Lecture delivered on December 20, 1902, in the Academy of Sciences, San Francisco
My own Self in the form of ladies and gentlemen,
Tonight we will investigate sin, if there be any. You will observe some very curious phenomena in this world, most curious phenomena. You will mark some facts in this world which baffle the ingenuity of philosophers and you will notice certain facts, moral and religious facts, in this world which are perplexing to scientists. The explanation of these, in the light of Vedanta, will be given tonight. These strange facts comprise the phenomena of sin also. How is it that everybody knows that whoever is born in this world is destined to die? Every tree that is seen on the earth must perish one day; every animal that is seen on this earth must perish, every man must die. Everybody knows it. Those who were the cause of millions of people’s deaths, those greatest warriors, Alexander, Napoleon, Washington, Wellington, all died; all those, through whose hands bloodshed and slaughter were perpetrated to a degree beyond description, also died; and so also died those who brought the dead to life. Bodies, we know, are perishable; every man knows it, but then nobody believes in it in practice.
Intellectually everybody subscribes to the fact that in this world the bodies of each and all must perish, but nobody in practice believes in it. Intellectual consent they give, but no practical belief in this fact. How is it? The oldest man who has passed his three scores and ten, the oldest man who is bordering on 90, the oldest man, go to him and you will see that he wants to continue spreading his connections; he wants to live in this world for ever and ever; wants to shun death and he never thinks of his death in practical life. He wants to extend his property, he wants to enlarge his circle of friends and relatives, he wants to have more and more of property under his dominion. He hopes to live on. Practically he has no faith in death and besides that, the very name of death sends a shudder through the whole frame from the top of the head to the tip of the toe. The whole body quivers at the name of death. How is it that man cannot bear the idea of death, cannot bear the name of death and at the same time knows that death is certain? How is it? Here is an anomaly, a kind of paradox. Explain it. Why should not people have any practical faith in death, although they have intellectual knowledge of it? Vedanta explains it this way: “In man there is the real Self, which is immortal, there is the real Self which is everlasting, unchanging, the same yesterday, today and for ever; in man there is something which knows no death, which knows no change. The practical nonbelief in death is due to the existence of this real Self in man, and it is this real, eternal, immortal Self that asserts its existence in the practical nonbelief in death.”
We come to another curious phenomenon, the phenomenon of the desire to be free. Everybody in this world wants to be free; dogs, lions, tigers, birds, men love freedom. The thought of freedom is universal; nations shed blood and wet the earth with it, with that red gore of mankind; the fairy face of the earth is made to blush with slaughter, with red blood in the name of freedom. Christians, Hindus, Mohammadans, all religions have set up before them one goal. What is that? Salvation, the literal meaning of which is freedom. If you touch the feathers or the body of the water-fowl which lives in a dirty pond, you will see that it is dry, it is not affected in the least by the dirt or mud of the water; it is dry. It does not get wet. Similarly, Vedanta says, “In you, O man, there is something which is pure, which is not contaminated by faults, sins and weaknesses of the body; in this world of sinfulness and sloth, it remains pure.” Where is the mistake made? Sinlessness belongs in reality to the real Self, the Atman, but by mistake it is attributed to the body in practice. Whence did this idea of regarding the body and the mind pure, whence did it originate? Who planted it in the hearts of people? Nobody else, nobody; no Satan came to plant it in your hearts; no outside demon came. It is within you; the cause must be in the phenomenon itself. Those days are past when people sought the causes of phenomena outside themselves. If a man fell down, the fall was attributed to some cause outside the person. Those days are gone. Science and philosophy do not allow such explanations. We should seek the explanation in the phenomenon itself. We know the body to be full of sins, always at fault, and yet we look upon ourselves as sinless. How do they explain this phenomenon? Vedanta says, “Explain it not by resorting to some outside Satan, explain it not by attributing it to outside devils; no, no. The cause is within you. Within you is the Holy of holies. Within you is the purest of the pure, within you is the sinless One, the Atman which makes its existence felt, which cannot be destroyed, cannot be dispensed with, cannot be done away with. It is there; however faulty, however sinful the body may be, the real Self, the sinlessness of the real Self must be there; it must make itself felt; it is there, it cannot be destroyed.”
We come now to the different sins, to the different phenomena which are called sins.
1. Flattery—This comes first. This is not looked upon as a deadly sin, but it is universal.
How is it that from the lowest vermin to the highest god, flattery is welcome? How is it that everybody is a slave of flattery, and everybody wants to be complimented, humoured, patted, and be thought highly of? How is it?
Even the dogs, when you pat and flatter them, are full of joy at it. Even the dogs like flattery. Horses like flattery. The master of the horse comes up and pats him, strokes him, the horse pricks up his ears, is filled with energy.
In India, some princes use tigers instead of dogs for hunting purposes and the way of the tiger is to catch the prey in three leaps. If the prey is caught, well and good, if not the tiger loses heart and sits down. On such occasions princes come up and stroke the tiger and flatter him, and then he is filled with energy again. We see that even the tigers love flattery. Take the man who is good-for-nothing, who is worthless. Go to him and just humour him, flatter him. Oh! his countenance beams with joy. You will find a bloom on his cheeks on the spot.
In those countries where the people worship gods, we find that even the gods are appeased by flattery. And what are the prayers of some monotheists? What are their prayers, what are their invocations? Examine them. Examine them disinterestedly, impersonally, and you will see that they are nothing else but flattery. How is it that flattery is universal? Everybody loves flattery, while at the same time, there is not a single man who deserves that kind of flattery which pleases him. There is not a single man who deserves the unnecessary compliments that are paid to him by his admirers.
Vedanta explains it by saying that in every individual, in every person, in everybody, there is the real Self, the real Atman, which is, as a matter of fact, the greatest of the great, the highest of the high. There is in reality something in you which is the highest of the high and that makes its existence felt. When the flatterer comes, and begins to admire us and pay us compliments, we feel elated, we feel cheered. Why? The cause is not that these statements are true, but Vedanta says that the real cause lies in our real Self. There is something behind the scenes, some potent force, something stern and indestructible, the greatest of the great, the highest of the high, which is your real Self and deserves all flattery, all compliments; and no compliments, no flattery, no aggrandizement can be unworthy of the real Self. But from this nobody should draw the conclusion that flattery is justified by Rama. No flattery, praise and glory are to be rendered unto the real Self. It ought not to be rendered to the body, to the little self it ought not to be given. “Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s and render unto God the things that are God’s.” The sinfulness of flattery lies in making the mistake of rendering unto God what was to be Caesar’s, and giving unto Caesar what was to be given unto God. In this topsyturvy state lies the sinfulness of our being slaves to flattery. Herein lies the sinfulness. The cart is put before the horse. If you realize the Self and feel and become one with the Greatest of the great and the Highest of the high, and know it to be your Atman, rise above the body, above the mind, you are really the Greatest of the great, the Highest of the high; you are your own Ideal; no, you are your own God. Realize this and you are free, but the mistake is made in giving the glory of the Ataman, the real Self to the body and in seeking flattery and aggrandizement for the body. Herein lies the mistake. How is it that each and every person in this world, everybody in this world, and even every animal is tainted with flattery or pride? How is it that vanity and pride are universal?
A certain gentleman came to Rama and said, “Look here, look here. Our religion has got the largest number of people as its devotees, as its converts, therefore, our religion must be the highest. We have the largest majority of mankind belonging to our religion, therefore, it must be the best.” Rama said, “Brother, brother, make your remarks after observing rightly. Do you believe in Satan?” He said, “Yes”. “Then please say whether Satan’s religion has got the largest number of followers or yours. If truth is to be judged by majority, then Satan has the supremacy over all.”
2. Vanity—We say that vanity or pride, you might call it one of the faces of Satan, has taken a stronghold of everybody in this world. How is it? At the same time we know that the body does not deserve any pride, that this body has no right to take airs of superiority or to be proud. Everybody knows that the body does not deserve or is not worthy of any vanity or pride, and yet everybody has it. How is it? Wherefrom did it come, this universal phenomenon? From where did come this universal anomaly, this universal paradox? Wherefrom does it come? It must come from within you. The cause it not far to seek. There is in you the Greatest of the great, that is your real Self. You will have to realize that and know that; and when you realize and know the true Self, the Atman, you will no longer stoop down to seek praise for this little body. If you realize the true Self, if you redeem your own heart, you are your own redeemer. If you realize God within you, then to hear praises for this little body, to hear any tributes for your body will appear to you as belittling yourself, will appear to you as bemeaning yourself. Then you will stand above bodily vanity or selfish pride. This is the way to stand above bodily vanity or selfish pride.
The true Atman within, the true Self being the Greatest of the great, the Highest of the high, the God of gods, how can it give up its nature? How can this Atman degrade itself, believe itself to be poor, wretched, vermin or worm? How can it degrade itself to that depth of ignorance? It cannot give up its nature; it cannot give up its nature. And that is the cause of vanity or pride being universal. But vanity or pride is not justified by this explanation. Vanity or pride for the body is not justified.
We know that the earth moves; and relatively to the earth, the Sun is stationary. All know that the Sun does not move and that the earth revolves; but we make a mistake, we fall into an error, we ascribe the motion of the earth to the Sun and the rest of the Sun we ascribe to the earth. The same kind of mistake is made by the people who hunger for pride, who are subject to vanity. The same king of error comes in here. Here is the Atman, the real Sun, the Light of lights, which is Immovable, which is really the source of all glory, and here is the body, like the earth, all the time changing and worthy of no praise, worthy of no glory, but we make a mistake in attributing the glory of the Atman to the body and the worthlessness of the body to the Atman, the real Self. This error, this mistake, this form of ignorance is the cause of seeking aggrandizement for the little body. Now if this ignorance could be called Satan, if Satan could be translated as ignorance, then we might say that herein comes Satan which puts the things in confusion; the Atman’s glory to the body and the body’s worthlessness to the Atman. Remove this ignorance, remove this ignorance and you kill vanity or pride.
3. Avarice—How is it that greed, aggrandizement or avarice is universal? Animals have greed, men have it, women have it, everybody has it. How is it that greed, avarice or aggrandizement is universal? Everybody wants to have all sorts of things around him. Everybody wants to accumulate things around his body, and this greed is never satisfied. The more you get, the more does the flame of greed increase, the more is this flame fed. You become an emperor, and still the greed is there and your greed is also princely. You are a poor man and your greed is poor. How is it that it is universal? In the churches, in the Hindu temples, in the Mohammadan mosques everywhere, the preachers deliver long sermons and say, “Brothers, no greed, no greed, no greed.” They put forth all their energies to strangle it; they want to remove it, to eradicate it, but it is there despite all their remonstrances. How is it? It cannot be throttled, it cannot be checked, it is there. Explain it. Before you want to kill greed, before you want to kill this disease, let us know the cause of it. Unless you tell the cause of the disease, you are not expected to be in a position to cure the disease. Let us know the cause of it. To say that Satan puts it into our hearts is unscientific; is unphilosophical. It is contrary to all the laws of logic. That will not do. If you cannot give a scientific explanation of the fact, why this mythological explanation? Why is it universal?
Vedanta explains it by saying that “there is in you, O man, the reality, the true Self, the real Atman asserting itself; it cannot be crushed.” They say that no energy can be destroyed, no force can be annihilated. We hear about the law of conservation of energy, indestructibility of matter, persistence of force. We hear all that, and here Vedanta says, “O Preachers, O Ministers, O Christians, Hindus and Mohammadans, you cannot crush down this energy, you cannot crush down this force which appears in the form of greed. You cannot crush it down. From time immemorial all sorts of religions have been preaching against greed, against avarice, against aggrandizement but the world is not a bit better despite all your Vedas, Bibles and Korans. Greed is there. The energy cannot be destroyed, but you can make the right use of it.” Vedanta says; “O man of the world, you make a mistake. Take that greatest of words, that word of three letters, G-o-d; read the letters in the reverse order. What does it become? D-o-g. Thus you are misreading the Holy of holies, the pure G-o-d in you, you are misunderstanding it; you are reading it in the contrary way; and thus you make a veritable dog of yourself, whereas you are in reality the Holy of holies, the pure God. Through the error, through the ignorance of attributing the glory of the Atman to the body and the worthlessness of the body to the Atman, by this mistake you fall a victim to greed. Eradicate this error, and you are God immortal. Redeem the real Self in you, take a firm stand in the true Self, and realize yourself to be the God of gods, the Holy Of holies, the Master of universe, the Lord of lords, and it becomes impossible for you to seek these outside things and accumulate them round this body.”
4. Attachment—We come now to the phenomenon of attachment or grief. What is the cause of attachment, which means that the person subject to this evil wants that the things around him should not change? A man is filled with sorrow and anxiety at the death of a loved one. What does his sorrow or anxiety show? What does it prove? Can we expect conditions to remain as they are; can we expect to keep our loved ones always with us, when we know intellectually that everything in this world is changeful, is in a state of flux? And yet we wish that there should be no change, how is it? Vedanta says, “O man, in you there is something which is really unchangeable, which is
the same yesterday, today and for ever, but by mistake, by ignorance, the unchangeable nature of the true Self is ascribed to the circumstances of the body. That is the cause of it. Eradicate ignorance and you stand above worldly attachments.”
- 2. 5. Sloth—What is the cause of sloth or indolence? According to Vedanta, the cause of the universality of sloth or indolence is that the real Self within each and all is perfect rest, is
- peace, and the real Self being infinity cannot move, the infinite cannot move. It is the finite only that can move. This is a circle and here is another circle. Where this is, the other is not; where the other is, the first is not. If one limits the being of the other, both are finite: if we want to make one circle infinite it will cover the whole space. There will be no room for the little circles. As long as a smaller circle limits it, it could not be called infinite. In order that the first circle might become infinite, it must be one, it must have nothing else outside it, and so having nothing else outside it there is no room which is not filled up by the infinity, and so the infinity having no room cannot move. In the infinity there must be no change. The Atman, the true Self within is infinite; it is all rest; it is all peace. There is no motion there. That being the case, the infinity, the Atman’s peacefulness is through ignorance carried to the body and the body suffers from sloth and has indolence in it. That is the cause of indolence or sloth being universal in the whole world.
- 3. 6. Rivalry—How is it that everybody in this world wants to have no rival to himself? Everybody wants to be the supreme ruler—
I am monarch of all I survey, My right there is none to dispute.
This is what everybody wants to feel. What is the cause of the universality of this? Explain this fact, this hard, stern reality, explain it. Vedanta says, “The real cause is that in you, O man, is the true Atman which is one without a second, which is rivalless, matchless; and by ignorance, by mistake, is the oneness and the glory of the Atman being attributed to the body, and there is the tendency to have no rivals of the body.”
- 1. 7. Sensuality—sensuality is nothing but gratifying the senses, wanting all beauty. This too is universal and can be treated
- just as other sins. “We are all beauty, the unchangeable Self is all beauty now and for ever” and the realization of this will show us that what we are trying to get for the physical body belongs to, or is the real Self.
- 2. 8. Anger—How is that anger or rebellion is universal? It is because of our real Self which is free now and for ever, that we are not satisfied to be limited in any way. We see rebellion in the small child it must have its way; we see rebellion in sects, they must have their way; we see rebellion in nations and we see the country washed with the blood, shed in the cause of freedom. All this is because the Self is not realized. The real Self is free, how could it be anything else! It was never born, will never die, remains the same for ever. Free it must be. If it were true that you were bound, you never could be free. But the truth is that we, by our inner nature, are free, and the knowledge of the truth reveals our Self in true colour.
We will not enter into other sins. Other sins are also explained in the same way by Vedanta. All the possible deadly sins are explained, and the way to remove all these sins is simply to remove the universal ignorance which makes you confound the two.
A man was suffering from two diseases. He had a disease of the eyes and a disease of the stomach. He came to a doctor and asked him to treat him. The doctor gave to this patient two kinds of medicines, two kinds of powders. One of the powders was to be applied to the eyes. It contained antimony or lead sulphide, and if taken internally, it is a poison. It can be applied externally to the eyes and the people in India use this powder for the eyes. So the doctor gave him the powder for the eyes containing antimony or lead sulphide. Another powder he gave him to be taken orally. This powder contained pepper and chillies; chillies which have a very cold name, but which are very hot. He gave him one powder containing chillies to be taken. This man being in a state of confusion just interchanged the two powders. The powder which was to be taken orally he applied to the eyes, and the antimony and other things, which were poisons, he ate. Here were the eyes blinded and the stomach worsted.
That is what is being done by the people, and that is the cause of all the so-called sins in this world. Here is the Atman, the Light of lights within you and here is the body, the stomach, so to say. What is to be done to the body is being done to the Atman, and the respect and honour and glory of the Atman are being paid unto the body; everything mixed up; everything put into a state of confusion. That causes this phenomenon of so-called sins in this world. Get things right and right you are, you prosper materially, you are God of gods spiritually.
Similarly in you is everything, but by the misplacement of things God is put down below and the body is placed above it, and the highest heaven is turned into the direct hell. Place them in the right order and you will see that even this dire and abominable phenomenon of sins speaks of your godliness, of your purity. Get the right vision and you are the greatest God.
A man, who believed in no God, wrote everywhere on the walls of his house, “God is nowhere.” He was an atheist. He was a lawyer, and at one time a client came to him and offered him $500. He said, “No, I will take $1,000.” The client said, “All right. I will pay you $1,000 if you win the case, but I will pay you afterwards; if you want to take $ 500, then you may have it first.” The lawyer felt sure of success and took up the case. He went to the court, feeling sure that he had done everything right. He had studied the case carefully, but when the case was tried, the lawyer of the opposite party brought out such a strong point that he lost the case and the $1,000 which he had expected to receive for his services. He came to his house dejected, crestfallen and in a sad plight. He was leaning over his table in a state of dejection, when there came to him his darling child who was just learning to spell. He began to spell out “G-o-d-i-s- and thereafter was a long word, so many letters; that word the poor child could not spell. He divided it into two parts, n-o-w, h-e-r-e, and the child jumped up with joy; he was amazed at his own success in spelling out the whole sentence, “God is now here.” “God is now here.” The same “God is nowhere” was read “God is now here.” That is all.
Vedanta wants you to spell things in the right way. Do not misread them; do not misspell them. Read this “God is nowhere,” that is to say, the phenomenon of sin, crime as, “God is now here.” Even in your sins is proved your Divinity, the divinity of your nature. Realize that and the whole world blooms for you a paradise, the whole world is converted into a garden, a heaven.
Once in an examination the students were asked to write an essay on the miracle of Christ turning water into wine. The hall was filled with students and they were writing. One poor fellow was whistling, singing, looking at this corner and at that. He did not write a single syllable, he did not write a single word. He went on making fun even in the examination hall, he went on enjoying himself. Oh, his was an independent spirit. When the time was up and the superintendent was collecting the answer-books, the superintendent made a joke with Byron, and told him that the superintendent was very sorry that Byron was fatigued by writing so long an essay. But Byron at the time took up his pen and wrote one sentence on the answer book, and handed it to the superintendent. When the result of the examination was out, he got the first prize. Byron got the first prize, the man who had written nothing, who simply took up his pen and with one stroke scribbled out a single sentence, got the first prize. The superintendent of the examination who thought Byron to be an idler was amazed, and all the other competitors asked the examiner to be kind enough to read before the whole class, before the whole congregation of students, the essay by which Byron got the prize. The essay was: “The water saw her master and blushed.” This was on the miracle of Christ by which he turned water into wine. That was the whole essay. Is it not really wonderful? In blushing the face becomes red; the water became red wine. When a lady hears out her lord, her lover, she blushes; the water saw her master and blushed. That is all. Splendid, is it not?
Realize the true Self within you; like Christ, realize that the father and the son are one. “In the beginning was the word; the word was with God”. Realize it, realize it. The Heaven of heavens is within you. Realize that and wherever you go, the dirtiest water will blush into the sparkling wine for you; every dungeon will be converted into the Heaven of heavens for you. There will not be a single difficulty or trouble for you; the master of all ye become.
Om! Om!! Om!!!