seen faces lit up at
the mention of his name, and men have told me
how much they owed to him. He came at a time
when a deep unsettlement was taking place in the
minds of educated Indian students with regard to
religious truth, and when the claims of the material
world were becoming too absorbing. The training
in Western Sciences, divorced as it is in
Government institutions from religious culture,
inevitably led to an indifference to religion
altogether. After college days, the struggle for
existence in the world has only too often left little or
no opportunity for the cultivation of the inner
nature, and a reputation for worldliness had
gathered round educated life in the Punjab. The
reputation is not altogether justified, for there have
been most notable exceptions; but the dangers of
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the time of transition have been very great and the
results serious.
Into such an atmosphere of getting and spending,
Swami Rama‟s unworldly spirit came with a
message that commanded attention by its very
contrast. No one could be long in his presence
without feeling that the highest happiness in life
was to be found, not in the things of the body, but
in the things of the soul. It was not so much that
anyone had taught him the truths he held so dear
(though he would have been the first to
acknowledge how much he owed to the kindly
influences of the Forman Christian College where
he was both a student and a Professor), but he
seemed from his earliest childhood, to have grown
up with an intense realization of spiritual realities
and every instinct in his nature pressed him
forward to the devout religious life. Many of those
with whom I have conversed about him have told
me of the innate power which he possessed, a
power which moved them profoundly whenever
they met and talked with him, a power which took
their thoughts away from material things and made
them feel, if only for a moment, the reality of
spiritual experience.
In Woods of God-Realization Volume 1
The Lectures and Conversations which are now
published for the first time, will show more clearly
than any words of mine the secret of his great
influence. There is a childlike simplicity in what he
writes, and an overflowing joy and happiness, won
through great self-discipline and suffering, which
reveals a soul that is at peace within itself and has
found a priceless gift that it desires to impart to
others. There is a striking personality which makes
itself manifest in his very language and mode of
address. At the same time there is on every page a
definite refusal to appeal to those lower motives
that are ordinarily urged as making for success in
life, and a determination to find in the soul itself,
apart from outward circumstances, the secret of all
true and lasting joy.
The Lectures unfortunately have not had the
revision of the author himself. He would
undoubtedly have altered much, and possibly
abbreviated much. He would have corrected also
the metrical form of some of his poems, which have
clearly been put down on paper as the inspiration
to write came to him, without any laboured
correction. But while there is considerable loss to
the reader on this account, there is also
considerable gain; for what is lost in finish and
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correctness is gained in freshness and vitality. I
cannot doubt that the friends of the author were
right in tenderly and piously preserving every
word of the manuscript before them. The readers
will gladly make allowance for repetition and lack
of finish, when the individuality of the Swami
himself is brought so vividly before them by his
manuscript notes. We seem to be talking with him,
as we read, and he seems to be talking with us. We
feel, the Swami himself still present in his words,
and can almost picture him speaking.
If I were asked to point out what I considered to be
the special qualities that appear in these writings, I
should mention first and foremost the point I have
already emphasised, namely, the unworldliness
that is apparent on every page. Wealth, riches,
worldly ambitions, luxuries—these are all laid
aside without a murmur. The Swami‟s own life had
reached a calm haven, into which the stormy
passions, that are roused by the acquisition of
wealth and worldly honours, had never come. His
inner life had been free from such things. He cannot
even understand them. The child-nature seems to
come out in him as he speaks of them. He smiles at
them with an almost boyish laughter from his own
retreat, or mocks at them with a gentle raillery. The
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laughter appears most of all in his poems.
In the second place I would mention his
overflowing charity, his kindliness of spirit, which
seems incapable of bitterness or malice. He is
always trying to win men, not to drive them; to
make the best of them, not to blame or scold them;
to attract them by the power of his ideals, not to
argue with them in useless and unsatisfying
controversy. The bitter and rancorous spirit is
absent and the kindly tolerant spirit prevails. This
is especially noticeable when he is dealing with
beliefs other than his one. Here he is always
courteous and sympathetic. If he has any objection
to make, he does it with an apology. Usually his
attempt is to absorb and assimilate all that he can
accept, especially when he is speaking of
Christianity, and mould it into his own system of
religious thought. In this respect he shows the truly
catholic spirit, which is the opposite of bigotry. He
has a large share of that charity which „thinketh no
evil‟ and „rejoiceth with the truth.‟ I would like to
add how deeply I feel that it was in accordance
with this characteristic of Swami Rama, that his
friends, in bringing out his works, have so kindly
offered to me, a Christian missionary, the privilege
of writing an introduction and have given me,
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while doing so, such liberty of self-expression and
freedom of comment. It is my wish that I may fulfil
this duty in the same catholic spirit.
The third feature that I should wish to notice in the
life and writings of the Swami was his abounding
joy. He was not in the least one of those gloomy
ascetics, who, in choosing the path of renunciation,
seem to have left behind them all joy and
happiness. He knew what physical hardship and
endurance meant in a way that few can have
experienced. But this did not embitter him, or make
his message one of harshness. On the contrary the
very titles of his lectures are sufficient to give a
picture of the character of his own mind.
“Happiness within,” “How to make your homes
happy,” such are the subjects that appeal to him,
and his heart goes out in every word as he tries to
make his message clear; it is the message of his own
experience, not that of another‟s. He is full of
happiness himself which he wishes to give to the
world, and he is never so happy as when happiness
is his subject. It is this also which bubbles over in
his poems, waking in others an echo of his own
laughter. The outward setting of these poems, as I
have already said, may often be crude and even
grotesque, but the inner spirit may be caught by the
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sympathetic reader beneath the imperfect vehicle of
expression. The message of this gay spirit, laughing
at hardship and smiling at pain, is one that sad
India sorely needs amid the despondency of so
much of her present modern life.
This mention of his poems leads me on to the last
feature of his life and writings which I would wish
to mention. I do so with considerable diffidence, as
it is quite possible that others may take a different
view to my own. But what I could venture to say is
briefly this, that I find in Swami Rama Tirtha‟s
poetic spirit, which lies behind his philosophy, the
highest value of his written work. In this seems to
lie the freshness, originality, contribution to the
world of thought. His romantic love of Nature,
strong in his life as in his death; his passion for
sacrifice and renunciation; his eager thirst for
reality and self-abandonment in search of truth; his
joy and laughter of the Soul in the victory he had
won— all these, and other qualities such as these,
which make him break out into song, reveal the
true poet behind the philosopher. It is to these
qualities that my own heart goes out so warmly in
response, and it is on these sides that I find by far
the strongest attraction to the writer himself.
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With the philosophy of the Advaita Vedanta, as it is
often stated in the writings of Swami Rama, I
confess I have only a faint and distant sympathy.
Rightly or wrongly it seems to me all illegitimate
short cut to the simplification of the problem of
existence—a solution which has overlooked certain
persistent facts of human experience. I am always
conscious of obstinate and irreducible elements in
the equation of God, the Soul, and the universe
which the Advaita system itself does not seem
seriously to take into account. I would refer for an
instance in this book to the chapter on the
“Prognosis and Diagnosis of Sin.” While containing
same valuable thoughts, these chapters appear to
me to be altogether unsatisfying in their
conclusions, intended as they are to form a final
answer to the problems of the origin of evil and its
elimination from the heart of man.
But on the other hand with the poetic spirit of
Swami Rama, where his thought is still in solution
and not crystallized into a formal logical system, I
have a sympathy which is not faint but deep. Here I
feel again on common ground, and my whole heart
goes out to writer in his beautiful passages on
renunciation as “the law of life eternal” or again in
his intense and vivid appreciation of beauty in
nature; or again, to mention only one more
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instance, in his ideal of married life. I experience in
a measure the same sympathy when I read some of
the poetry of the Upanishads, or certain passages
from that greatest of all Hindu poems, the
Bhagavad Gita. There also the note is struck, which
is heard many times in Swami Rama‟s writings,
that only in the unruffled silence of the soul can the
divine harmony of the universe be heard.
That blessed mood
In which the burthen of the mystery,
In which the heavy and the weary weight
Of all this unintelligible world,
Is lightened :—that serene and blessed mood,
In which the affections gently lead us on,
Until the breath of this corporal frame
And even the motion of our human blood
Almost suspended, we are laid asleep
In body, and become a living soul:
While with an eye made quiet by the power
Of harmony, and the deep power of joy,
We see into the life of things.
I have quoted this passage of Wordsworth, as it
appears to me very near akin to the heart of Swami
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Rama; and in his fervent love of Nature I can well
imagine the author of these lectures during his later
days of wandering among the Himalayan
mountains echoing those still more famous lines
which follow :— I have learned To look on Nature,
not as in the hour Of thoughtless youth; but hearing
often-times The still, and music of humanity Not
harsh nor grating, though of ample power To
chasten and subdue. And I have felt A presence
that disturbs me with the joy Of elevated thoughts a
sense sublime Of something far more deeply
interfused, Whose dwelling is the light of setting
suns, And the round ocean, and the living air, And
the blue sky, and in the mind of man: A motion and
a spirit that impels All thinking things, all objects of
all thought, And rolls through all things. Therefore
am I still A lover of the meadows and the woods,
And mountains; and of all that we behold From this
green earth: of all the mighty world Of eye and ear,
both what they half-create, And what perceive.
I have not been afraid to quote such passages at full
length, for it is, I believe, the poetry of the West
rather than its philosophy or science—especially
the poetry of that wonderful revolution period in
English Literature, which gave birth to
Wordsworth and Coleridge, Shelly and
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Keats—which comes nearest to the heart of India.
In the same way, I venture to believe, it will be the
poets of modern India, who are seeking to bring
their deeply inherited spiritual instincts of the past
into living touch with the new movements of the
present, who will come nearest to the heart of the
West. Among these poets of modern India I would
reckon that remarkable company of religious
leaders, who have appeared in different parts of the
country during last century, among whom Swami
Rama‟s tender spirit once showed such early
promise of fulfilment. From another side of Indian
life I would mention, with a sense of personal
gratitude and appreciation, that singularly delicate
and beautiful flower, which blossoms in its
season—the poetry of Mrs. Sarojini Naidu, whose
life of gentle sympathy with the poor has been itself
a poem.
In this approximation between India and the West
there will remain much that Christian thought
cannot finally accept. But there will be much, on the
other hand, that will throw light on cherished
Christian truths and give them a new setting. I
cannot refrain, in this connection, from quoting a
passage from Swami Rama‟s Lectures, which may
illustrate my meaning:—
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“In the Lord‟s Prayer,” writes Swami Rama, “We
say „Give us this day our daily bread‟ and in
another place we say „Man shall not live by bread
alone‟, Reconcile these statements; understand
them thoroughly. The meaning of that Lord‟s
Prayer, when it was stated „Give us this day our
daily bread‟ is not that you should be craving,
willing and wishing; not at all. That is not the
meaning. The meaning of that was that even a king,
an emperor, who is in no danger of not having his
daily bread, even a prince who is sure that his daily
bread is guaranteed to him, even he is to offer that
prayer. If so, evidently „Give us this day our daily
bread‟ does not mean that they should put
themselves in the begging mood, that they should
ask for material prosperity; it does not mean that.
That prayer meant that everybody, let him be a
prince, a king, a monk, anybody, he is to look upon
all these things around him, all the wealth and
plenty, all the riches, all the beautiful and attractive
objects, as not his, as not belonging to him, but as
God‟s, not mine, not mine. That does not mean
begging, but that means renouncing; giving up;
renouncing unto God. You know how
unreasonable it is on the part of a king to offer that
prayer, „Give us this day our daily bread‟ if it be
taken in its ordinary sense. How unreasonable! But
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it becomes reasonable enough when the king, while
he is offering that prayer, puts himself into the
mood where all the jewels in his treasury, all the
riches in his house, the house itself, all these he
renounces, as it were, he gives them up, he
disclaims them. He breaks connection with them,
so to say, and he stands apart from them. He is the
monk of monks. He says this is God‟s; this table,
everything lying upon the table is His, not mine; I
do not possess anything. Anything that comes to
me, comes from my Beloved One.”
Such a passage as this gives on the one hand, an
example of Swami Rama‟s style, that is so simple,
so direct, so careless with regard to repetition, if
only the meaning can be made clear, and on the
other hand, it explains, what I have called the
approximation of two different streams of human
thought, issuing from two different springs. These
in their conjunction should do very much indeed to
fertilize the soil in which man‟s life is sown.
We have, in India, between the Ganga and the
Yamuna, a tract of country known as the Doab.
Between these two waters lie the rich alluvial
plains, which are ready for the seed. By means of
cross channels, cut from one river to another, the
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whole country between the rivers can be irrigated.
Thus an abundant harvest may be gathered year by
year from the well-watered soil to satisfy the wants
of mankind.
Eastern and Western conceptions of spiritual life
are flowing forward today like two great rivers
which come from different sources. We need those
poet-thinkers, both in the West and in the East, who
may be able to cut new channels from one river of
human experience to another. In this way
approximation may be made and the soil of human
life enriched and its area enlarged.
Among the different intersecting channels of new
thought which are being cut, two appear to me at
the present time to be of special significance.
(1) From the one side, the approach made by the
West towards the East in what Tennyson has called
„the Higher Pantheism.‟
The Sun, the Moon, the stars, the seas, the hills
and the plains,
Are not these, O soul, the Vision of Him who
Is not the Vision He? Though He be not that which
He seems,
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Dreams are true while they last and do not we live
in dreams?
The ideas, contained in these lines, are still more
clearly stated in his later poem, entitled „The
Ancient Sage‟—
If thou wouldst hear the Nameless, and wilt dive
Into the Temple-cave of thine own Self.
There brooding by the central altar, thou
Mayest haply learn the Nameless has a voice,
By which thou wilt abide, if thou be wise,
As if thou knowest, though can‟st not know;
For knowledge is the swallow on the lake
That sees and stirs the surface-shadow there,
But never yet hath dipt into the abysm,
The abysm of all abysms, beneath, within,
The blue of sky and sea, the green of earth,
And in the millionth of a grain
Which cleft and cleft again for ever more,
And ever vanishing, never vanishes,
To me, my son, more mystic than myself,
Or even than the Nameless is to me.
And when thou sendest thy free soul through
heaven Nor understandest bound nor
boundlessness Thou seest the Nameless of the
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hundred names, And if the Nameless should
withdraw from all, Thy frailty counts most real, all
thy world Might vanish like thy shadow in the
As we read this and other passages in modern
English poetry, we feel as though we were back in
the Upanishads, repeating Indian thoughts uttered
centuries ago; and there can be little doubt that
India is in a great measure, however indirectly, the
source of their inspiration. At the same time, it is
noticeable that along with this conception of an
all-pervading Divine nature, there has developed in
the West even more clearly and distinctly in
modern times the conception of eternally persisting
human personality.
Dark is the world to these? Thy self art the reason
why: For is He not all but that, which has power to
say „I am I‟
There will always, therefore, so it appears to me, be
a nearer approximation in the West to the school of
Shri Ramanujacharya and the Vishishta Advaita
than to the school of Shri Shankaracharya and the
Advaita Vedanta itself.
In Woods of God-Realization Volume 1
Again in its negative aspect, the loss of personal
identity or complete absorption, as the final end of
the soul, is a conception from which the poets of the
West shrink back with dread, rather than accept
with satisfaction. This forms one of the main
themes of one of the greatest spiritual poems of the
last century, the “In Memoriam.”
That each who seems a separate whole
Should move his rounds, and fusing all
The skirts of self again, should fall
Remerging in the general soul,
Is faith as vague as all unsweet.
Eternal form shall still divide
The eternal soul from all beside,
And I shall know him when we meet.
So the poet sings of his dead friend, and again in
more passionate accents at the close,
Dear friend, far off, my lost desire
So far, so near, in woe and weal,
O loved the most, when most I feel
There is a lower and a higher;
Known and unknown; human, divine;
Sweet human hand and lips and eye;
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Dear human friend, that cannot die,
Mine, mine, for ever, ever mine.
Thus the modern West today expresses the
conviction which for century after century it has
cherished, that love is eternal,
Love is and was my king and lord,
And will, be though as yet I keep
Within his court on earth, and sleep Encompassed
by his faithful guard
And hear at times a sentinel,
Who moves about from place to place,
And whispers to the worlds of space
In the deep night, that all is well.
It is again this central conviction of the eternity and
ultimate reality of love, involving both personal
union and personal distinction between subject and
object, that forms the burden of the poetry of
Browning, the most virile and forceful of modern
English poets—
For Life, with all its yield of joy and woe
And hope and fear—believe the aged friend—
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Is just our chance O‟ the prize of learning love,
How love might be, hath been indeed, and is.
There is a certain danger in this emphasis on
personality in its individual forms and it has led
sometimes in the West both to self-assertion and to
individualism of a selfish type. It may well be the
case that it needs some balance and correction, and
that the general trend of thought in the East, which
seems to us, Westerners, so „impersonal‟ and
lacking in „individuality‟ may be the true corrective
needed. But one thing is certain. The West will
never accept as finally satisfying any philosophy,
which does not allow it to believe that love between
human souls may be an eternal reality.
(2) From the side of the East, there is the approach
made towards the West in what both Swami
Vivekananda and Swami Rama Tirtha have called
by the title of „Practical Vedanta,‟ the
approximation, that is to say, of the modern
Advaita Vedanta to the spirit of Christian
Philanthropy in its social and national applications.
Here again the approach may well have its limits,
and the social and national development of the East
under the new Hindu impulse may differ both in
In Woods of God-Realization Volume 1
kind and in degree from that of Europe under the
Christian training of nearly two thousand years.
I do not wish to be understood to imply that the
approximation in each case is conscious and
deliberate. On the contrary, on both sides it appears
to be almost unconscious and often unexpected, a
mingling of two atmospheres that have drawn
together (if I may be permitted to change my
metaphor) rather than the conscious acceptance of
any new definitions or formulae. Many on either
side would even repudiate the fact that connection
or approximation existed; but those who look
beneath the surface, and have watched the trend of
ideas both in the East and in the West, tell us clearly
that such an intermingling is actually taking place,
and with marked effects.
It is because Swami Rama Tirtha was so singularly
fitted to make some of these advances towards
approximation, and to interpret Indian thought to
the West, that I hold this series of lectures to be of
value to my own countrymen as well as to Indians
themselves. I would wish to do all in my power to
preserve the memory of Swami Rama fresh and
green. Such a memory should be an inspiration
both to those who knew and loved him and also to
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the younger student life of India which has grown
up since he passed away. May this be the result of
the publication of this book!
In conclusion, I would again thank in all sincerity
and gratitude the friends of Swami Rama Tirtha
who have so kindly requested me to join with them
in introducing these lectures to the public. It is a
mark of confidence which I deeply appreciate; and I
trust that in any criticisms I have set down, in order
to make clear my own position, I have not departed
from that spirit of wide-hearted charity and
kindness which was so marked a feature in the
author of the book himself. I do not endorse the
Swami‟s views in many cases; as I have shown they
differ widely from my own—but as an earnest
effort after truth and as the expression of a
singularly, loving and lovable spirit, I would wish
them a wide perusal. May be Holy Spirit of Truth
Himself lead us into all the Truth!
C.F. AndrewsDelhi 1909 A.D