time; go away and his mind will not afterwards be chewing the cud of your praise. You come and pass critical and cynical remarks; you go away and he will not be ruminating over your criticisms. Free, free. He believes in his Divinity.

Now, Rama says that if you really study Vedanta and keep the Vedantic teachings continually before you, and by self-suggestions from Om, or from some other remarks, by self-suggestions in the right direction, you remember your God-head and keep the reality before you, your mind if originally of unstable equilibrium, will become of stable equilibrium, and if it is of stable equilibrium, it will acquire neutral equilibrium by degrees, and this Vedanta, this truth you have to keep before you all the time. Rama will now tell you some outside aids and helps to keep continually in that state. Try it and you will see that even though this is not preached by people, yet it is a wonderful advice. You will mark it. When people come and have a talk with Rama, sometimes remarks—cynical, critical remarks—are made, and then they go away. Do you know how Rama keeps himself safe from their suggestion? Different ways there are. One way is this. You see that small book before you. This is a marvellous book; it was written by a man whose equal is not to be found. This man is not famous, he is not worshipped in India. This book is not a famous book like the Bhagavad Gita (Note: It seems Rama refers to Avudhut Gita here); it was not written by Krishna; it was written by a man who was unknown to name and fame. But here is a man who gives you all the Christs, Krishnas, Buddhas, all of that. Rama takes up this book. It is in Sanskrit you know, and when Rama reads one verse out of this book, that is enough to wipe out and wash away all pollution of lives and lives; it throws Rama at once into a state of ecstasy; one verse of this small book appeals to the heart, and uplifts, re-asserts the God-head in Rama. It destroys the low nature and rends asunder the veil of Maya at once. So Rama tells you, you may keep a book of that kind. You may have some psalms which lift, you up, inspire you; you may have some songs which inspire you immediately; you may have some poems which appeal to you; you may have, say, the Bible; you may have the Sermon on the Mount. You may mark the passages of your favourite authors, the passages which inspire you, or anything whatever that uplifts you. You may have a small note book in which you keep collected all those sayings which inspire you or which uplift you, which fill you with prayer. You may have this book. You may have the poem written at the end of this book.”Oh, brimful is my cup of Joy,”that poem, and you may have anything which stirs yon up. Keep that always right at hand, and after you have mixed with your friends or left any uncongenial company, instead of allowing your mind to keep oscillating, instead of allowing your mind to remain in a disturbed state, oscillating all the while, at once take up this inspiring passage and make the mind steady.

Now, you see Rama has told you the cause, the mental disease. Rama has laid before you the general malady of the human soul. The general malady is this oscillating tendency, and Kama has told you how you may keep the mind steady.

We will continue this subject next time.